Last winter, I spent a lot of money on overpriced cappuccinos just to have an excuse to escape the frosty grayness of Paris and keep my hands warms. Had I known about La Gaîté Lyrique or LE CENTQUATRE, I could have saved money and found cool friends a lot quicker.
Located in the 3rd arrondissement, snug between the Marais, Republique and Grand Boulevards, La Gaîté Lyrique was originally built in 1862 under Baron Haussmann. For 120 years the building served as a popular theater, and even fell under the management of Offenbach for a short time. After a bout of bankruptcy and a few decades of abandonment, the renovated building, an interesting mélange of elegant 19th-century architecture contrasted by new-age décor, reopened in 2010 as a haven for artists to relax, explore, present and reside.
La Gaîté Lyrique offers a multitude of programs, workshops, demonstrations, performances and resources. Popular subjects include technology, digital art, video games, architecture, music, dance, urban culture, street art, graffiti and skating. For independent exploration, their resource center has a small library, free-access computers, study cubicles, comfy couches, and my favorite, a video game center with five stations, each with a large screen television and a game history overview.
On the weekends concerts are held in one of their three performance halls, though these events usually aren’t free. A boutique, three cafés and a bar include other pricier options (thought if you stick with a coffee you’ll be fine). While students may comprise the majority of the population, families, adults and even senior citizens frequent the La Gaîté Lyrique as well (the program Hype(r)Olds is held weekly for women over the age of 77, for example).
In the northeast of Paris, up near La Villete, LE CENTQUATRE encourages emerging art of all forms,
providing space for creation, presentation and residence. Though it served as the city’s main funeral parlor for over 120 years, the revamped glass, brick and iron building has an open layout flooded with natural light that is anything but dark and discouraging.
Temporary exhibitions and performances are hosted on nights and weekends, but anyone can assemble a gathering during the day. Sit on one of many lounge chairs to watch break-dancers, hoolahoopers, jugglers and yogis practicing, or join in yourself. A certified teacher holds free qi qong sessions every Saturday morning.
A high-end restaurant, a cozy café, a pizza truck and an epicerie will likely satisfy any food cravings you’d have. Similarly, an art-focused bookshop, free book exchange cabin and a very chic Emmaüs will feed your appetite for hip retro clothing, knick-knacks or coffee table literature.