When it comes to the world’s most romantic cities, few do it better than Paris. Dubbed ‘the city of love, its heady mix of art, culture and history have made it one of the most highly sought-after destinations globally, and many believe that it is, in fact, the cultural capital, too.
It certainly has some stiff competition in the latter department; other European cities such as Rome, Florence, Barcelona and London have plenty to offer in this respect, too – not to mention other cultural hubs globally, such as New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong – and it is often hard to crown just one as the best of the bunch.
Even so, there are many reasons why Paris deserves to be recognised as the cultural capital of the world, and from its numerous museums, art galleries and monuments to its generous supply of bookshops and cinemas, there is something for culture vultures of all kinds in France’s capital.
And when it comes down to it, you really can’t argue with the statistics, which according to a 2020 report by the World Cities Culture Forum, lean distinctly in Paris’ favour.
Paris is the leader of the pack when it comes to cinemas, with an impressive 312 movie theatres across the city in total. This is considerably more than some of its closest competitors, with only 163 in London and a further 188 in Shenzhen, China – an up-and-coming cultural hub.
Paris’ cinematic routes go back a long way; in 1985, the city hosted the world’s first ever cinema screening, and its fascination with the silver screen has only continued to grow since then. Today, you’ll find something to suit all tastes – from small, arthouse cinemas and independent film houses to huge multiplexes. And, with one screen for every 6,000 inhabitants, you should have little trouble finding yourself a seat.
Paris is the cream of the crop when it comes to museums, too. Home to 297 of them in total, it pips other museum-dense sites such as Moscow, which has 261, and Los Angeles, which has 219, to the post.
Mainstream venues such as Paris’ Natural History Museum are well-known and attract millions of tourists through their doors each and every year, but there are several more niche affairs to check out if your tastes are a little more offbeat. With museums of magic, hunting and even vampires, there’s something to suit all tastes and interests.
Paris might not have the highest number of art galleries, but it certainly isn’t far behind. Beaten only by New York, which has an impressive 1,475, Paris itself is home to 1,142 – the most notable of which being the famous Louvre, which you can get lost in for hours and still not see it all.
The Musée D’Orsay is similarly iconic, with both attracting huge visit numbers annually, but small and quirky galleries certainly don’t go amiss here either, with plenty of choices to keep you entertained.
The Musée de l’Orangerie is certainly a more manageable day out, and despite its considerably more compact size, is home to some breath-taking collections, with highlights including Monet’s waterlilies friezes. In Montmartre, you’ll find several other galleries, and exhibition venues in Paris are growing in numbers, too. Whichever way you slice it, there’s no denying that Paris is an art lover’s paradise, and an all-around culture lover’s, too.
Home to a whopping 1,251 bookshops, the city of Paris is undoubtedly well-read, despite falling slightly behind the likes of Chengdgu, Tokyo and Hong Kong.
You’ll find plenty of choices here, with many independent booksellers setting up shop outside on the street, and plenty of big chains peppered throughout the city, too. In most cities, the latter tend to put the former at risk, but the French government has put measures in place to ensure that smaller booksellers’ businesses are not eclipsed, with around 2,500 still remaining across the country today.