Paris: France’s creative capital

Artist Sketching image My French Life - Ma Vie Française

In the same way as fashionistas are drawn to New York and Milan, the French capital attracts creatives by the hundreds.

But what is it about Paris exactly that calls to painters, photographers and poets the world over? To put it down to the elusive, intangible je ne sais quoi would be too easy. But it is a phenomenon for which there is no easy explanation.

Finding inspiration in the French capital

Perhaps there is something about occupying the same physical space as creative greats who have gone before, that makes us believe that we too can be great. Maybe Paris reminds us of the people who accomplished more, with less, and thus inspires us to be better.

Paris today shaped by French creatives

Cafe notebook image My French Life - Ma Vie Française

Perhaps it is more intrinsic than that though. Paris as we know it today has been shaped and influenced by the work of those French creative greats. Without overtly acknowledging it, the photographs we’ve seen, the paintings we’ve admired, the music we’ve heard, the books we’ve read, the philosophy we’ve pondered – all create a sense of Paris that goes beyond the physical reality of the city itself.

The Café de Flore would be just another sub-par tourist spot if it weren’t for Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, et al who breathed life into it, immortalising it in print. And though the concept of Paris as a city for lovers predates Robert Doisneau’s famous ‘Le baiser de l’hôtel de ville’, his photograph served only to cement this notion. Henry Miller and Anais Nin convinced us all that Paris was a place of rich decadence, of freedom and hedonism, which Henri Toulouse-Lautrec captured only too well.

The role of creatives in the future of Paris

Street sign image My French Life - Ma Vie Française

Perhaps it comes down to this: we hope that if we are there too, in Paris, that our work – our writing, our paintings, our films, will one day shape the image of Paris of the future. For me, it is this possibility, that I might play a role in the history of this great French city. That’s what draws me in.

What do you think it is?

Image credits:
1. Artist sketching by Design and Photography on Flickr.
2. Cafe essentials by Rudi Riet Randomduck on Flickr.
3. The 6th arrondissement sign by Nico Paix on Flickr.

About the Contributor

Alison Eastaway

“I am Australian-born but Parisienne at heart. I've spent 8 years in Paris, and can usually be found sipping coffee on café terraces or snuggling up with my cat and a book. Follow me on Twitter, or find me on LinkedIn."

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!


  1. Alex Mealey Jun 18, 2013 at 5:17 PM - Reply

    Hi Alison. I cant put my finger on what it is … but i think you have pretty much got it. Its knowing that I am standing and breathing in the same spot as famous artists, philosophers, and writers once were. And, as you said, maybe just be being there and absorbing the cultured air, helps me believe that I too may be able to contribute to the culture of this city.

    • Alison Eastaway Jun 21, 2013 at 7:46 PM - Reply

      Hi Alex, thanks so much for your comment. I think you’re right, there is something in the air there! And you do sort of ‘soak it up’ with all your senses, don’t you?

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.