Movies, books, and songs to capture the essence of Paris and get you in the mood for travel

Movies

Hôtel du Nord (1938)
A tremendously atmospheric tale of love and bullets. The title's hotel still stands as a restaurant, near the Canal Saint Martin.

Les Enfants du Paradis (1945)
Marcel Carné classic, made at colossal expense in the middle of war and occupation, recounts the life and loves of the denizens of Paris's old theater district along the Boulevard du Temple in the 1840s. Screenplay by Jacques Prévert.

An American in Paris (1951)
Who appreciated this city better than the Americans? Gene Kelly's spectacular closing dance number set to Gershwin's music still makes the French just a little more proud to be French.

À Bout de Souffle (1961)
Jean-Luc Godard's stylish crime thriller, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, was a defining work of the French New Wave.

La Haine (1995)
A side of Paris perhaps never seen on screen before; this is a gripping and intense tale of young men in one of the city's turbulent suburban ghettos.

Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain (2001)
The whimsical romantic comedy by Jean-Pierre Jeunet starring Audrey Tautou that made everyone fall in love with Paris yet again.

Paris, Je T'Aime (2006)
A tribute to the city and its people in 20 vignettes, with an international cast of famous names and directors that range from Gérard Depardieu to Wes Craven to the Coen brothers.

Books

A Sentimental Journey, by Laurence Sterne (1768)
Satirical novel from the author of Tristram Shandy recounts a series of dramatic encounters during travels through France and Italy.

Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo (1862)
Epic novel brings to melodramatic life the Battle of Waterloo and the Revolution of 1830. There's no end of Parisian local color.

A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway (1928)
One of the best evocations of Paris in the 1920s, with Pound, Joyce, and the Fitzgeralds, among others, "when we were very poor and very happy."

Nadja, by André Breton (1928)
A surrealist masterpiece. A tale of the edge between mysticism and madness, in which the narrator pursues an enigmatic woman through the streets of a dreamlike Paris filled with sphinxes and electric signs.

Paris to the Moon, by Adam Gopnik (2001)
An American's witty and informative account of life with his family in the city, mostly taken from essays published in the New Yorker.

Music

Compilations:

Americans in Paris: Jazzmen in Paris
Jazz musicians have always had a love affair with this city, and Paris loves them right back. Here are some of the greats, from Louis Armstrong to Josephine Baker.

The Best of Erik Satie
Satie wrote music that seems to make the delectable art nouveau of the period come to life.

Cinquième As
Hip-hop works surprisingly well in French; MC Solaar is a rather genial Parisian rapper who is becoming known on both sides of the Atlantic. (The final episode of Sex and the City featured one of his songs.)

Eternelle: The Best of Edith Piaf
You won't need any French at all to appreciate the passion and art of the "Sparrow." A true daughter of Paris—born, according to legend, on a sidewalk in Belleville.

George Brassens—Master Series Volume I and II
Looking back at the career of one of the most popular singer-songwriters of the last century (he died in 1981), many Frenchmen are convinced Brassens was also one of their greatest poets. Irresistible stuff, if you know a little French.

Motifs
The latest from Paris Combo, a group with a memorable vocalist, Belle de du Berry, and jazzy arrangements with a touch of Django Reinhardt.

The Quintessential Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli
France's greatest contribution to jazz: the sound of Paris in the 1930s and '40s.

Classic Songs:

  1. "Le Poinçonneur des Lilas" by Serge Gainsbourg
  2. "Under the Bridges of Paris" by Eartha Kitt
  3. "April in Paris" by Count Basie
  4. "Viens à Saint-Germain" by Dany Brillant
  5. "Y'a d'la Joie" by Charles Trenet
  6. "Je Ne Veux Pas Travailler" by Pink Martini
  7. "I Love Paris" by Ella Fitzgerald
  8. "Gaîté Parisienne" (Offenbach) many recordings
  9. "Nuages" by Django Reinhardt
  10. "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" by Edith Piaf

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