Nuit Blanche 2021: What’s in store on Paris’s sleepless night?

It's the night the city of Paris stays up way past its bedtime - here is what is planned for the Nuit Blanche 2021, when Parisians, Franciliens and visitors can enjoy an eclectic arts programme by, hopefully, the light of a silvery moon. 

Nuit Blanche 2021: What’s in store on Paris’s sleepless night?
Photo: Bertrand Guay / AFP

The event, which coincides with the final night of the wrapping of the Arc de Triomphe to honour the artist Christo, will also unveil 12 works across the city from another initiative of the City of Paris, to showcase the collection of the Paris Collections Contemporary Art Fund.

READ ALSO French phrase of the Day: Nuit blanche 

Here, then are the highlights of the 20th edition of the popular annual event, in which art and sport collide overnight on Saturday, October 2nd.

A health pass will be required to attend certain events, notably those taking place in enclosed spaces – but, otherwise, the event will run normally. Because of Covid, last year’s event was unique, as this brief film shows.

The launch of the Nuit Blanche will take place at Place de l’Hotel de Ville, where dancer and choreographer Mourad Merzouki will lead a connected ‘choreographed walk’, in which, for a few minutes, visitors and professionals will dance in unison – joined via video link by participants at 10 district mairies, as well as people in nearby Alfortville, Aubervilliers, Créteil and Rueil-Malmaison. 

You won’t be expected to do this. Probably.

Art tours

A series of four connected walks have been set up, with artworks along the way.

The walk’s route will take in stops in various institutions of the capital, such as the Musée d’Art Moderne, le musée du Quai Branly, l’église Saint-Eustache, the Jeu de Paume and the Centre Pompidou, where visitors can admire the latest neon work of Tim Etchells, an installation 43m long.

The Paris Nord route will run from Porte d’Aubervilliers to Porte des Lilas, and will extend over nearly 6km. The Georges Vallerey swimming pool will host a set by DJ Barbara Butch, featuring shows from the French Artistic Swimming Team.

A third route, on the eastern side of the city, will start at Porte de Vincennes. Participants will go to the CIPALE velodrome, used in the 1900 and 1924 Olympic Games, Bercy park, and take the Simone de Beauvoir footbridge, leading to BNF Esplanada – where they will be able to see ‘Aire’, the work of artist Laurent Berbos.  It will take the form of a Dance Trek, organised by artist and choreographer Robin Decourcy – and will feature a number of surprise guests.

The western route will start from Balard and go to Porte d’Auteuil. During this 4.5km hike, visitors can take part in  a roller dance party at the Trinquet Village, and see a photographic exhibition at Stade Francais’ ground Stade Jean Bouin.

Exhibitions and Museums

This year’s Nuit Blanche  also marks the opening of the Rencontres Inattendues contemporary art exhibition bringing together more than 80 works owned by the city, which while be exhibited in a variety of everyday locations – from sports venues to libraries, schools and mairies – until December 15th.

Many of the city’s largest museums also open all night for for free and some are also hosting concerts and performances.


Music venues across the city are hosting concerns, from choral music in some of the city’s oldest churches to Paris Jazz Club performances and circus shows. Full list here.

Public transport

And don’t worry about getting home afterwards, the Metro and buses will also be running all night.

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Trees to trams: How French cities are adapting to summer heatwaves

The world is heating up, and France is no exception. Here is how the country plans to change the landscape of its cities in order to cope with ever-increasing heatwaves.

Trees to trams: How French cities are adapting to summer heatwaves

While the whole of France is suffering from increasing temperatures, those in cities must prepare to take on an extra dose of heat, due to “heat island effect” which makes urban environments up to 8C hotter than the countryside.

READ MORE: Scientists explain the ‘heat sink’ effect that makes Paris feel like an oven

Météo France reports that the country has suffered at least 43 heat waves have been detected since 1947, but they are becoming more alarming.

“Heat waves are increasing in intensity and frequency because of climate change,” said Robert Vautard, meteorologist and climatologist to Reporterre

They are also becoming more dangerous – Vautard explained that while the earth’s average temperature has increased by 1.5C in the last hundred years, average temperatures during heat waves have spiked even higher, becoming increasingly erratic. 

Coping with warmer temperatures is becoming a necessity, but it is in the big cities where people are sweating the most – Bordeaux, Lyon, Paris, for instance, it can be up to 8C warmer in the city centre than in the suburbs due to the urban “heat sink” effect.

French government spokesperson Olivia Grégoire last week announced that the country has devoted €500 million to encourage urban vegetation projects in order to turn ‘îlots de chaleur‘ (urban heat islands) into ‘îlots de fraicheur‘ (islands of coolness). 

South of France 

In the south of France, cities have always been designed with heat in mind – centuries-old techniques like white-painted buildings, shutters on the windows and narrow, shady streets help residents to stay cool.

Cities like Nice have even employed natural, traditional air conditioning systems – if you walk through the old town, you might notice “openings fitted with iron grills just over the doors” – they allow for fresh, cool air from the street level to come into the inside of the building.

Rural southern French ‘mas’ farmhouses were also built to keep cool, always facing south with very small windows to keep out summer heat.

But on the Côte d’Azur, temperatures are rising faster than the global average. For the rest of the world, warming occurs at 0.2C a decade, but in Côte d’Azur temperatures are increasing around 0.3C every ten years.

During the 2019 heatwave, southern France’s Gallargues-le-Montueux village, located in the Gard département broke heat records when it recorded 45.9C. Warming temperatures will impact the region so much so that it may even warrant a new climate classification in the next 50 years.

All this means that the traditional cooling techniques may not be enough to allow locals to cope with soaring temperatures.

For densely populated Marseille, the city will try to add breathing space between its closely aligned buildings: the objective is that for each urban block, there will be gaps between streets and a changing of the height between these spaces (like hollowing out the base) in order to better allow natural ventilation and airflow.

For wider streets, the city is looking at adding shade coverings over the blocks to keep them cool, and as the city is prone to flooding, grassy areas to plant trees will also be used for water retention, which also has a cooling effect.

In the north

Meanwhile, in northern parts of the country, cities were generally built with the intention to keep heat in, rather than out, meaning that they cope poorly with heatwaves.

Larger windows – a feature that is common in cities like Paris – wide boulevards covered in dark asphalt and roofs made of zinc are all well suited to cooler months, but means cities turn into ovens during a heatwave.

The more green space a city has, the more the temperature falls, so cities like Lille and Paris which are particularly densely populated and lack green space, are engaging in major ‘re-greening’ programmes.

On top of this, all French cities have some challenges in common: monuments historiques, or buildings registered as national heritage sites, where there is a lengthy process to make any changes or alterations that might impact the building or the character of the area.

Then, there is the challenge of the places that people simply do not want to see altered – like the area around the Eiffel Tower, for instance. 

READ MORE: Plan to fell trees near Eiffel Tower causes backlash from residents in French capital

But some cities do have ambitious plans to counter rising temperatures.

Americans might be wondering if this will involve more air conditioning in French buildings – unfortunately, the answer is no: air-con actually makes the heat island effect worse by pumping hot air back out onto the streets (as well as obviously guzzling energy to operate the systems, contributing to the climate change that is at the root of the problem).

Instead, it’s about finding ways to redesign city spaces to mitigate the extreme heat that is here to stay:

Paris plans

Paris’ climate action plan, released in 2018, defines how the densely populated city plans to cope with climate change, particularly its status as a heat island, between 2020 and 2030.

Along with the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, Paris hopes to prepare itself for “long periods of extreme heat,” warning that “the scorching summer of 2003 may well become a “normal” summer in 2050. 

Solar power plants and solar shading – to aid in its carbon neutral goals, the city of Paris hopes to invest in urban solar power plants, and one will be installed in the Bois de Vincennes flower park.

The city wants this ‘solar power plant’ to also incorporate solar shade structures in public places, in order to “combine the benefits of energy production with protection against extreme heat”

Training “energy facilitators” and “eco-managers” – these people would work with stakeholders in individual neighbourhoods to oversee greening projects.

The action plan says they would “keep an eye on vulnerable people during heat waves, facilitate the lending or hiring of property and equipment such as bicycles between residents, manage a mini-urban logistics hub, carry out the pre-collection of certain types of waste or transfer bulky waste items to waste sorting and recovery centres.” 

Cool islands and routes in Paris – The city plans to keep and maintain its interactive map that will show you where to keep and stay cool during periods of extreme heat.

As of 2018, the city had already identified around 700 ‘cool islands,’ like museums, libraries, swimming spots, and green spaces. But, the goal is that by 2030, the City will create or open at least an extra 300.

READ MORE: Climate change: What can we expect future French summers to look like?

Schoolyard oases – Removing asphalt from school yards and increasing green space is also part of the plan.

The city’s plan to build more ‘oases’ will help to create more cool islands. As schoolyards take up over half a million square metres in Paris, this offers a large amount of space that can be radically cooled down. In 2020, the city started with just three schools, and will continue expanding throughout the decade.

New roofs for Paris – Paris’ rooftops are a huge part of the city’s architectural history and identity, but they are also heat conductors. The city of Paris has proposed to that rooftops that are either too steep or facing the wrong direction ought to be  “covered in vegetation or reflective paint” in order to reduce urban heat island effect. 

More trees – Having already added almost 50 hectares of trees during the last climate action plan, Paris has a new goal of increasing its tree canopy by 2 percent – this would mean adding more than 20,000 trees. 

Greening the tramways – Finally, Paris’ tramways will get a facelift by adding grass and getting rid of the heat-soaking concrete beneath the rails

Finally, during heat waves the city will continue using its emergency plan, intended to inform and protect vulnerable people (and the general population) of where and how to stay cool. 

READ MORE: How France plans to ‘heatwave proof’ its cities