Most people (and Parisians) will tell you to avoid the French capital during the summer months. It is hot, sticky, and incredibly busy. Despite this common knowledge, tourists still swarm into the city at this time of year. But, stickiness aside, there are still many attractions to coming during les grandes vacances.
Here are some ideas for making the most of your summer trip:
La Fete de la Musique
Every year on June 21st Paris becomes a jungle of sound. On every street and in every bar and café, from every corner of the city comes the sound of live music.
It is France’s annual music festival, and everyone is invited. Saxophones, guitars, drums, tambourines, didgeridoos… you name it, someone is playing it.
Head up to Montmartre for a gentle, bohemian evening, or stick around Saint-Michel and Saint-Germain-des-Pres for crowds and excitement all through the night.
Avoid driving as the roads will be crammed with traffic jams and pedestrians, but don’t miss this and perfectly Parisian party.
Every summer, from mid-July through to late August, the quais along the right bank of the Seine from the Pont Neuf to Hotel de Ville become an urban beach.
The road is pedestrianized, and 800 metres of sand, deckchairs, ice-cream stands and other attractions replace the usual congestion.
It is certainly worth a visit, with make-shift bars, petanque and ping pong competitions, as well as ballroom dancing!
Summer Sales (late June until end of July)
Try to get out there early on during the sales period as the native Parisians are sharp and seasoned sales-goers, and will snatch up the best bargains very quickly.
This is a great opportunity to wander around the great shopping locations in Paris: Galeries Lafayette, Printemps (both on Boulevard Haussmann, 9th arrondissement) or the Champs Elysees.
Bastille Day July 14th
July 14th marks the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789, the first major event of the French Revolution. The date is a symbol of French democracy.
There is always a military parade down the Champs Elysees, beginning in the morning, and fireworks at the Eiffel Tower in the evening. If you want to avoid the crowds at Trocadero, you can get an unrestricted view of the fireworks from Montmartre.
On Bastille Day there is also an open air gathering held at the Place de la Bastille (where the original Bastille was) with live music, dancing and people in costumes.
Outdoor Cinema – Parc de la Villette
During July and August every year there is a tradition of an outdoor cinema at Parc de la Villette (Metro: Porte de Pantin).
Check online for the program and head out there with a picnic and some friends for a great evening.
The English-language films are all with subtitles rather than dubbed and so it is still a fun activity even if your French is not brilliant.
Tour de France
The Tour de France is obviously a big event in France, and you can enjoy watching the tour throughout July in most cafés in the capital.
Better yet, watch the final stage of the tour on the Champs Elysees. Crowds line the Champs on the last day of the tour, and it is incredible to watch the speed of the cyclists as they whizz past you.