A Parisian Guide to Summertime Fun

Summer really transforms Paris. . . and not always in a good way.  Sidewalk cafés are constantly packed.  Hawkers line the Champs-Élysées.  Mobs queue up for a ride up the Eiffel Tower, a glimpse of the Mona Lisa, a taste of some ice cream. . .

July, and especially August, is the time when Parisians who can, leave.  But for the rest of us, they’re pretty much the best months to go abroad.

Of course, when you make the trip across the pond, you have to visit all the landmarks.  But when you want a break from lines, join rank and file Parisians who opted for a staycation. 

You’ll avoid the meltdowns and experience real joie de vivre together.  You’re welcome!

A Seine-side Holiday at Paris-Plages

Hit the pop-up beaches on the banks of the Seine.  Paris hosts the most amazing (or oddball) free summer event with over 5,000 tons of sand brought in so you can enjoy the beach, without ever leaving the city.

From kayaking to swimming in pools suspended over the river. . . treasure hunts, rock walls, aquagym, and the list goes on; there is plenty to do.  So break out the sunblock and brave the sweltering heat.

This is where the Parisians are.  Come armed with heat-related complaints in French and commiserate.  Quel chaleur!  C’est la canicule!  They’ll thank you for it and possibly extend an insider tip for your next dining experience – or a politically incorrect view on something or other.  You’ll strike up a conversation, anyway.

Don’t miss the free evening concerts or the chance for rock ‘n’ roll dancing with the French (yes, it is the preferred way to boogie down, regardless the music!).  Even when the sun sets, the party continues.

Paris-Plages runs from mid-July to mid-August.

Picnic on the Bridge on Pont des Arts

Skip the tightly packed hole-in-the-wall eateries and over-crowded restaurants.  There will be no A/C running.  No ice cubes in your drinks.  And not much tolerance for sun stroked, impatient little kids.

Hit one of the local supermarkets instead or make food selection a thing itself.  You can go from wine merchant to baker, green grocer, fromagerie to select the very best for your picnic on the bridge.

Once the sun sets, hit the Pont des Arts – a beautiful pedestrian bridge connecting the Right and Left Banks.  You’ll be surrounded by the most impressive buildings, stunning bridges, adorable house boats. . . and the lovely reflections on the river itself.

You’ll be accompanied by the strumming of a guitar or a fully-fledged drum circle.  In any case, your kids will be able to take in the sites, snack on some French fare, and run around as they please.

Get Merry at the Jardin de Tuileries Carnival

Have your kids been especially well mannered throughout countless three-course meals?  Or you just want a kid-focused sanctuary where it’s not all hushed voices and polite conversations?  Give them a day (or night) off with a visit to the Tuileries carnival and let them get all that pent-up energy out of their system.

Sure this is a temporary amusement park.  But with over 60 attractions (and some of them quite large and impressive), there is no reason to scoff.  There are spinning rides, dropping rides, fun and scary rides, a tower of horror, Ferris wheel, climbing walls, and trampolines. 

And once the kiddos have had their fill, give them a taste of the carnival food on offer.  Sure it’s not healthy (gasp!) but it’s in the spirit of things.  Besides, from crepes to gaufres (waffles), beignets (fritters), guimauves (marshmallows), caramel apples, and more, how many times can you say “no”?   (It’s not lazy-parenting. . . it’s vacation-parenting!)

The carnival runs from the last week of July to the third week of August. 

Free Cinema Under the Stars at Parc de la Villette

Whether you’re a cinephile looking to veg with a good film, or just wanting to rub elbows with Parisians, the Cinema en Plein Air is a summer favorite.  And a free one at that!  So you can happily splurge on a few delicacies to add to your open-air meal.

Assemble your picnic basket with chilled rosé, cheeses, sliced French ham, salads, and fruit.  Maybe a box of colorful macarons as a treat?  Or other snacking essentials.  There will be no popcorn here so take what you need (and leave room for what you love!).

The film festival presents classic and recent hits in their original language.  No need to worry about bringing along your French dictionary, binoculars for subtitles, or inappropriate content for kids.  A quick peek in your local kiosk’s Pariscope or an online search will let you know what’s on. 

Once there, you can find a spot and sit on the grass for free, or rent a deck chair for more comfort.  Screenings begin at nightfall, and the festival generally runs from mid-July to mid-August.  Enjoy the show!

What are some of your favorite summer festivals abroad?  Share with us!

Paris Plage by Efired/Shutterstock.

Tags : travel   Paris   France   

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