While millions of tourists flock to Paris in the summer months, it seems nearly all of the capital city’s usual inhabitants head for the hills, spending their fantastically French five-week paid vacation basking in the sunlight on the beaches of the French Riviera or heading abroad to discover new cities, cultures, and landscapes. But we can’t all be so lucky, and indeed a few of us are left behind to battle the hordes of travelers and oftentimes stifling heat here between the Haussmannian buildings.
So, what to do when Paris is at once oddly empty and horribly crowded? When all the locals seem to have disappeared and most of our favorite boutiques, bars and restaurants are closed? Pas de souci, the City of Light still has tons to offer. Here are our Top 10 Things To Do If You’re Stuck in Paris This Summer.
- Head Up to the Paris Rooftops
Every summer, hip new places-to-be are popping up on rooftops all over Paris. This year’s trendiest temporary terraces include Créatures, the vegetarian restaurant calling the roof of the Galeries Lafayette Haussmann home for the next four months.
And there is also the relaxed rooftop garden bar Jardin Suspendu returning atop the parking garage of the Parc des Expositions for the second year.
2. Try a Trendy Tiers-Lieu
When it gets too hot in your (probably tiny) Parisian apartment or too cramped in the lone café open in August, try one of these alternative indoor/outdoor living spaces. Once warehouses, train stations, or public squares, these lieux de vie are meant for hanging out all afternoon or evening. The cool converted spaces offer drinks, food trucks, and a friendly, eco-conscious atmosphere, some even having cultural and artistic activities too.
Settled in a former SNCF train depot, Ground Control in the 12th Arrondissement has become a summer staple, and La Recylérie on the Petite Ceinture is a year-round favorite. This summer, though, the possibly one-time-only Jardin Défendu in La Défense is getting all the attention.
3. Go To a Concert or Music Festival
Summertime in Paris means music is all around! There are shows every weekend (and every day undoubtedly), ranging from outdoor electro club nights to a music and arts festival for kids and families in the botanical gardens.
Trance and techno lovers are sure to enjoy Glazart’s LaPlage where you can listen to music and dance with your feet in the sand, while fans of funk should head to the Mona Bismarck American Center this June and July for free concerts in a charming setting. The Parc Floral, Paris’s botanical gardens in the Bois de Vincennes, also hosts three different festivals stretching through the entire summer, with open-air classical and jazz concerts along with kid-friendly performances and activities.
4. Watch a Movie Under the Stars
Music festivals aren’t the only outdoor cultural activities taking place in Paris in the summer. Open-air film festivals and movie screenings happen all around the city too, letting you enjoy the warm evening air while also taking in a flick, French or otherwise (in V.O. – don’t worry no doublage here!).
The annual Cinéma en plein air at the Parc de la Villette is a personal favorite thanks to its sprawling lawn (perfect for picnics) and a wide-ranging lineup of both classic and current films playing Wednesday – Sunday from mid-July to mid-August. Read all about the La Villette Open-air Cinema on Urbansider.
The world-famous Moulin Rouge is also hosting outdoor movie nights this summer, with screenings taking place every Wednesday night July 10 – September 11 at its Bar à Bulles. Between the good drinks, cool location, and an international programme featuring an equal number of female and male directors, the Cinéma sur le toit is sure to be a hit.
The 11th Arrondissement also has its own annual open-air film festival, La Chaise et l’écran, and you can even watch movies while sitting on out-of-service train tracks at La Recyclerie.
5. Shop the Sales
This year, the Paris summer sale season runs from June 26th to August 6th, so take advantage of les soldes and the fact that many locals are out of town to do some shopping! Head to your favorite store – bon courage if it’s in central Paris, or, heaven forbid, Les Halles – and pick up those items that you’ve had your eye on.
Looking for some shopping suggestions? Browse Urbansider’s Paris city guide to see which magasins we love.
6. Go for a Swim
While it may not be the same as being at the beach, a day at an open-air pool in Paris can still give you that vacation feel (and tan!). You can swim under the open sky in ten different piscines in the city, some outdoor pools, but most indoor bassins with retractable roofs. The Piscine Roger le Gall in the 12th Arrondissement with its kiddie pools and small grass lawns make it one of our favorites public pools for soaking up the sun during a staycation, although a day at Aquaboulevard in the 15th can’t really be beat when it comes to a faux family vacation.
And then there’s always the free, floating pools in the Bassin de la Villette if you’d rather feel like you’re swimming in the canal!
7. Visit a Museum
With the sun seemingly absent most of this past year, it’s certainly tempting to spend this entire summer dehors, enjoying the rays of light while we can. But between sunbathing sessions, head to a museum to soak up some culture instead! Avoid the crowds by going to one of Paris’s smaller museums; the Musée Picasso has the interesting Calder-Picasso exhibition on through the end of August, Les Salons Littéraires is on display at the Musée de la Vie Romantique through September, and the Illusions exhibition at the Palais de la Découverte is perfect for teens on holiday.
Museums are also a great idea during the inevitable canicule – they nearly all have air conditioning!
8. Have Fun at the Fair
The Jardin des Tuileries turns into a huge fairground again this summer for the Fête des Tuileries from June 21st to August 25th. Cotton candy stands, bumper cars, ghost trains, and all kinds of other carnival attractions are sure to bring out the kid in anyone, even the surliest parisien. And les enfants are sure to love it too! The big ferris wheel, or La Grande Roue, is back, and the sky-high swings are sure to be too, both rides offering up thrills and amazing, oh-so-Instagrammable views of Paris.
9. Spend Some Time Along the Water
Sure, it’s not really like being on the ocean, but the Parisian river banks can feel pretty beachy during Paris Plage. The annual event is back for the summer of 2019, with sand, lounge chairs, and beach umbrellas once again lining the quais de Seine and the berges du Bassin de la Villette. July 6 – September 1, boat rides, beach volleyball, picnic tables, concession stands, and loads of organized activities for young and old alike mean you can spend all day along the water without even needing to leave la Ville Lumière.
10. Picnic in the Parks
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, but summertime picnics in the parks of Paris are an absolute must. You might not know, however, that in addition to those iconic (and tourist-filled) jardins in the city center, there are a few places around town that are bucolic enough to make you almost forget that you’re in Paris. A stroll through the rose gardens of the Parc de Bagatelle, an apéro entre amis alongside the lake at the Parc des Buttes Chaumont or an all-day family outing in the Bois de Vincennes may be just the little break you need! And all accessible en métro!
If you’re not professional Parisian flâneur just yet, Urbansider’s article on the Best Parks in Paris will surely help you find where to start!