1. The Louvre
The Louvre is often at the top of tourists’ to-go lists in Paris; appropriately, it’s also at the top of the to-go lists of anyone seeking a respite from the summer heat. Not all of the museum is reliably air-conditioned — it is a very big and very old building, after all — but the newer wings and those closer to the basement (the Richelieu Wing, and archaeological/medieval sections in particular) are often well-ventilated and very cool. Of course, no A/C system can compete with hundreds and hundreds of people packed into a single room (Room 711, aka home of the Mona Lisa, I’m looking at you), so trying to seek out less well-trodden areas of the museum will also likely work to keep you cooler, too.
2. Sainte-Chappelle, Saint-Denis, Notre-Dame, Sacré-Cœur
When Paris’s most impressive basilicas and cathedrals were built in the 12th through 19th centuries, air-conditioning didn’t exist. What did exist, however, is stone: lots and lots of it. There are, of course, many reasons why church architects chose to utilize stone to build their places of worship, but one very big benefit of the material for those of us enduring heatwaves is that the thermodynamic properties of stone (takes a significant amount of time to heat up) and the sheer quantity of it (thick walls and few windows) mean that these churches are often dark, quiet, and cool — just what the doctor ordered for an overheated city-dweller in an apartment without A/C. Like the Louvre, though, the more people packed into these spaces, the hotter it gets, so it might be best to try to avoid peak tourist hours (afternoons on weekdays, and all day on weekends) if possible. This is particularly true with Notre-Dame and Sacré-Cœur, both of which can necessitate queueing outside in a shadeless-plaza if the church inside is already too full. (Sacré-Cœur also features a short but steep set of stairs to reach it from Montmarte, which is also worth taking into consideration on the sweat-factor of the day.)
3. Kozy Cafe, 46 rue La Fayette (9th arrondisement)
There are two other Kozy Cafes in Paris: one at 79 ave Bosquet (7th arrondissement), and one at 48 rue de Ponthieu (8th arrondissement). Their newest cafe, however, on rue La Fayette, is far and away my summer favourite; with beautiful American-style pancakes, fresh smoothies, and a whole room full of that sweet, sweet, AC, there’s nowhere better to grab an iced coffee, beat the heat, and get caught up on studying or working than here.
4. Le Bibliothèque Nationale de France (13th arrondissement)
Although the French national library was founded in 1461, this site was built in 1996 as the François Mitterand site, or ‘new’ BNF, as opposed to the 18th century Richelieu site. As a result, the library has all the conveniences of contemporary city life — and including that rarity of rarities here in Paris: A/C! There’s also free wifi, so you can bring your computer and Netflix, read, or write the heat away. It isn’t free entry — a one-day pass is €3.90 — but entry is free in the last two hours of the day (5-7 pm). The reading rooms themselves are all below ground-level, and open onto a beautiful garden, so you get the view of being outside with none of the heat.
5. Piscine Joséphine Baker (13th arrondissement)
It’s not advisable to swim in the Seine, but — as the city of Paris has made possible — you can certainly swim above it. Piscine Joséphine Baker is open to all from from 7am-9am and 10am-11pm on weekdays, and 10am-8pm Saturdays and Sundays, costing €6.20 during July & August.
6. Paris’s Public Parcs
During a heatwave, Paris’s parcs can be hit or miss. Walking under the relentless sun blazing down on the dusty gravel of the main arcade in the Tuileries, for example, is a miserable experience. But hiding away under the thick shade in one of the Tuileries’s corners, for example? Blissful. (Especially if you happen to get ‘accidentally’ caught in the sprinklers that the garden staff deploy seemingly at-random.) If you’re after a shady spot with grass you can sit and lie on (which is not the case in the Tuileries and, in fact, most parcs in Paris) then Mountsouris in the 14th arrondissement might be your best pick. Mountsouris is full of shade and soft, green grass, and even features a small lake where you can watch the birds glide by.
- Sunday 8th July, Expatriates in Paris are meeting for a picnic – RSVP here (you may need to join Expatriates in Paris Facebook group to view the event page)
7. Cinemas Climatisés
When you’re craving both an escape from the heat of the city and the city itself, sometimes nothing is more freeing, or refreshing, than sitting in a cool, dark room for a few hours, pretending to live someone else’s life in lieu of your own. As a general rule, most newer cinemas tend to have air-conditioning, but it’s always good to check if a sign says “climatisé,” or if their website advertises it as such. Chains such as UGC often offer air-conditioning, as well as English-language films (beware that VOSTF means an English-language film that has been given French subtitles, whereas VO means an English-language film that has been dubbed in French with no subtitles). UGC Odeon at 124 boulevard St. Germain (6th arrondissement), UGC Rotonde at 83 boulevard Montparnasse (14th arrondissement), and UGC Cine Cite les Halles within the Forum des Halles (1st arrondissement) are all good (and cool) places to start.
8. A cold drink at a covered café
Paris’s sidewalk café culture is indubitably at its best during the summer; neither Parisians nor the tourists who make the city their home during these months seem particularly dissuaded by the heat, and as such, a shady table in the breeze at a sidewalk café is a difficult, and much-coveted, spot to get. But nab one you might, and if you should, you’ll find yourself endlessly rewarded — especially as many of the cafés have misters installed into the umbrellas, showering you with a soft, cool touch every now and again as you watch the city go by.
9. A boat ride on the Seine
Even if you feel you’ve already seen all the tourist attractions Paris has to offer by foot, seeing them from the water can often be a totally different experience — especially when that water is much cooler than the hot pavement, and the speed of the boat is whistling a much-needed breeze over your warm skin. Boat rides on the Seine vary hugely in cost, but for an hour they can cost as little as €10 with companies like Vedettes du Pont Neuf. Lack of shade is a potential problem, though, but with a hat and some sunglasses you should be set.
10. La Grande Mosquée de Paris (5th arrondissement)
Through the green-and-white tiled minaret, La Grande Mosquée de Paris is tucked away from the world in a quiet, calm oasis. Explore the gorgeous gardens, take a tour of the Grand Mosque itself, all cool stone and shade, or have a cup of sweet peppermint tea (€2) and a piece of baklava in the beautiful shaded courtyard gardens in the café.
How to get there?
The Métro can be hot in summer: mind-meltingly so. Like most urban public transport networks during a heatwave, there’s no real way to get around the misery of being stuck up against 15 different armpits, all sweating like there’s no tomorrow. If possible, trying to avoid travelling during rush hour can help, and trying to stick to air-conditioned lines (the 1, 2, 5, 9, and many of the RERs, including the B) can, too.