The Institut Francais and the Cine Lumiere

The Institut Francais du Royaume-Uni comprises of a language centre, a cinema – Cine Lumiere, a multimedia library, a children’s library and a French bistro. It was originally founded in 1910 butsince then it has developed to welcome 200,000 people through its doors each year.

The Institut francais has a mission at its heart and that is to teach the French language. The language centre has a yearly count of 7000 students and offers courses on French culture and current affairs and business French. The Institut also works with UK schools to promote French language learning. This helps to keep French the UK’s top choice for foreign language study.

The Cine Lumiere was completely refurbished in 2008 and has gained a reputation as one of London’s top repertory cinemas. The cinema has particular emphasis on European, World and of course French cinema. Its programme combines new releases, repertory screenings, previews and exclusive on-stage events attended by actorsand directors.

The multimedia library, La Mediatheque, is a distinctive Grade II listed venue. It holds the largest free-access collection of French material in the UK which covers all aspects of French culture and society. There are approximately 5,000 items in the library ranging from novels and comics to feature films and magazines.

The Institut keeps its audiences up-to-date with the latest French thinking and the most recent publications in French and English sue to its extensive programme of talks, seminars and book launches.

The Institut francais offers a range of festivals each year, either organised by itself or by external curators and organisations (e.g. London Film Festival, French Film Festival etc.). It also has an annual celebrating of all aspects of the piano and programme of live opera broadcasts to keep it involved in the music scene.

The Institut offers year round activities and resources to help children learn and discover new aspects of culture. These activities are suitable for children, families and schools.


The Institut francais opened in 1910 and was the initiative of a young French woman, Marie d’Orliac, who was eager to introduce London to writers, thinkers and artists from France.

Originally located at marble Arch house, it has since moved several times, but finally settled at Queensbury Place. Here, a magnificent new art deco building was commissioned and this was inaugurated in March 1939.

Inside, a sweeping staircase leads from the foyer to the first floor. This staircase is decorated with the famous Rodin statue, L’Age d’Airain, and a tapestry by Sonia Delauney. Immediately on the left of the staircase on the first floor is the Cine Lumiere, refitted as a cinema and reopened in 1997. A gallery on the first floor leads to the library’s wood panelled main reading room, which was converted from its original use as a ballroom in 1950. Further refurbishment was completed on the library in 1995 when a spiral staircase, open-access shelves and a curved glass wall overlooking the gallery was installed.

Over the course of its 100 year history, the Institut has welcomed a variety of distinguished visitors. These visitors include: Madeleine Renaud, jean Renoir, Andre Maurois, Willy Renis and General De Gaulle, who used part of the Institut as a base during WWII.

Today the Institute francais can be easily identified. The distinct red-brick exterior is decorated with columnsincised withdelicate lattice work.

Visiting the Institut Francais

The Institut francais is open from 10:00am to 9:30pm, Monday to Sunday.

It is situated near the South Kensington station which can be reached via the Circle, District and Piccadilly lines. This makes travelling here easy from the Circle line runs from Paddington Station directly to the Institut.

Due to this convenient transport link from Paddington Station, visiting the most fashionable location in London, South Kensington, should most definitely be on the itinerary. After discovering culture at the Cine Lumiere, visit the Natural History Museum and wander around The V&A (all within a stone’s throw of each other), for a fun and educational day out. This would be great for visitors staying at any of the hotels near Westbourne Terrace.

There are also regular bus services that stop near the venue.

Improvements to the accessibility of the Institut are ongoing. Access to the ground floor foyer/reception and Bistro is by ramp; the library and Cine Lumiere on the 1st floor can now be accessed by lift.

Cine Lumiere has two wheelchair positions and a dedicated disabled toilet. The cine Lumiere is also equipped with audio induction loop systems for the hard of hearing.

Become a Member

By becoming a member of the Institut francais, you will help support the Institut’s activities. You can also enjoy special benefits including unique viewing opportunities, automatic subscription to the free digital library, complementary tickets for Cine Lumiere and discounts at the Bistro.

Membership packages range from £30 to £100 depending on your package of choice.

Support the Institut Francais

Every donation, no matter how big or small, can help towards securing the future of the institute francais. It will help funding towards a variety of cultural activities and contribute to the different projects carried out at the venue.

At the moment, the Institut is raising funds to improve one of France’s most important libraries abroad, La Mediatheque.

There is a wide range of donation possibilities depending on personal situations and preferences. Donations can be one-off gifts to a sustainable commitment.

When making a donation, you can decide whether your gift goes to a specific area or you can let the Institut decide the best way to use it.

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