The music scene in Paris: the city that has it all

After recently having spent a year abroad studying in Paris, I was shocked at just how big a part music plays within everyday Parisian life, and the wide range of styles out there too. From classical concerts to jazz cafés; techno raves to contemporary clubs; outdoor festivals to buskers on the metro; music is everywhere, and there’s something for everyone. If you’re an avid music-lover in need of a new European city to explore, Paris is definitely the one.

Paris made me fall in love with classical music all over again. During the autumnal months I regularly attended piano concerts held in churches scattered around the city. These were usually intimate performances with a singular pianist playing around an hour’s worth of virtuosic repertoire, by masters such as Chopin, Debussy, Beethoven, and Satie. The natural acoustics and intimate atmosphere (sometimes the musicians were surrounded by candlelight!) made for striking and endearing performances where you feel as if you’re being transported into another realm; forgetting you’re in a bustling capital city. If you’re a fan of classical music and are ever in Paris, keep an eye out for church concerts held in the fifth and sixth arrondissements. They’re usually monthly and occur throughout the year.

Paris is some-what famous for its jazz cafés and there are many to choose from throughout the city. Particularly enjoyable however was the Baiser Salé, located in the first arrondissement, on Rue de Lombards. As newcomers to the jazz world, the evening was perfect for me and my friends. It was a cosy and intimate loft room above a bustling café with a small stage in the centre, with three or four musicians playing and improvising together. It was a sociable and inviting atmosphere with some extremely impressive vocals and instrumental playing. At one point they even asked a someone from the crowd to come up and try improvising on the piano: perfect if you’re a jazz pianist! The programme of artists also changes every night, so you’ll always be in store for new music. I would definitely recommend exploring Paris and its jazz cafés; for jazz enthusiasts or simply those wanting a relaxed evening out.

Next onto the music in the nightclubs. Nightclubbing was something my friends and I did often, and by the end of the year we had established a list of firm favourites. One was Café Oz (located in the first arrondissement, on Rue de Lombards) which was full of international students, French students, as well as Parisians just enjoying a night out after work. Towards the start of the night, it’s like a nightclub in the UK: the DJ playing the classic Euro-pop crowd-pleasures like ABBA, Shakira, and Britney Spears. As the night continues on, French songs slowly start to take over. Finally, if you make it until the early hours of the morning, reggaeton makes an appearance. I think what makes international clubs like Café Oz in Paris so enjoyable is the discovery of new cultures; the wide range of styles draws people in from all over the world, all wanting to share their love of music.

Another strong contender for an exciting nightclub is Duplex, located next to the Arc De Triomphe. Similar to Café Oz but on a larger scale, Duplex has separate floors for different genres of music, and working your way around the different floors is like entering a new nightclub each time. After leaving Paris I certainly have a new love for dance music other than UK classics (although I still love them).

Finally, if you are ever lucky enough to stay in Paris during the summer months, check out the outdoor festivals and music events taking place. Commonly found are raves by the river Seine, which involve a massive speaker blasting out techno tunes (a French favourite) while Parisians and travellers alike crowd along the riverbanks to celebrate the summer. These events are usually free and rarely strictly organised. If you ever hear the sound of a drum and bass whilst strolling through Paris, I advise you to follow that sound!

Lastly, on the 21st of June this year, Paris held its 40th edition of the Fête de la Musique. All evening long, well-known artists and young talents of the capital take to the streets to perform an eclectic programme of tunes. The whole of Paris for this one special night joins together to celebrate musical talent: Jazz bands to folk groups; singer-songwriters to DJ’s; there’s something for everyone, and around every corner of every street. It was truly an unforgettable experience, and I would recommend to groups of friends to try and be in Paris next June!


Image by Sophie Prior 

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