As a gal who was raised in New York City, summers in the city meant actually leaving the city. Once school was out, the family would pack up and head to our cottage in the Hamptons. It wasn’t until I was all grown up and living in Manhattan as a young professional that I realized there was actually life in the city during the summer months.
Paris is much the same. When school is out, some of the more well-to-do families make their country home their summer headquarters, and come August, many Parisians leave the city for their holiday. But during a summer assignment in the French capital, I realized how much there was to actually enjoy during summer in the city.
Why spend hours on a crowded train (or on the roads) heading to the coast when there’s a perfectly good beach in Paris? Every year, the French capital transforms the banks of the Seine into a Riviera beach, from morning to midnight – and admission is free. If you don’t have your own beach towel or chair, you can even rent one. You’ll find three “beaches”: from the Louvre to Pont de Sully, from Port de la Gare to Joséphine Baker Piscine, and from the Bassin de la Villette to Rue de Crimée.
Each beach offers something a little different, like concerts, climbing walls, rollerblading areas, wi-fi cafés, art classes and boating.
Remember the days of drive-in movies where you sat with the top of your convertible down, watching a movie on the big screen while you munched on popcorn? Yeah, me neither. But with Cinéma en plain air, you can get a sense for what it feels like to catch a flick al fresco, and you don’t need a car to do it. Bring a blanket and an evening picnic with you to Parc de la Villette until August 21st to watch a movie under the stars from as far back as the 1950s and by filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Gus Van Sant, Cédric Klapisch, Woody Allen and Michael Mann. The festival closes out with an old American favorite, West Side Story.
For more information, visit the website.
Until July 31st, the Paris Jazz Festival offers concerts every Saturday and Sunday at the Parc Floral in the Bois de Boulogne, at 3:00 and 4:30. Admission is €5 for adults and €2.50 for children, and you can find a complete program, in English, here.
And then, beginning August 6 and running through to the end of September, Festival Classique au Vert takes over the space, with concerts at 3:00pm every weekend, ranging from Broadway show tunes, classical masterpieces and other orchestral delights. Like the jazz festival before it, admission is €5 for the grown-ups and €2.50 for the kids. You’ll find a program and more information at the festival’s website.
Closing out the summer is the Festival Rock en Seine in the Domaine national de Saint-Cloud, just outside Paris. The line-up is beyond rocking’, with groups like the Foo Fighters, Arctic Monkey, The Kills, Interpol and My Chemical Romance taking to one of the four stages set up for August 26, 27 and 28. Passes are available for a day or all three, so checkout the website for prices or to book your tickets.
While it used to feel like Paris shut down in August, more and more Parisians are staying in the city, keeping their shops and cafés open in the process. But it is easier to get a table in the non-touristy neighborhoods, with the usual local crowds enjoy a few weeks in the country.
My friends and I would enjoy picnics in the Jardin, or on one of the stone benches lining the Seine (our favorite spots were along the Île St-Louis). With the sun up until after 10pm, we’d sometimes meet up with a few bottles of wine in the courtyards of our apartment buildings, or in one of the small neighborhood jardins.
That’s the real joy of spending a summer in Paris. No matter what you want to do, it’s there, and it’s fabulous!