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Nuit Blanche in Paris

nuitblanche2Nuit Blanche, which translates as literally as “white night” and is an expression for all-nighter, is an annual arts festival that takes place from sunset until sunrise on the first Saturday and Sunday of October. Museums , private and public art galleries, pools, cafes, theaters, libraries and other cultural institutions around the city join bars and clubs staying open all through the night for revelers—all for free. It’s a veritable cultural smorgasbord in a city full of culture and art.

Nuit Blacnhe also brings art installations to the center of the the city and many music, dance, films and performance artists perform at themed gatherings around the City of Lights. The first Nuit Blanche took place in Paris in 2002, when for the first time a trail of contemporary art flowed through the city through the wee hours and allowed travelers and residents alike to soak up the artistic scene in Paris.

Since its launch in 2002, Nuit Blanche has become a hotly anticipated event, drawing more than 1 million people the last few years out of their beds and into the streets of Paris. Paris lights up this night, with everything staying open (even public swimming pools) through the night with free admission.

There are elaborate light installations, edgy performances, concerts and sights and scenes for everyone. This is the perfect time to soak up the artistic culture and scene in Paris, as well as get a glimpse into the dynamic and always interesting city in a new light (or lack thereof).

If you survive the entire night of art, culture, swimming, eating, drinking and general merry making, Nuit Blanche participants will also find breakfasts laid out out at the City Halls around the city for hungry and tired revelers.

This video from Nuit Blanche several years ago gives you an idea of what to expect:

Nuit Blanche 2004 BXL Gare du nord from Lionel Devuyst on Vimeo.

Tips for experiencing Nuit Blanche

  • Start early. Even if you are gunning to make it to sunrise, some of the best performances happen earlier on in the night.
    Don’t try to overplan your Nuit Blanche. This is is an event best experienced and discovered by strolling through the streets. Mark a couple of must-sees for the night and leave the rest up to chance.
  • Remember that while Nuit Blanche is avant garde art focused, it is an event where the people are as much a part of the evening/event as the installations and performances. Seeing hundreds of thousands of people enjoying Paris into the wee hours is quite a scene and you are a part of it.
  • You may want to end your night close to your Paris hotel or Paris apartment rental (or if you are going the budget route, Paris hostel). Metro cars and night buses tend to be really crowded on this night—especially towards the early morning hours. Be prepared to walk home.
  • October in Paris is usually chilly and damp. Dress in layers and bring an umbrella. If you are gonna make it through the night, you’ll have to be warm.
  • Expect to see some really cool shit. No, really. From “total immersion” installations that blend music, lights and 3D effects on historical and beautiful Parisian building to great concerts, you are sure not to be disappointed you downed those 3 espressos after dinner and stayed up through the night. Even the iconic Eiffel Tower dons special lights for the event.
  • The city usually divides into roughly five areas—each with its own schedule of exhibitions, concerts and other events. Decide which area(s) of the city you’d like to experience and get acquainted with the schedule.

photo by y.caradec on flickr