Nuit Blanche, a Paris Arts Festival for Night Owls

First celebrated in 2002, Nuit Blanche is an arts and culture event in Paris that’s ideal for the nocturnally inclined– and entirely free. Translating as “White Night” and held every October, the fete keeps you, as you may have guessed, up through much or all of the night.

Wander through galleries, catch live performances and roam streets illuminated by odd murals and dreamlike installations. And remember: you’re part of the happenings, too.

An installation at the Palais de Tokyo in 2018. Image: Palais de Tokyo

Attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, Nuit Blanche sees dozens of Parisian museums, galleries, city-owned buildings, parks and even swimming pools transform into after-dark happenings.

Expect everything from elaborate light installations, curated spaces and performances from international artists to live music and specially decorated metro cars.

Related: The Best Small Museums & Collections in Paris

To enjoy it to the fullest, don’t over-plan. Read on to learn more about the Nuit Blanche program in 2019, and tips on how to make the most of the long, hypnotic night.

Nuit Blanche 2020: Dates & Practical Details

In 2020, Nuit Blanche Paris falls on Saturday, October 3rd starting at around 6:00 pm or nightfall. The event will be scaled back from previous years to avoid crowding and comply with the current regulations that allow for groups of up to 10 people maximum. Masks or face coverings will be required at all times.

How to Make the Most of Nuit Blanche?

While everyone has their own approach and you should go with your gut as well, here are a few key tips to ensure your sleepless night goes without a hitch.

  • Much like the annual Paris Music Festival (Fête de la Musique), Nuit Blanche is best experienced by ambling. You might choose two or three installations and events to focus your evening around, then leave the remainder of your time to chance and open exploration. In other words, treat the event with the spirit of avant-garde curiosity and non-conformity it embodies.
  • Metro cars and night buses are likely to be busy, especially toward the end of the night, so if feasible, plan to walk back to your hotel or apartment. Take along an old-school Parisian street/neighborhoods map with you to stay oriented. Your phone may well run out of batteries, and if you don’t have 3/4G abroad, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get online at the spur of the moment to load a map.
  • October in Paris can be chilly and wet— dress warmly for the occasion and bring a waterproof jacket and shoes if forecasts predict soggy conditions.

The 2020 Program: A Few Highlights (UPDATES COMING SOON)

Nuit Blanche Paris in 2019 will take place over the night of Saturday, October 5th to 6th, 2019 and will include an arty parade on the Place de la Concorde.
Nuit Blanche in 2019 will feature an arty parade on the Place de la Concorde. Image: Nuit Blanche/official organizers

This year, the program will extend beyond the Parisian city center and spill into the nearby suburbs, in an effort to make the event more inclusive and to encourage visitors to look beyond tourist areas.

Conceived by Artistic Director Didier Fusillier, Nuit Blanche 2019 centers around several key events and features:

  • A parade on the Place de la Bastille and around the iconic Colonne de Juillet (July Column) will transform the post-revolutionary square into an enormous, ambulatory installation. Take part in the festivities alongside musicians, dancers, performance artists and others, as over a dozen “artistic platforms” circulate on trucks around the square, each conceived by international artists.
  • “Artiste promeneurs” (artist strollers) will escort the crowds from happening to happening, leading curious participants to the nearest interesting installation or performance in the area and sometimes inviting them to take part in one.
  • To celebrate Paris hosting the Olympic Games in 2024, this year’s White Night event includes a sort of “artistic marathon” that will see participants run across the city from installation to installation, museum to museum. Running from 10pm to 2am, the sporty-meets-arty route includes stops at the Louvre Museum, Chatelet Theatre, the Modern Art Museum at the Centre Georges Pompidou, and the gardens of the Palais Royal. The total route spans 8km/5 miles. Participation is free, including entry to attractions and museums. Interested participants can sign up here starting September 11th (in French only– use Google Page Translate if necessary).
  • Between the Porte de Pantin and the Porte de la Villette Metro stations, a section of streets along the ring road (Boulevard Péripherique) will be specially illuminated and transformed into a cycle path, giving visitors an unusual view of a part of the city rarely explored by non-locals.

Check back here soon for further details on the program in 2020. Enjoy what I hope will be a long, white night of discovery!

See related: How to Make the Most of a Fall Trip to Paris?

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