No Entry – Joann Pai
August is always a strange time in Paris. Streets which are usually buzzing with people suddenly take on the deserted appearance of a town in a Western movie; and the queues that normally snake from the most sought-after establishments completely dissipate. The desperate rush to squeeze inside my metro is usually an exercise which resembles the evacuation of the Titanic (except I’m pretty sure the first class passengers had the decency to wear deodorant – which is more than I can say for the armpits you get wedged under on the Line 13). But in August the metro is eerily empty (although while the armpits on the Line 13 are unfortunately remain as sweaty as ever).
Has there been a nuclear holocaust? Am I on my way to work on a Sunday morning? No, it’s just August — the month when basically the entire workforce of Paris clears off to the South of France, the Mediterranean coast, or wherever else the hard-to-please Parisians are currently complaining about sub-par food, wine and cultural activities.
For those with a glass-half-full attitude when the city is half-empty, August is the best time to explore the city. Although it’s true that a lot of places close their doors completely during this period, there are still plenty of options. And best of all, you are free to enjoy them without the crowds! Here are my tips for where to go in Paris when the Parisians disappear:
Pink Mamma – Candice Johnson
Check out the speakeasy bar at Pink Mamma before the Parisians discover it
Chances are you have heard about the latest addition to the “Big Mamma” family, the Italian grill Pink Mamma. But did you know there is a speakeasy bar hidden beneath it? Take the stairs to the left of the entrance, walk through the storage fridge (!!!) and enjoy this charming chiaroscuro-lit cocktail bar before the Parisians find it à la rentrée.
No Entry – Joann Pai
Skip the queues at Le Perchoir
If you have ever tried to go to any of the Le Perchoir bars on a warm evening you will know that you run the risk of spending more time waiting in line than enjoying the rooftop views. And once you do get in, manoeuvring the crowds leaves you feeling a little like the macerated mint leaves at the bottom of your mojito. Not so in August! Sure, you will never completely escape a line at Le Perchoir, but a warm August evening is the best time to beat the crowds in my humble opinion.
Le Perchoir – Aude Boissaye / Studio Cui Cui
Find some space at Cafe Oberkampf
Also on the list of places for diners with patience is the tiny Cafe Oberkampf in the 11th arrondissement, which just doesn’t have the room to accommodate more than a couple of bobos — sorry, patrons — at a time. Unless you feel like getting up at 8am on a Sunday to enjoy the classic tartine à l’avocat (and I’m not saying it’s not worth it!) then I would highly recommend going there in August.
Cafe Oberkampf – Emily Jackson
Have a picnic at the Square du Vert Galant
Would you prefer to eat outdoors in order to make the most of the August weather? Then grab your friends, a bottle of wine and some cheese and rendez-vous to the western point of the Île de la Cité. Behind the statue of Napoleon you will find steps leading to a small garden called the Square du Vert Galant which is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic in the sun. Either pull up a space of grass next (with any luck the guitar-playing, pot-smoking students who are usually there will be surfing at Biarritz), or else perch yourself on the pavement directly abutting the river and enjoy the impression of floating above the Seine.
Square du Vert Galant – Candice Johnson
Catch some rays at the Bassin de la Villette
Did you know that you can now swim in the Canal at the Bassin de la Villette? Ok, hear me out — as part of the Paris Plages initiative, a swimming pool has been constructed on the banks of the canal (which has presumably been heavily sanitized). You will also find the usual, rather sad combination of fake sand and deck chairs, but also a zip line which connects one side of the canal to the other. Best of all, it’s free!
Bassin de la Villette – Candice Johnson
- For more of what’s on this month, check out our picks of events in August.
- If you’re into art, read about what exhibitions are on this summer.
Written by Candice Johnson for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, Tuscany, Umbria or Liguria? Check out Haven In.