Queer Paris: Take a trip to the City of Lights

Built at the direction of Louis XIV, Place Vendôme is now home to Paris’s luxury brands, such as Louis Vuitton, Coco Chanel, among others.
Built at the direction of Louis XIV, Place Vendôme is now home to Paris’s luxury brands, such as Louis Vuitton, Coco Chanel, among others. Photo Credit: Heather Cassell
Heather Cassell

Paris blossoms in the spring — and not just with flowers. The French city awakens with creativity as the weather warms and summer nears.

Now is the perfect time for a getaway to the City of Lights. New exhibitions are open, the weather is cool, and the crowds are lighter than in the summer.

Gay City News found what is new in gay old Paris and curated a list of what to do this spring and summer, as well as places to stay and where to eat.

What to do

Paris boasts of knowing all fine things: art, fashion, and food. The City of Lights continues to do what it does best. This spring and summer, new hotels and restaurants are ready to greet guests and Paris is featuring several major exhibitions.

Art Exhibits

Visitors will be able to revel in classic works by Henri Matisse (now through May 29); Claude Monet in two exhibits — Monet/Fehr. A Bridge, A Fireld, A Country without end,” (runs through June 25) and “Léon Monet. Brother of the artist and collector” (now through July 16); and a retrospective of the Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini’s work. Up-and-coming artist Pol Taburet is showing his first monographic exhibition of his work (June 21 through September 3).

The Musee du Luxembourg will also exhibit “Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso” to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Picasso’s death later this year, September 13, 2023-January 21, 2024.

Richier is showing at the Centre Pompidou now through June 12. Bernhardt is showing at Petit Palais now through August 27. Ringgold’s retrospective is showing at Musee Picasso now through July 2. Cohen and Gadonneix are both showing at the Centre Pompidou now through August 28. 

A festival of emerging European photographers, Circulation(s), is currently presenting 30 photographers of 15 different nationalities at the 104, a new Paris City Council artistic establishment, a unique place devoted to production and innovation, in the 19th arrondissement through May 21.

Fashionistas visiting Paris won’t want to miss the Palais Galliera’s exhibit, “1997 Fashion Big Bang,” through July 16.

Travelers to Paris June 3 and 4 won’t be able to miss Nuit Blanche if they are in the City of Lights. The light festival will dazzle summer visitors rather than fall travelers (it is usually held in October). International contemporary artists will light up Paris’ monuments and streets with art installations, displays, and performances, especially along the Seine for this year’s show.

The best way to see Paris’s museums and sites is to purchase a City Paris Pass. This pass shaves off up to 55% from admission fees, including Versailles (Eiffel Tower is extra), and it places travelers in the fast-track lane to enter museums and sites. It also includes public transportation card around Paris.

A cruise boat travels down the Seine River in Paris.
A cruise boat travels down the Seine River in Paris.Heather Cassell

Day Trip to Versailles 

Take a day trip to Versailles to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Louis XIV’s golden palace, gardens, and the 350th year of the Musical Fountains Show at Versailles now through October 31. The fountain’s special night show every Saturday evening runs June 10 through September 23, with special shows July 14 (Bastille Day) and August 15. Versailles is an hour and 15-minute train ride from Paris.


Spring and summer also bring out the festivals in Paris.

The City of Lights will be awash in rainbows for Paris Pride (Marche des Fiertés LGBT). The Pride Parade is June 24, starting at 1:30 p.m. at Metro Michel Bizot 12eme and ending at the celebrations at Place de la Republique.

The highlight of the French summer is Bastille Day (French Independence Day) on July 14. For all of the festivities celebrating France’s independence, check out Bastille Day in Paris.

Where to eat

Get immersed in Paris’s culinary and wine scene with gay-owned culinary tours by WeTasteParis. WeTasteParis owner, French chef, and tour guide Andrés Medrano helps guests get acquainted with Paris’ food scene and offers restaurant recommendations to some lesser known, but top-notch restaurants.

WeTasteParis owner, French chef, and tour guide Andrés Medrano prepares to serve guests a bottle of wine for a meal during a tour.
WeTasteParis owner, French chef, and tour guide Andrés Medrano prepares to serve guests a bottle of wine for a meal during a tour.WeTasteParis

Paris’ food scene is vividly alive, from casual bistros to high-end dining to landmark eating, such as at Le Train Bleu in a historic railway restaurant or the top of the Eiffel Tower at Michelin-starred Le Jules Verne Restaurant. One of the City of Light’s oldest restaurants, Prunier, founded in 1872, is another option.

If Prunier is a bit too pricey, try PavYllon, Chef Yannick Alléno’s attempt to make his haute cuisine served up at Prunier more accessible (but it still earned a Michelin-star recently).

For luxurious dining that is elegant, but casual and a bit more down to earth for average pocketbooks, Comice, Early June, Juvenile’s, Le Saint Sebastien, Parcelles, gay-owned Des Gars dans la Cuisine, and lesbian-owned Dirty Lemon are good places to pull up a chair, sip some wine from their curated lists, and enjoy their well-crafted dishes.

Of course, who doesn’t enjoy a good drag show? A couple of Paris’ best drag shows can be found at Artishow Cabaret and L’Art Café.

Where to stay

Paris has several hotels where travelers can either wake up to the Eiffel Tower in luxurious comfort or stay in affordable hip and comfortable environment.

For that iconic Instagram-worthy photo waking up to the perfect view of the Eiffel Tower in luxury, Hotel Lutetia, a 5-star hotel with views of the Iron Lady, is your best bet.

The newest hotel to open in the Left Bank, Hôtel Dame des Arts, offers a classic stay, while the Hôtel de JoBo offers an edgy urban feel in the Marias neighborhood. Both of these four-star hotels overlook Paris’ skyline. Le Pigalle is a hotel for people who want to be close to Montmartre’s nightlife.

C.O.Q Hotel, Hotel Panache, and Hotel Paradiso are affordable without sacrificing a pleasant atmosphere to return to after a day out in the city. Another affordable option is misterb&b. The LGBTQ home share site allows visitors to enjoy Paris without breaking the bank.

Traveling in troubled times

France’s Constitutional Council made French President Emanuel Macron’s Pension Reform law April 14. The question is, will the violent unrest France experienced since mid-January continue into the summer? If it does, travelers aren’t as shaken as they have been in the past, according to the Wall Street Journal. Paris hotels’ occupancy rate has held at 68.1% since the start of the protests in mid-January, higher than the same period in 2022 and 2019, according to STR, a hospitality data and analytics company.

Travel experts remind travelers to take steps to protect themselves and their vacation investments by doing a few simple things: sign up with the US State Department’s Smart Travelers Enrollment Program, also known as STEP, to receive regular alters from the free program if there is an emergency at a destination. The State Department also maintains regular travel alerts for every country travelers should review.

Tour companies should provide updates about local situations prior to travel and while traveling in-country. Also, sign up to receive notifications from travel providers (transportation companies, accommodations, and tour guides) to get alerts about service interruptions and other travel disruptions.

Monitor the news prior to leaving and while at the destination.

Get trip protection, but read the fine print to ensure getting the right coverage. File a claim before a protest or storm has been announced, otherwise the insurance company will not cover the incident. Trip protection that allows for cancellation anytime can be worth it, but it is pricier, and it must be purchased within 24 hours of the initial booking of the trip.

Getting there and around

French Bee offers the most affordable direct nonstop flights between New York and Paris on its website. Paris offers many ways to get around; walking and biking are perhaps some of the best ways thanks to the greening of the city that has reduced car usage and opened the streets to pedestrians and cyclists throughout Paris. The subway, buses, and rideshares remain good options too.