Paris is a wonderful city to wander. With winding streets, beckoning café terraces and chestnut trees reaching out their soft leaves to passersby, it’s hard to remain immune to the charm of this pedestrian way of life. Parisians themselves, as we all know, aren’t ones to shy away from taking to the streets either, whether it’s for political rallies, to celebrate soccer victories or, once a year, to celebrate music on the summer solstice.
This Sunday evening, after you’ve passed a string quartet in your neighborhood square, a punk band in front of your boulangerie and a 8-piece brass band marching down your street, don’t be surprised! It’s just France’s yearly music festival, the Fête de la Musique. On this occasion, the city of Paris organizes a huge number of free concerts, but for many natives the greatest draw of the festival is that amateurs are also invited to set up shop on street corners, in public gardens – basically anywhere they can find some space and a willing audience.
Possibly my very favorite Parisian holiday, the Fête de la Musique was started with the (very French) populist objective of getting music enthusiasts from all walks of life to get down in the streets to share their love of music with professionals and amateurs alike. The best neighborhoods to experience this creative effervescence are often the older quarters with smaller streets (St. Germain, the Latin quarter, Palais Royal, the Marais) as you’ll see a higher concentration of spontaneous jam sessions, but for something a little more low-key, your local public garden (or the Champ de Mars or the Luxembourg Gardens) often have more classical styles and some available seating.
To really make the most of the festival, Hipparis recommends an early dinner on a terrace (where you will hopefully get to enjoy your neighborhood jazz quartet) and then strolling whichever way the music calls. Keep your plans flexible and you’ll be prepared for that last-minute detour to catch the Scottish Bagpipe Ensemble!
Word to the wise: Many streets are closed to cars, so taxis are definitely not the way to go. Since the music runs all night though, so do the metros and buses – you can even buy a special ticket for 2.50€ for unlimited metro, bus and RER rides. Also: as with any Parisian street demonstration things can get rowdy towards the end of the night, but if you steer clear of large, inebriated groups you should be just fine (you’ll also notice a reassuringly large amount of police officers out enjoying the music and making sure nothing gets out of hand).
Click here for more background information from the City of Paris.
For a list of official organized concerts in your area, type in your arrondissement (75003 for the 3rd, 75018 for the 18th, etc) in the “Code Postal” field on this page and click “Rechercher”. All listings in French for the time being, but if you come across a page in English let us know!`
More information here from the French Embassy.