The Retromobile is held annually in France's capital Paris at the Porte de Versailles Exhibition Centre. It is the biggest classic car exhibition in France if not in Europe and the world. The event boasts 130'000 visitors, over 400 exhibitors from around Europe as well as countless exclusive and unique sports- and classic cars. In 2023 the show held already its 47th edition making the Retromobile one of the oldest classic car exhibitions in Europe. Retromobile features many high-class exhibitors and companies which show off their very expensive and rare classics. Additionally, you'll find many merchandise, parts, club and art stands. The international trade show is top-rated and attendance is very high with Saturday being the busiest day of the week.
The Retromobile is held at the Porte de Versailles Exhibition Centre which is the city's main exhibition hub south of the city centre. It can easily be reached via public transport such as busses, trams and underground. Unfortunately, the location is about 40 minutes from the city's main train stations Gare de Lyon, Gare du Nord and Gare de l'Est away. But it is in proximity to Paris's south motorway ring.
Keep in mind that this exhibition is giant and comparable to the Techno Classica Essen and Stuttgart's Retro Classics. It is almost impossible to see everything in one day since there are three halls. It took me two full days from early morning till closing time to see all stalls, cars and exhibitors. You want to wear comfortable trainers and a smart-casual outfit. Also, bring a big water bottle and snacks.
One bottleneck is between halls 1 and 2.2 which to me seems to be a construction and planning error from the exhibition centre operators. The narrow bridge is very difficult and cumbersome to pass due to masses of people heading in both directions. If that wasn't bad enough Retromobile also placed stalls there (Van Life Exhibition) where people would stop to take photos and look a the vehicles. This really creates a very difficult passway which lets you hesitate to walk more than twice a day. So it's probably best to visit hall 1 on one day and leave 2 and 3 for a separate day.
The organisation at the event is quite good but also a bit French. Toilets can only be found occasionally and are not very pleasant, water fountains are out of order and food stalls are overcrowded and insanely overpriced. For example, you'll be paying €20 for a burger, €12 for a sandwich and €4 for a Coffee. And don't expect gourmet meals, this is still cheap exhibition food. Since there are not many food options, the stalls are also overcrowded and show long queues. Eating and drinking are not Retromobiles traits which is a pity since you are visiting for an entire day and good food would have added to a better experience, more patience and a higher energy level. More and better food options would have rounded up Retromobiles' high-level classic car exhibition.
Retromobiles online activities are exemplary with good social media coverage, a well-designed website as well as a working online ticketing system. Influencers, bloggers and media are all reporting and talking about the event. Their communication is a bit lacking and mainly targeted towards french speaking people. It portrays itself as an international event but you'll be struggling to speak English with the exhibition staff and sellers at the smaller stalls. But this is no different at German and Italian classic car exhibitions.
Another critic point is that a big area in hall 2 is off-limits for normal visitors and only accessible to invited guests, media and other VIPs. There, you'll find a big vehicle collection with Retromobiles auction partner Artcurial Motorcars.
The classic car auction is held on Saturday and Sunday with many high-value and exclusive cars such as Ferrari F40s, Countachs, 250GTBs and many more collector vehicles and items. The rich and wealthy battle against each other in a bidding war with the auctioneers fueling the excitement and driving up bids. Bidding signs fly up and signal that the bidder wants to increase its offer by an extra €10k increment. The auction is quite entertaining if you get backstage VIP access. Most of the auctioned-off cars can't be seen up close and security keeps people behind barriers. This is probably due to insurance reasons and the fact that private individuals own the vehicles.
Retromobiles' strength really is the big variety of exhibitors, cars and offerings. The event features some really exclusive high-end brands such as Kidston Motorcars, which had a Ferrari 250 GT SWB on display, Richard Mille with a Ferrari 250 GTO, Girardo & Co with a Ferrari 512S and the Lukas Hüni AG with an Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato.
If you are not a fan of highly exclusive and million-dollar cars don't worry, the Retromobile has you covered on all ends. The exhibition features everything from A - Z and what your heart desires. There are Le Mans Racing cars such as the Porsche 917, Motorcycles, Vans, Campers, EV conversions, Tanks, prewar automobiles, famous racing cars, classics such as the Miura and Countach, F1 racers, GT cars, roadsters, JDMs, US cars, automobile curiosities and much more.
Unfortunately, at an exhibition such as the Retromobile cars are only static and stand in a big hall. You won't hear any engine sound or see them driving. This makes it a bit boring and the event is more useful to talk to the exhibitors as well as other visitors about the cars. Retromobile has organised a small circuit with prewar vehicles outside of the exhibition centre where they provided drive-outs to visitors, but this is only a small consolation.
A one-day adult admission costs €25 and the preview day sets you back €55 which is a normal price for an exhibition of this size. Tickets can be purchased through their ticketing website or purchased at the door. Prices online are a bit cheaper. The doubled price for the preview day is not really worth it because you'll only get access for 3 hours from 7 pm to 10 pm and is only meant for photographers and media. If you come early on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday morning there won't be many people.
Check out the photo gallery with some of the pictures I took during the 2023 event. Feel free to download and share these photos.
Nils is a Swiss-German engineer who is obsessed with old cars and engines. He is the author of "The Ultimate Classic Car Guide - How to Buy, Maintain & Repair Classic Cars" and the founder of EVC. His passion has always been for old cars and everything that has wheels and an engine.