You already know Paris as the fashion capital of the world, home to delicious croissants, Notre Dame and of course the Louvre. But did you know that the French capital also has over 140 theaters, concert halls and other show venues? Every night of the week you’ll find major productions, musicals, the traditional cabaret and much more. The City of Lights could also be called the City of Shows. Read on for our guide to the city’s best shows including the best cabaret in Paris – the Moulin Rouge. Advice on the best opera, theater, concerts and musicals in Paris. Don’t miss our tips on where to eat and favorite rooftops to complete your perfect Parisian evening!
You simply can’t visit Paris without attending the traditional Cabaret. French Cancan, Vegas-level glitzy and glam, the traditional Parisian cabaret is of course embodied by the famous Moulin Rouge. Located at the foot of Montmarte, the famous red windmill is a global icon.
Paris is a great city for opera lovers. The Opera Bastille and Opera Garnier have hosted some of the most famous international shows. If stand-up is more your speed, head straight to the Grands Boulevards neighborhood. The city’s comedy hotspot there are comedy clubs at every corner. For classic music lovers, the Paris Philharmonic completed in January 2015 is a must-visit.
Best cabaret shows in Paris – Moulin Rouge
Behind the curtain of Moulin Rouge
Chances are you’ve already heard of the Moulin Rouge, but do you really know its history? The famous establishment opened its doors in 1889 with an audacious bet to become the biggest and most elegant cabaret of its time. Over almost 130 years later and the Moulin Rouge has indeed become the incarnation of French cabaret and the famous Cancan dance. Numerous artists, including Toulouse-Lautrec, have immortalized the famous windmill and Moulin Rouge show in their paintings. Millions of spectators have been mesmerized by the one-of-a-kind show full of feathers, rhinestones, legendary dancers and costumes.
Paris Moulin Rouge show
You can catch a show any day of the week. In fact, the Moulin Rouge is so popular that there are two shows daily, 365 days a year. Choose between the 9PM showing that ends at 11PM, or the 11PM show that ends at 1AM. You can also decide to go for the dinner and show combination. In this case, dinner is served at 7PM and you’ll need to arrive at 6:45PM. Tickets prices vary widely, depending on your dinner and drink options and of course seats. Prices start at 77€ and climb up to 420€ for the VIP experience.
Paris Moulin Rouge area
The Moulin Rouge is located in one of Paris’ most lively districts, at the foot of Montmartre. To continue (or start off!) your evening, head to the rue Frochet. The street is packed with cocktail bars. For original and unique cocktails, we especially recommend Dirty Dock, Les Juste or Lipstick. Another one of our favorite spots near the Moulin Rouge is Buvette. Part restaurant, part bar and part café, Buvette has delicious food and a super friendly atmosphere. It’s an ideal choice at all hours of the day.
Best opera shows in Paris
Paris Opera Garnier
The Opera Garnier has been a source of mystery, enchantment and inspiration since it was constructed in the 19th century. Commissioned by Napoleon III, it’s one of the most distinguished opera houses in the world. The sumptuous building has inspired dozens of works of fiction, artists and painters. The famous house now hosts mostly ballets but also classical music concerts, operas and other events. Ticket prices vary, but start as low as 22€. Discounts are available for students and groups. You’ll definitely need to book ahead as shows almost always sell out.
Paris Opera Garnier area
The Opera Garnier is in the center of Paris and there are tons of things to do in the area. If you have some time before your show, head to the amazing Galeries Lafayette. This shopping mecca is home to hundreds of brands and housed inside an amazingly beautiful building. Just keep an eye on the time, you can get easily get lost in shopping and be late for your show! After a night at the opera, you can grab a late dinner at the Grand Café des Capucines. The charming, cozy café has delicious seafood, risotto and decadent desserts – we especially love the profiteroles with warm chocolate sauce!
Paris Opera Bastille
The Opera Bastille is the city’s main opera hall. The modern construction was inaugurated in 1989. The 2,700-seat space mainly hosts operas and philharmonic concerts. Despite its huge capacity, every seat at the Opera Bastille offers an unrestricted view of the stage. Additionally, the building was designed specifically to produce the perfect acoustics for opera and classical music. We highly recommend booking tickets ahead of time as shows often sell out. Visit the Opera Bastille’s website for show dates and to reserve your tickets. As with the Opera Garnier, prices vary but discounts are available.
Paris Opera Bastille area
Bastille is one of the city’s liveliest districts and a great neighborhood to start, or end, your night on the town. Hit Chez Janou for drinks and appetizers before heading to the opera. This classic Parisian bistro has lovely staff and a typical French menu. If you’re craving something sweet, try sharing the giant (and we mean giant) chocolate mousse. You can also go for a late night dinner at Bofinger. The brasserie is open until 3AM and has delicious seafood as well as French classics including steak tartare and French onion soup.
Best Theater Shows in Paris
Most famous Parisian theater
Among Paris’ many theaters, some of them have played a central role in history. Starting with the Theatre Edouard VII. Fancy frequenting the same theater as the King? The English King Edouard VII strongly supported the arts and the theater was built in his honor. The Comédie Français is one of the oldest theaters in the world. Founded in 1680, it still hosts shows today! The interior of the Theatre des Champs Elysées is as sumptuous as the avenue it’s named after. Finally, the Theatre de Chaillot, just a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower is one of the largest halls in Paris.
Hidden gems in Paris
In addition to the big name theaters, Paris is home to numerous hidden gems. One of our favorites is the Theatre de l’Odeon. They only have shows in French so it’s a great option if you want to practice your language skills or have a truly immersive Parisian experience. You can also opt for a drink in their lovely café, which will also give you a taste of the theater experience. The same goes for the Theatre du Rond-Point. Not only do they have a great selection of shows but you can go for drinks at their lovely bar!
Best musical shows in Paris
2018 Best musical in Paris
2018 was a great year for musicals is Paris but, here at INSIDR, we especially fell in love with two of them. Chicago, performed at Theatre Mogador, should definitely be on your list of things to see. Set in the Windy City in the roaring 20s, follow the adventures of Roxie, a famous cabaret singer. Roxie is sent to prison for killing her lover and the spectacular plot will truly transport you back in time. Chicago has delighted audiences around the world and see it on the most famous stage in Paris is a winning combination!
We also loved the Fashion Freak Show by the famous Jean Paul Gaultier, performed at the Folie Bergeres. In the fashion icon’s words, Fashion Freak Show “tells my life”. The show is 2.5 hours of burlesque, exuberance, quirkiness and some provocation – as can only be expected from Gaultier. The company includes actors, circus performers, dancers and artists. The designer spectacularly recreates his world of dreams, excess and luxury. The cross between cabaret and musical is like nothing we have ever seen before. The music, choreography and of course costumes are both inspiring and truly unique.
2019 Best musical in Paris
The best musical in Paris right now is without a doubt the adaptation of Peau d’âne. This famous French story was made into a movie by Jacques Demy in 1970 and a musical in 2011. However, the story has been around for centuries and even inspired the brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault. Follow the adventures of Princess Pelagie as she tries to escape her destiny and thwart the evil plot of the hateful bishop. The flamboyant show has finely crafted dialogue, captivating music, delicate choreographies, shimmering costumes, all in an opera-like fairytale setting. The complex and colorful characters include the untamable princess, sensitive king, lovable prince and cruel peasants.
We especially love Peau d’âne because it’s sure to be a hit with everyone. Suitable for all ages, the plot will entertain theater lovers and novices alike. Marie Oppert, Michael Denard, Emma Kate Nelson, Olivier Fredj and the rest of the cast perfectly embody their roles.
Peau d’âne is playing at the lovely Theatre de Marigny, right next the Champs Elyséees, until February 2019. Tickets start at 26€. If you only have time to catch one show during your time in Paris, it should definitely be Peau d’ane.
Best live music shows in Paris
Classical music in Paris – Philarmonie de Paris
The Paris Philharmonic is the prestigious newcomer on the Parisian music scene. The modern venue opened in 2015 to much excitement. Designed by renowned French architects Jean Nouvel and Christian Portzamparc, the Philharmonic houses three full-sized concert halls as well as a music museum, exhibition area and rehearsal spaces. The varied program features rock, jazz, rock, world, experimental music, classical – of course – and much more. Ticket prices vary depending on the show. The Philharmonic also has onsite bar as well as a rooftop restaurant. Located in the 19th arrondissement, you have an amazing panoramic view of Paris.
Arenas in Paris for giant concert
The French capital now counts three huge concert arenas. The U Arena is the city’s newest arena, completed in 2018. It’s Europe’s biggest concert hall, with a seating capacity of 40,000! There is also the mythical Stade de France located just north of Paris. Additionally, the Accor arena in the 13th arrondissement hosts concerts and sporting events alike. For now, only a few shows have been announced for 2019. Metallica will be playing the Stade de France. Lenny Kravitz will also be playing the Accor area in June 2019.
Concerts in Paris – Cool & trendy venue for concerts
For the coolest venues, popular with the younger and older crowds alike, look no further. L’Olympia is located just a few blocks from the Opera Garnier in the 9th arrondissement. It’s particularly popular with rappers, hip-hop artists and indie groups. Head north to the 18th arrondissement to find Le Trianon and L’Élysée Montmartre. The Élysée Montmartre was built in 1607 and unfortunately burned down in 2011. However, the mythic concert hall was entirely rebuilt and opened its doors once again in 2016. La Cigale, also located in the 18th and le Café de la Danse host some of the coolest up-and-coming groups.
Best comedy shows in Paris
Comedy theaters in Paris
Despite their reputation for being serious and not smiling very often, Parisians love to laugh and the city has a vibrant comedy scene. The metro is constantly covered with advertisements for the most popular “le one-man show”, which actually means stand-up comedy to the French. The Grands Boulevards neighborhood is the epicenter of Parisian comedic life. Some of the most famous comedy theaters include the Théâtre du Splendid, the Théâtre de la Porte Saint Martin and the Théâtre des Variétés. What we particularly love about these theaters is that pros and amateurs alike grace their stages.
English comedy in Paris
If you’re worried that all of these hilarious comedy shows are only available in French, the INSIDR team has great news for you! Paris also has a dynamic English-speaking comedy scene. One of the most popular, and most well-known, shows in English is Olivier Giraud’s “How to become a Parisian in One Hour”. Not only is it absolutely hilarious, but also contains precious advice to understand the mysterious breed that is the Parisian. We also love Julia Collas’ “Oh My God she is a Parisian”. The Englishwoman provides a comedic look into all of the stressful, intricate and fun details of living in Paris.
Best Contemporary dance shows in Paris
Contemporary dance in Paris
Paris has always been at the forefront of culture and the arts. It’s therefore no surprise that it has an amazing contemporary dance scene. The Opera Garnier is recognized as having one of the best, if not the best, contemporary dance troops in the world. Pina Bausch, the internationally renowned choreographer has presented many shows at the Palais Garnier. Most recently, she revisited The Rite of Spring to international acclaim. Martha Graham, an American modern dancer and choreographer, also regularly hosts shows at the Opera Garnier.
Contemporary dance venues in Paris
The contemporary dance scene is of course not just confined to the magnificent Opera Garnier.. There are venues all over the city. The Theatre National de Chaillot is one of the most prestigious addresses in Paris. Its Grand Foyer overlooks the Eiffel Tower and the Champ de Mars. The Theatre de La Ville and the Grande Halle de la Villette are two of our other favorite contemporary dance halls. Visit their websites to see what shows are available during your time in Paris. We highly recommend booking tickets ahead of time as they sell out surprisingly fast!