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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Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

The French have developed an entire cultural tradition around the idea of an afternoon snack. It's called "Le goûter" and here's what you need to know about it.

Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

With all those patisseries and viennoiseries tempting the tastebuds in high street boulangerie after boulangerie, there can be little wonder that France  – which takes food very seriously – has also invented the correct time to eat them.

Let us introduce you to the cultural tradition of le goûter – the noun of the verb “to taste”, and a cultural tradition in France dating back into the 19th century, perhaps even as far back as the Renaissance … allowing for the fact that people have snacked for centuries, whether or not it had a formal name. 

It refers to a very particular snack time, usually at around 4pm daily. This is the good news.

The bad news is that, officially, le goûter is reserved for children. This is why many schools, nurseries and holiday activity centres offer it and offices don’t. The idea is that, because the family evening meal is eaten relatively late, this mid-afternoon snack will keep les enfants from launching fridge raids, or bombarding their parents with shouts of, “j’ai faim!”.

Most adults, with their grown-up iron will-power, are expected to be able to resist temptation in the face of all that pastry, and live on their three set meals per day. Le grignotage – snacking between meals – is frowned on if you’re much older than your washing machine.

But, whisper it quietly, but just about everyone snacks (grignoter), anyway – a baguette that doesn’t have one end nibbled off in the time it takes to travel from boulanger to table isn’t a proper baguette. Besides, why should your children enjoy all the treats? 

We’re not saying ignore the nutritionists, but if you lead an active, reasonably healthy lifestyle, a bite to eat in the middle of the afternoon isn’t going to do any harm. So, if you want to join them, feel free.

What do you give for goûter 

It’s a relatively light snack – we’re not talking afternoon tea here. Think a couple of biscuits, a piece of cake, a pain au chocolat (or chocolatine, for right-thinking people in southwest France), piece of fruit, pain au lait, a croissant, yoghurt, compote, or a slice of bread slathered in Nutella.

Things might get a little more formal if friends and their children are round at the goûter hour – a pre-visit trip to the patisserie may be a good idea if you want to avoid scratching madly through the cupboards and don’t have time to create something tasty and homemade.

Not to be confused with

Une collation – adult snacking becomes socially acceptable when it’s not a snack but part of une collation served, for example, at the end of an event, or at a gathering of some kind. Expect, perhaps, a few small sandwiches with the crusts cut off, a few small pastries, coffee and water.

L’apéro – pre-dinner snacks, often featuring savoury bites such as charcuterie, olives, crisps and a few drinks, including alcoholic ones, as a warm up to the main meal event, or as part of an early evening gathering before people head off to a restaurant or home for their evening meal.

Un en-cas – this is the great adult snacking get-out. Although, in general, snacking for grown-ups is considered bad form, sometimes it has to be done. This is it. Call it un en-cas, pretend you’re too hungry to wait for the next meal, and you’ll probably get away with it.

Le goûter in action

Pour le goûter aujourd’hui, on a eu un gâteau – For snack today, we had some cake.

Veuillez fournir un goûter à votre enfant – Please provide an afternoon snack for your child.

J’ai faim ! Je peux avoir un goûter ? – I’m hungry! Can I have a snack?