First celebrated in 2002, Nuit Blanche is a Paris arts and culture event that’s ideal for the nocturnally-driven traveler– and completely free for all. 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.
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.
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 2019: Dates & Practical Details
In 2019, Nuit Blanche Paris falls on Saturday, October 5th starting at around 7:00 pm or nightfall.
- Where: Hundreds of locations around Paris. An updated official program in English should be available soon at the Paris Tourist Office website; in the meantime, scour the main details below for an overview of what to expect this year.
- Transportation: All lines of the Paris Metro will remain open until around 2:00 am as usual, while Line 1 will stay open until 5:30 am for the occasion of Nuit Blanche. Travelers can ride free between 2:15 am and 5:30 am on that line. Several night buses will also operate throughout the early morning; see this page at the RATP (Paris Transport Authority) for more information.
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 crammed, 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 2019 Program: A Few Highlights
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 in September for further details on the program in 2019. Enjoy what I hope will be a long, white night of discovery!