Best Live Music in Paris

Rock, R&B, Jazz, Classical – Paris Has Live Music Venues for You

For many years Paris was a hotbed for American Jazz and Blues musicians making their world tours. Parisians embraced this music from the very start, much of it originating from the formerly French-owned Louisiana /American South. Whether that’s the link that provided the bridge for performers like Josephine Baker and Louis Armstrong to make such big waves over here, is a subject that can be debated long into the smoke-filled, whiskey-induced late night hours of a hot and sweaty Parisian jazz club. What’s important here, is that these jazz clubs are thriving still and are as cultural an experience of Paris as is visiting the Tour Eiffel.

The French love their music and arts. This can be a real bonanza for lovers of classical music. Throughout the city you’ll find regal venues offering violin concertos, operas and operettas, classical orchestra concerts for simply the price of admission. The long-awaited Philharmonie de Paris, just opened in January 2015, is a stunning feat of acoustic architecture and a must-visit.

For those who crave a good rock or contemporary music concert there are plenty of places to catch those as well. The Olympia is one of the favored venues for these types of big-name concerts and smaller venues like the Flêche d’Or host the edgier, underground live music scene. The Stade de France is where the world-famous performers like Johnny Hallyday and the Black Eyed Peas play to a sold-out stadium of 50,000 and more.


19éme Arrondissement

Newly opened (January 2015) and long-awaited, Paris feels like it finally has the grand-scale concert hall deserving of its world-class status. Seating accommodates a stated 2,400 spectators and its location on the Cité du Musique, in the uppermost northern part of the city, assures that it is a special outing to visit the vast new space. The Grande Salle, the main symphonic hall, boasts an architectural design uniquely its own. It is based on the concept of envelopment. This design required innovations in acoustical engineering and can be described as two nested chambers. Architect Jean Nouvel worked closely with acoustics engineer Sir Harold Marshall to create this feat of musical intimacy in such a vast hall. Seats are a roomy 52 to 55 cm. (20.5 to 21.5 inches wide).

Read more about Philharmonie de Paris →

9th Arrondissement - Grands Boul
Olympia Bruno Coquatrix
Photo courtesy of Olympia Bruno Coquatrix

The Olympia is one of Paris' most popular live music venues. Not only is it exquisitely convenient in terms of location, just near Opéra, but also it has been standing at its same address since the end of the century before last, like a tall oak tree that just becomes part of the urban landscape. With all its grandeur and heritage, however, it hosts contemporary artists and seems to show a predilection for rock-n-roll. The venue is also called Olympia Hall and its proper name, though no one ever uses it, is L'Olympia Bruno Coquatrix. And yes, Bruno Coquatrix is credited with the revival of this mythic music hall in the 1950's, following WWII. A few acts it has hosted over the years : The Beatles, The Stones, Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Zazie and Sardou, and more recently Abba Mania. The comfortable interior gives the impression of floor-to-ceiling red velvet.

Read more about Olympia Bruno Coquatrix →

Ile Saint-denis

Not just the biggest stadium in Paris but the biggest in all of France, this 80,000+ seater holds the topline concert tours. Think Black Eyed Peas, Sting, Lada Gaga... Upcoming shows (at press time) are the AC /DC tour and Stars 80. It's best to access the stadium by using the RER, the commuter train system that is accessible via the Métro stations. There's a link on the main site that explains, in English, how best to get to the stadium from Paris. Carpooling is another option and a secure service, completely independent of the stadium, is called BlaBla Car. It's popular with the younger crowd. On-site dining options include hotdogs, cheeseburgers, tuna sandwiches, chips, bottled sodas and water, popcorn, waffles (a sweet snack for the French eaten like our cookies), and beer in reusable cups (for the environment!) which make good souvenirs.

Read more about Stade de France →

Photo courtesy of Le Showcase copyright

Le Showcase gets its name from its reputation of showcasing the next-big-thing in bands. This nightclub also features some of Paris' most popular DJs, usually after the band has played a few sets, that is located under the landmark beauty of a bridge, the Pont Alexandre III which crosses the Seine from Grand Palais to Invalides. The club has an underground feel with sweeping architecture, a great dance floor and constant music. It's known for showcasing live acts, both famous and just-breaking. But the dance floor gets good use every night, too, usually right up until dawn. If you're looking for a truly unique and memorable only-in-Paris venue, this is surely it.

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1er Arrondissement

On the jazz-thick Rue des Lombards, Le Baiser Salé ("Salted Kiss") is convincingly moody. New bands dominate, but veterans sometimes grandstand – and it's famous for promoting unusual and trans-ethnic styles. The ambiance is warm and welcoming; the dress code is very much "come as you are." Students, jazz fans and their long-suffering friends all manage to have a good time. The motto here is that only in the world of jazz would we ever want to become millionaires. That's the singular devotion to this genre of music you'll find here. Since opening over 30 years ago now it has hosted scores of musical acts including Richard Bona, Taffa Cissé, Thierry Arpino, Etienne MBappé, Linlay Marthe, Geoffroy de Mazure, Émile Parisien, Angélique Kidjo, Laurent Vernerey, Loïc Ponthieu, NGuyen Lê, Mokhtar Samba.

Recommended for Live Music because: This is where the jazz musicians of the city congregate after they've played through their evening. It stays open until 6 in the morning.

Paige's expert tip: This jazz club leans towards the Afro-jazz-fusion sort. It is near Les Halles so makes it super convenient for a night out of bar and music club hopping. Around since the early 80's, its reputation is solid among Parisian and international jazz lovers.

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20éme Arrondissement

Capacity here is 500, standing. This venue started out as an abandoned train station, closed in 1934, where some of the local art students of the 90s would hold impromptu "café concerts." The name comes from the now out-of-use train that used to go Paris-London from 1926 to 1972, that was called La Fléche d'Or. Since its fairly recent re-opening (2013) the venue hosts live music acts featuring pop/rock/folk. It also holds dance and music evenings with DJ's spinning electro and hiphop. It has now also become a destination venue for discovering up-and-coming new musical talent and acts. Over the years this venue has hosted over 3000 musical groups and talented acts.

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Salle Pleyel
Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Salle Pleyel copyright

The fine acoustics in this concert hall are perfect for showing off their resident l'Orchestre de Paris and l'Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France as well as l'Orchestre National d'Ile-de-France. On a recent concert evening showcasing conductor Adam Fischer and violinist Tedi Papavrami, the concert hall was packed and not just with bluehairs, as the French take their cultural outings seriously and nearly all cultural venues offer a special discount student rate. Which is to say that you will find the ages, and the attire, quite mixed, from formal dinner jackets and cocktail dresses to the students' universal uniform of jeans, t-shirt and sneakers. Over 200 evenings of music are programmed per year and many are recorded for later broadcast on Radio France, hence the superb acoustics and the audience's respect for absolute quiet during performances. But it's not only classical music that you'll find at Salle Pleyel, as their programming ranges from orchestras to rock and during a given season you'll find diversity that ranges from Daniel Barenboim to les Solistes des Berliner Philharmoniker to Patti Smith.

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17éme Arrondissement
Jazz Club Etoile
Photo courtesy of Jazz Club Etoile Paris

This is one of the more elegant jazz clubs in the city. It might lack the tradition that some of the small, cramped Left Bank jazz cellars can boast, as it's only been open for two decades, but here is where you'll find the greats like B.B. King, Count Basie and Lionel Hampton tuning their horns when they play the City of Lights. The interior courtyard garden offers air and freshness in the warmer seasons and Sundays you can book a table for jazz brunch. Every evening the jazz concert starts at 10pm and Monday nights are reserved for showcasing new talent. This is the city's classy adult's jazz club.

Recommended for Live Music because: Grown-ups like to go out and enjoy good music and a cocktail on weeknights in a dressed-up atmosphere, too.

Paige's expert tip: Tuesday evening cocktail and jazz hour(s) from 7 :30 to 10 :30 with piano and vocalist. This is an elegant jazz club. In other words, it's jazz in Paris without the sticky, sweaty, hot, cramped close quarters of most of the other jazz clubs in the city.

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1er Arrondissement

This jazz joint draws big-name musicians and a crowd of music lovers. The interior features a swanky, modern vibe, and the tables are strategically positioned so that there's really not a bad seat. This local hot spot also features a full dinner menu. The programming offers nearly nightly music acts and there are often two shows, one at 8 p.m. and the later show at 10 p.m. Concerts range from jazz pianists playing Dave Brubeck tributes to French "pop jazz" trios. This is a great location in the center of town that gives you a good night of music, fun and some jazz relaxation.

Read more about Au Duc des Lombards →

1er Arrondissement

This 13th-century royal chapel was built in 1242-48 by King Louis IX to house his religious relics brought back from the Holy Land. It is said that it once housed Christ's crown of thorns. Originally part of the royal palace complex on the Ile de la Cité, it is now incorporated into the administrative complex called La Conciergerie. That's part of the reason why you have to go through a security check by the gendarmerie upon entering. The stunning Gothic structure boasts two levels, including an upper section that's awash in light from gorgeous stained-glass windows, depicting scenes from the Old Testament and the Passion of Christ.The chapel is a perfect example of the Gothic architectural style called Rayonnant and its "jewel-box" structure, along with its acoustics within, are renowned worldwide. It has been a national historical monument since 1862. Not to be missed. METRO: Cité

Recommended for Live Music because: Built by King Louis IX, the exquisite structural architecture with its stained glass imparts the feeling of being enveloped by light and color.

Paige's expert tip: Check the website for evening concert schedules. They are even sometimes free. The acoustics here are world-renowned so listening to a live classical concert at St. Chapelle is unequalled anywhere in the world.

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Meet Paige Donner

Paige's latest book, The Romantic Couple's Guide To The City of Love, Sexy Paris follows her earlier guidebook Paris On 4 Paws, A Dog Lover's Guide To The City of Light and her acclaimed...  More About Paige