Sights, Shows, & Snacks: Culture in Paris

  • 09, Mar 2018
  • All things Paris
  • Amanda Mehtala

Top things to do in Paris to take in all the culture the city has to offer. From its food to its stage, Paris cultural activities will not disappoint.

Whether it's your first time in Paris, a regular visitor, or starting to plant your roots in the French capital, the city has a seemingly unlimited array of cultural activities to choose from. As early as 200BC (crazy, right?), a tribe called the Parisii settled in the area, giving the city its namesake, and beginning the development of a rich and unique Paris culture. The city of Paris started on the small island of the Seine River, the Ile-de-la-Cité, and throughout the years as it spread from the Latin Quarter to the city comprised of 20 districts as we know it today, a rich Paris culture grew into every street and cobblestone alley of the French capital. Visitors and residents alike appreciate the arts and history in one of the many museums, embark on a purely French experience attending a show at one of the city's many historical theatres, and indulge in classic French cuisine, aged wine, and decadently sweet patisseries.

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Paris, One big museum

With a history dating back thousands of years, one can argue that Paris itself is simple one big museum, each street and building owing its namesake to a person or event having great influence on Paris culture and history. There are over 300 museums in Paris alone, there is never a shortage of new exhibitions to explore covering all topics and ages. Of course, the classics include the Louvre or the Musée d'Orsay, there are hundreds of other museums throughout Paris covering a surprisingly vast range of subjects. Once you check the Mona Lisa off your list, keep exploring! Did you know, the city boasts a museum dedicated to all things romantic, or even a center to discover fairground and circus-related art? Explore the Musée des Arts Forains and set up an English-speaking tour here! An added bonus, almost all of the museums are English-friendly with English-speaking tour guides, equipped with audio-guides and brochures so you can enjoy the Paris culture without the language barrier.

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The City is a stage

We may be a bit biased, but we at Theatre in Paris remain strong advocates for theatre as one of the ideal experiences for authentic culture seekers. For a relatively small city in terms of surface area, the Paris streets boast hundreds theatres and playhouses. Every night of the week you can spot Parisians queuing outside waiting for a show to begin; a night at the theatre is one of the most frequented and accessible cultural activities in Paris. Want more proof? How many films can you name that have been set in the City of Light? The streets seemingly are the perfect setting for a theatrical performance Check out a few of our fave Paris movie sets here.
France boasts many classic poets and playwrights, from Molière to Victor Hugo. The City of Lights has long attracted intellectuals and cultural thinkers, allowing the theatre scene to thrive along with the vibrancy of the Parisian crowd. Whether you appreciate the classics and want to see Molière in action, or prefer a more lighthearted show to unwind after a long day taking in the sights, there's a selection bound to please playing every night of the week. Thanks to Theatre in Paris, the world of French theatre hold no more secrets to international audiences, so what are you waiting for, book now and head to a show in Paris tonight!

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Baguettes, cheese and wine, Oh my!

One of the most important, and tastiest, aspects of Paris culture is its food! From morning till night you can eat French delicacies to your heart's desire without ever leaving the neighborhood. Looking for a French cultural activity to please both the eyes and the stomach? Muster up your appetites for a culinary tour de France. The French are known for taking their time to appreciate each meal, and Parisians in particular will leisurely sip and snack for hours on one of the city's many hundred of sidewalk terasses.
Let's take breakfast to start. Head outside to the nearest brasserie for a strong café; and buttery croissant. Two pieces of advice, if you don't like your coffee too strong, best order an americano, or café; allongé;. And typically, of your order your coffee at the counter it's a little less expensive.
Now, you've been leisurely strolling all morning admiring the sights, and you've worked up an appetite, time for a déjeuner! If you are looking for something quick on the go, opt for a Parisian classic, the jambon beurre (ham and butter sandwich, à la française). You can find this Parisian staple of a sandwich in any corner bakery. Sometimes, simple really is better. But don't take it for granted, the French take this deliciously simplistic sandwich very seriously, and many boulangeries pride themselves for having the best in Paris. See a recent selection of the city's finest here. For a more cheeeeesey option, try out a croque monsieur, a grilled cheese with a perfectly delicious French twist. For one of the best croque monsieurs in the city, head outside of the beautiful Gare de Lyon train station to the classic Parisian brasserie l'Européen. While they may specialize in seafood, a little-known fact is that they also make a delicious croque monsieur sandwich on their snack menu to enjoy at any time throughout the day on the outside terrasse, heated year round and a perfect place to people-watch à la parisienne.
Now, whether you're earlier diners or late owls, after the theatre head to a classic French restaurant for any of a number of French specialties. The plats du jour, or daily specials, tend to contain the freshest and most in-season options. Otherwise, many restaurants will have a fixed menu option, giving you a selection of entrée, main course, and dessert for a fixed price (win!). For a huge variety of French specialties in a historic restaurant setting, there's no better option than the legendary Bouillon Chartier. This no-fuss venue serves up a good homemade meal in a convivial environment; they don't take reservations, but the wait typically goes quite fast. Here, the ornate dining hall has welcomed many famous faces in its 100 year history; find it at 7 rue du Faubourg Montmartre, in the 9th. And remember, while leaving a large tip for the server, as in the US, is not practiced in France, it is commonplace to leave a few euros as gratuity for exceptional service.