It’s no secret that Paris has a buzzing agenda year-round-- even in the cold, dark months of February. But August-- when most Parisians take off on their annual vacances in the countryside-- is particularly delightful. Though some restaurants and bakeries shutter their doors for vacation, visitors have a wealth of cultural events and recreational activities to enjoy. Here are some of our picks.
Paris Plages. Every summer, the city imports tons of sand to create an artifical beach along the banks of the Seine near the Hotel de Ville. (There is also a beach along the Bassin de la Villette in the 19th arrondissement.) You’ll find palm trees, beach loungers, cafes, ice cream parlors, petanque and beach games, plus a sprinkler garden.
Open-Air Opera. For 12 years, the Opera en Plein Air has delighted crowds with nighttime performances under the stars. This year the opera is Verdi’s Aida, and it will be performed in various monumental parks around the Paris region. In June it appeared at the Chateau de Vincennes and Fontainebleau, and in September it will be performed at the Cour d’Honneur at the Invalides in Paris. www.operaenpleinair.com
Gerard Richter at Centre Pompidou. Until September 24, 2012, discover an incredible retrospective of one of the greater painters of the last 50 years. More than 160 works of art are on display. Open every day except Tuesdays, 11 am- 9 pm. www.centrepompidou.fr
Light Show and Musical Fountain at Versailles. The world-famous palace gets all dolled up for the summer, with musical fountains shows and a contemporary art exhibit by Joana Vasconcelos. en.chateauversailles.fr
Explore the city by Velib’. Make like a Parisian and hop on a bike and speed through the diverse Parisian neighborhoods. The city’s bike-lending program has been incredible successful, a model for other cities around the world. Velib.paris.fr
Open-air Cinema. Grab a picnic and a seat on the grass at La Villette park. For the 22nd annual edition, the Cinema en Plein Air will screen films with a “metamorphosis” theme. Wednesday to Sunday at dusk. www.villette.com
Culture and a Rooftop Terrace. The Institut du Monde Arabe in the 5th arrondissement got a dramatic makeover earlier this year. Take in the art exhibitions, exploring the Arab world’s cultural heritage, then head to the roof for lunch overlooking the Seine. www.imarabe.org
Swim. The Josephine Baker swimming pool has a picture-perfect location floating on the river Seine in the 13th arrondissement. In addition to the pool, there’s a roof deck for sunbathing, a gym, two saunas, a hammam, and Jacuzzi.
Cook. Until the end of October, prestigious chefs give free cooking classes at various neighborhood markets. www.ffcuisineamateaur.org