A Paris Circus For Your Inner Child
If you’re in Paris between October and March, put the Cirque d’Hiver on your list. What is Cirque d’Hiver? A circus, specifically, the winter circus. This is the Paris circus of your dreams.
It’s an old-school one-ring circus so everything happens right in front of you. There’s a live jazz orchestra and beautiful dancers, all presented with Parisian verve and panache. Just as you would expect, you’ll see clowns, animals, trapeze artists and tightrope walkers. You’ll be dazzled by magic tricks, jugglers and acrobats.
The building, at 110 rue Amelot in the 11th (nearest Metro is Filles du Calvaire) was built specifically for the circus back in 1852. Although it’s had a varied history, Cirque d’Hiver has been operated continuously by the Bouglione family since 1934.
Join the Kids To be a Kid Again
We went to an afternoon matinee presentation, which was even more fun because there were so many children in the audience. That meant that every trick, every clown pratfall, every blast of the water cannon was greeted with howls and shrieks of laughter. So, if you’re travelling without children or grandchildren, no worries, you can enjoy them here and someone else will take care of them when the show is over.
Cirque d’Hiver Tickets
You can buy tickets from the Cirque d’Hiver website. Make sure you choose the Paris circus, since they also have a travelling show.
Interesting Stories and History of the Cirque d’Hiver
When it opened in 1852, it was call the Cirque Napoléon. Napoléon III had just become Emperor of the Second Empire the week before, and personally inaugurated the Cirque. Great marketing!
When Napoléon III was defeated in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 and went into exile, the circus was renamed Cirque d’Hiver. More timely marketing!
The building was designed by architect Jacques Ignace Hittorff, who also designed the Gare du Nord train station in Paris.
In 1859, Jules Léotard invented the flying trapeze act at the Cirque d’Hiver, leaping from one trapeze to another. His skin-tight suit showed off his physique and gave us the word leotard.
With the popularity of circuses in the late 1800’s, the Cirque d’Hiver inspired many artists including Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Georges Seurat and Pierre Bonnard.
In 1955, Richard Avedon revolutionized fashion photography with his series Dovima with the Elephants photographed at the Cirque d’Hiver.
The Clown Bar for Eating and Drinking Before or After the Show
Right next door is the Clown Bar, one of Paris’s hippest wine bar / restaurants. Originally, it was the dining room for the Cirque d’Hiver. Read the review by our favorite Paris foodie guide, Wendy Lyn. But plan ahead, reservations are a must.
If that doesn’t work for you, there are a number of more casual family-run restaurants in the neighborhood.
Paris is Always a Good Idea
We’ve been to Paris in all seasons. We’ve seen the city sparkling in the summer sun and covered by fresh blankets of snow in the winter. We’ve always had fun.
If you’re planning a Paris trip, whether it’s your first or tenth, it helps to have a great hotel. Paris has so many wonderful hotels throughout the city. Find the latest prices on Paris hotels here.
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