We are in the final days of the Paris Plages, and I am so heartbroken to see it go. For the past month, I have spent every free night I could strolling along the banks of the Seine, mingling with friends and neighbors, enjoying the beautiful Paris summer days and the stunning sunsets. August is normally a quiet time in Paris, as most locals leave the city for the entire month for their annual vacations, but for me it has been one of the busiest and most social parts of the year.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Paris Plages, it is a festival set up by the Paris city government that brings music, art, culture, and business to the banks of the Seine River and nearby areas. Several tons of sand are shipped in from the beaches of Normandy to the quai and makeshift beaches, complete with lawn chairs and umbrellas, are set up where locals can relax, read a book, play with their kids, play beach volleyball, or have a glass of wine. In other areas, pop-up restaurants and bars provide chairs, live music, and of course food and beverages.
There are glass-walled rooms, teepees, and houseboats you can rent for parties or special events. Car traffic is temporarily shut off, and Velib stations are set up in multiple spots to allow easy access. Local dance and theater groups put on performances, and entrepreneurial street performers sing, dance, skate, do magic tricks, recite slam poetry, or generally do whatever they can to entertain the masses. The walls (and ground) lining the river bank are covered with art, much of it participational, such as the chalk wall and labyrinth near Pont Alexandre III.
The Paris Plages stretches from Pont Alexandre III all the way to Canal Saint Martin, with each area having its own distinct atmosphere and culture. My favorite area is near Les Berges, where groups of 20-something young Parisians and expats gather in groups with friends and drink wine late into the night. Each area is open from 8 AM in the morning until 12 midnight, although many people stay and party throughout the night.
This weekend is the final weekend for the Paris Plages, so if you haven’t had a chance to experience it for yourself, make sure to head down there and check it out! I’ve heard rumors that some elements of the Plages will remain throughout the year, though I don’t know for sure if that is the case. If not, I will be counting the days until it reopens again next year!