Each of the 20 arrondissements in Paris offers a unique vibe — from hotels to activities. But in a city with so many options, it’s hard to choose which one to make home base. And when you weigh in all of the sights to see, restaurants to try and shops to explore, that decision just got a little harder. Luckily, we’ve broken down the wide array into categories depending on what your vacation entails. Whether you’re in town to jam out at the Rock en Seine music festival or want to experience those boutique hotels for which Paris is known, there’s a place for you.
One of the most exciting new additions to the Paris activities circuit is the renovation of the roadways along the River Seine, known to locals as the quais. Once restricted to pedestrians but now open to motorists and cyclists as well, the capital city has decided to give these thoroughfares back to the people by installing modern wooden benches, a handful of food trucks and riverside restaurants, and even a dedicated Zen area complete with nap pods, which you can reserve for 90 minutes on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. For a bit to eat and a bottle of rosé, head to En Attendant Rosa, the sister restaurant to the popular spot in the Buttes Chaumont park, Rosa Bonheur, where you’ll find snacks such as various cheeses and charcuterie. Or venture to Faust, an open-air bar perched directly on the Seine serving traditional French cuisine in a venue designed to look like a 20th century tavern with rattan furniture. These are just some of the spots you’ll see packed with patrons in August in Paris. On the east end of the Seine, relax at places such as the Josephine Baker pool, a glass-walled pool on top of a permanent floating barge, or Wanderlust, a hip cultural center, restaurant and nightclub with a full summer schedule of events like yoga on Sundays and open-air movies on Mondays.
Boutique Luxury Hotels
Given that Paris’ most well-known luxury hotels all happen to be undergoing renovation at the same time, those guests who are partial to staying at Ritz Paris, Hôtel de Crillon or Hôtel Plaza Athénée (which closes in October) may need to find a new favorite haunt until they reopen in 2014 and 2015. Luckily, there is no shortage of lavish accommodations in The City of Light, and there are even a few that may have you vowing to never return to your old ways. On the Left Bank, Relais Christine is an oasis amongst the charming streets of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, where rooms give way to a private garden and you truly feel at home. On the Right Bank, hotels such as Mama Shelter, known for its eclectic décor, restaurant by Alain Senderens and Jérôme Banctel, and amazing rooftop bar, as well as Hôtel Jules & Jim, where a screening room and concierge services like a private boat cruise aboard a vintage Venetian water taxi are just the beginning. Another option is on the charming street of Avenue Junot in Montmartre where you’ll find a large gate leading to a walkway and the five-suite Hotel Particulier Montmartre. This hotel also has a lovely weekend brunch in its garden restaurant, which is open until midnight during summer months for dinner.
Rock en Seine
Paris’ biggest music festival, Rock en Seine, happens in late summer (August 23 through 25) in the western suburb of Saint Cloud. For three days, musical guests such as Kendrick Lamar, System Of A Down, and Mac Miller will take the stages for an all-out good time. While the month of August can be quite calm in the city due to the national holidays, this music festival gives you a reason to stay in town. Plus, other venues such as Le Trianon, L’Olympia, Le Nouveau Casino and Le Trabendo have crammed music schedules for the rest of the month. Another outdoor must-do in the summertime in Paris is the Cinéma en Plein Air at Parc de la Villette in the 20th arrondissement, which runs Wednesday through Sunday through August 28. These open-air movie screenings are a favorite of all ages and are often in English with French subtitles.
Picnics in the summertime are one of local Parisians’ favorite pastimes and, luckily, some of the top toques in town are making it that much easier to get some gourmet goodies to-go. Gregory Marchand, chef and creator of Frenchie, recently opened the newest foodie breakfast-lunch spot in Paris, Frenchie To Go. Joining its sister restaurants, Frenchie and Frenchie Wine Bar, the new to-go spot has freshly made donuts, homemade hot dogs, house-smoked bacon and pastrami, and a killer lobster roll. Not too far from here is the lunchtime sandwich counter at Verjus Wine Bar, serving specialties such as pulled pork, fried chicken or crispy pork belly on warm buns. While this next spot may not be one you want to rush in and out of, Le Perchoir is one of the hottest new summertime restaurants and it’s also one of the only places to offer casual rooftop dining in the heart of Paris. Located seven stories above the bustling streets, this double-decker restaurant boasts a full 360-degree view of the city, a rooftop herb garden, cocktails and tapas (think pata negra) and contemporary French cuisine by chef Benoît Dumas.
Luckily, not everything fun in Paris closes in August, as seen in the impressive exhibition schedules posted at some of the destination’s best museums. The Centre Pompidou just kicked off a Roy Lichtenstein retrospective detailing the artist’s experimental work from the early 1960s to his death in 1997. The 124 paintings, sculptures and prints will be at the museum through November 4. The work of Australian sculptor Ron Mueck is on display at the Fondation Cartier (a center dedicated to contemporary art) through October 27 in an exhibition that has generated a lot of local buzz since it opened in April. Also on display (through January 5) is the “Trompe l’Oeil” exhibition at the Arts Décoratifs Museum next to the Louvre, where nearly 400 works of art highlight this tricky technique that traces back to ancient Greece. Finally, for the fashion lovers visiting Paris, don’t miss the “Little Black Dress” exhibition (through September 22) at the Mona Bismarck American Center for Art and Culture curated by Vogue contributing editor André Leon Talley himself.
Photos Courtesy of Rock en Seine, Cinema-en-Plein-Air and Verjus Wine Bar