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By Alexandra, the curious explorer, art enthusiast and Parisian local of five years.
Edited by Emma White
From visiting the top attractions and sightseeing spots to boutique shopping, lazing around in splendid gardens and navigating the quaint, historical streets of the city’s old districts, Paris does not fall short of things to see and do by day. However, Paris’s best night time activities are often not so well known by visitors to the city. Paris is known by the rest of the world as the City of Light – and with good reason. When night falls, Paris’s main attractions are bathed in glorious golden light and every boulevard, street corner and city square comes alive with buoyant crowds of locals and tourists. For your chance to experience the best of Paris’s nightlife like a local, follow my guide to the 10 must do things in Paris at night and eat, drink, sing and dance your way round this magical city after sunset.
Top of the list of best night time attractions in Paris has got to be the Eiffel Tower. The sight of the city’s beloved national monument lit up in all its glory after nightfall is simply unmissable. The best time to see it is on the hour, every hour, from sunset until 1 or 2am when the entire tower is adorned with a sea of twinkling white lights that go on glowing for approximately 5 minutes each time. My favourite viewpoint is Place du Trocadéro where you’ll have an unobstructed view (hopefully, if there aren’t too many tourists in the way of your line of sight!) of the tower. Secure your spot in time for the hourly sparkle and get ready to snap that unbeatable photo of La Dame de Fer (The Iron Lady) shining bright against the purple sky.
One of my absolute favourite things to do in Paris at night is to go for a long walk along the beautiful Seine. Visiting such a busy city like Paris and frantically trying to squeeze in all the top attractions can be overwhelming and you might find that you end your city break not really feeling like you’ve had a ‘break’ at all. Well, my advice is to end a busy day of sightseeing in Paris with a peaceful stroll along the banks of the river at dusk. I like to do this myself when I’ve had a hectic day or I’m feeling like I need to wind down. The colours at this time of day are spectacular and the way the light reflects on the water as the sun goes down is enough to calm the busiest of minds. And not forgetting that it’s also one of the many free things to do in Paris at night for those wanting to make the most of the city on a budget. So perhaps on your way to or from dinner, try to find a route that takes you along part of the river and simply take a moment to reflect on all the amazing things you’ve seen that day!
One of the most important aspects of Paris nightlife and of French culture in general is the simple yet significant ritual of l’apéro (short for l’apéritif) – relaxed drinks and nibbles shared between friends in the evening before a late dinner. This is one the best night time activities in Paris to really get a feel for the local culture and evening atmosphere. For me, there’s nothing better than finding a cosy bar off the beaten track and enjoying a chilled glass of rosé alongside a bowl of salted cashews with my friends to help me unwind at the end of a busy week! You can enjoy apéro in almost any bar in Paris but one of my recommendations is Le Tournesol (9 Rue de la Gaité). The chic decor is striking and elegant, yet the atmosphere retains that warm, local feeling. After your apéro why not grab a table over in the dining area and indulge in a late evening dinner like a local?
It’s a well-known fact that most Parisians like to enjoy a casual, late evening meal at dinner time after an aperitif, which is why a typical Parisian dinner must feature on this guide to the must do things in Paris at night as it is really a night time activity all on its own. If you only have a short amount of time in the city and you’re wondering what to do in Paris for one night only to get the most authentic experience, I’d recommend indulging in a hearty, traditional meal at a typical Parisian bistro or restaurant. Try Relais de l’Entrecôte (15 Rue Marbeuf) just off the Champs- Élysées, for the best steak frites in town! Or Le Petit Canard (19 rue Henry Monnier) for a mouth-watering duck confit dish. Surrounded by waiters wearing typical uniforms, brass fittings and the classic red and white gingham table cloths, you’ll feel like a true Parisian local!
One thing I always advise people to do in Paris at night is a river cruise, known here at the Bateaux Mouches tours. A boat tour is a unique alternative to the usual sightseeing itineraries by land, with the added bonus of seeing the city’s most iconic monuments such as Notre Dame, Pont des Arts, L’Assemblée Nationale and the Eiffel Tower illuminated by carefully curated light to give a wonderfully magical effect. The river is so peaceful and picturesque after dark, making this one of the most romantic things to do in Paris at night if visiting with that special someone! You can also choose the cruise with dinner included if you'd like to make a whole evening of it, there are lots of different options so I’d recommend shopping around a bit to find the right one for you and your budget.
While most people would describe Paris’s nightlife as stylish, sophisticated and rather civilised, there is in fact one part of the city’s nocturnal playground that doesn’t necessarily conform to these ideals. If you’re looking for something a bit wilder and more upbeat, then a kitschy traditional cabaret is the night time activity in Paris for you! Of course, the obvious choice is a night at the original Moulin Rouge cabaret in Paris. Since 1889, it’s bohemian style, reminiscent of La Belle Epoque era, has attracted crowds from far and wide hoping to get a taste of that old-world entertainment experience that Paris’s red-light district has long been famous for. There are also a number of different, more low-key shows to suit a variety of preferences (and ages) and most of the cabarets will come with the option of dinner with drinks so you’re sorted for the night. If you’re visiting at the weekend and asking yourself what to do in Paris on a Saturday night, here’s your answer! While it may be a lot busier than during the week, the buzz of merry weekend crowds certainly enhances this lively and fun experience.
You might be a few days into your trip and wondering if Parisians actually drink anything other than wine, wine and more wine. Well, in response to that question I’d like to tell you about a cosy little bar, tucked away in a small side street of Le Marais, named Dragon et Phénix. This hidden gem has a mysterious, ‘speakeasy’ vibe, an intimate atmosphere, friendly staff and oh, did I forget to mention the mind-blowing cocktails! The owner is himself a qualified cocktail mixologist who serves up a variety of classic cocktails as well as a number of unique and creative original concoctions – shaken, or stirred, to perfection. There is also a small dance floor and on Saturdays they usually have a top DJ who plays great music all night. So for those wondering what to do on a Saturday night in Paris, you should really check this place out. But beware, just one sip of those fancy, fruity cocktails will have you ordering another and another right through til the early hours of the morning!
Another one of my top recommended things to do in Paris at night is to ride the Ferris Wheel, known as La Roue de Paris, at Place de la Concorde. The wheel’s impressive structure stands tall at 60 metres high and offers jaw-dropping views over Paris’s historical axis and beyond. The entrance fee is €12 which may seem a bit steep but it’s totally worth it for the chance to see the best parts of Paris lit up at night as you make your way round the wheel in your own personal pod. You’ll be able to see the Louvre, its iconic Egyptian pyramid, the Jardin des Tuileries, the Arc de Triomphe and Les Champs Élysées, as well as the Eiffel Tower and the River Seine and in the distance. This is a great attraction to visit at any time of day, but I personally think it’s best at night once the sun has gone down and when the wheel is illuminated in all different colours against the midnight blue sky. It’s a great way to see Paris at night and if you were wondering why Paris is known as the ‘City of Light’, everything will become clear once you ride the wheel!
I’m sure you’ve all heard of the Louvre and have most likely added it to your 2-day Paris itinerary ready for your weekend city break, but did you know that you can visit the world’s largest art museum at night? By night, the Louvre’s iconic glass pyramid and regal Cour Napoleon are illuminated with a golden glow, creating a majestic atmosphere and providing the perfect photo opportunity. Another advantage of visiting the Louvre Museum at night is that it tends to be much less crowded than during the day time, allowing you to admire the museum at your own pace. And it goes without saying that the works of art are even more magnificent under the light of the moon. The Louvre Museum is open at night time on Wednesdays and Fridays only until 10pm. And for all you solo travellers out there, I think this is one of the top things to do in Paris at night alone.
Every evening from around May time through to September, the Tino Rossi gardens at the Quai Saint-Bernard come alive a with a crowd of talented tango dancers who partner up and dance by the canal from dusk until the small hours of the morning. Whether you choose to join in or simply watch from the side lines with a bottle of wine, this is without a doubt one of the most unique things to do in Paris at night and therefore definitely deserves a place on your list of must do things in Paris at night. Don't know how to tango? No problem – there is a free dance lesson for beginners at 7pm, making this one of the best free things to do in Paris at night as well!
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