We absolutely love summer in this city! There’s less traffic, smiling people (mostly) and the sun (sometimes). Even though the weather has been fickle lately, we’ve been itching to share our top picks from the dizzying array of happenings around town this summer.
Whether you want to bronze yourself at an inner-city beach, plunge into an outdoor pool, captain a boat, fancy dancing under the stars, or just chillaxing with friends on the waterfront, Paris offers no shortage of unique and fun things to do this summer! (Click on the fuschia-colored links for more details!)
1. Hit the Beach at Paris Plages
When you can’t make it to the beach, the beach comes to you! Pack your shades and beach towels and head for Paris Plages, where the banks of the Seine River are transformed into a FREE beach resort for 2 whole months. This year the event features a more contemporary look (no sand this time, but environmentally friendly grass, stone and wood), and extends all the way to the Bassin de la Villette. Besides offering places to relax and have a drink, Paris Plages features water misters, volleyball, pétanque and a new swimming area. So get ready to relax, play and enjoy the sun!
Paris Plages runs from July 7 to September 2 along the Parc Rives de Seine and Bassin de la Villette:
- Feel like sipping rosé on a deck chair with a view? Head towards the Voie Georges Pompidou (1st to 4th).
- Fancy a game of beach volleyball? Head to the square (parvis) in front of the Hotel de Ville (4th).
- Feel like a dip to cool off? Take the plunge at the Bassin de la Villette (19th) where 1600m of pools of differing depths promise fun for the whole family. Check the WEBSITE for opening times.
2. Swim in the Sun
Want to work on your tan while swimming under the sun? You might be surprised to learn that there are plenty of open-air swimming pools in Paris! The fabulous floating Piscine Josephine Baker with a riverside view (13th) and ozone-filtered Piscine Keller (15th) are public pools with sliding roofs that open up on warm, sunny days.
On the outskirts of Paris, the Centre Aquatic de Neuilly-sur-Seine and Piscine Patinoire Boulogne-Billancourt have brilliant outdoor pools and water slides for the kiddos. The center in Neuilly-sur-Seine even has a man-made “beach” in the summer, as does the Aquaboulevard water park in Paris’ 15th.
Looking for a hotel with an open-air pool? Try the Novotel Paris Tour Eiffel which opens its pool rooftop on warm days, or splurge on the glam and historic outdoor pool at Piscine Molitor, where they launched the bikini in 1946.
3. Eat, Drink and Dance Along the Seine!
Do you like to tango, twist or salsa? Perhaps you’re more into rock ‘n roll, electro or techno. On summer evenings, you’ll catch local dancers strutting their stuff or just swinging to music across the city. And there’s plenty of variety for all tastes.
Serious dancers head to the Jardin Tino Rossi along the banks of Port Saint-Bernard (5th), where hundreds of dancers show up spontaneously to dance the night away.
For laid-back family fun…
To drink, eat, listen to music or dance in a festive, laid-back outdoor atmosphere, you’ll love guingettes (open-air cafés/dance halls) like Rosa Bonheur sur Seine along Quai d’Orsay (7th), sister to the original Rosa Bonheur in the Parc Buttes-Chaumont (19th).
And don’t miss the cool outdoor hangout, La Javelle (15th), with its food trucks, concerts, cultural events and family activities everyday from May through September.
For the trendier set…
Looking for something a bit hipper? Check out the original nightclub on a boat, Le Batofar (13th). This unique lighthouse boat (bateau phare) turned club, bar and restaurant is a popular spot for lounging over cocktails and appetizers. In the evenings, dance to everything from hip-hop and electro to house, techno and live music till the wee hours.
4. Discover Paris’ Canal Culture
L’été du Canal
July 7 to August 26
Discover the city’s canalside culture through this trendier sister to Paris Plages along the banks of the Canal l’Ourcq! Enjoy a host of sports and cultural activities, from beaches to watersports and eclectic musical concerts to street-art, music and food-themed cruises, and outdoor cinema all along the waterfront. For the full program and bookings, visit their WEBSITE
Whether it’s summer or not, it’s worth discovering one of the many unique péniches (houseboats) turned restaurants and bars frequented by bobos and trendy locals along the canal.
Along the Quai de Seine, discover the péniche (houseboat) run by the Abricadabra theatre company, which presents entertaining shows for kids during the day. Its bar, café and restaurant serve up only artisanal and fair-trade products. And when night falls, adults come for drinks on their deck, events and concerts – which run the musical gamut from jazz to rock, reggae, blues and funk – and party down to DJ music late into the night.
Kids and nautical lovers adore this marine-themed bookshop on water with quaint furniture, theater workshops and a dedicated kids’ area. You’ll find this floating library docked along Quai de l’Oise in the 19th arrondissement.
For a truly chilled-out French experience, slip on your flip-flops and shorts and head out for a boozy round of pétanque at the Bar Ourcq on the banks of the canal in the 19th. This popular bar welcomes guests on its summer terrace with lounge chairs, music, cheap beer and tapas, wi-fi, and pétanque balls. The best part is you get to refuel with beer or wine in between matches!
5. Pilot Your Own Boat
Discover a new side of Paris by renting an electric, self-drive boat from Marin d’eau Douce at the Bassin de la Villette, the Canal Saint Martin or the Canal de l’Ourcq. These boats don’t require a permit, and allow you to follow a set itinerary, which lasts from one hour to a whole day. You can even order hampers for picnics or aperitifs in advance, moor at a pier and take a break on the grass to eat and play pétanque, badminton or mölkki (skittles). Boats accommodate from 5-11 people, so you can make it a family or corporate outing.
6. Stroll Along the Seine
Take a leisurely stroll, jog, bike, or rollerblade along the 2.3 km pedestrianized left bank of the Seine River. Stretching from the Musée D’Orsay to Pont d’Alma, the Parc Rives de Seine has nature, sport and leisure activities and restaurants open all year round. But it’s during the warmer summer months that you can really take advantage of all that this UNESCO World Heritage site has to offer. From kid-friendly climbing walls, to floating gardens, a 100-meter track and a gigantic chalkboard you can draw on with XXL chalk, there’s enough to keep the whole family entertained. And it gets better… on some days, masseuses set up their stools along the banks and offer FREE 10-minute massages!
7. Catch a Film Al Fresco
How romantic! Catch a flick on a big screen while enjoying apéritifs in the grass at one of the outdoor cinema festivals around the Paris region.
Cinema en Plein Air at Parc de la Villette
July 18 to August 19
One of the most popular outdoor film festivals, the Cinema en Plein Air (Open-air cinema) at Parc de la Villette kicks off every evening when night falls. Movies are screened in the original language, with French subtitles. For details and program, visit the WEBSITE.
August 4, 11, 18 and 25
About an hour south of Paris, the beautiful Chateau de Chamarande screens family-oriented films on Saturday evenings after sundown. Pick a spot on the grass with the kiddos and enjoy French, American and British films like “Gravity” and “Shaun the Sheep”. All movies are free and shown in French. For details and program, visit the WEBSITE.
8. Revel in an Outdoor Spectacle
La Nuit aux Invalides
June 17 to September 12 Wed-Sat, 10:30pm – 11:30pm (English screenings Wed/Thurs)
This is a must-see! Each summer, the 250-meter long façade of the magnificent Hôtel des Invalides is transformed into the backdrop for a stunning sound and light show. Stand in awe as you watch French history unfold before you in surround sound. Free for kids under 7. For details and reservations, visit their WEBSITE.
Best Places to Watch in Central Paris
Who doesn’t love fireworks? The biggest feu d’artifices display of the summer in Paris takes place on July 14, when fireworks are launched from the Eiffel Tower and the Jardins du Trocadéro. Head out early to grab a spot with the best view! To add to the festive atmosphere, there’s a free musical concert in the Champ de Mars park at the foot of the Eiffel Tower which starts at 9:00 pm. Get there by 8:00 pm latest, then you’ll be able to stay and watch the fireworks launching practically over your head around 11pm.
Alternatively, position yourself across the river in the Jardins du Trocadéro, or the Esplanade du Trocadéro. If you don’t mind spending some money to have more elbow room, book a table on the terrace of the Café of the Musée de l’Homme. Or splurge for a dinner cruise on the Bateaux Mouches Parisiens, or Péniche La Sans-Soucis and cruise right under the fireworks!
For a spectacular, bird’s eye view of the 35-minute show and a panoramic view of Paris, head to the observation deck of Tour Montparnasse (14th) or splurge on drinks or dinner at the Ciel de Paris restaurant. Book anything requiring reservations ASAP though!
Fountains Night Show at the Palace of Versailles
June 15 to September 15, every Saturday at 8:30pm
Have other plans on July 13? Come back any Saturday evening in the summer for the dazzling Fountains Night Show, a light and music show in the royal gardens of the Château de Versailles. Take a romantic stroll through the illuminated gardens as the fountains “dance” to the sound of music, and top off the evening with a grand fireworks display in front of the Grand Canal. For details and reservations visit their WEBSITE.
9. Jam at an Arts or Music Festival
Paris Quartier d’été
July 16 to August 4
You’ll have a blast exploring different quartiers (neighborhoods) of Paris during this month-long, citywide festival packed with contemporary, independent art, music and theater performances and workshops. From dancing to drumming, international music, avant-garde theater, there’s something to suit everyone. Most performances are free. Visit event WEBSITE for details and reservations.
Festival FNAC Live (4th)
July 5 to 7, from 6pm until about midnight
Music lovers will absolutely love this festival of 31 free concerts performed over 4 days at the Hôtel de Ville. Catch artists such as Feder and Jacob Banks. Visit event WEBSITE for full program.
La Plage de Glazart (19th)
June 7 to September 29, 2018
Dip you feet into sand and enjoy free concert performances and outdoor party events till the wee hours. At Glazart, they’ll be playing pop, electro and rock music non-stop. Visit the website for more details on the artists and parties.
10. Escape to a Summer Garden
Summer Garden at the Musée du Quai Branly (7th)
April 10 to July 15, Sun-Wed 10am – 7pm, Thurs-Sat 10am – 9pm
Escape to the tropics in the outdoor garden of the Musée du Quai Branly. And for some summer spookiness, check out the exhibition on Asian ghost stories that’s sure to rattle your chain. See the museum program for the schedule of workshops and other activities.
11. Bring the Whole Family to a Funfair
For a bit of old-fashioned fun, take your date or your family to one of the many outdoor funfairs that pop up around the city during the summer.
Fête Foraine in the Jardin des Tuileries (1st)
June 23 to August 26. Weekdays 11am-12:00am; Fri/Sat 11am-1:00am
Every summer, the Jardin des Tuileries is transformed into a traditional funfair with over 80 rides and attractions, from trampolines and duck fishing games to a hall of mirrors and a carousel. And, of course, what would a funfair be without cotton candy, crèpes, churros, candy apples? Free entry into the park but certain rides and attractions are ticketed, so plan ahead or you could end up spending a bundle!
La Fête des Loges (Saint-Germain-en-Laye)
June 29 to August 19
For those living west of Paris, the Fête des Loges in Saint-Germain-en-Laye is another popular fair with dozens of thrilling rides and attractions, from roller cars to fishing and roller coasters, and an international food alley. Free entry, but attractions are ticketed.
Jardin d’Acclimatation (Bois de Boulogne)
Recently re-opened after a renovation, this is one of our perennial family outing favorites in Paris. You can easily spend a full day out here, enjoying the traditional fairground-type roller coasters and games, giant trampolines, boat rides, pony rides, puppet shows, playgrounds and climbing structures. When you’re hungry, they have several restaurants and concession stands where you can fuel up. On hot summer days, pack swimsuits and towels so your kids can run around the sprinklers in the massive multi-zone playground! Entry is cheap, but rides and attractions are ticketed.
For even more things to do this summer, check out:
- 18 Of the Best Outdoor Activities in Paris
- 13 Fabulous Music Festivals in Paris This Summer
- Escape to Nature at the Exhilarating Espace Rambouillet
- 5 of the Best Public Courses Where You Can Learn to Play Golf in Paris
(Vanessa Mallari & Shriya Sacheti contributed to this article)