The seven stats that reveal how Paris really is the world's capital of culture

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 1 Aug, 2019 Updated Thu 1 Aug 2019 09:32 CEST
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So Paris has a reputation as a city filled to the brim with culture. It's the home of the world's most visited gallery and monument as well as being an inspiration for films, novels and artists - but how does it really stack up compared to the rest of the world's cities when it comes to culture offering?


Data published by the World Cities Culture Forum shows that Paris really is top of the class when it comes to cultural markers such as the number of museums, cinemas and concert halls.

Amelie is filmed and set in Paris

1. Cinemas.

Paris leads the world in cinema numbers, with 312 in the city, compared to 188 in Shenzhen, China and 163 in London.

The city was home to the world's first cinema screening in 1895 and the capital's fascination with film has not waned since then with a huge range of cinemas on offer from the big multiplexes showing the latest blockbusters to smaller, independent movie houses showing quirky or arthouse films. The city has one screen for every 6,000 inhabitants, compared to the United States which has one screen for every 7,400 people, and the UK and Germany have one screen for every 17,000 people.

There is also a big choice of foreign films and, in summer, outdoor screenings. For English speakers, cinema club Lost in Frenchlation runs screenings of French films with English subtitles.

But it's not just watching films, Paris also likes to star in films. In fact the city is used so often as a movie set that there is even a name - Paris Syndrome - for the disconnect people feel when they arrive and discover that the real city is not quite as picture perfect as in the movies.

READ ALSO Paris and cinema - why the French capital is the city of the silver screen

The Musée de la Chasse et la Nature. Photo: AFP

2. Museums

With 297 of them, Paris also wins the museum category beating Moscow with 261 and Los Angeles with 219. With so many to choose from there really is a museum for everybody in Paris.

The best known such as the natural history museum attract millions of visitors every year, but there are some distinctly more offbeat museums to choose from. There's a museum of magic, a hunting museum with a frankly incredible collection of stuffed animals, a museum of vampires and several different options if preserved human bodies are your thing.

READ ALSO The top 10 must-see weird museums in Paris

La Philharmonie concert hall. Photo: AFP

3. Concert hall

Another category that Paris leads is big music venues, with 16 compared to 15 in New York and 13 in Tokyo. There's a huge variety here from classical music at the modernist La Philharmonie to opera at Opéra Bastille and contemporary music at the Bataclan or the Olympia. But as well as the big venues, Paris is also a city that appreciates its music, with many hundreds if not thousands of small venues and bars offering everything from jazz to rap.

If you love your music, don't miss the Fête de la Musique, when pretty much every bar, concert hall, open space and street corner has a different musical offering.

READ ALSO Drag queens, cognac and divorce - fifty five years as a cabaret singer in Paris

The Palace of Versailles. Photo: AFP

4. Unesco World heritage sites

The greater Paris region has four of these, joint top with London and Amsterdam and beating Rome, which has three. The banks of the Seine as it flows through the centre of Paris were classified as a world heritage site in 1991, joining the Île de France historic chateau of Versailles and Fontainebleu. Also in the greater Paris region is the medieval town of Provins, which was granted heritage status in 2001.

Paris also has a couple of applications pending so this number could be set to grow - the classic Parisian café terrace could be given world heritage status along with les bouquinistes - the booksellers who line the banks of the Seine with their classic green wooden boxes.

READ ALSO Ten French Unesco sites you probably won't have heard of - but should definitely visit

Photo: AFP

5. Bookshops

Paris doesn't top this category, but still makes a respectable showing with 1,251 bookshops, slightly behind Chengdgu, Melbourne, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

As well as the above mentioned street booksellers Paris also has a thriving independent bookstore scene, plus the usual big chains.

The French government has over the years enacted several measures to protect independent booksellers and across the country there are about 2,500 independent book sellers.

Probably the best known English-language bookstore is Shakespeare and Company on the Left Bank. Founded by American Sylvia Beach in 1919 it rapidly became the hangout for the Anglophone arty set in Paris, including Ernest Hemmingway, Ezra Pound and James Joyce. It is still going strong today with a lively programme of book signings, readings and events. In fact it's now so popular that in summer you often have to queue to get in, so many locals prefer to get their English language book fix from the Abbey Bookshop, set up in 1989 by Canadian Brian Spence. 

READ ALSO Why does Paris have so many independent shops?

The Louvre attracts 10 million visitors a year. Photo: AFP

6. Art galleries

Paris is just pipped to the post in this category by New York which has 1,475 galleries to Paris' 1,142, but Paris undoubtedly has some of the most stunning collections of art in the world. The big hitters in the gallery world such as the Louvre - the world's most visited - and the Musée d'Orsay attract millions of visitors with their enormous and fabulous collections, but there are also plenty of smaller and quirkier galleries to visit.

In central Paris the Musée de l'Orangerie is the perfect size (ie you can see everything in one visit before your feet start hurting) and contains a fabulous collection including Monet's waterlilies friezes while in the north of the city the Musée de Montmartre has a great collection of the area's best artists (plus beautiful gardens and a café selling good cake).

READ ALSO Five of the best exhibitions in Paris this summer

Le Bouillon Chartier in Montmatre. Photo: AFP

7. Restaurants

Perhaps surprisingly for a city that values its food, Paris only came third in this category with 44,896 restaurants beaten by Seoul with 88,239 and Tokyo which has an enormous 148,582 places to eat.

We would still contend that Paris restaurants are pretty good, however. There's obviously some fancy options like Alain Ducasse's Plaza Athénée  where dinner will set you back about €250 not including drinks (but we hear it's very nice) but for great traditional cooking at very reasonable prices it's well worth checking out Paris' bouillon restaurants that offer very classic French cooking in lovely settings.

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The Local 2019/08/01 09:32

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[email protected] 2019/09/05 09:13
PS. Even the link to the Lost in Frenchlation article quotes a more realistic 88... Just saying'!
[email protected] 2019/09/05 09:11
I think that figure of '312 cinemas in the city' has been proven false. It might mean cinema screens, but not cinemas. That would be a lot per arrondissement and having lived here for a long time, it's just not true!

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