European festivals run the gamut – they’re either raucous or somber, deeply rooted in tradition or a modern celebration of art and culture. On the wilder, more traditionalist end of the spectrum, you have something like Oktoberfest, Germany’s paean to beer and cheer. And on the other, more artistic end of the spectrum sits Paris’s Nuit Blanche – a magical city-wide celebration of art.
This post explores everything a traveller needs to know about Nuit Blanche: what is it, what should you pack, and how do you wring maximum enjoyment from the festival? Let’s explore!
What Is It?
Nuit Blanche literally translates to “white night,” referring to the festival’s all-night, lights-on spectacle. While you can find Nuit Blanche festivals worldwide (Canada’s Toronto puts on a fantastic one), Paris’s is the first, most famous, and most widely attended.
Every October 1st, Paris museums, art galleries and cultural institutions keep their doors open throughout the night, free of charge. Parisians roam the streets into the wee hours, taking in public art exhibitions and free concerts. The public transit lines and metro system also stay open through the night to help revelers navigate the plethora of events.
What Should You Pack?
Packing for Nuit Blanche is a two-pronged effort. On the one hand, you need to pack for fall in France, which can get chilly, especially in the later hours. On the other hand, you’ll want to pack for the festival itself.
Top of your list should be comfortable, warm clothing like a wool hoodie and merino wool pants. You want to feel warm but also comfortable enough to trek around the city. Here are a few other items to consider:
- A collapsible water bottle to stay hydrated throughout the festival
- Melatonin to regulate your sleep schedule the day after
- Your favorite camera to snap photos of the public art spectacles
- A phrase book or translation app to blend in with the Parisians
- And a physical city map in case your phone dies on your “journey to the end of the night.”
Aside from the above items, pack your typical toiletries, travel documents and electronics.
How to Stay Awake through the Night
Not sure you can make it to the morning? Worried about passing out at 2 am on a Paris train headed to the suburbs? Here are a few tips to stay awake during Paris’s Nuit Blanche:
- Make your jet lag work for you – arrive the day before the festival when your circadian rhythms are still stuck in sleepless nights.
- Do as the Parisians do and sip espressos through the evening
- Practice your French with the locals – the mental effort can help take your mind off sleep.
- Time a 5 pm cat nap to give you a late-night boost
Use a couple of these tips in combination to ensure that you stay wide awake for the excitement.
If you plan on travelling to Europe this fall, don’t miss Nuit Blanche. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind festival, chock full of art, both classic and contemporary, and brimming with urban energy.