With a whopping annual attendance of 600K, the once free spirited experience of the Moulin Rouge has changed substantially since its Belle Epoque origins. The legendary Paris cabaret may have been created over 125 years ago to cater to wealthy Parisian night owls looking for a taste of scandalous, but the Parisian high society of the early 20th century has now been replaced with buses of selfie stick-bearing visitors to the French capital. Little do these visitors know, however, that Paris has a rich array of nightlife options that go far beyond the cabaret, with hundreds of historic venues across the city that have housed huge names on their stages. You can get a taste of the local Paris nightlife at any of the gorgeous playhouses hidden throughout the city, from the quaint neighborhood theatres to the ornate grandiose locales.
Our friends at Theatre in Paris (TIP) have carefully selected their top most beautiful and unique theatres in the city, and don’t worry if you don’t speak French, many of these venues have shows in English or feature French shows with live subtitles in English thanks to TIP’ innovative surtitles. Step inside these stunning theatres below and learn more about TIP’s diverse programming of comedies, musicals, classics and more here.
Theatre in Paris is offering a special limited time discount code to Je T’Aime, Me Neither readers! Enter code JETAIMEMENEITHER during online checkout to receive 15% off on standard prices. The discount code is valid for bookings made by June 30th and to all shows, except Grease and How to Become Parisian in One Hour. Enjoy!
Théâtre Edouard VII
Homage to Franco-English relations and home of Parisian comedy
Just steps from Paris’ Opera Garnier is this hidden-in-plain-sight wonder; leave the noise of the bustling main road to enter the little stone square that houses the Théâtre Edouard VII, along with a statue of King Edward VII himself and a collection of hotels and restaurants. Once inside the playhouse, you will find that it not only has a delicious restaurant, but also boasts a swanky English-style bar downstairs for a drink before or after the show. The theatre was first run by actor, director, and playwright Sacha Guitry, and now the theatre’s restaurant, the Café Guitry, is named after its former figurehead. The Théâtre Édouard VII was constructed in 1913 in honor of English King Edward VII, so its architecture was built in the traditional horseshoe-shaped English-style of theatre. After a brief initial period serving as a cinema, the stage of the Théâtre Edouard VII has housed the classic Boulevard Comedies Paris is known for. Many celebrated French actors and actresses have begun their career performing here, take Gerard Depardieu for example, and the venue is even rumored to be haunted by the ghost of Orson Welles himself!
Can you guess what else this venue’s architect is responsible for?
The Théâtre Montparnasse was one of a collection of venues constructed in the late 1700s in the outskirts of Paris by imperial decree. In its early days, the original playhouse featured a large central wood-burning stove, serving to both heat the venue and where audiences would heat up a quick bite to eat during intermission. Imagine, packing a lunch box for an evening at the theatre! The current building of the Théâtre Montparnasse, inaugurated in 1886 with its recognizable facade was designed and constructed by Charles Peigniet, the architect responsible for none other than a portion of New York’s Statue of Liberty, it’s no wonder the venue is now classified as a historical monument!
The theatre passed through a handful of managers throughout the 1900s before falling into the apt hands of Comédie Française member Myriam Feune de Colombi, who would add a restaurant and second smaller theatre to the venue and oversees the establishment to this day.
A center for all things urban culture, made out of an old factory!
In 1975, this modern cultural center was created in an old blow-torch factory in the heart of Paris. The aim of the Lucernaire founders was to create a shared space of urban culture. In addition to live performances on one of the center’s two theatres, you will also find modern art exhibitions, film screenings, art classes and a dining area. It is safe to say that the founders accomplished their mission, and the venue in the heart of the Latin Quarter has artistic performances and exhibitions to please audiences of every age! With its own Parisian Morris column in its inner cobblestone courtyard, and steps away from the Luxembourg gardens, we can’t think of a better venue to see a Parisian show
The playhouse once part of a country chateau
The Théâtre le Ranelagh is a very unique venue in Paris, at the time of its construction in the 1750’s it wasn’t even within the city limits, but rather part of the Chateau Boulainvilliers in what was at the time a far suburb of Paris! One of the estate’s first tenants was an amateur writer who hosted extravagant soirées, inviting all of Parisian high society to dinner and a show, and even attended by the likes of Voltaire and Rousseau themselves. The chateau and its entire estate fell into disarray and abandon during the period immediately after the French Revolution. Yet with a new owner came a major facelift, the Théâtre Ranelagh was entirely refurbished in the late 1800s to include cutting edge electric lighting throughout and custom detailing by the most legendary theatre architect of the time. The venue still has its unique styling, and to this day we still see the ornate oak paneling and plush velvet throughout the rectangular theatre. When the chateau and estate was destroyed in the 1930s to make way for the expansion of the city and the creation of the 16th arrondissement, the theatre was miraculously saved. Today the Théâtre Ranelagh is classified as a historical monument, housing classic plays by famous French playwrights from Molière to Corneille, Victor Hugo and more. Don’t be fooled by it’s modest exterior, inside the Théâtre Ranelagh features a gorgeous decor and a unique history just waiting to be discovered inside!
Bonus! Other Special Parisian Venues to Explore
Théâtre des Variétés: With its dedicated entryway in the Passage des Panoramas, this venue was requested by Napoleon himself and was one of the few female-run theatres when it opened in the early 1800s, no wonder it’s declared a national monument!
Théâtre Palais Royal: Built just before the French Revolution, this theatre, just steps away from the legendary Comédie Française, has been shaped and heavily influenced by the changing political environment throughout French history.
Théâtre Odéon: In the heart of the Saint-Germain de Près area, this gorgeous theatre always houses international renowned pieces, often featuring revisited classics. Since its construction in 1782 it has burned down a few times, only to be rebuilt even more splendidly, it was even here that the famous play The Marriage de FIgaro by Beaumarchais made its debut.
Thanks a lot to Amanda at Theatre in Paris for this great roundup! You can also learn more about Theatre in Paris in this past interview I did with them – I love the concept and highly recommend giving their shows and expat events a try!