Exploring Paris’ little wonders for free

Free history and art in Paris’ museums

The Carnavalet Museum tells the history of Paris, from its distant origins to this very day. Using various media (manuscripts, models, paintings, furniture, sculptures, artifacts and photos), it describes the city’s transformation from the village of Lutèce to the grand metropolis it has become today. Covering the Medieval, Renaissance, French Revolution, 19th and 20th century history of the city, the museum reproduces the capital’s evolution and tells the story of its inhabitants, from the most humble to the most renowned. Touching and educational, it offers the visitor the chance to inspect incredible items of history from up close. Get lost in time among Napoleon’s favorite case of toiletries, Émile Zola’s gold watch-chronometer, Marie-Antoinette’s personal possessions or even an originally furnished reconstruction of the room where Marcel Proust wrote his chef-d’ouevre “In search of lost time”. Those hungry for more should be informed that a number of free museums (like the Louvre, Orsay, Rodin, Centre Pompidou, Musée de Quai Branly and others) are open for free visits each first Sunday of the month, so get ready for many more hours of culture sampling without spending a dime.


Free music in Paris’ churches

Enjoy the sounds of the organ and the melody of chamber, jazz or classical music during the free concerts held each Thursday from 12:45 to 13:30 in the Eglise de la Trinité on 3, Rue de la Trinité. After the concert, join the musicians in the nearby bistro for a quick snack and a chat about music and world harmony. For a free sample of 40 church bells playing in divine unison, pass by the Carillon de Beffroi (close to the church Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois at 4, place du Louvre) each Wednesday between 13:30 and 14h for an improvised gig of 18th century popular pieces or contemporary tunes written especially for the instrument. The classical Saturdays (20-21:30) and Sundays (16-17:30) of the Saint-Merry church (76, rue de la Verrerie) will grant you the opportunity to get lost to the otherworldly sound of its 3-centuries old organ…


Free open-air cinema by moonlight

One of Paris’ ultimate August events, Cinéma au clair de Lune treats you to some great movie classics, projected for free under the starry skies of Paris’ parks and gardens. The 14th edition of Cinema in the moonlight will introduce you to some cult flicks broadcast in Montmartre, Place des Vosges, Parc Montsouris, the Trocadero gardens and the square René-Cassin. Don’t forget your picnic basket and your checkered blanket and see you on the grass by moonlight!


Free skills with Paris’ open-air cooking class

All food aficionados will be thrilled to know that they could rival a real “chef étoilé” after enrolling in one of the free cooking classes offered by the City Council and the French Federation of Amateur Cooks. Set outdoors in the context of Paris’ open-air markets, the classes are a pleasant, unexpected and educational way of acquiring a new skill. All classes take place in the morning and begin at 10am. As for the teachers, all of them are real chefs or professional tutors in different cooking schools across the city. Once you’ve reached the market, you’d start by touring the stands of the merchants in search for their best products, then you’d find your place behind the booth and – equipped with an apron – you will concentrate on the watching the chef work his magic. In the end of the class, you will taste the chef’s creation and once back home you could remake it all by yourself, because now that you’ve graduated, you will be officially called “chef”! For more information, go to http://www.ffcuisineamateur.org/Agenda


Free “smarts” in the legendary Collège de France

Dispersing wisdom to everyone willing to learn, Collège de France is an international institution of knowledge and a unique establishment of higher education, where professors (sometimes Noble prize winners of members of the French Academy) give free and open lectures to those considering themselves to be eternal students of life. Dating from the 16th century, the college’s primary goal is to “teach science in the making” and its university’s professors are chosen from a variety of disciplines, both scientific and humanitarian. The college’s motto “Docet Omnia (Latin for “It teaches everything“) matches its mission to dismantle preconceived notions and distribute the idea of free thought. So if you want some real training in classical French thinking, this is the place to get it. Even if you can’t manage to visit the halls of the college itself, you could still sophisticate yourself with its originally recorded podcasts, which you could download or listen for free on the college’s website.


Free sky watching with Les Nuits des Étoiles (The Night of the Stars)

Where do comets come from? What are the skies made of? Could you really wish upon a star? Poetic and scientific, these are some of the questions you would be asking yourself while admiring the starry skies during this year’s edition of Les Nuits des Etoiles (The Nights of the stars). For more than twenty years, this free summer astronomic festival offers a piece of heaven to more than 100 000 curious sky lovers. Popular, family-oriented and free, this grand manifestation aimed at the general public incites Parisians and visitors to spend a night beneath the stars and to discover the wonders of the heavenly vault by observing the constellations under the informed supervision of volunteering amateur astronomers. Watch out for falling stars as they might grant wishes…

Comete Hale-Bopp