Paris without Parisians: The pros and cons of visiting in August
Neighborhoods around town have seemingly emptied out and the usually crowded parks and picnic spots have a surplus of vacant space for those left behind.
The benefits of visiting in August…
While not the ghost town the city once was reputed to be during the August break, there are still many perks to visiting Paris with slightly fewer Parisians.
First off, more local, less touristy neighborhoods feel downright deserted. For example, the banks of the Canal St-Martin are quieter, leaving more space to stretch out with a bottle of wine and some beers on the hot summer evenings. The lines for a Pink Flamingo pizza are short, meaning less wait time as you grip your balloon, eagerly anticipating the delivery boy who brings a pizza to you on the canal’s banks.
Jogging and sunbathing in the city’s lesser known parks are simply marvelous in August. The park Buttes Chaumont in the 19th arrondissement is only half filled with a few stragglers; the packed lawns are showing more green than ever as the sprinklers work their magic across large empty swatches of lawn. A sunny July day would have told a different story.
And then there are the restaurants. After calling ahead for a reservation at a usually filled-up establishment in the heart of Paris, I was surprised to arrive with my guests and find our voices to be the only ones echoing from the walls during the lunch hour. While the super-trendy restaurants may still have long waits, many restaurants that remain open during the August vacation will be overjoyed to have your business.
…and the downsides of an “empty” city
However, when the Parisians head to the beaches and country homes, they take their shop keys with them. The downside to having a Paris without locals is a seemingly endless list of closings from my favorite bakery to my favorite pastry shop.
Shopping becomes difficult as clothing boutiques, chocolate shops, and fromageries all shut their doors for several weeks. Even famed ice cream parlor Berthillon takes a summer vacation (though their ice cream is still available from second-hand sellers across the Ile St-Louis!).
While not the ideal period to see Parisians in their natural state, August can be a magical time to traipse the streets of the city, which seem like they belong to you and you alone. While the city dwellers are off soaking up in the sun in Tunisia or Cannes, those of us left behind will take advantage of the added calm, the slightly cheerier aura, and the subtle but marked decrease in dog poo on the sidewalk that signals vacation time for the locals.
At the end of the month, all of the Parisians will come flooding back, the parks will fill up again, the stores will reopen, and there is a much greater chance that you will step in some merde by mid-September as the canine Parisians resume their daily routines. But hey, they say it’s good luck in some parts of the world…
Also in our guide: If you’re heading to Paris in August or any other month, be sure to swing by our hotel guide to read reviews of our favorite budget hotels in the city. We inspect the best affordable hotels, then recommend only those that we feel are a good deal.