Paris: 10 reasons to visit Paris this summer

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Paris plages
Escape to the "beach" this summer as Paris transforms its the edges of its waterways into beaches. Photo: paolagospo

Planning a trip to Paris this summer? Your won’t be alone–or wanting for things to do. From “beaching it” along the Seine to exhibits of Titanic proportions, the city offers summer visitors plenty of opportunities to relax, indulge, learn and be entertained. Here’s my list of 10 reasons to visit Paris this summer:

1. Paris Plages
July 20 – August 18

From the banks of the Seine to the banks of the Canal in the 19e arrondissement, those looking for a bit of reprieve from the heat need search no further than Paris Plages. Kids and adults can enjoy the various activities (think line dancing) and relaxed atmosphere that are both so quintessentially un-Parisian. Bring a towel, a picnic, and some SPF as you relax on the imported sand beaches and imagine yourself on the Riviera at no cost.

outdoor cinema Paris

Skip to the loo, then take a seat for “Cinema en plein air”. Photo: Fabrice Paulmier

2. Outdoor Cinema
July 24 – August 24

The Cinéma en Plein Air at Parc de la Villette offers everyone the chance to kick back at night in front of a giant inflatable movie screen. Picnic supplies and a blanket are a must. Films for the summer of 2013 include “Milk,” “The Social Network,” “Ocean’s Eleven,” and of course some French films that you may not know, but will happily become familiar with.

Note: Plan a bathroom break before hand, as meandering through the crowd in the dark is both difficult and, frankly, annoying.

3. Picnic with the locals

It goes without saying that Paris is a giant picnic in the summer. Along the river or in any of the gorgeous parks like Buttes Chaumont or Montsouris, there is no better way to cozy up to the locals than to pack some bread, cheese, and charcuterie. Bring a bottle of wine, but “forget” your opener – it’s the perfect excuse to talk to that oftentimes-attractive group of Frenchmen/women next to you.

Paris summer sales

Get to the sales early and don’t forget to hydrate! Photo: Galinette

4. Soldes!
June 26 – July 30

Those looking to do some shopping in Paris should wait until the biannual sales, or “soldes,” that take place in the winter and the summer. But this shopping is not for the faint of heart. Hydrate well and bring an attitude as you’ll be scrambling among more seasoned Parisian clients who are used to the huge lines and scattered goods.

Check out smaller boutiques near the Canal St. Martin or in the Marais and avoid the department stores if you’re not a crowd person. (More tips on making the most of Paris’ bi-annual sales.)

5. Off-Broadway in Paris
June and July

Opera and ballet are great, but sometimes expats and tourists yearn for a good old-fashioned American musical. American Musical Theater Live! is introducing the Off-Broadway genre to Paris with “Edges” and “The Last 5 Years”, both debuting this summer. They are in English, with international casts, and tickets are affordable for musical theaters (try getting a €20 ticket in the West End easily!). The shows will play at the Auguste Théâtre in the 11th arrondissement and are definitely worth checking out.

6. The Titanic Exhibit
June 1 – September 15

Twenty-one passengers boarded the Titanic when it docked at Cherbourg, and 16 survived the sinking. The boat’s story, however, is intriguing to all nationalities, and the traveling exhibit of artifacts is coming to Paris. On Monday, tickets are cheaper than the rest of the week. It may not scream, “Summer in Paris!” but excitement is subjective, right?

Fete de la Musique

Music performances, planned and otherwise, take to the streets throughout Paris during the Fete de la Musique on June 21. Photo: Boklm

7. Music Festivals
All summer

Summertime turns up the soundtrack in Paris with multiple festivals. While not all are a free, the Fête de la Music on June 21 allows musicians to play all over the city into all hours of the night.

Also check out the Jazz Festival at the Parc Floral (June 8 – July 28) or get tickets to either Solidays (June 28-30) or Rock en Seine (June 23-25) for more contemporary artists. Read more about the city’s music festivals.

8. Frozen treats

When it’s hot, well, we want something cold. Sure, you can wait in line at Berthillon for some classic French ice cream, but there are plenty of other options:

• A new frozen yogurt boutique, Baci Bisous, has opened by the Canal just in time for summer. (25 rue des Vinaigriers, 75010)

Gelato Paris

Hurry up, it’s melting! Photo: cameronparkins

• Try the various flavors of Chacun ses Goûts and add toppings to your own yogurt creation as you wish. (4 rue Geoffroy l’Angevin 75004)

• In the Upper Marais, Mary’s Gelato (1 rue Dupuis 75003) is whipping up some of the best Italian sorbets you’ll taste, just down the street from equally delicious Pozetto (39 rue du Roi de Sicile 75004) and their signature chocolate-hazelnut or pistachio gelato.

Read more of about Paris’ best ice cream and gelato options.

9. Bastille Day
July 14

From the Firemen’s parties (“bal des pompiers”) to the military parade down the Champs Elysées, July 14th is a huge party in Paris, even if it celebrates the beginning of an unfortunately bloody revolution. But fireworks! Bag a non-alcoholic picnic (they check bags for spirits – let’s keep it family-friendly) and head to the Champs de Mars at the foot of the Eiffel Tower for one of the most stunning spectacles ever. Just don’t be in a rush to get out afterwards. The thousands of spectators are very carefully funneled through controlled exits, so it takes a few moments – or hours. But it’s worth it!

10. The Great Exodus: Parisians leave
August

In August, the migration begins as locals ship out and Italians, Americans, Russians, and just about any other nationality interested in Paris fill in the café seats left behind. It’s an odd feeling to see so many local places closed while major tourist addresses are inundated, but it’s also refreshing. A week or two of calm in most non-central neighborhoods does a person good. Head to the 19th, the 17th, or the 15th during this time to see what a Parisian ghost town feels like! (Read more about visiting Paris in August–without Parisians.)

Your favorite reasons for visiting Paris in the summer?

Have something to add to our list? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

Also in our guide: If you are planning to head to Paris this summer and looking for an affordable place to stay, be sure to stop by our guide to recommended budget hotels. Our editors have inspected, reviewed and photographed every recommended hotel in our guide.

About the author

Bryan Pirolli

About the author: With his college diploma fresh off the press, Bryan Pirolli headed for Paris and four years later he’s still there. A journalist and a tour guide, his main M.O. is pursuing a doctorate degree in communications at the Sorbonne Nouvelle. Bryan regularly travels on a budget, experiencing the best of European culture while still trying to make rent.  So far, so good. You can follow his adventures on his blog: www.bryanpirolli.com.

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