Top 10 live music spots in Paris

Paris has always had strong links to music – from being the birthplace of iconic singer-songwriter Edith Piaf to hosting a plethora of world-famous live music venues. The city can offer musical performances to suit all ears and preferences.
Parisian cabaret dancer. Photo: Shutterstock
Parisian cabaret dancer. Photo: Shutterstock

From intimate artistic cabaret and jazz clubs to lavish concert halls and cavernous arenas, the irresistible French capital is home to a cornucopia of live music venues. Here is our guide to the top 10 live music spots in Paris.

1. Back to 1930s Paris

A cabaret venue where The Little Sparrow, Edith Piaf, performed when she was in her 20s tops the list for its seductive charm, roaring ballads and memorable accordion player. A visit to Au Lapin Agile will take you back to 1930s Paris in an instant. Located on a cobbled lane in the ever-creative Montmartre district, the walls of the intimate, low-lit venue are hung with numerous paintings and the audience perches on simple wooden benches drinking glasses of red wine. You can enjoy an evening at this famously atmospheric venue as part of Insight Guides' Luxury Paris trip.  

Au Lapin Agile cabaret in Paris.Au Lapin Agile cabaret in Paris. Photo: Shutterstock

2. Arena rock

For major pop and rock concerts in the capital, head to Le Zénith Paris. Previous performers at this arena venue include The Who, Artic Monkeys and Spice Girls. It hosts more than 170 events each year for audiences of more than 6,000 fans visiting to see their favourite artists perform. Located in the Parc de la Villette in the northeast of the city, the venue sits alongside a giant science museum, Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie surrounded by expansive, futuristic gardens.

3. All that jazz

When you think of Paris and music,  jazz may very well be the first genre that springs to mind. Imagine the sound of a breathy saxophone, a grand piano and a double bass playing together in a trio in a basement bar jazz club and you have Le Sunset/Sunside. The venue is two jazz clubs in one, offering visitors the chance to listen to acoustic and electric jazz, as well as evocative world music. Tucked in between the Forum des Halles and the Centre Georges Pompidou, it's a centrally located, intimate venue where you can enjoy an evening of top musical entertainment.

Jazz in Paris.

Jazz in Paris. Photo: Shutterstock

4. The festival scene

Head out to the western suburbs of the capital to the expansive historic park Domaine national de Saint-Cloud to experience the annual Rock en Seine festival. Taking place over three days every summer, this notable musical event has been running since 2003, when the headliners included PJ Harvey and Massive Attack. Topping the bill in 2019 are The Cure, and tickets are on sale now!

5. Come to the cabaret

Where better to enjoy a cabaret show than the City of Lights? Marked by its iconic red windmill with rotating, neon-lit sails, the Moulin Rouge on Boulevard de Clichy is probably the most famous cabaret in all of France. Dating from the late 19th century, the show today is undoubtedly geared towards tourists, however its enduring popularity is well deserved. The lavishly decorated auditorium hosts spectacular performances featuring dozens of female dancers in extravagant sequinned, feathered and risqué costumes. The show still includes a chorus line of the high-kicking can-can dance with which the Moulin Rouge, as its birthplace, will forever be associated.

Iconic windmill on top of the Moulin Rouge in Paris.Iconic windmill on top of the Moulin Rouge in Paris. Photo: Shutterstock

6. The world of opera

Designed by Canadian-Uruguayan architect Carlos Ott, the Opéra Bastille with its striking curved glass facade was inaugurated in 1989. As the home of the Paris National Opera, this world-class venue hosts productions of classic and contemporary operas in its main auditorium. Ballet and classical concerts complete the opera house’s vibrant programme of musical and performing arts extravaganzas. 

7. Swinging Sixties

Since opening as a beatnik hangout in the heart of the Pigalle in the 1960s, Bus Palladium has established itself as a classic Paris rock ‘n’ roll nightspot. Currently enjoying a new lease of life, the club hosts a live music programme focused on bands playing rock and blues, and there’s a regular karaoke night if you fancy stepping up and grabbing the mic yourself. Head up to the lounge bar to relax over cocktails, or dine on charcuterie and cheese platters, Argentinian meats or burgers in the retro-styled restaurant.

8. Jazz galaxy

Set within the sleek Méridien Etoile hotel, the Jazz Club Etoile is a celebrated Parisian venue long established as a focal point for African American music in the city. International blues, bebop, soul and funk artists perform alongside contemporary jazz vocalists in its refined, intimate space. A menu of sharing platters and small dishes is served, while regular early shows on the programme offer free admission.

9. Symphonic sounds

Set in the Parc de la Villette, the exterior of the Philharmonie de Paris complex features a striking design combining organic and geometric forms constructed with gleaming, weaved aluminium sheets and etched monochrome panels. The building’s enveloping state-of-the-art main concert hall benefits from outstanding acoustics which intensify the concert-going experience. The venue's repertoire of classical concerts featuring performances from pre-eminent international orchestras and ensembles is complemented by contemporary music shows by artists from around the globe.

Paris Philharmonic Orchestra

Paris Philharmonic Orchestra. Photo: Shutterstock

10. Fête de la Musique

Each year since 1982, the Fête de la Musique has taken place on the 21 June in France. This national event celebrating the huge diversity of music sees streets, squares and parks all over the country, filled with performing musicians. In the capital, some of the most well-known spots to enjoy the event include Place de la République, Parc de la Villette and Place Denfert-Rochereau. Jazz ensembles, choirs, brass bands, DJs and groups representing every musical genre play live amid a festive atmosphere, making the most of the longest day of summer.

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