10 things to do during your Parisian summer

Being in Paris in August is like having Disneyland all to yourself: you get maximum fun for minimum fuss! Most locals having deserted the city for their August vacations, the City of Light feels, well, lighter. Relaxed, slow and weirdly stripped of its regular cosmopolitan stress levels, it has but one disadvantage – many places might actually be closed! The upside, however, is that you’ll have an uncrowded version of Paris much to yourself, which basically is all you need in order to relax, make discoveries and have fun in this magical city. Here is our top 10 list of the best summer activities in and around Paris. Enjoy!

Summer in the city!

Summer in the city!

Rise over Paris in a hot-air balloon

You want to rise above Paris in a less conventional manner? Then your direction should be the Parc André Citroën where a tethered sightseeing helium balloon takes savvy travelers up in the air for inspiring panoramic views of Paris from above. The Ballon Air de Paris offers 10-minute rides to a height of 150 meters to all enthusiasts who want to capture a snapshot of Paris as seen by the birds.

(Parc André Citroën, from 9am to 30 minutes before the park’s closing time; Metro: Javel; Ticket price: 12€ (adults); 6€ (kids from 3 to 11)


Swim in the “cabrio” pool over the Seine   

Launched in 2002 – the year that saw the inauguration of Paris Plage – the floating swimming pool Josephine Baker is the superstar of all Parisian pools. This extraordinary glass and steel structure is equipped with a sliding glass roof transforming the floating pool into a cabrio version of itself which opens to the skies. With the river below you and the skies above, a swim here is as exciting as it can get! Bordered by the Seine, overlooking Bercy, facing the Bibliothèque François Mitterrand and next to the cult night joint Batofar (a boat with a lighthouse), the swimming pool hosts a trendy aquatic center with a 25m pool, a jacuzzi, a hammam, a sauna and a solarium plus a 50m2 paddling pool for kids. In a nutshell – it just couldn’t be better!

(Hours, address and fees here: http://equipement.paris.fr/piscine-josephine-baker-2930)

Have a cocktail on the Seychelles beach  

Sick of the dreary urban cityscape? Then Coco de Mer is your place! This replica of the Seychelles in the city of Paris is the best place to experience a round of mental teleportation just for the fun of it! A native Seychellois, the restaurant’s owner created this Seychelles’ culinary embassy in Paris over twenty years ago. The restaurant’s name, Coco de Mer, stands for the largest nut in the world – an endemic species found in the Garden of Eden, on the island of Praslin in the Seychelles. Their ‘ti-punch’ (a rum-based mixed drink that is especially popular in the French-speaking Caribbean) is great but the best is yet to come – you can drink it in a perfect setting, on a sandy beach under the shadow of palm trees while sinking your toes into the soft sand coating the veranda while having dinner – for, yes, here the city really gives way to the beach!

(Coco de mer, 34 boulevard Saint Marcel,  Contact +33 6 20 26 77 67 ; Closed on Sundays and Monday noon)


Hire a boat in the Bois de Boulogne    

An ex-hunting ground for the French royalty, the Bois de Boulogne has now grown into the largest relaxation spot in the West of Paris. With its surface of 850 hectares, one of Paris’ ‘lungs’ offers plentiful walkways, horse-riding trails, sports fields and touristic cycle routes. Designed to please everyone, it has playgrounds for children, theatres, restaurants, picnic areas and bicycles for hire. Enjoy strolling past the long tree-lined alleys or – for the more romantically-inclined – hire a boat and row on the quiet waters of the Lac Inférieur just like the ladies and gentlemen from the past used to during their calm and peaceful weekend afternoons.

(Bois de Boulogne is at metro stop Porte d’Auteuil ; boats for hire by the Lac Inférieur)

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Pick your own veggies fresh from the farm

A real adventure in itself, picking your own fruits and vegetables straight from Mother Nature instead of buying them wrapped in nylon in the Parisian supermarkets is a lovely and atavistic escapade you don’t get to experience every day. Happily, if you have a car while in Paris, the region of Île de France has a good number of farms where you could pick your own rustic delights yourself, like a good ol’ farmer. The Vergers de Champlain farm in La Queue-en-Brie (23km south-east of Paris) offers over 40 different types of produce in season. Seek out the best apples and fresh peas, pick some crunchy cucumbers and lettuce for your evening salad or eat a mouthful of strawberries right out of your hand. Finally, treat yourself to some hand-picked flowers – choose between lilies, gladioli or a blend of wild flora – all pretty and colorful…

(For more information: www.vergersdechamplain.com😉

Watch a movie under the stars in Parc de la Villette

The Parc de la Villette is a good place to get lost. With its ten curiously-themed gardens (named Garden of Mirrors, Garden of Mists, Garden of Childhood Frights, etc.) and its lawns hosting the international open-air film festival, it offers free alfresco movie going at its best. People gather at sundown and snuggle up on the grass to watch movies under the stars on a big inflatable screen. You could hire a deck chair or pack your own picnic kit and blanket and come enjoy both classics and latest hits in the company of laid-back local cinephiles. Expect a new movie every night of the festival.

(To check the festival program, go to http://www.villette.com/fr/agenda/Cinema-en-plein-air-2012.htm)

Hide from the heat in Maison de l’Air

A great place to hide from the summer heat and to reflect on the future of mankind (or admire the panoramic views over Paris), the Maison de l’Air is like an open book of ecology and the environment. With its permanent exhibition on the air in Paris and its vital role in our environment, it offers the remarkable experience of touching, feeling and hearing the air that surrounds us. Exploring the complexity of the relationships between all living things and the air of the city, the role of the atmosphere and the importance of its protection, a visit to this animated and interactive museum where children and adults learn to be more responsible towards the air we breathe, will help you understand a bit better what is going on around us.

(Maison de l’Air is at 27, rue Piat ; Métro: Pyrénées; Working hours (April till September) – Tuesday 13:30 to 17:30; Saturday: 13:30 to 18:30; free of charge)


Dance the night away by the Seine   

One of Paris’ wildest party scenes is located by the river! Steps away from the National library François Mitterrand and the floating swimming pool Josephine Baker, some gorgeous party options promise a great summer night out! You can dance the night away in the magnificent La Dame de Canton, a former Chinese junk made from exotic wood, which “sailed the seven seas” before retiring on the banks of the Seine. With its avant-garde live concerts, the captain’s room and its old library or its romantic restaurant, there’s always something new and exciting going on about this floating maze. The other must-visit joint, the Batofar, attracts music lovers with its varied beats and bohemians with its temporary beach and ice cold beers and tapas. Even if you don’t feel like wild partying, do come sit on the pier and admire the sunset over the river, you won’t regret it.

(Both venues are located at Quai François Mauriac)


Jump around in the open-air public parks 

Trying its best to reach as many people as possible, Le Gym Suédois promotes free open-air aerobics classes in a number of Parisian parks during the summer (ending August 25th). A new arrival in France and practically a way of life in Sweden where it comes from, the concept has taken major cities by storm due to its pure and simple philosophy. Lasting about an hour, each session includes a warm-up, stretching, muscle-building, cardio, running and finishes with a minute of zen relaxation.  Conceived by physiotherapists, the program makes sure you spend the maximum amount of energy, while having fun and getting the most out of each exercise session. It’s free, it’s fun and it’s in the open-air – what better way to do sports in Paris!

For more information on the open-air classes, please visit : http://www.gymsuedoise.com/index?a=cours&s=list&pa=1&u=209dea422cadc9b65654769969f44a1a

And all that jazz!

From raw debuts and experimental music styles to proven classics of iconic jazz performers, Paris has always had a thing for a good jazz gig. One of the most eagerly anticipated events for music lovers during this summer in Paris, the Jazz à la Villette festival boasts unique concerts blending different styles and featuring artists singing jazz, blues, hip-hop, funk and world music. Some of this year’s names feature Jamie Cullum, Bryan Ferry, Sean Kuti and Egypt 80 and many more.

(For more information on the festival’s program, visit http://www.jazzalavillette.com/programme.aspx)