Ask anyone who’s lived in this city for all seasons, and they’ll all tell you that Paris is such a different place in the summertime.
The gardens bloom back into lush and vibrant paradises. The quays of the Seine or the Canal Saint Martin attract massive crowds of picnickers like bees to a honeycomb. Parisians come out of hibernation less grizzly and more giddy. And the whole city reverberates with renewed energy, ready to enjoy all the advantages that come with warmer weather.
There is, however, one minor downfall to this season, when temperatures can get up to the 90s, and stepping outside suddenly feels like setting foot in a giant frying pan. More often than not, many places are without air conditioning, and you can’t just take a dip in the Seine to cool off (trust us, you wouldn’t want to). Fortunately, Paris has a temporary solution for the dreaded canicule (French for heat wave), and it’s called “Paris Plages.” It’s no French Riviera, but it’s the closest you’ll get to a beach without leaving the Île-de-France.
Every year since 2002, a sizeable area along the banks of the Seine is transformed into a row of sandy, palm tree-covered beaches from late July to late August, where locals and visitors alike can seek refuge from the scorching summer heat. This year’s edition of Paris Plages started on July 20th and will run through August 18th. Open from 9 am to midnight, you can choose between the Voie de Georges-Pompidou or the Bassin de la Villette, where you’ll find beaches furnished with lounge chairs and umbrellas, refreshment stands, ice cream counters, sprinklers, pop-up cafés and numerous animations that change daily to amuse visitors of all ages.
In the Bassin de la Villette area, there’s Belushi’s Bar, where you can listen to acoustic music while sipping on drinks or dining on salads and grilled dishes along the Canal de l’Ourcq.
And in an effort to help out the less fortunate, the organization TousàTable has created an open-air café that charges a limited number of guests just 10% of their total meal cost. The dishes are made with fresh ingredients and cooked by a team of volunteers and social workers.
This might not sound all that exciting, but a pop-up water fountain is situated near the quays by Notre Dame, and it’s a welcome offering when there’s no such thing as free water in Paris (unless you know to order a “carafé d’eau” when dining out — a must if you want to save money). You even have the choice between tap and sparkling water…if that’s not a luxury, we’re not sure what is.
For sporty types, there are plenty of options including taï-chi classes, go-karting for 6-12 year olds, free dance classes, kayaking, beach volleyball in front of Hôtel de Ville, and there’s even an area filled with foosball tables.
If culture is more your thing, you can settle into a table in the shade near the Pont Marie at the pop-up library, with a selection of more than 300 literary, fiction, and nonfiction works to choose from that are free to read on site in exchange for only your ID card.
So next time you’re in the city when Paris Plages is open, or if you live here and aren’t skipping town for the summer, slip into a cute swimsuit or a cool summer outfit, lather yourself with sunscreen, and go explore the beaches by the Seine. It’s the only place besides the public pool where you can lay out without getting weird looks, and almost all of its activities are free or relatively cheap. You can’t beat inexpensive amusement in Paris, especially when it won’t be around for long. Bonnes vacances d’été!
Featured photo Courtesy of lejdd.fr