Michelle Schwartzbauer

By Bénédicte Mahé

Summer was late to bloom in Paris (well, it was late everywhere but we are not on a meteorological website). I should be writing a love letter to Paris and how beautiful it is in the summer, but right now we are getting a heat wave and all I am thinking about is escaping to Brittany. However, I recently joined the workforce so I am not able to take much vacation, to my great dismay. Instead, I have had to learn how to survive in a city with basically no wind, and how to escape a very warm apartment in which I only have a mini-fan to cool off (we rarely have air conditioning in apartments and houses in France). Learn from my experiences! Here is your guide to summer in Paris.

First of all, know where the swimming pools are. If you are Paris-bound for a few weeks, then you may at some point want to have a swim. Clearly, the Seine is a big no-no, but some swimming pools have an outdoor area (like the Piscine Reuilly in the 12th arrondissement). Some arrondissements even have outdoor or open-ceiling pools (like the Piscine Keller in the 15th).

If you just want to freshen up, then the revamped Place de la République can be a spot of choice: you will find water jets and misters right in the middle of the square. (You may have to scuffle with kids to have your share, though.) Similar  squares can be found in the Parc André Citroën (in the 15th) and the Parc Clichy-Batignolles (in the 17th). If you want to relax or tan, try Paris Plages or different parks around Paris. Do not forget to get ice cream from Glacier Berthillon (with one of their sorbets you will feel like you are eating fruit instead of ice cream), or go to Amorino if you have a smaller budget.

You wish to add a South of France feeling to your stay? Go have a pastis and play pétanque wherever you can find some sand. Pétanque is the summer “sport” par excellence (and very hipster right now—trust me, I was at Paris Plage yesterday and I saw a lot of people my age playing it).

If it’s not too hot, go to flea markets! Summer is the best time to discover forgotten objects—and not only in the Marché aux Puces de Clignancourt. Every weekend there is a brocante in a different arrondissement. However, be careful: the vide-greniers are more like the equivalent of American garage sales.

It is also possible that the weather might be really too hot (or on the contrary, too rainy) and you may not wish to be outside. I have the solution: go check out your local public library! Borrowing books is free if you have a Parisian address, and you can always consult in situ all the daily newspapers and French magazines if you don’t. Obviously, you can visit museums too if you are feeling touristy… And do not forget the ultimate refresher (if you are really desperate): head underground to the Catacombs.

Are you hungry? Organize a picnic near the water (near the Seine, at the Arsenal port at Bastille, on the Quai de Jemmapes/Valmy/Seine/Loire…) or in one of the many parks of Paris. Go to the market (seriously, go: you will get such a vivid image of French life) for fruits, vegetables, cheeses, pâtés, saucisson (the apéritif must), or olives, then go to the bakery to buy some bread (try something other than a baguette). Remember a bottle of fresh rosé wine to enjoy—with moderation!

And if after your picnic you feel like the day is not over, then the open-air movie theater at the Parc de la Vilette offers a selection of movies to watch all through July and August. Other arrondissements now offer their own open-air movie shows, too. And the best part is: they’re free!

What about your summer in Paris? Tell us all about it in the comments below!

Do you have kids? Fun links for summer in Paris

Pony riding: http://www.paris.fr/pratique/paris-au-vert/parcs-jardins-squares/les-promenades-en-poney-duplique-duplique/rub_4952_stand_128989_port_10597

Puppets shows: http://www.paris.fr/pratique/paris-au-vert/guignols-spectacles-pour-enfants/p6563

Playgrounds can be downloaded here (click on “les aires de jeux”): http://www.paris.fr/pratique/paris-au-vert/parcs-jardins-squares/p4952


The “fresh” links for summer in Paris

List of open-air swimming-pools and solariums:

Paris Plages: http://quefaire.paris.fr/parisplages

Parks of Paris: http://parcsetjardins.equipement.paris.fr/

The Catacombs: http://www.catacombes.paris.fr/en/homepage-catacombs-official-website

Rowing boats: http://www.lebonbon.fr/2013/07/22/Ou-faire-de-la-barque-a-Paris/

List of the markets in Paris: http://marches.equipements.paris.fr/

Public libraries: http://bibliotheque.equipement.paris.fr/

Open-air movie theaters:




Brocantes & vide-greniers (enter the French département you are staying in and the dates):


Bénédicte Mahé photo - cropped DuplicateBénédicte Mahé has studied abroad many times, speaks four languages and earned a Master of Management of cultural goods and activities, as well as a Master’s degree in intercultural communications and cooperation. She works in communication and international projects management. Among her interests are drinking tea, cooking (with or without success), reading, traveling, and—of course—shopping. She started her blog Tribulations Bretonnes in 2010 and has been updating it (more or less regularly) since then.

You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris® post, Picnics by the Seine: A return to warmer daysParisienne, Bénédicte Mahé takes us on her first spring picnic in Paris where she celebrates with friends the joy of being back in the sun. Musicians nearby played the saxophone and the guitar––it was as if they were suddenly in a Woody Allen movie: on the docks with Notre Dame and the Hôtel de Ville in the background. (French)

 Museum tearooms in Paris. Parisienne Flore der Agopian invites us to visit some of the most enchanting tearooms in Paris: Café du Musée de la Vie Romantique, its courtyard garden a step back into the 19th-century; Café Jacquemart-André, decorated and furnished in late 19th-century style; and La Flottille, in the garden of the Château de Versailles in front of the Grand Canal. Including a list of Museum tearooms, cafés and restaurants in Paris. 

Café Culture in Paris, by Parisienne Flore der Agopian. The café, writes Flore, is a pleasurable way of sitting unbothered for hours on end with a book, with friends, or jut watching all sorts of people coming and going. Le Café de Flore, one of the oldest and most prestigious in Paris, where you can meet or observe its famous clientele among the Parisians, tourists and waiters dressed in their black and white uniforms as if they were still in the 1920s. To Flore, Café de Flore is almost mythical, legendary––a real institution. (French)

Indulge at Le Meurice Hôtel, Paris, by Parisian Eva Izsak-Niimura who shares how to achieve a bit of luxury at Le Meurice Hôtel, Paris for afternoon tea or evening cocktails, when “constraint” is a word more in vogue than “indulgence.” 

Eating: Afro and French (in Paris), excerpts from Kiratiana’s Travel Guide to BLACK PARIS: Get Lost and Get Found, by Kiratiana Freelon. Although you must sample the highlights of traditional French cuisine, visitors on a quest for black Paris will also be drawn into the city’s eclectic ethnic eateries. Kiratiana shares where to go for Antillean and Sénégalese cuisine in Paris. 

Paris macaron, love in the afternoon, by Barbara Redmond who tells about the French women who vanished into the streets of Paris and later exited Pierre Hermé, an elegant confectionary, clutching little cellophane bags of macarons, a little ‘Le goûter’ (afternoon treat). But, Frenchwomen do not snack… or do they? Paris locations included for Pierre Hermé and Ladurée, beloved for their Parisian macarons. 

Oh, so French! Crossing to the other side. Paris-based writer Shari Leslie Segall shares her observations of becoming a little bit French and writes: “To a greater or lesser degree, whether you expected to or not, one day you realize that you’re crossing to the other side.” She offers a very incomplete list of how you know when you’ve arrived. (First published in FUSAC.FR July 5, 2013.) 

Les grandes vacances: The grand getaway to summer’s beaches, mountains and countryside, by French woman Bénédicte Mahé who explains the importance of vacation breaks to the French and why they are truly “les grandes vacances” (the big vacation). Including some of Bénédicte’s film suggestions that capture the essesnce of the French vacances.


Text copyright ©2013 Bénédicte Mahé. All rights reserved.
Illustration copyright ©2013 Michelle Schwartzbauer. All rights reserved.
Illustration copyright ©2013 Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.