Paris for Music Lovers: A Complete Guide to Venues and Festivals

Whether you're a genuine aficionado or are simply seeking a good night out at a concert or performance in the city of light, you're in luck: Paris is a fantastic place for music lovers. Not only does it harbor, as a global metropolis, some of the world's finest venues for opera, jazz, musicals, rock, or world music; it's also a city that heavily subsidizes the arts, offering a variety of inexpensive and free events dedicated to the musical arts, especially during the summer months. Read on.  

  • 01 of 09
    The facade of the new Philharmonie de Paris, designed by Jean Nouvel.
    ••• The facade of the new Philharmonie de Paris, designed by Jean Nouvel, is ecologically inspired. C. Borel/Philharmonie de Paris

    This recent addition to the Paris music scene has generated much excitement-- and justifiably so. While it's a bit far from the city center, located in the far northeastern reaches of the 19th arrondissement, make sure to carve out some time for a performance here-- the eclectic program offers everything from classical to baroque to world music and rock-- and visit the music museum and its fascinating temporary exhibits. The Paris Philharmonic's gorgeous new building from French architect Jean Nouvel, complete with panoramic rooftop terrace, is yet another drawcard for the adventurous.

  • 02 of 09

    For Classic Operas: The Opera Bastille

    Opera Bastille and the Colonne de Juillet
    ••• Opera Bastille and the Colonne de Juillet. Thierry Pix/Moment/Getty Images

    Staging world-class performances of operas as diverse at Puccini's Madame Butterfly and Mozart's The Magic Flute, the ultracontemporary Bastille Opera is the place to head if you're a fan of the operatic arts. Located on the square where the first major revolt of the 1789 French Revolution took place, with the storming of a prison that once stood there, the sleek, glass and concrete structure beckons as a symbol of a resolutely modern Paris. 

    Read related: 10 Strange and Disturbing Facts About Paris

    This isn't the least expensive form of musical entertainment, but if you book in advance you can often find inexpensive seats that are still very decent. 

  • 03 of 09
    This painting shows the elegant Palais Garnier from the side.
    ••• This painting shows the elegant Palais Garnier from the side. A painting by artist Norman Kingsford Vance, 2007. Used with permission.

    The classically elegant Palais Garnier looms on the Place de L'Opera in the Grands Boulevards/ old department stores district in Paris: an icon of early Parisian modernity. Once the home of the Paris Opera (now at Bastille; see above), the prestigious National Ballet of France now calls the Palais Garnier its home. Come for a ballet performance and to visit the sumptuous building-- you should notably see painter Marc Chagall's breathtaking ceiling fresco in the main hall.

    Read Related: Dining at the Opera restaurant (our review)

  • 04 of 09
    ••• The annual jazz festival at Paris' Parc Floral is an expensive way to enjoy jazz in the open air. Alain Alel/Creative Commons

    Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Ella Fitzgerald are all American jazz legends who passed through Paris and left their mark on the city: it's no wonder that Parisians are known to be jazz-crazy. That legacy can be felt today in the city's numerous fantastic jazz festivals. Mostly taking place in spring and summer in Paris, these are all very accessible from a budgetary standpoint, and attract talent from around the globe. Performances range from more "traditional" jazz fare to experimental and eclectic, incorporating different genres and techniques. Read more. 

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  • 05 of 09
    Rock en Seine is an incredibly popular Rock festival in Paris.
    ••• Rock en Seine is an incredibly popular Rock festival in Paris. Blink/Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons license.

    If rock, indie music, and hip-hop are more your speed, make sure to be in town in midsummer, when the annual Rock en Seine festival takes over the western suburb of St-Cloud. You can even pitch a tent and camp if you reserve ahead. Three days of performances from bands from around the globe make this a coveted one among young visitors and locals especially. 

  • 06 of 09
    Dita Von Teese performing at the Crazy Horse in 2009.
    ••• Dita Von Teese performing at the Crazy Horse in 2009. Courtesy of the Crazy Horse Paris

    For many people, no visit to Paris would be complete without indulging in the kitschy, slightly bawdy fun of a traditional Parisian cabaret show. Whether you're willing to fork out the cash for exorbitant entry to the Moulin Rouge, or would rather find a cabaret that's a bit more off the beaten track, we have it all here in our complete guide. 

  • 07 of 09
    The Olympia is a legendary venue for French singers like Edith Piaf.
    ••• The Olympia is a legendary venue for French singers like Edith Piaf. Archive photos/Getty Images

    If you're a new or longtime fan of French chanson greats such as Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Georges Brassens or Serge Gainsbourg, make sure to check out this self-guided tour to the places in Paris that are most haunted by these, and other, beloved performers. 

  • 08 of 09
    Street performers at the 2006 Fête de la Musique in Paris.
    ••• Street performers at the 2006 Fête de la Musique in Paris. ©2006 Jef Poskanzer. Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons license.

    If you've ever see Julie Delpy's hilarious film 2 days in Paris (I can't recommend it enough), you may remember a scene in which Delpy's character and her curmudgeon boyfriend (played masterfully by Adam Goldberg) have a fight, then wander around separately through crowds watching musicians play in various corners of the city. The film (accurately) references a beloved event that takes Paris by storm every June 21st: the annual Fête de la Musique. Street performers in the hundreds occupy every corner of the city, and there are tons of indoor performances at venues dotted around the capital. This is without a doubt one of my favorite free annual events in Paris

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  • 09 of 09
    A performer at the annual (free) FNAC Live festival in Paris.
    ••• A performer at the annual (free) FNAC Live festival in Paris. Asopuma/Creative Commons 2007

    Haven't found quite what you're looking for? Read our guide to the best summer festivals in the city of light for more ideas on where to catch fantastic musical performances during the summer months.