An experiment that has taken places in a number of cities since its first edition, Paris Beach, or ‘Paris Plages’ in French was inaugurated in 2002 and is a free summer event that transforms several spots in Paris into beaches, each of them with their own theme. The event was created by Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe who has already made himself a name for starting a variety of ambitious events in the city that some might see as a frivolous waste of money (whatever happened to the French joie de vivre?). Yet, it has proven a big success and has become a permanent fixture during the summer in France and offers activities for both kids and adults – relax at the ‘beach’, swim in pools suspended over the Seine, kayak on the river or enjoy one of the many free evening events.
In spite of its location in the North of France, Paris is usually lucky and gets a couple of weeks of beautiful, sunny and warm, but never sweltering hot summer weather each year. Sadly, the next beach is many miles away and traffic can be insane when you try to get out of the city – this is where Paris Plages filled a gap in a creative way.
There are three main locations for the beaches which are open from 8 am to around midnight each day:
Escaping the heat of the city
The most traditional and original ‘Paris Plage’ beach can be found on the square in front of City Hall (Hotel de Ville). It features features sand and grass beaches, free parasols and chaise lounge rental, fountains, mini pools as well as a variety of sports and games and of course – this is Paris, after all – plenty of cafés and bars.
Along the right banks of the Seine river on the Georges Pompidou Expressway, three kilometres along historical Paris will include a swimming pool, concert stage, and open-air attractions like roller blading, tai-chi, wall climbing, boules and more. During this time, the banks of the Seine will be completely pedestrianised, so there’s no need to worry about the often hectic traffic in the city of love.
At the Quai de la Villette in north eastern Paris, in the 19th arrondissement, a beach with a boating jetty will be set up that offers kayaks, pedal boats, sail boats, canoes and more. If you are a novice at any of these, there are plenty of instructors around to give you a helping hand. Glide along over 53,000 square feet of water and then enjoy a classic French dinner! A variety of sports events are also held in the spirit of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
All locations have been designed for maximum accessibility, even for visitors with disabilities who can also enjoy the water fountains, swimming pools and some of the boats at the Vilette.
Fun for all the family
Of course, this is not only an event for grown-ups: with so much (fake) beach, there are literally miles and miles of space for kids to build sand castles, and many children’s games and activities are provided throughout the city.
At night, a variety of free events are held during Paris Beach where you can listen to an exciting line up of artists right at the beaches. Most worthwhile is the three-day Festival Fnac Live with live shows on the square in front of the city hall. Many museums and other event venues put on special shows during this time although they would normally be closed for the summer holidays.
Paris Plage 2012 runs from 20 July to 19 August, so even if you cannot get away for a holiday in the sun, make sure to get a weekend full of beaches in the French capital!
Many cities organise similar ‘beach in the city’ events. What do you think about them, fun or fake?