Welcome to the Paris city guide – our guest writer Colin Hunter reports back on the iconic sounds that help to make the French capital as recognisable for how it sounds as for how it looks.
Paris is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations and sits comfortable amongst the most beautiful cities in the world. The capital of France, of art and of fashion offers so much to see, but beyond the incredible sights lie a city full of characteristic and sometimes hidden sounds.
This is part of our ongoing series of city sound guides, highlighting the sounds that characterise some of the most beautiful cities on Earth.
Paris city guide
1. The buzz of life on the streets of Montmartre
The first sound in our Paris city guide comes from the Montmartre district, which sits perched on the top of a hill in the 18th arrondissement. Prior to 1860, Montmartre was an independent commune located just outside Paris and was the place to be for artists in the nineteenth century, with painters, dancers, writers, actors and musicians hoping to find success in the art world.
Today, tourists flock to Montmartre to admire the beauty of this quaint corner of Paris and musicians and artists line the streets, adding to the bustling atmosphere.
2. In the Basilica of Sacré Coeur de Montmartre
The Basilica of Sacré Coeur de Montmartre sits at the very top of Montmartre hill and, alongside the Eiffel Tower, is one of the most visible monuments of Paris.
Pilgrims come from all over the world to pray here, as well as thousands of tourists that file in and out to admire its beauty. Inside the basilica is a warm soundscape with the sound of shuffling visitors reverberating throughout the vast interior.
3. Squeaky floors in the Louvre
Arguably the most famous museum in the world, the Louvre is said to be visited by nine million people annually.
In a long, narrow section of the Denon Wing the wooden floor panels creak and squeak as people walk over them, and with so many millions of visitors per year, this makes for an interesting and ever-present soundscape.
4. Bells of Notre Dame de Paris
One of the most recognisable sounds of Paris is that of ringing church bells and none more so than the bells of the world-famous Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, located on l’île Saint-Louis and l’île de la Cité in the 4th arrondissement – you can hear them pealing for several minutes in this field recording.
5. Exploring the Jardin de Luxembourg
The Jardin de Luxembourg is one of the most beautiful parks in Paris and particularly so in spring, when the many shades of green are a gorgeous canvas for brightly coloured flowers and rich blossom.
Birds sing, people walk, some sit and observe. In this field recording you can hear gentle birdsong with robins, blackbirds, chaffinches, Eurasian blackcaps and rose-ringed parakeets, as well as distant conversations and people walking along gravel paths.
6. French food at the Bastille Market
The French are passionate about their food and local markets are a big thing in Paris. The market at Bastille is renowned for its quality food and bustling ambiance, quoted in the Lonely Planet as “arguably the best open-air market in Paris”.
Popular with both tourists and locals alike, the soundscape you can hear in this recording is a complex mix of local dialects and vendors calling out to draw in customers.
7. Seismic vibrations within the Eiffel Tower
Built for the opening of the 1889 World Fair in Paris, the Eiffel Tower initially faced criticism by leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but has since become a cultural icon and one of the most recognisable structures in the world. But what does the Eiffel Tower sound like?
Using a specialised geophone, originally designed for seismic measurements and adjusted for field recording purposes, this recording captures seismic vibrations taking place within the 324-metre iron structure for a unique Parisian soundscape.
8. Bastille Day Fireworks Celebrations
The storming of the Bastille prison on July 14, 1789 has been commemorated in France for more than a century.
Today, the festivities of July 14 are as popular as ever and in Paris, the celebrations culminate with a magnificent fireworks display at the Eiffel Tower.