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What are the best places to live when you’re in your 20s? Paris is one of them! Keep reading to know everything about my life in Paris as a student.
Striving Parisian Art Scene
The most unforgettable memories of my two years as a Sorbonne student were going out and enjoying the numerous art events in the city. Do you have an idea of how many shows you can see in Paris every week? According to L’Officiel des Spectacles, there are more than 3,000!
La Carte Etudiant
When you’re a student in France, you get a carte étudiant (student card) that provides perks such as priority entry and discounts on the best seats to concerts and theater plays, and thus to the most famous concert halls in the city. In New York city, it’s not uncommon to pay $200 or more for a classical performance. But in Paris with my student card, I could access the best seats to the opera productions for €20. You can imagine that the lines for cultural events were full of people in their twenties like me!
One of my favorite concert halls in Paris is La Salle Pleyel. I spent many nights there. I heard the tenor singer Ian Bostridge in an emotional concert of Bach sonatas. I watched the critically acclaimed pianist Hélène Grimaud. Finally I was lucky to see the wild, genius pianist and jazz woman Hiromi Uehara.
I would go to the opera on Sunday afternoons to see Casse-Noisette by Tchaikovsky and Die Fledermaus by Richard Strauss at the splendid Opéra Garnier. We would also go with friends to comedy clubs.
Have you ever heard of L’Epée de Bois and Le Théâtre du Soleil stage ensembles? If you want a truly Parisian, artistic experience, check out their program the next time you visit Paris! Located in the artsy-gentrified banlieue of Vincennes, these clubs have attracted loyal spectators for decades. You will fell under the spell of their shows!
In addition to the music, we can’t forget about the art. From the Centre Pompidou to the Grand Palais to Orsay, I would spend entire afternoons wandering in Paris museums. The most precious artistic encounters were the unexpected ones — going to the Louvre on that rainy day when the galleries were almost empty. Then, finding myself face to face with the Greek statues and their irrepressible aura of sacredness. Entering a new museum with no expectations whatsoever, and discovering sculptures whose faces would haunt my dreams for days after.
Nurturing my own Artist Skills
While living in Paris, I also developed some of my own artistic skills. Aside from studying for my degree, I joined the music conservatory. There I took music theory and classical singing classes. I made new friends at the conservatory and we worked hard on singing technique and acting. We had a couple of performances, but I have to tell you the truth: I found opera singing too loud and boisterous. Instead, I fell in love with Baroque music and have been cultivating this taste for many years since.
Learning Languages Through Singing
Classical singing was an unexpected way of cultivating my love for foreign languages too. My singing teacher assigned us to practice on German lieder by Schubert and Italian arias by Mozart. Spanish and Russian songs were also on the list! I still can recite the entire lyrics of Die Schöne Müllerin by heart today. The singing practice came along with working on the proper pronunciation and vocal technique.
Paris Day by Day
Some rare events make a city magical and postcard-like. The thing is that you have to live there all year round to get a chance to see them with your own eyes! Who knows better New York than New Yorkers? In the same vein, who knows better Paris than Parisians?
Snowy Night in Montmartre
During my first year at la Sorbonne, I live in Montmartre with my roommate Coline. Our studio was small but nicely located in one of those Amélie movie streets that wind through the artsy neighborhood. One night, in January, it snowed so heavily in Paris that most of the public transportation was suspended. As a result, there was no one to be seen around. It seemed like the iconic Montmartre belonged just to us! The snow covered the more than 2,200 steps of Montmartre with a cake-frosting-like layer of sparkling powder. The lampposts threw their dim, yellow halo on the white icy carpet. It was immaculate, except the trace that our own feet left behind us. That night, Paris felt like a mystical wintery Jerusalem from centuries ago!
Madame Deneuve’s Secret Café
One day as I stepped out of the Sorbonne gate, I took a different turn than usual. I walked up the Rue de Victor Cousin, and since it was raining I entered a local movie theater. I looked around and saw red stairs. I climbed them, imagining that I would find doors to movie projection rooms. To my surprise, there was no such thing! Instead, there was a café. It was tranquille and spacious. The customers seemed to be des habitués (EN: loyal customers). They looked like influencers of the movie and fashion industry. I took a seat and ordered a coffee and lunch. Doing some research, I discovered this cafe was kept secret by its owner, Catherine Deneuve. The famous actress had created the space to be a chill haven in the heart of the Parisian hustle. Soon this secret place became my favorite place to sit!
There is no Light without Shadow
Being a student in Paris was exciting and came with a plethora of cultural adventures. However, where there is light, there must be shadow. Read my article Five Drawbacks of Being a Student in Paris to learn about the dark corners of that exciting life.
- Soirée au Théâtre du soleil, France info
- La Callas en Hologramme à la Salle Pleyel, France info
- As a bonus, here’s the address to the chillest café in Paris: Le Salon du Panthéon. 13 rue Victor Cousin. Enter the movie theater and walk up the stairs located just behind the cashier.