While we may go red with envy at the French’s 5 weeks of paid vacation, it should make you giddy about visiting Paris in August. Why? Because when the tourists go on vacation to Paris, the Parisians go on vacation to anywhere but Paris. Don’t let the heat frustrate you too much, you’re getting the city at its best: slightly less crowded, and with slightly happier Parisians.
1. Shop les soldes (until August 8)
Various locations throughout France
You may be thinking, “weren’t les soldes in July?” You would be partially correct. These semi-annual 6-week sales began in July, but they finish in August. When the sales began, the discounts were around 20%. But now, in the last week, discounts are as deep as 80%. So those 100€ shoes you love are finally calling your name for a sweet 30€. Keep in mind that choices will be more limited since the sale is in its last week, but it’s still definitely worth looking.
2. Medusa: Bijoux et Tabous (May 19-November 5)
Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris – 11 Avenue du Président Wilson, 75116 (map)
Jewelry is one of the most ancient forms of artistic expression, and yet it’s not often considered a work of art. This is the argument of the Paris Museum of Modern Art, in their Medusa exhibit, featuring more than 400 pieces of jewelry by designers, artists, and jewelers, both from the contemporary era and ancient times, and everything in between. Made by hand, by computer, by machine, this exhibit is an investigation of the treatment of jewelry as taboo, a representation of femininity, and a form of identity.
3. Climb up Sacré-Coeur
35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre, 75018 (map)
Summer is the time to see Sacré-Coeur, the beautiful basilica overlooking Paris from the north. Take a bottle of something, a baguette, and some cheese and watch the sun go down from the steps of Montmartre. Then, take the 300 steps up to the top of the dome. Access is on the outside of the Basilica to the left, open until 8:00pm until October. Once you’ve seen the top, head inside (it’s open until 10:30pm). Entrance is free and there’s a free audio guide you can get with an app on a smartphone. Once you’ve finished your tour, head down into Montmartre for a lively evening!
4. Festival Classique au vert (August 5-September 17)
Esplanade du château de Vincennes – Route de la Pyramide – 75012 Paris (map)
Classical music sounds best in two places: in a historic cathedral, and outdoors. Every weekend from the beginning August through the middle of September, classical music will fill the air in the Bois de Vincennes, the 12th arrondissement park located just outside the Périphique. Soloists playing Chopin and the Paris Chamber Orchestra playing Mozart—your afternoons will be melodious and flower-filled in the setting of the Floral Park of Paris. A full schedule is available here.
5. Learn to Dance at Balajo
9 Rue de Lappe, 75011 (map)
Opened in 1936, this dancehall-slash-nightclub in the Bastille neighborhood is always happenin’! The space is cavernous, with red leather booths lining the dance floor. Balajo hasn’t totally abandoned its historic roots for clubbing; on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the dance of the night is salsa, on Wednesdays it’s rock, Fridays and Saturdays are for clubbing, and Sundays are for Argentinian tango. On the dance nights, there are always lessons early in the evening before the floor is open to all. (Schedule change: in July and August, it’s closed on Wednesdays.)
6. Été du Canal (July 8-August 27)
Quai de la Seine, La Villette, 75019 (map)
Next time you hear the word “canal,” don’t think of Venice, think of Paris! During l’Été du Canal, the Paris canals are bustling and vibrant. The canal itself, canal de l’Ourcq, runs out of Paris, presenting a prime opportunity to get out of the city. Take a cruise on the canal up to Bobigny where a “pleasure port” has been set up, check out the barges docked in the bassin de la Villette, and bike along (or kayak in!) the canal down to the activities in the Parc de la Poudrerie.
7. Rock en Seine (August 25-27)
Parc National de Saint-Cloud, 92210 Saint-Cloud (map)
It’s a little out of Paris, but the Rock en Seine weekend music festival is totally worth it. American bands like the XX and the Shins will perform alongside French stars like Jain and Rone, as well as many other international stars. And while festivals in the US are often over $100 for a one-day pass, Rock en Seine offers one-day passes for just 49€. Buy tickets here.
8. Have Breakfast on the Seine at Le Lutétia
33 Quai de Bourbon, 75004 (map)
There are three things you can do to cope with August heat: find a good view, get some food, and (of course) avoid the heat. Do all three of these things at Le Lutétia restaurant on Île-Saint-Louis. This small restaurant/café is in the tip Western tip of the island, and opens at 7:30am. Go for breakfast (you can order a croissant, basket of bread, jams, orange juice, and coffee for a few euros) and sit outside facing the Seine. You can watch Paris wake up without being blinded by the sun, and enjoy the view before the heat beats you back into a museum.
9. 73rd Anniversary of the Liberation of Paris (August 25)
Place de l’Hôtel de Ville 75004 (map)
On August 25, 1944, after years of occupation, Paris was liberated from the Nazis. In honor of the 73 years since, the city hosts a historical ceremony and public dance in front of the Paris City Hall. From sundown on into the evening, the Hôtel de Ville will be a place of celebration.
10. Festival Silhouette (August 25-September 2)
Parc de la Butte du Chapeau Rouge, 75019 (map)
A festival for anyone too antsy to sit through a full-length film, Festival Silhouette presents the best court-métrage (short films!) of the year. The selected films are meant to shock, surprise, entertain, concern, and fully engage the audience, so you’ll never be bored. Over 100 films are shown to 20,000 spectators over the course of a week. The festival takes place up in the 19th arrondissement’s Parc de la Butte du Chapeau Rouge, with films screening both outside and inside.