Although usually considered the cradle of French culture, Paris is at heart a multicultural metropolis. Pieces of art found in private galleries or on open-air exhibitions clearly indicate that the colonial past of France and the contemporary immigration boom have left a permanent mark on the cultural consciousness of the city. Various experiences of immigrants from all over the world are inscribed in local art, architecture, food and annual festivals.
In mid-February, for example, Parisians gather in the Chinese district (Quartier Chinois) to celebrate the commencement of the Chinese New Year. Although this tradition is without doubt a foreign import, few locals would question its affinity with Parisian culture. That's why, each year thousands gather here to watch the colourful parade, as it marches from the Place d'Italie towards the Porte de Choisy in a spectacle full of paper dragons, firecrackers, ethnic dances and loud music. The festival is also a good opportunity to get the taste of Parisian cuisine, which these days comprises not only typically French croissants and cafe au lait but also specialities from Chinese, Vitetnamese, and Arab cuisine.
However, if you'd like to experience Parisian culture, as it was prior to the 20th-century rapid diversification, visit one of the city's museums to study the history of Paris as represented in the masterpiece paintings and sculptures. One of the best places to start your trip down Parisian memory lane is the Louvre. The museum holds a vast collection of works from 13th to 19th Centuries, including works painted by such French masters as Achille Michallon and Jacques Blanchard. In order to see Paris through the eyes of the local impressionists, stroll along to Musée d'Orsay or Musée Marmottan-Monet, which houses numerous paintings by Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
Some other prominent artists, like for instance painter Pablo Picasso, sculptor Auguste Rodin, and singer Edith Piaf, all of whom worked in Paris at a certain time in their career, have in Paris museums devoted exclusively to them. However, if French celebrities are not of your prime interest, have a glimpse of what Paris might look like in the future by paying a visit to Centre Georges Pompidou - a centre for architectural designs that will shape the future of the French capital. Also worth seeing is the Quai Branly Museum – opened in June 2006, just few steps from the Eiffel Tower, Quai Branly gives a chance to learn more about the colonial past of France, as well as about the impact civilizations of Africa, Asia, Oceania have on the everyday life of the Frenchmen.
Parisian culture is also ingrained in the sounds of bustling streets, bouncy clubs and splendid operas. During the day, numerous local groups perform jazz standards and traditional Parisian folk music for tips and words of kindness. If you'd rather listen to some classical music, visit one of five Parisians operas, were works by such virtuosi as Jean-Joseph Mouret and Fryderyk Chopin are performed almost every week. The Opéra Garnier and the modern Opera Bastille are the most expensive and at the same time most rewarding places to experience Parisian musical acts. Additionally, some concert halls invite the guests for both classic and contemporary repertoire.
The atmosphere of Paris is also represented in the numerous plays and films that had been set in the capital of France. One of them is Jean-Baptiste Poquelin Molière's play Tartuffe or The Hypocrite which can be watched in Comédie-Française, which is the only state theatre in France. Nowadays this magnificent theatre has about 3000 plays in its repertoire, its own troupe of actors and three additional theatres scattered along Paris – Salle Richelieu, Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier and Studio-Théâtre. Other extremely popular theatres include Bobino and Théâtre Mogador.
Culturally speaking, Paris offers you a unique range of opportunities. Don't wait - book a ticket, check in your Paris hotel and begin your cultural journey in the City of Light!