A Paris Must-See: Nuit Blanche

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Every October, for one special night, Paris gives herself over to art. This year’s Nuit Blanche (“sleepless night”) runs from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. on Saturday, October 5. During this time, landmarks open their doors for free and artists take over central public spaces. With projections, installations, sound and ephemeral art, the city becomes an almost magical realm. Once a local secret, Nuit Blanche has become a Paris must-see. So, especially if the weather is nice, your best bet is just to stroll around with open eyes. That way you can spy the shortest queues while enjoying the open-air spectacles.

Paris must-see: festive blue lights for Nuit Blanche

This year’s Nuit Blanche boasts a feminine touch; its art direction is shared between two women, Chiara Parisi and Julie Pellegrin. They’ve invited artists from different backgrounds to unify the city’s unique streets, squares, quais and docks. Their aim is to architect “a one-night tale of struggles, fantasies and romance.”

Paris must-see: du soleil dans la nuit

Nuit Blanche is always focused around artistic “paths”—trajectories laid out through chosen neighborhoods. This year’s target paths will be along canal Saint-Martin, through the Belleville-Menilmontant and Marais-République areas as well as (my favorite) down the newly opened Berges de Seine. There are also “trans-Parisian projects.” My choice of those is Martin Creed’s All the Bells. At exactly 7 p.m., to kick off proceedings, Creed has all the church bells on the Nuit Blanche path set to ring in unison. This sound salute will last three minutes and you too can take part. Just download the iPhone app All the Bells, available via App Store and Google.

Paris must-see: celebrating Nuit Blanche along the Seine

The Nuit Blanche always has a hefty website. But its projects tend to come together late and the city Web gurus overcomplicate their interface. So the most reliable guide is actually the paper program—a booklet available from the Paris Hôtel de Ville on the afternoon of October 5. It’s well worth your time to get one.

Paris must-see: Paris comes alive during Nuit Blanche

Here are six recommendations to help you shape the evening:

Outside:
• Above the Seine, helicopters fitted with speakers will broadcast a string quartet by Karlheinz Stockhausen.
• The river banks (berges) host all-night DJ sets and pyrotechnics by Chinese fireworks specialist Cai Guo-Qiang. (Guo-Qiang designed the displays at the Beijing Olympics.)
• The newly renovated Place de la République welcomes “fog sculptures” by artist Fujiko Nakaya.

Paris must-see: art on view during Nuit Blanche

Inside:
• The Assemblée Nationale (National Assembly) opens the doors to its home, the Palais Bourbon. The public will be admitted to the debating chamber, various rooms and the library. It’s a rare opportunity to view a great collection of contemporary art as well as, of course, classic paintings by the likes of Delacroix.
• The Carreau du Temple, an 1860s covered market currently under renovation, stands on the site of the old Temple prison. This was where the royal family was held during the Revolution. The Carreau won’t reopen until 2014 but, for Nuit Blanche, it houses projections by celebrated artist Huang Yong Ping.
• Also open, in the 19th, will be the Communist Party’s famous HQ (designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer). Go there to enjoy dramatic films by England’s Peter Watkins.

Paris must-see: an installation on view during Nuit Blanche

Transport:
• Metro and other transport services run until 2 a.m.
• Metro Line 1 runs until 5:30 a.m., serving a shorter list of stations (but there will be trains every 7 minutes). Between 2:15 and 5:30 a.m., this service is also free.
• A more frequent night bus service is also available from 12:30 a.m. until 5:30 a.m.

NB: It always proves hard to tear oneself away from the Paris must-see features of Nuit Blanche. So schedule your preferred parts early in the evening.

Related Links

Nuit Blanche

Nuit Blanche: Berges de Seine

Nuit Blanche: Canal Saint-Martin

Nuit Blanche: Belleville-Menilmontant

Editor’s note: Girls’ Guide is going global! We are so excited about our new e-magazine, Girls’ Guide to Paris ET PLUS, we want to make sure you see it today. To experience the first issue for free, all you have to do is visit the Girls’ Guide to Paris ET PLUS subscriber page and scroll down. Enjoy it and share it with your friends—we hope you’ll become a subscriber as we travel the world together!

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