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Summer is definitely one of the best times of year to visit Paris. The long days and nice weather are perfect for walking around and discovering secret spots, small shops, and cool cafés. Plus, the city hosts tons of amazing festivals from June to September. On the flip side, summer is also the BUSIEST time of year to visit Paris, but this is just another reason to leave behind the city’s most visited attractions and venture to more local offbeat areas. Make the most of the season with these top things to do in Paris in the summer.

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This is an image of a Paris canal on a sunny day with trees and buildings lining it.

Explore the city’s canals

Along the water is always a refreshing place to stay cool in summer. Most visitors to Paris are familiar with the Seine River, but few know of Paris’s other waterways: its three canals. Flowing through the northeast of the capital, the system was commissioned by Napoléon I in the early 1800s. The most well-known is the Canal St-Martin, which is very popular with Parisians thanks to the hip shops, cafés, and restaurants lining the canal and its neighboring streets. 

Just after Place Stalingrad, it reaches the Bassin de la Villette and becomes the Canal de l’Ourcq. This part has a bit of an edgier vibe, it’s great to picnic along its wide edges, check out its street art, grab a drink at its brewery, Paname Brewing Company, or rent self-drive boats from la Marine Douce (super fun!). 

If you’re up for a long walk, further north the Canal de l’Ourcq forks, part of it becomes the Canal de St-Denis and both branches extend into the suburbs. Instead of on foot, you can also visit parts of the canals aboard cruises offered by Canauxrama.

This is a picture of an open-air bar by the water with lots of people drinking and dancing together. There is a mild sunset behind it.

This is an image of Barapapa courtesy of Instagram via @lebarapapa

Have a drink at a guinguette-style outdoor bar

One of the top things to do in Paris in the summer is hang out at one of the city’s many summertime waterside bars. In French, an outdoor bar is often called a guinguette, so you might see this word linked to these outdoor venues, some of which are found on a péniche (refurbished barge) and also have large relaxed terraces on land. Here are some of our favorites: 

  • Rosa Bonheur sur Seine – Very popular with Parisians, it’s on the Les Berges riverside promenade in the 7th district and overlooks the stunning Pont Alexandre III.
  • Mazette – A barge along the Seine south of Gare de Lyon on the Quai de la Rapée, with a cool restaurant, bar, and club. 
  • Barapapa – Also on the Quai de la Rapée, this summertime-only bar has relaxed seating, craft beer, street food, and DJ nights.
  • Cité de la Mode et Design – In the up-and-coming 13th district, this funky building has two rooftop clubs, including the fashionable Wanderlust, and bars along the river.
  • Le Petit Bain – Further east along the river in the 13th set on a modern boat and with a large terrace on land.
  • Dame Canton – Found on a traditional Chinese boat, it also hosts concert nights.
  • Like the branch of Rosa Bonheur, Rosa Est, in the Bois de Vincennes, which has plenty of outdoor seating and dancing on weekends.
This is an image of the Seine. There is a boat strolling through and the Eiffel Tower is behind in the near distance.

Have a picnic along the Seine

Speaking of the Seine, in addition to going to a guinguette, the riverside’s also a great place for picnicking. Among the top things to do in Paris in the summer for locals, grab a small blanket (if you can), pick up some supplies at a local market, and find a nice spot along the river to enjoy your goodies and watch the boats pass by. The Port de la Tournelle, just east of Notre Dame, is a fabulous place for picnics, as are the western tips of both Ile-de-la-Cité and Ile Saint-Louis. The closest markets to these spots are the Marché Baudoyer, held in the 4th district’s Place Baudoyer on Wednesday mornings and afternoons and Saturday mornings, and the Marché Maubert, held in Place Maubert on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings. If you’d like to learn how the locals picnic, and take in a fun bike ride, consider joining a Picnic like a Parisian tour by Fat Tire

This is an image of a historic park called Parc Monceau. There is a small pond in the centre and some historic architecture surrounding it. The trees and leaves are green.

This is an image of Parc Monceau

Stroll or relax in a shady historic park 

Paris has dozens of beautiful parks which are wonderful to visit in summer and are a great option for families. One of our favorite historic parks in Paris is the Luxembourg Gardens, which has plenty of shady places to sit, a lawn for picnicking, a super fun play area for kids, and water misters on really hot days. The Parc Monceau, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, and Parc Montsouris are all amazing greenspaces and more local than the busy Tuileries Garden, found near the Louvre. The Bois de Vincennes and the Bois de Boulogne, the two large woods on the east and west of the city, are also perfect escapes in summer. In addition to lots of shady pathways and playgrounds, the two woods both have lakes where you can rent boats.

This is an image of someone holding up an ice cream cone with two scoops of ice cream in it. It seems to be hot, so it is melting.

Cool down with an artisanal ice cream

A welcome summertime treat for both young and old alike, Paris has some AMAZING artisanal ice cream shops (glaciers in French). The most famous of these is Berthillon, available at various stands on Ile Saint-Louis, however, there can be very long lines and it’s a tad overpriced. Instead, you might want to seek out one of these other less famous, but equally delicious, ice cream shops:

  • Une Glace à Paris – Holding the title of “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” for ice cream,  glacier Emmanuel Ryon has a shop in Montmartre and another in the Marais.
  • Glazed – The most inventive of Paris’s glaciers, this rebellious ice cream maker has funky flavors like Glazed and Confused (lemongrass and citrus) or Mister Green (pistachio with black sesame) available at his three shops, in SoPi, the 5th, and the 15th.
  • Raimo – In business since 1947, this historic glacier is located in the 12th district near the Coulée Verte Réné Dumont walkway and the Reuilly Garden.
This is an image of a summer festival where four friends are sitting down watching the stage and all the stalls around it.

Enjoy a summertime festival

Attending one of the many festivals held in the city is another of the top things to do in Paris in the summer. These start in early June and go through early September. Here are our favorites:

  • Fête de la Musique – A summer solstice music party that explodes across the whole city annually on June 21st.
  • La Défense Jazz Festival – A leading international Jazz festival held at the end of June.
  • Solidays – A three-day music festival at the end of June with star international bands and singers, with proceeds going to the fight against AIDS.
  • Parc Floral Festivals – On weekends from late June to early September, this pretty botanical garden in the Bois de Vincennes hosts Jazz and Classical music concerts, these are free, but there is a small entrance fee to get into the park.
  • Gay Pride and The Quinzaine des Fiertés – The city’s Gay Pride parade is held in late June and the two weeks around feature a festival with debates, shows, exhibitions, and events broadening awareness of the LGBTQ+ community.
  • July 14th / The French National holiday – Called Bastille Day abroad but “La Fete Nationale” here in France, on the nights of July 13th and 14th there are parties at fire halls, a military parade on the Champs Élysées on the 14th and some years fireworks at the Eiffel Tower.
This is an image of an outdoor swimming pool along the Seine. There is a beautiful deep orange sunset behind it.

This is an image of Piscine Joséphine-Baker via Piscine Baker

Have a refreshing swim in an open-air pool 

The best way to cool down on a really, really hot summer day is to go to one of Paris’s dozens of swimming pools, in particular the open-air ones. A word of caution, as the pools will likely be VERY busy with Parisians, but if you come early or around lunchtime, there usually aren’t as many people. There is a small entrance fee and swimmers must wear a bathing cap and a proper swimsuit (swimming trunks or shorts are not accepted, they have vending machines if you don’t have a cap). Here are some of the best open-air pools in Paris:

  • Piscine de la Butte-aux-Cailles – A historic Art-Deco pool opened in 1924, two of its three pools are outside.
  • Piscine Georges-Vallerey – Originally built for the 1924 Olympic Games, this 50-meter pool has a retractable roof.
  • Piscine Joséphine-Baker – Floating right on the Seine in the 13th arrondissement, this unique modern pool has ozone-treated water, making it better for the environment and swimmers.
  • Aquaboulevard de Paris – Perfect for the kids to splash around, this water park at the edge of southwestern Paris has artificial beaches, water slides, and large outdoor pools.
This is an image of a castle in Chantilly across from a blue lake.

Take a full or half-day excursion out of the city

With the nice weather and bountiful greenery, summer is also a great time to get out of the densely packed city and explore some of the wonderful historic sites, nature reserves, and seaside towns not too far from Paris. 

There are dozens of beautiful historic castles around Paris, most of which have large grounds to explore. The most famous, le Château de Versailles can get SUPER busy in summer, if you do really want to go, we suggest joining this full-day Walks tour which will help navigate the crowds. Otherwise, you might want to visit these alternative castles instead, all accessible on public transport:

  • Château de Chantilly – This pretty castle has a spectacular art museum, equestrian center, and café serving strawberries and chantilly whipped cream.
  • Château de Malmaison – The castle of Napoléon and Joséphine Bonaparte also has a beautiful park.
  • Château de Fontainebleau – Created by different French royals over the centuries, Napoléon I also left his mark, it has graceful classic gardens and is surrounded by huge woods popular with hikers.

If you’re more into connecting directly with nature, in addition to the Fontainebleau forest, you might like these gorgeous forests near Paris that are ideal for hiking:

Lastly, if you’re craving the seaside, you can actually reach some fabulous seaside towns, like Honfleur, Deauville, Trouville, and Dieppe, in an hour or two by train.

Once you’ve checked out these top things to do in Paris in the summer, you might be looking for other cool activities in the City of Light. Read these articles next:

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This is a Pinterest pin detailing the 8 Top Summer Activities to do in Paris.
Lily Heise

A long-time Paris resident, Lily Heise is a travel writer whose work has been in Condé Nast Traveler, Huff Post, Fodor’s, AFAR, and Frommer’s, among others. When she’s not uncovering the city’s best secrets, she can be found on a Parisian café terrasse or traveling the globe.

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