Summertime in Paris has gained a reputation for being a bit of an alternative reality, with its huge slowdown in business as usual and heady outdoor culture. One major part of that culture, of course, is summer festivals-- and in Paris there are a constant stream of these. From rock festivals and semi-improvised street music performances to open-air theatre and cinema, there's little excuse for remaining indoors during the clement months in Paris.
Without further ado, here are our picks for the most stimulating and entertaining Paris summer festivals.
This three-day rock festival takes place every year at the vast grassy expanse known as the Domaine National de St. Cloud just outside the city limits, attracting thousands of people, whether ardent fans or summer dabblers. You can buy tickets for all three days or for just one or two. Rock en Seine remains Paris' most coveted summer music festival.
La Fête de la Musique is a lively street music festival held every June 21st in Paris, and is one of the year's most popular events in the city of light. Hundreds of musicians gather in the streets, bars, and cafes of Paris, regaling crowds with free performances of everything from jazz and rock to hip-hop and electronic music.
Inaugurated in 2002, Paris Beach (or "Paris Plages" in French) is a free summer event that transforms three spots in Paris into full-fledged beaches, each with a distinct theme. The brainchild of Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, well-known for launching ambitious municipal events, Paris Plage, which was initially criticized by some as costly and frivolous, has become a permanent fixture in the Parisian summertime scene. From sunning in the sand to swimming in pools suspended over the Seine, kayaking, or enjoying a free evening concert, Paris Plage offers activities that both kids and adults will enjoy.
The month-long Paris Summer Arts Festival overtakes the streets of the city with (mostly free) dance, music, theater, and circus performances from artists living and working around the globe. The 2012 Quartier d'Ete festival will run between July 14th (Bastille Day) and August 11h. Check back soon for program details.
Every summer, Parisians traipse to the ultramodern Parc de la Villette in northern Paris with blankets and folding chairs to take advantage of celluloid in the breeze. The open-air cinema, or "cinéma en plein air", is generally free and hosts at least one show each evening for around a month in July and August, with a program chock full of both classics and recent hits. Many of the films are shown in English, too.
Read More: 2012 Cinema en Plein Air Festival in Paris
Held at the picturesque "Floral Park" in the heart of the Bois de Vincennes wood east of Paris, the annual Paris Jazz Festival brings together noteworthy jazz musicians from around the world for two weeks worth of day and evening shows. Spectators tend to enjoy picnics on the lush lawn overlooking the stage. The 2012 festival starts on June 9th and runs through July 29th.
One way to get away from the urban grind of central Paris and indulge in some culture and fresh air is to visit the outdoor theater at the Jardin Shakespeare in Paris's verdant Bois de Boulogne (Boulogne Wood). Each year, generally starting in May and through late September or early October, the open-air theater hosts a slate of plays, dance and musical performances. The program, generally composed of classics from the Bard himself (sometimes in English) and French thespians like Molière, is always varied and generally includes at least one or two events-- such as dance and music programs-- suitable for kids.