The Paris Itinerary - 14 days of Cinema

If my efforts overall here result only in easing your way into having the trip to Paris you really, truly want (i.e., you see a bunch of movies and not feel guilty about it), perhaps this 14-day planner  will make your use of time more efficient so that you might occasionally take a stroll in a garden, visit a museum (shudder) or make whoopee in your own Parisian garret.

First of all, I strongly recommend setting up base in the 5th or 6th Arrondissement.    If your tastes run more strongly towards the Rive Droite, then definitely gravitate towards the 3rd or 4th, as these will allow central access to most of the interesting theaters in Paris. 

And for goodness sakes, get online and look for an apartment.   You will get a much better deal, a better living space, a better sense of belonging and, perhaps most crucially, a fridge and maybe even washing machine, by securing one of the many, many vacation rental flats available in Paris.  Try VRBO for vacation rentals, they have certainly served me well over the years.

This itinerary assumes you are staying in the mecca for Cinephiles, the Latin Quarter (5th Arrondissement).  This is important to consider, because your first day and night in Paris will find, after the initial exhilaration at having survived the flight and cab ride/train ride to your flat, you will become quite fatigued.  But you can still get some things accomplished if you limit yourself to walking distance the first day.    If you end up staying in a different Arrondissement, move the Day 1 plan up to accommodate an easy first day.

Before we begin our whirlwind trip, may I offer some tips and useful information about movie going in Paris.  Okay, I think I will.

Movie going in Paris  --  A Few Tips

  1. The Pariscope, the weekly entertainment guide that comes out every Wednesday (be sure to buy it hot of the presses, as you will maximize its value that way – Wednesday is Premiere day in Paris, not Friday), is your best friend and the best 40 cents you will ever spend.  You can use it in conjunction with google maps to very efficiently plan your stops for the day.  It is not enough to simply visit theaters of note, the ideal is to actually attend a screening at one of them.  While almost every theater in Paris has either a website or there programming for the week available on Allocine or one of the other entertainment websites, your Pariscope fits very neatly into your backpack.  I was sure to highlight the screenings I wanted to target, then highlight the cinema, then map that cinema on my google maps in a way that made sense for what I could accomplish in one day.

  1. You can get great deals on tickets, but time of day matters.  If you are on a budget, you can see a movie in a fantastic movie theater for 5 Euros.  But sometimes if it is only the first showing of the day, and sometimes it is a unique day of the week that offers this price.  Use your Pariscope to determine what theaters offer what deals when, and, if you find yourself being charged more than you anticipated going in, simply blame yourself and plop down the cash.  Arguing about discount fares is not a way to ingratiate yourself to French ticket takers.

  1. The  UGC (boooo!!) and MK2 (yeah!!!) chains each offer monthly passes which work out to a really good deal (they are around 48 Euro) if you like to frequent the chain cinemas.  I did not pull the trigger on these passes as I was more interested in attending the independent houses, but the MK2, in particular, programs exceptionally well and owns many of the nicest remaining cinema houses in Paris, so if I had it to do all over again I would definitely spend the money on the MK2 pass.  You might want to find a local moviegoer to find out other tips on monthly passes, as I have heard some of the smaller chains and independent places offer deals, but I have had a hard time getting actual details around this.  The Action movie chain (they are the best!) offer a student discount card (The Cinema Passion card), but not sure if they offer any sort of monthly pass at this point (believe it or not, even Internet research has been difficult on this topic).  So find a local as, if you are like me, and want to see at least a movie a day, this could pay off.

  1. You may have heard in Europe every movie theater has a bar, restaurant or at least coffee shop in the lobby, and I am afraid that simply isn’t true in Paris, though, of course, there are always plenty of all of these things and more on the same block of most movie theaters in town.  Also, if you are a big fan of concessions you may be disappointed, especially if you plan to frequent the wonderful small boutique theaters.  I read somewhere that something like 20 percent of a typical American chain theaters revenues come from the outrageous 150% markup or whatever on popcorn, candy and coke.  It is all about the movie going in Paris, for the most part, and it is almost as if a concerted effort has been made to not insult the public with the offering of overpriced, unhealthy snacks.

  1. I was pleasantly surprised by how many theaters show Version Originale

  1. In the summer, there are outdoor movies all over Paris (in fact, Open Air cinema is quite the phenomenon all over Europe, as it certainly should be).   Cinema en Plein Air offers free showings every night of the week except Monday on some theme or another at the beautiful Park De La Vileette.  Did I mention it is free?  The French really know how to use their public spaces.  Bring your own chair or just sprawl in the grass or rent a deck chair fro 7 Euro or so.  There is also Cinema au Claire de Lune, wherein for the month of August a projector and big screen roam around Paris and put up shop.  Check your Pariscope for more details.

Day 1  The Latin Quarter

Get settled into your apartment, and resist the temptation to take a nap (chances are, if you fly direct, you will get settled in by 4:00 p.m. or so Paris time, so you really only have about six hours to get through before a reasonable bed time).  Then drag yourself to the local Boucherie, Boulangerie, Fromagerie etc. and stock up on 2-3 days worth of food that does not require a lot of preparation, and that, ideally, you are able to pack and take with you on your travels.  I recommend the old standbys:  salami, baguette, cheese, fruit.

Also, make sure you have breakfast food available in your apartment at all times.  Fresh eggs from one of the Cremeries or All-Purpose markets.  Get some coffee for the apartment.    It is difficult to find many things open for breakfast, and the ones that are open are definitely tailored towards tourists (Parisians seem to eat out for lunch and dinner but not breakfast) and you will find yourself paying a premium for a simply omelet.

Your first film should be in the early evening at one of the three theaters on Rue Champollion:  Le Champo, Reflect Medicis, Filmotheque due Latin Quarter.  Your second film should be at one of the other ones.  Because all three of these theaters rotate interesting titles all week long, it should be fairly easy to find a double bill that piques your interest, and the effort involved is minimal.  You might want to grab a cup of joe between screenings to keep alert.   Nothing will alienate you more from the French film going crowd in the Latin Quarter than your snores during a screening.  The best deal on coffee is always “at the bar.”  Once you sit a table, the bill will roll table service into the overall cost, so your coffee might well be in the 3-4 Euro range.  A quick shot of espresso or a Café Crème at the bar will generally cost 1.5 to 2.5 Euros.

There you have it, you have had a simple but deeply satisfying first day of film going, and you haven’t had to figure out the metro or worry over the confusing language of the Prix Fixe menu at the local restaurant, yet you have eaten well and are presumably exhausted and ready to hit the sack at a reasonable hour (10:00 to 11:00).  Be sure to get about 10 hours sleep if you can.  Don’t worry, you won’t be missing out on much if you sleep to 9:00.  In Paris, 9:00 is very, very early. 

Day 2  The Latin Quarter

As tempted as you will be by the deceptive enthusiasm after a first day of movies and a good night’s rest, stay put in the Latin Quarter on Day 2.  Yep, there are that many choices, and you need to pace yourself for the long haul.  Are you feeling able to do three movies today?  Then, again, I would take it easy on yourself and see an early show at the Grand Action of the Rue Des Ecoles, then walk a couple of blocks west to the Action Ecoles for your next screening.  Maybe check out Galactic Stories for Star Wars and Star Trek memorabilia.

Fortify yourself with a hearty lunch back at your flat or, if you are ready, at one of the many local establishments that will probably only at this point opening up.  Or if you feel like diving in, try the Brasserie Balzar.

While you will be doing a lot of walking on my itinerary (I will only recommend the metro as we get further afield), it might behoove you to have a bracing stroll around the beautiful Luxembourg Garden, which will then find you in the northern part of the district, and with a pleasant choice of theaters.  Have a small aperitif at this point at the New Wave Café in the Pantheon.  The Accattone, which is sure to be showing something interesting in the early evening hours, is very near by.

If the Accattone’s programming fails you, try taking a stroll Northward up Blvd. St. Jacques to the Studio Ursuline.  And if these fail you, you can always head south again to Rue Champollion and catch a screening at the one theater you missed on day one in this itinerary.  The choices are voluminous, and you may find yourself tempted to go for a four-bagger on day two.  I would advise caution, here (I found myself actually getting burned out on going to the movies, as difficult as this is to imagine, because I could not contain myself the first few days of my trip.  This resulted in me not quite having the energy to visit several theaters –- The Grand Rex, Le Pagode – that are essential visits).

After the films, have a later dinner at L’Ecurie, an affordable and quintessential Bistro, on Rue LaPlace. 

Day 3  St. Germain des Pres

Again, assuming you use the 5th as your base, it is time to venture out (its really an easy stroll, and you will begin to wonder where one quarter ends and the other begins) to the 6th Arrondissement.  Again, you may be feeling more ambitious than this, but why not go for the low-hanging fruit while you are still dealing with your body’s adjustments?

Let’s try for three films today.  If your tastes run towards art films or retrospectives, try to find two films that accommodates your taste at one of the following:  Action Christine (almost certain to be showing something classical), Lucenarie (which is a bit of a stroll, almost all the way up to Montparansse), one of the twin theaters at St. Andre des Arts.  Then stroll up Rue Monsieur La Prince and stop at the Cine Reflect bookstore.  Plan to spend at least and hour and at least 50 Euro there.  Then it is just a stone’s throw to Le Trois Luxembourg theater, which is sure to be showing the big independent art film release of the day. 

If your tastes run a little bit more towards the first-run blockbuster variety, there is a plethora of UGC/MK2 theaters in the 6th, most within spitting distance of each other on Boulevard St. Germain.  I would highly recommend the MK2 Hautefeuille which takes you off the rather commercial St. Germain and onto one of those delightful Parisian side streets.

Begin the day with breakfast at the legendary Café de Flor, a place in Paris that actually is open and thrives and breakfast.  In fact, Francis Ford Coppolla once claimed his dream was to move to Paris, live in the St. Germain des Pres so he could eat breakfast at the Café Flor every single day.  You may also run into somebody even more famous (there have been Al Pacino sightings, Jack Nicholson sightings, Johnny Depp sightings, etc.).

For further fortification/imbibement on this day, definitely gravitate towards one of the other historic Literary cafes along the boulevard(the Brasserie Lipp, Les Duex Magots), where you will be amongst other tourists (inevitable in the St. Germain), but will also be surrounded by history and literary vibes.

And there are plenty of places to kill time between screenings.  I would recommend the Village Voice Bookstore on the tiny Rue du Princesse, where you will find a cinema section with many books you are not going to find outside of France or on

Day 4  The Rive Droite (1st, 3rd and 4th Arrondissment)

So, clearly, film buffs are going to be drawn more to the Rive Gauche than Droite, but a day spent in the 1st, 3rd and 4th Arrondissments, just across the Seine from where you are staying in the Latin Quarter, offer a fairly easy one-day itinerary and you are likely to find at least three films of interest over there.  However, if you don’t, you can always wile away the hours at the (hopefully soon to be renovated) Forum des Images.

Begin your day by stopping at Shakespeare and Company, right at the cusp of Ile de Cite.  Browse through their excellent cinema section.  Drop a little money here, this is a business that needs your support.

Make your way across the Seine to the 4th Arrondissment.  The only theater of note over there is La Latina, if you speak Spanish, you will likely find something very compelling to watch there.  If not, be a Flaneur for a while in the Marais, which is really a essential neighborhood. 

Eventually make your way west to the 3rd (Beaubourg) district, and check out what is playing at the Pompidou Center cinemas.  It is a little hit and miss there, and you may very likely not find anything playing in English there, but if you have a little time and are undaunted by lines, the Pompidou itself is a great, modern art museum.  

Across the street is the MK2 Beaubourg theater, which is sure to be showing some interesting art film.   If not, just continue west to Les Halles (1st Arrondissment) and the Forum Des Images.  If you are there when it is closed or still in renovation, you can always attend one of the UGC theaters in Les Halles, where there will be many, many first run films to choose from.  If you are lucky enough to visit the renovated Forum Des Images, shoot me an e-mail and let me know how it was.  I simply have not been lucky enough to get there yet.  There is more on Le Forum in the chapter on these quarters in the book.

Day 5  Montparnasse

Okay, time to venture forth a bit into Montparnasse (don’t be afraid to walk from the Latin Quarter – lots of sites to see along with the boring stretches), which is heavily populated by chains, but offers a tremendous selection of theaters and films.  In order, I would list the following:  the Denfert, L’Entropet, the Mistral, L’Arlequin (but definitely go for Salle 1, the big theater, the small theaters there are non-descript and over-priced), then, if there is a new release you are dying to see, Le Montparnos, the Gaumont Parnasse (yes, the theaters in Montparnasse tend to sound alike and blend together), the Le Bretagne

Before or after the first movie, coffee or lunch at Closerie des Lilas.   After the second movie, go for a drink and a snack at La Coupole.  Then, after the third movie, go for wine and either a Welsh Rarebit or Croque Monsieur at the world famous Le Select café.  I choose Le Select for your final stop as it is the place most likely to not hassle you if you just want to hang out and savor the scenery outside and the vibe inside.

After all these movies and food, you will be tempted to repeat your walk home to the Latin Quarter, but I would not recommend this walk late at night.  Use the metro, it is your friend.

Day 6  The Grand Boulevards

Probably the second most important historic area for cinemas in Paris after your home turf the Latin Quarter, the Grand Boulevard, which is now called different things if you are in the 2nd Arrondissment, 9th or 10th.  While some of the sights are merely memories of past glories, there is an ambitious (perhaps to much so) day of movie going that can be done here. 

To fortify yourself, definitely stick to the Kebab shacks or the Hot dog stands that are ubiquitous in these neighborhoods, as you are not going to have a lot of time to kill in a café today.

Start by taking the Metro to the Grand Boulevards exit.  You are going to do plenty of walking once you are here, so don’t worry about being lazy by taking the train.  There are four theaters you must try to figure out a way to visit in this area:  the Max Linder Panorama, the Grand Rex, the Brady and L’Archipel.  You may not be able to logistically fit in four films, if you can only do three, do them in this order.

Now, as I detailed in the book, the Grand Rex is likely to be showing something blockbuster-y and dubbed.  Don’t do as I did and turn your nose up on this.  You need to see a film here, under any circumstances.  And go for the big theater, of course.  It doesn’t matter what is playing, keep an open mind, open your imagination, and realize you are experiencing cinema going as it should be and never will be again.

And the Max Linder, which will be showing V.O. movies only, is equally crucial.  Again, cross your fingers and hope there is something here you really want to see, otherwise, suck it up and go. 

All this being said, both the Rex and the Max are worth a special metro ride and interruption to some otherwise meticulously planned day.  If a week later either place is playing something more alluring, you can skip them today and focus on the Brady and L’Archipel, either of which, with their crazy, seemingly random programming, will sure to be playing something that tickles your fancy.

If you have any time in between screenings, visit the Cinedoc store in the Passage Jouffray, and leaf through their astonishing collection of original posters and their dossiers on your favorite director or actor.  Man, I am tired just writing this.  Head home, wolf down the leftovers you have managed to save for the last couple of days (oh, man, is there anything better than buttery, saucy Bistro leftovers?), and hit the sac.

Day 7  The 19th Arrondissement

Okay, Day 6 was ambitious as hell, so we are going for something a bit simpler, but also quite delightful and quite a change of pace on Day 7, our half-way point.  The 19th Arrondissment is probably the least “Parisian” quarter we will visit on the trip, but don’t avoid it, as it is one of the few modern-seeming places in the city, and your cinematic needs will be well take care of.

Begin the day at the wacky, wonderful modern marvel the Parc de Villette.  There, visit the Geode theater at the Museum of Natural Sciences (look this up for validity) for one of their screenings (it doesn’t really matter what the film is, the experience is all in the huge screen at the Geode).

Spend a little time ogling the cool modern playground equipment in the park, then make your way to the twin MK2 cinemas on the Seine, the Quai de Loire and the Quai Seine.  Catch a film at one or the other, then take the Zero de Conduite tug across to the Seine to the sister cinema.  You can kill time at the dvd and magazine store in either theater, and each has a café for sustenance as well. 

Then, cross your fingers, and hope Le Peniche, a barge devoted to opera and the cinema, is screening that night (in fact, if you do your research, you might want to not do this itinerary on a day when Le Peniche is not screening).  This will likely an after dark screening, so depending on the time of year, plan your itinerary to this quarter accordingly.

You will be far from your Latin Quarter garret late at night, so be sure to take the metro home.  We worry.

Day 8  The 7th and 12th Arrondissement

If you look at a map, you may think I am crazy recommending these two distant quarters in one day.  But the bottom line there is only one worthy theater stop in each, and you can basically divide your day between the two (depending on what is screening where) and have an entirely enriching cinematic experience.

First half of the day will like be the 12th, and the Cinematheque Francais and the Bibliotheque du Film, both located in the same building.  You are more likely to get an intriguing noonish time screening at the Cinematheque than you will at Le Pagode (our second half of the day location).    See a film, visit the exhibits, and by all means up to the Bibliotheque and, if you have time, check out a dvd or VHS and watch it in a private booth.  You can buy one all inclusive ticket to the Cinematheque that allows theater access and access to all exhibits (which are highly worth seeing) and that is probably the way to go. 

It will probably be something like 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. (or, more appropriately, 16:00 or 17:00) at this point, so jump on a Metro at the Bercy station and make the trek to the 7th district.  We are going to shoot for the 18:00 show possible at the fabulous Pagode.  Again, don’t make the mistake I did and ignore the Pagode if you can’t find something ideal to your tastes or language.  Just go.  You can figure out the plot by looking up the film on imdb later.

Try to leave yourself a ½ hour before the screening to visit the Cine-Images poster shop.   You won’t need much more time than that because you are likely going to not be able to afford anything in there, and you may feel a bit self-conscious being a looky-loo here.  But man, what a cool selection of original posters.

After the screening at Le Pagode, may I recommend you walk or take an easy two-stop Metro ride to Les Cocottes, the newest restaurant by the famous chef Christian Constant that dominate the 7th Arrondissment.  Don’t let the famous chef fool you.  This is one of the best and most affordable places you are likely to go and also possibly run into someone famous.  It is an ultra-hip, modern place (so rare in Paris) with a working-class approach to cuisine (Potatoes stuffed with pig’s feet!!) and a selection of tap beer.   If the screening of Le Pagode dictates, it is actually better to have an early bite at Les Cocottes as it starts to fill up alarmingly around 20:00.

Depending on what is screening where, and in combination with Les Cocottes, this has a chance to be the most memorable day you will spend in Paris.  You're welcome.

Day  9    17th and 18th Arrondissement

Kind of a no brainer here as these two districts abut each other and feature only a total of 3 must-visit theaters.  Make sure you do this itinerary on a Friday through Sunday, as the essential Cinema MacMahon is only open those days.

I would recommend starting in the 17th, as the night life is far more interesting in Montmarte (the 18th).    Begin at the early show at the MacMahon.  For a bite, there is a great street fair every day on one of the main drags near the MacMahon (sorry, the name escapes me, but you will find it). There is a guy who grills sausages fresh for you right there and puts them on a baguette and they are to do die for.

Either walk or take a metro now to the Cinema des Cineastes and try to catch a show there.  From there it is a fairly short walk across the Place de Clichy overpass for a short visit at the Montmarte cemetery.  From there, continue on to Montmarte, and the legend that is the Studio 28 theater.

Depending on what the screening times are, you owe yourself a visit to Sacre Couer cathedral and its fantastic sunset views.  There are also three pretty outstanding restaurants within blocks of the Studio 28:  they are Au Virage Lepic, Le Depur, and Les Feuillades.

If somehow after this whirlwind of activity you still have energy and time (and how late is too late in Paris?  Probably 04:00 a.m. or so) you might consider a visit to La Lapine Agile, the legendary chanson house that used to be the haunt of such as Einstein and Picasso.  A chanson house is basically a nightclub where patrons are invited to sing along to traditional French songs, and you may be feeling so giddy after this day of reverie that you have may not be able to restrain from belting one out.

Day 10  The 13th and 15th Arrondissement

Nothing too earth shaking, here.  A movie in each Quarter and a visit to a historic location or two will do the trick, as you are likely entering into burned-out territory by now.  Start in the 13th and stroll by the old location for the legendary Kinopanarama, but be careful of the hostile manager of the health club that now inhabits the space.  He doesn’t approve of you taking pictures inside. 

Probably the most interesting theater in the 15th is the Cinema St. Lambert, an independent neighborhood cinema that could use your support.  But the Gaumont Aquaboulevard is a nice, swank, new multiplex, and if it is a warm day you may want to cool down at the Aqua Park and find the theater’s location too tempting to pass up.  And the Bienvenue Montparnasse has a certain funky 70s charm.

It is a fairly easy walk from here to the 13th Arrondissment, where I would recommend the MK2 Bibliotheque, which is a one-stop shop for great MK2 programming and cinema bookstore and quite excellent café, where you could definitely enjoy your dinner for the evening.

Day 11  8th Arrondissement  Champs Elysees

Today is splurge day.  There are tons of cinemas, most of which are the major chains but are housed in historically important buildings, along the Champs Elysees, but if you can choose, gravitate towards the independents:  Le Lincoln, Le Balzar.

The splurging begins as you face your evening of imbibement:  Bar 30 and the Buddha Bar, in the same block as the famous Le Crillon hotel (if you really want to splurge, treat yourself to a night here).  If you want the highest possible odds you will run into someone famous, hanging out in this posh block will maximize this chance.  Just suck up the ridiculous cocktail prices and hang out here and feel like a rich tourist.  Remember, you have basically been going to movies and eating at reasonable restaurants and Kebab shacks.  You have earned one night to spend money like Eurotrash.

Day 12  The 11th and the 20th Arrondissement

Another day where we will do single screenings in two districts that are worth visiting if not strong on historic/independent cinemas.  The 11th is the Bastille.   Try to plan to walk from the Latin Quarter to the 11th, and take the Canal St. Martin when you do.  It is a gorgeous stroll.

In the 11th, gravitate towards either the Majestic Bastille (smaller independent exhibitor) or MK2 Nation (because they are MK2 and we like them).  For a meal, may I recommend a restaurant in the 11th called Altier, quite an institution.  Try the Herring appetizer.  Freshest and least fishy I have ever had.

In the 20th, be sure try to get to both the Pere Lachaise cemetery and the Montrieul flea market.  For cinema going, it is pretty much all about the MK2 Gambetta, which has fine programming and is one of the oldest functioning cinemas in Paris.  It may make more sense to begin in the 20th as the cemetery and Flea Market only stay open so late, and the Altier is a great place for dinner.  However, you should try to find time for that Canal St. Martin stroll, whether you combine these two districts in one day or not.

Day 13  The 9th (Opera) Arrondissement

We spent a bit of time in the 9th earlier (at the Max Linder), this day we concentrate more on the Opera part of the district.  There are some wonderful big screen cinemas here in historic buildings, but you are going to have to choose from blockbusters and the independent flavor of the month for programming.  But the Gaumont complex at the corner of Blvd. des Capucines and Rue des Italiens will offer a treasure trove of big-screen delights. And you must visit to plaque commemorating the Lumeire Brothers initial screening of Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory in Paris.  The plaque is on the Blvd. des Capucines.

Day 14  Home Again

Your final day affords you the opportunity to take a metro ride to one of the theaters that, due to timing, programming peccadilloes or insistent boyfriends or girlfriends, you weren’t able to visit earlier.    At the risk of repeating myself, if for some reason you were not able to get to Le Pagode, Max Linder, Grand Rex, or, heaven forbid, the Cinematheque Francais, get thee there today or live in regret.

And, of course, if you haven’t seen one of the must-sees in the 5th or 6th, this will be an easy opportunity to do so.  In fact, I would strongly recommend staying in your home turf on your last day, if you can.  Allow the melancholy of this incredible vacation settle in and take you over.  And if you want to see some films, chances are you haven’t had the chance to stroll up the Rue Mouffetard to the Epee de Bois and/or the Images D’Allieurs theaters, both of which will be showing interesting things, are within blocks of each other, and are surrounded by the many attractions of the must-see Mouffetard district.  And, if you are needing a complete change of pace, you can bowl a few frames at Mouffetard Bowling, where you will likely be the only tourist present.

Your last night will also be a good opportunity to catch up on one of the recommended activities in the neighborhood:  ice skating at Hotel DeVille, Live Jazz at Caveau du Huchette (if you don’t have an early flight), browsing at Shakespeare and Company or Croco disc.  I have take you on a whirlwind tour up to now, so its okay to spend your last day as a pure Flaneur.  There is more to life than movies, after all.  No, really.

Worth mentioning:  in the summer, the Cinema en Plein Air festival plays movies on a common theme at the Park de la Villette, in the 19th Arrondissement.  You must make time for this as well, as it is free and a great way to co mingle with the cinephile community of Paris.