The first week of September signals the end of the August vacations for Parisians, and they are refreshed and ready to go back to work. It’s called the rentrée (or the reentry), and in French culture, it’s also conceived as the New Year. A major part of the rentrée is the cultural calendar which is filled with a full slate of new events including museum exhibitions, opera and theater performances, concerts, films, festivals, and other exciting events.
Here are our top picks of must-attend events in Paris this fall.
Note: Due to the ongoing pandemic, it’s best to check national travel regulations and with individual event organizers before planning a trip.
1. Arc De Triomphe Wrapped By Artist Christo
World-renowned artist Christo has left his artistic mark around the globe since the 1960s by wrapping historical sites with fabric. His projects have included wrapping the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris in 1984, islands on Biscayne Bay in Miami in 1983, the Valley Curtain, in Rifle, Colorado, which had sheets of orange fabric covering a highway, and the city’s most publicized project, and The Gates, where 7,500 orange banners were installed in Central Park in New York City in 2005.
Unfortunately, Christo died in 2020 just before his latest project was going to be launched but his last installation is now being executed in Paris. Starting on September 18, the Arc de Triomphe, the great monument commemorating the battles Napoleon fought at the west end of the Champs Élysées, is being wrapped in 270,000 square feet of silver-blue, recyclable fabric with almost 10,000 feet of red cord to tie it up. The monumental event will be open to the public to view for free and will last until October 23.
2. Botticelli Collection
One of the greatest painters of the Italian Renaissance movement of art, Sandro Botticelli, will be celebrated with a much-anticipated exhibition at the Jacquemart-Andre Museum. Forty of Botticelli’s master paintings will be displayed along with a host of other works from Florentine painters of the same school and generation. The works will be shown in chronological and thematic order. The exhibition will also inform viewers about Botticelli’s process, his workshop, and his work not only as a painter but as a creative entity. Some of the world’s most prestigious art institutions and museums have lent their works for the exhibition including the Louvre, the Vatican Museum and Library, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and the Bargello National Museum and Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence.
Pro Tip: Be sure to leave extra time to visit the permanent art collection and decorated rooms of the Jacquemart-Andre Museum, which was the private mansion of two prolific art collectors from the 19th century. Rooms include a picture gallery, the grand salon, the dining room, and the music room.
3. Taste Of Paris
The ultimate event for foodies is A Taste of Paris, a four-day gourmet food extravaganza. You will be able to taste dishes from some of the top Parisian chefs at a fraction of the cost if you were to dine in their restaurants. There’s also a food artisan marketplace with over 100 brands selling products such as oils, wines, spices, seafood, fruit and vegetable juices, and eggs among many others. Care for some bubbly and other libations to go with your food feast? Champagne, beer, cocktails, wine, coffee, and other drinks are offered throughout the festival. Check the daily program to view the various events such as cooking demonstrations at the Laurent-Perrier theater with chefs including Amary Bouhours, from Le Meurice Hotel, Stéphanie Le Quellec from La Scene Restaurant, Mohamed Cheikh, winner of Top Chef 2021, and Nadia Sammut from Auberge La Fenière, an inn in the Luberon, which is part of Provence.
You can purchase tickets for the day or evening slots. Prices start at $18 for entry tickets which don’t include tastings and you can purchase the VIP ticket for $82, which includes entrance to the Premium Lounge where you can drink unlimited glasses of champagne. (Dollars to euros may fluctuate over time.)
4. Montmartre Harvest
At one time an artist’s haunt that was a village separate from Paris, Montmartre wasn’t incorporated as part of the city until the 1860s. Still retaining the feel of a French country village with cottage houses, narrow cobblestone streets, and a square where artists still paint, Montmartre has a vineyard where grapes are grown, and wine produced. Every year there’s a four-day festival to celebrate the grape harvest and the wine production. Among the many activities during the festival, approximately 1,500 bottles of wine are auctioned off to benefit local charities plus there are tours of the vineyard, a parade, folk dancing, fireworks, children’s games, performances, concerts, and food and wine tastings.
Dates: October 6-10, 2021
5. Serge Gainsbourg Museum
The epitome of French cool and chic, Serge Gainsbourg was an uber-popular singer and songwriter in the 1970s and 1980s. His bohemian and hedonistic lifestyle was just as much a part of his legend as his music, which eventually caught up with him when he died of a heart attack at age 63 in 1991. Gainsbourg acted and appeared in over 50 television shows and films.
After his death, his daughter, actress, and rock singer Charlotte Gainsbourg, purchased the house and for years, the contents remained untouched, including ashtrays filled with cigarette butts (Serge Gainsbourg smoked five packs a day) and it became a virtual shrine. Fans would graffiti the outside walls of the house and lay flowers and trinkets in front.
More than 30 years after his death, the house is becoming the Serge Gainsbourg Museum which will open this fall. Charlotte Gainsbourg has left most of the rooms and belongings intact, as though he was still living there. Items include a portrait of Brigitte Bardot, half-open red wine bottles, a piano where Serge composed his music, and a hallway lined with records and other memorabilia and the outside walls still have graffiti and posters plastered on them.
6. Halloween At Disneyland Paris
Disneyland Paris pulls out all the scary stops to celebrate Halloween. Huge swaths of grass are topped with orange leaves and pumpkins, Jack O’ Lanterns are strewn on the streets, and ghosts come from behind to scare you. Your favorite villains, Cruella de Ville, Maleficent, and Captain Hook will all be there to make more mischief than ever. A photo with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and other beloved Disney characters dressed up for Halloween will make a memorable souvenir.
The big event is the Halloween party on, you guessed it, October 31 from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Dress up in your scariest costume and join the fun and games but make sure to purchase your tickets early, so they don’t sell out. Rides like Phantom Manor, Big Thunder Mountain, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Pirates of the Caribbean are even scarier at night.
Dates: October 1 to November 7, 2021
7. Jazz A La Villette
Parisians love American jazz, and the city is filled with clubs, cafes, festivals, and concert halls dedicated to the great art form.
The cultural complex La Villette hosts, Jazz A La Villette, an annual jazz festival over two weekends at the beginning of September in their various music venues and stages. For the 2021 edition, the top French and international singers and musicians such as Louis Cole, Anthony Joseph, Angelique Kidjo, and Cecile McLorin Salvant, jam together. Highlight concerts include a tribute to Prince and to African musician Manu Dibango.
Dates: September 1 to 12
8. Chantilly, Le Rocher Des Trésors
Just 30 minutes from Paris in the bucolic countryside, Chantilly, is the magical castle that Disney based its opening theme on.
Chantilly is producing more magic this September when a dazzling laser light show, Chantilly, Le Rocher des Trésors, will be projected on the outside for the first time. The 45-minute spectacle, with narration by the respected history writer and radio personality Franck Ferrand, tells the dramatic story of how King Louis gave a prized 9-carat pink diamond to the Duke of Conde Grand as a reward for his military victories and how it was stolen and then mysteriously went missing.
Dates: September 17, 18, 19, and 20 @ 9:45pm
9. Vogue Paris 1920-2020
Our must-do list wouldn’t be complete without a fashion event. In tandem with fashion week, the Palais Galliera, the official fashion museum of Paris, is launching Vogue Paris 1920-2020, an in-depth exploration into the fashion bible, now celebrating its 100th anniversary. Over 400 items from its archives will be on display including photographs, magazines, documents, illustrations, and films in addition to more than fifteen haute couture and prêt-à-porter models.
Dates: October 2, 2021, to January 30, 2022
Paris is the site of many events and activities popular with visitors: