When looking for some entertainment options in Paris, don’t forget to check out the many shows beloved by the locals as much as visitors, including world-renowned circus acts, magic shows, and the traditional children’s puppet theatres still going strong in parks all over the city.
The Circus in Paris
Paris is a favored destination for international circus acts, and hosts the annual Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain (a show of young new circus talent from around the world) in late January/early February, as well as regularly hosting the Cirque du Soleil. Check event booking sites like FNAC Spectacles or L’Officiel du Spectacle for the latest listings.
Paris Circuses without Wild Animals
While wild animals (lions, tigers, elephants, chimpanzees, etc) are banned in circuses in 28 European countries, France has not yet enacted a full ban (only on circuses renting municipal premises in Paris). Circuses that do NOT include wild animals in their acts are:
- Cirque de Paname (Hippodrome de Longchamp, Bois de Boulogne, 16th), the relative newcomer since 2019, is an innovative, high-end, “Made in France” circus made to showcase the best in French circus arts with a similar vibe to Cirque du Soleil. The show is entirely without dialog so easy for anyone to follow, French or not.
- Le Cirque Phénix (Place Cardinal-Lavigerie, Porte de Charenton, 12th, Tel 01 45 72 10 00), a contemporary circus focusing on artistic acrobatics
- Cirque Electrique (Place du Maquis du Vercors, Porte des Lilas, 20th), a circus-cabaret-burlesque-show hybrid with an urban, punk rock attitude.
- Romanès Cirque Tzigane (Square Parodi, Boulevard de l’Amiral-Bruix, Porte Maillot, 16th, Tel 01 40 09 24 20), a circus focusing on Eastern European gypsy dance and music.
- La Villette (Espace Chapitaux, Parc de la Villette, 211 Ave Jean Jaurès, 19th), the big tent at La Villette hosts several circuses each year, check their program (sort by “discipline – circus”), including the French National Center for Circus Arts (CNAC).
- L’EcoCirque (often on tour throughout France, check their site for Paris dates), a “humans only” circus started by a family member of the famous Bouglione circus dynasty as an alternative to traditional circus acts.
Right around the corner from the Place des Vosges, Le Double-Fond (1 Place du Marché St-Catherine, 4th M° St-Paul Tel 01 42 71 40 20) is a magic café-théâtre where you’ll find regular magic shows (with or without dinner) in their atmospheric stone vaulted cellar, or you can simply order a drink on the terrace bar (open late afternoon through midnight) and the server will perform a trick at your table.
The Musée de la Magie (Magic Museum, 11 rue Saint-Paul, 4th, Tel 01 42 72 13 26) has a magic show at the end of each visit, however the museum and its show are aimed at French audiences (great if you want to try your French and escape the tourists).
Marionnettes & Guignol Puppet Shows
Puppet shows, aka Punch & Judy shows, known in France as marionnettes or guignols, have hardly evolved over the centuries, and yet remain as popular as ever with young Parisian children (from 2 years old). There’s plenty of interaction at these shows as kids cheer for the heroes and boo at the villains in classics such as Puss in Boots and Three Musketeers.
The shows are in French, but it’s not too hard for even the youngest of children to figure out what’s going on (and, for once, they can be as loud as they want). Reservations are not possible: it’s a good idea to arrive 20-30 minutes in advance, if not more, to assure you get a seat. Bring cash in case credit cards are not accepted (usually they are not). French kids get a lot of holidays throughout the year, so double-check each theater’s website, schedules change accordingly. Dress warmly in the winter, especially if you’ll have to wait outside. Shows can be 30-45 minutes. Everyone pays the same price: kids, adults, and babies from 1 year old.
Marionnettes du Luxembourg
Next to the playground at the Jardin du Luxembourg, this is one of the most popular theatres and always packed. Shows are usually several times each day (10:30/11am, 3pm, 4:15pm) on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, with additional shows during school holidays, check the program online. Entrance €6.70.
Marionnettes du Champ de Mars
Dating back to the early 1800’s this Napoleon III-era guignol theatre is considered one of the most beautiful in Paris. It’s at the foot of the Eiffel Tower on the Champ de Mars between Avenue Risler and Avenue Motte Piquet, in the 7th. Shows Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday 3:15pm and 4:15pm (check the program online for school holiday hours). Tickets €5.
Marionnettes du Parc Monceau
Located in the Parc Monceau, 8th arrondissement, this is an “open air” guignol theatre that’s usually open April through October, with shows Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Guignol du Parc Floral de Paris
This theatre is located in the Parc Floral (enter just behind the Château de Vincennes in the Bois de Vincennes, 12th). Aside from their annual winter closing in January, they’re open Wednesdays and weekends throughout the year, and daily during school holidays. Shows are usually 3pm and 4pm. Tickets €2.80.
Marionnettes du Parc Montsouris
Located near the lake in the Parc Montsouris (near the entrance at 23 bis ave Reille, 14th), this guignol theatre has cozy club seats for the kids. Open year-round with shows Wednesdays, weekends, and holidays. Tickets €5.
Marionnettes du Parc Georges Brassens
This little guignol theatre in the Parc George Brassens (entrance 87 rue de Brancion, 15th) is open year-round (covered and heated for the winter) with shows at 3:30pm and 4:30pm Wednesdays, weekends, and school holidays. Tickets €4.
Marionnettes des Buttes Chaumont
A cozy indoor theatre in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont (located close to the Rue Botzaris entrance just outside metro Buttes-Chaumont) in the 19th arrondissement. Open year-round with shows Wednesdays, weekends, and holidays. Tickets €5.
Marionnettes des Champs-Elysées
Since 1818! Sadly, in late 2019 the City of Paris cut the budget and the Théâtre de Guignol are on the road again looking for new space. Stay tuned…