Fun in Paris: a summer guide


At the beginning of this year, more than 14,000 people signed a petition urging the mayor of Paris to save the city from becoming “the European capital of boredom". To defend the city of light from this calumny, RFI went to the frontline of fun to bring you recommendations for a Parisian summer.


In a city that’s holding a National Qigong Day, several festivals and nearly a thousand brocantes and flea markets, not to mention creating beaches on the banks of the river and a farm on the Champs Elysées, an anti-boredom petition is little short of slander.

If the petitioners are determined to make boredom political, we have to fight back by making fun mathematical. In the chart on the left, we’ve pitted a hip hop festival against a gospel festival. They’ve both scored highly on the life-changing stakes. Gospel’s famous for it, while the hip hop festival, La Quinzaine du Hip Hop (22 June-4 July), is going so far as to offer workshops and discussion forums.

Gospel had to win on the convenience, because you might not be able to avoid some of the acts, who will be performing in the streets, as well as at several venues. As for the all-important je ne sais quoi element, in the end Gospel had the edge. I don't know why; the maths breaks down a bit when scoring this category.

The Saint Germain Jazz Festival is also recommended. Most of the concerts on the Left Bank are free and some are being held in prisons this year. For a choice of festivals in France this summer, including Paris’s Fête de la Musique, Sonique de la Villette, Rock en Seine and many others, click here, in our Visiting France dossier.

The post-boast factor soars off the chart when it comes to some of the workshops offered at the Louvre. You can learn to paint like a Flammand, take photographs and make a mosaic. If you want to store up information bytes for the next time you’re flâning around the centre of Paris, every Saturday and Sunday at 3.30pm there’s a guided tour of the Tuileries Gardens, starting at Arc du Triomphe du Carousel du Louvre.

The Baron Samedi bar has found another way to combine fun and learning. At Les Lundis de Lutèce, the last Monday of every month, DJ and amateur historian Sylvanie de Lutèce does a themed presentation on the history of Paris followed by a DJ set. Les Femmes de la commune was the last theme.

Sometimes it’s good to feel part of something big. National Qigong Day takes place all over France on 6 June. At several locations around the city, there are courses and displays of this martial art.

Or how about a feminist march? The global march for women is coming to Paris the 12-13 June. You can demonstrate for global women’s rights then attend discussion forums, a party and a feast. The Gay Pride parade is on 26 June. It’s like a carnival, with debates.

The Paris treasure hunt is on 3 July this year. You can participate alone or in a team, running around Paris solving clues. This year, they’re expecting more than 20,000 people, so it’s probably best to go in a team if you want to stand a chance of winning a secret cabaret evening and a private Cali concert.

If you're wondering where to watch the World Cup, a blog called invisible Paris has kindly compiled a list of venues.

Paris’s parks are always a good idea. On the edge Buttes Chaumont, there’s the Rosa Bonheur bar, where someone once told me: “It’s hard to get Parisians to dance. It’s a real hassle. But they dance here.”

In the Parc de la Villette, you can watch films outdoors 17 July-22 August. A particularly good dating venue as this year’s theme is “Being 20 years old.” It’s definitely worth capitalising on the emotions of teenagers in love. And at the Cinéma au clair de lune festival, you don’t even need to go to a park. Films are projected on to buildings dotted around the city. Scènes d'été at the Parc de la Villette holds world music concerts on Sunday nights.

The Bois de Boulogne is putting on plays throughout the summer in the Jardin Shakespeare. There’s Julius Caesar until 6 June, and Alexander Dumas’s La tour de Nesle 28 July-28 August. Molière, Chekov and Ben Jonson also feature. Sad to say, but you’ve missed Scottish dancing there on Mayday. Put it in your 2011 diary.

L’Humanité newspaper’s annual festival is in the the Parc de la Courneuve, and the Jardin des serres d’Auteuil offers a series of classical music concerts featuring new solo artists from the 18 June.

There will be readings, panel discussions and book signings in the park René Viviani at the Shakespeare and Company Literary Festival. The theme of this year’s festival is Storytelling and Politics. Will Self will be talking about “Sex, death and laughter in the dark” and he’ll also be in conversation with Martin Amis about dealing with the 11 September attacks in fiction.

“It’s a lovely and intimate festival,” says Jemma Birrell, one of the organisers. “There’s a small marquee in the beautiful park outside Shakespeare and Company.” This year, the festival is in partnership with French newspaper Libération, so they’re expecting more of a French speaking public than last year.

Not to be outdone, the parc Montsouris is giving classes in salsa and Swedish gymnastics until the end of August.

Also worth remembering are the greenhouses at Paris's Jardin des Plantes, which re-opened this week after a six-year renovation. They’ve got an excellent collection of ferns.

There’s a good line-up of concerts, too. Iggy and the Stooges are coming to L’Olympia on 7 July to perform their Raw power album, 36 years after it came out.

The Black-Eyed Peas are playing at Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy on 4 June as part of their world tour for their latest album. Jay-Z will be there on 6 June, and Aerosmith is coming to the same venue on 29 June.

Somehow, the Palais Omnisports de Paris Bercy is also finding time to host the World volleyball league on 25 June, while the Stade Pierre-de-Coubertin is holding the World Badminton Championships 23-29 August. The Stade de France has France’s biggest athletics meeting coming up on 16 July, the Meeting Areva.

For the Geek festival, you have to go to Marseille, but Paris has its fair share of specialised events. Comic Con (1-4 July Paris-Nord Villepinte Exhibition Centre) is a European event for fans of fantasy, science fiction and comics and there’s a meeting for model train, boat, car and aeroplane enthusiasts coming up (17-20 June) at the Porte de Versailles.

Les Etés de la Danse (7-24 July 2010), offers a series of performances at the Théâtre du Châtelet. A different company is invited to perform every year and, this year it’s Ballet de Novossibirsk. Tickets cost between 15 and 100 euros.

For wandering around and bumping into fun, the Paris Quartier d'Eté Festival is a good bet. It’s a month-long festival from the 14 July organises parties, concerts and shows in streets, parts and squares all over town.

 Rue Léon (7 July-29 August) provides concerts, Senegalese fighting, African dancing and food and the Goutte-d’Or (19-27 July) puts on concerts in Saint-Bernard church and street hip hop performances and parties. And you should go immediately to Onze Bouge (5-14 June) in the 11th arrondisement, completely free dance, music and theatre throughout the quartier.

Firemen's balls. Beyond your wildest dreams? Bastille Day on the 14 July provides not only firecrackers but also firemen. It commerates the storming of the Bastille, but most people see it as an opportunity to launch firecrackers and go to their local firemen's ball. It's not clear who puts out the fires on this night; maybe the people who run the nightclubs. The balls take place on the evening of 13 July, in most fire stations. Check for information in national or local newspapers.

But in none of the above are you able to take your clothes off, really. Here’s a special chart for Paris plages.


Another thing that sounds like quite good fun, though, is rallying thousands of people to complain to the mayor about a subject of your choice.

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