Summer Guide to Paris: How to Survive August
A summer guide to Paris always brings challenges. The hot, humid weather is problematic in itself and it usually arrives after the big vacation exodus. But don’t become an exasperated, red-faced visitor. Here are eight tips to help restore your equilibrium.
1. Before you bake, equip yourself with basics. Almost certainly, you’ll want to be out and about. So bring a smart sun hat, breezy skirts—and a folding fan. In Paris, Muji stocks a plain, affordable paper fan. Agnès B. boutiques have classic hats and cotton skirts. Or, try Parisienne Anne Elisabeth—great for cool cotton prints.
2. Summer in Paris can make museums miserable. The Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and Pompidou are crammed with tired visitors so schedule visits to those for the early morning or during nocturnes (evening openings). If you have to go at prime time, switch to the Musée du Quai Branly, the Palais de Tokyo or the Louvre’s Musée des Arts Décoratifs.
3. Take it easy! This is the time to maximize your dawdling in cafés, to try that diabolo menthe or Aperol aperitif. Have an ice cream from Berthillon or Grom in the rue de Seine. And choose a shady seat by the window over a blistering terrasse.
4. There are hordes of tourists on the metro, so traveling outside rush hour doesn’t help. Try to plan each day in one section of town—or start in one area from which you can walk elsewhere. When the sun is not full strength, it’s great to bike around town with Vélib’.
5. Use the parks and gardens and . . . visit a cemetery. The big Paris parks, Buttes-Chaumont (right bank) and Parc Montsouris (left bank), boast stunning views and elegant landscaping. But, this year, extensive renovations have cluttered up Buttes-Chaumont. In its place, try a trip to either Père Lachaise (right bank) or the Montparnasse Cemetery (left bank). You’ll discover cool walkways, shade, sculpture and celebrities. The Luxembourg Gardens is always an oasis, especially given this year’s palette of red and pink. But, for August, avoid those dusty crowds in the Tuileries.
6. Paris Plages (right bank) and les Berges (left bank) offer special summer strolls by the Seine. Paris Plages was created to offer city-bound Parisians their own taste of sand and sun. It’s extremely well designed, with lots of kids’ activities and simple food concessions. Les Berges, which runs between Musée d’Orsay and Musée du Quai Branly, is the latest pedestrian walkway along the Seine. It features treats like a skateboarding ramp, landscaped islands, an herb garden and various installations of visual and audio art. Both the Plages and Berges are popular, so best seen outside the hottest hours. Both are also geared to strolling and lolling. Don’t expect to be “entertained” and do expect a broad mix of people.
7. Celebrate the liberation of Paris. Summer celebrations peak on August 25, when grandees assemble in front of Paris’s city hall, the Hôtel de Ville. In music and speeches, they commemorate the capital’s World War II liberation from Nazi occupation. It’s always a moving tribute and it’s free to everyone.
8. The final key to any summer guide to Paris? It’s the cinema! Paris boasts two outdoor cinema festivals: July 24–August 28’s Cinéma en Plein Air at Parc de la Villette and the citywide August 1–11 Moonlight Cinema (Cinéma au Claire de Lune). The latter is sponsored by the Forum des Images and projects all around town. This year, its theme is films about Paris. But air-conditioned cinemas are also a great escape from the heat. Try the Action Christine, which specializes in American classics and film noir. If you don’t understand French, look for Anglophone movies in “V.O.”: version originale (English-language dialogue).