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Parades, Man-Made Beaches, and Light Shows: The Best Events of the Summer in Paris

Paris Culture
by Morgane Croissant May 24, 2023

There are three things you need to know about visiting Paris in the summer: It’s hot, it’s mostly devoid of locals who swap the city for the coast (which is not necessarily a bad thing for visitors), and it’s packed with great things to do. Of course, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Sacré Coeur, and the many museums remain in their place for you to check them out, but there’s a lot more to see and do outside of the most famous attractions: music festivals, world-famous bike races, grand military displays, and even temporary, man-made beaches to perfect your tan along the river Seine.

Bastille Day celebrations

Bastille Day is one of the best events in Paris this summer

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Bastille Day (July 14) is a national holiday celebrating the storming of the Bastille prison during the French Revolution of 1789. To mark this very special day, a huge military parade, including an air show, takes place on (and above) the Champs-Elysées every year. While the parade starts around 10 AM and lasts two hours, if you want to beat the crowds to get a good spot, and even catch a glimpse of the French president who will be in attendance, get there early. Also note that the metro stations closest to the Champs-Elysées are closed for the event, so you’ll likely need to walk a little more than anticipated to get there.

Around 9 PM, make your way to the Eiffel Tower to see the free classical concert organized at the foot of the Iron Lady.

At around 11 PM, the day ends with an impressive display of fireworks which can be seen very clearly from the Montmartre Hill, the highest point in all of Paris, where the Sacré Coeur Basilica is located. As is tradition, balls take place in many fire stations around Paris for a night of dancing with the locals. (The list of balls are announced soon before the event on Paris Je T’aime, the official website of the Paris tourist office.)

Because Bastille Day is a national holiday, most businesses are closed and public transports stop much earlier than usual. Many cultural sites like the Louvre and the Sainte-Chapelle tend to remain open, however. Plan ahead to avoid bad surprises.

The arrival of the Tour de France

The arrival of the Tour de France is one the best events in Paris

Photo: Frederic Legrand – COMEO/Shutterstock

As is tradition since 1975, the most famous cycling race in the world, the Tour de France, ends on the Champs-Elysées. In 2023, the race will start on July 1 in Bilbao in northern Spain, will cross France diagonally, and will end on the famous avenue on July 23 after a 71.4-mile flat stage. Crowds gather to cheer the now-exhausted cyclists on their last effort over the Parisian cobblestones. Taking part in this iconic French event is incredibly exciting and a sight to see. Consult the official website of the Tour de France to know the approximate time of arrival and get there early (in your brightest yellow shirt, if possible) to secure a good viewing spot.

Paris Plages

Paris Plage - the beaches set up along the banks of the Seine river in Paris

Photo: Efired/Shutterstock

Not all Parisians can vacation to the beach so, since July 2002, they’ve had the beach brought to them every summer. From early July to late August, big swathes of the banks of the river Seine are closed to traffic and turned into beaches with real sand, sun loungers, umbrellas, palm trees, pop-up bars and ice cream vendors, and even swimming pools and games for kids. It is free to everyone to enjoy at three locations: the Parc Rives de Seine, The Bassin de la Villette, and the Trocadéro Gardens.

Versailles’ Night Fountains Shows

Versailles' Night Fountains Shows is one of the best events in Paris

Photo: VAlekStudio/Shutterstock

Visiting Versailles, the grandest, most famous castle in all of France, is a must-do while in Paris. But in summer, the estate becomes even more impressive, with events (concerts, operas, costume balls, and more) that will transport you a few centuries back in time, when the royals were putting on glorious shows for their illustrious guests.

The most awe-inspiring of these events is the Night Fountains Shows that take place very Saturday from June 10th to September 16th 2023, as well as on July 14th, August 15th, and September 23rd, 2023. You’ll get to walk around the monumental estate at night and explore areas of the gardens that are usually close to the public, see the 55 opulent fountains animated in lights and music, and enjoy a splendid display of fireworks. It’s not a night you’ll soon forget. Tickets must be purchased well in advance online and cost $33.40 (31€) for adults; $29.10 (27€) for children between the ages of six and 17 and students. Access is free for children ages five or under. Other discounts may apply for families and people with disabilities.

Night at Les Invalides

Night at Les Invalides is one of the best events in Paris

Photo: givaga/Shutterstock

Les Invalides, whose full name is “The Hôtel National des Invalides”, is an iconic sight in the Parisian landscape. This immense structure with a gilded dome was built under the command of Louis XIV to host, help, and honor the veterans who fought for the nation. Les Invalides opened in 1674 and today, it is still devoted to the French military, being home to the tomb of Napoleon I, as well as to the museum of the Army, and hosting military ceremonies.

For the past 11 years, several nights per weeks in July and August, a stunning light and music show all about the history of France is projected against the building — and it’s one of the best events in Paris. Visitors settle in the vast courtyard of les Invalides for the 50-minute event. In 2022, for the 200th anniversary of Napoleon I’s death, visitors were treated to an ethereal candlelit visit of the Dôme Church where the tomb is located. The schedule, prices, and bookings are not available yet for 2023, but make sure to check out the official website of the event to book your spot when the time comes.

Outdoors movie screenings in Paris’ parks

Parc de la Villette in Paris where there are outdoor movie screenings in the summer

Parc de la Villette in Paris. Photo: Anna Linda Knoll/Shutterstock

From July 19 to August 20, 2023, there will be 25 nights of free outdoor movie screenings in the massive Parc de la Villette in Paris’ 19th arrondissement. Lay your blanket on the vast expanse of grass of the park and enjoy Steven’s Spielberg’s West Side Story, Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite, Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and much more. All the movies are projected in their original language but have closed captions in French. Don’t forget your snacks and beverage (no glass container or sharp objects, however) to make your evening a success. While it’s free to attend, spots are limited. Check out the official website of the event for the schedule.

From August 25 to September 2, 2023, you can attend screenings of international shorts in the Parc de la Butte du Chapeau Rouge, also in the 19th arrondissement of Paris. The event is the 22nd iteration of the Festival Silhouette and takes place on nine different nights. Attendance is free.

Music festivals

Rock en Seine is a music festival and one of the best events in Paris

Photo: Christian Bertrand/Shutterstock

In the summer, musical events are scheduled by the boatload in Paris, but a few stand out from the rest and count among the best events in Paris:

  • Solidays, a music festival whose ethos is to “make noise against HIV” has been happening for 25 years. In 2023, it will take place on June 23, 24, and 25 at the Longchamp Racecourse in Paris’ 16th arrondissement, and will feature French artists like Jain, Julien Granel, Zaho de Sagazan, and more. Profits from the festival are redistributed to help those who suffer from HIV.
  • La Défense Jazz Festival is a free event that takes place in the major business district of Paris called La Défense between June 26 and July 2, 2023. This year, the line-up includes Marcus Miller, Groundation, Jacob Banks, Star Feminine Band, and more.
  • Lollapalooza Paris will take place on July 21, 22, and 23 at the Longchamp Racecourse in Paris’ 16th arrondissement and will feature John Butler, Kendrick Lamar, Lil Nas X, Lindsey Stirling, and more.
  • Rock en Seine, the Parisian music festival for those who like rock music in all its forms, has taken place every year for 18 years. In 2023, Billie Eilish, Florence + The Machine, the Yeah Yeah, Yeahs, and plenty more artists will put on a show in the Domaine National de Saint-Cloud just outside Paris on August 23, 24, 25, 26, and 27.
  • The hotels close to the best events in Paris this summer

    We hope you love the spaces and stays we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay.

    Fraser Suites Le Claridge Champs-Elysées

    Photo: Expedia
    Photo: Expedia
    Photo: Expedia

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    To be as close as you can from all the action that take place on the Champs-Elysées this summer, whether that be the Bastille Day parade or the arrival of the Tour de France, stay at the Fraser Suites Le Claridge Champs-Elysées. This five-star aparthotel property is on the famous Parisian avenue, a 10-minute walk from the Arc de Triomphe. Ask for a room with a view on the Champs-Elysées to make the most of the location. Each of the 135 beautifully decorated apartments have a fully equipped kitchen, a flat-screen TV, premium bedding, complimentary toiletries, and a hair dryer. There is free WiFi, a fitness center, concierge services, daily housekeeping, and laundry facilities are available on site.

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    The Waldorf Astoria Versailles

    Photo: Expedia
    Photo: Expedia
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    The Waldorf Astoria Versailles is located next door to the famous palace so you won’t have to go far when you get back from Versailles’ Night Fountains Shows this summer. It comprises two hotels — the Trianon Palace, a five-star hotel located in an antique neoclassical-style structure with rooms offering views of the Versailles gardens, and the four-star Pavillon du Trianon. In total, the property has 184 rooms and 15 suites. There are two restaurants on site, including one with a Michelin star, a bar, a deluxe spa, a fitness center, and tennis courts.

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    La Belle Ville

    Photo: Expedia
    Photo: Expedia
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    This four-star property is located close to both the Parc de la Villette and Parc de la Butte du Chapeau Rouge where you can partake in free move screenings this summer. La Belle Ville is an eco-friendly, trendy, and welcoming property that also hosts a bar and an Italian restaurant. The rooms are tastefully decorated in an elegant retro style and are equipped with free WiFi, tea/coffee makers, and air conditioning. A buffet breakfast is a available for a surcharge. Plants are everywhere in this hotel, both outside and inside, and should satisfy those who crave greenery while staying in the city.

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