Paris in August
July 22, 2022 2:01 PM   Subscribe

We (myself, husband, 14 year old daughter) made a last minute decision to go to Paris at the start of August. Looking for recommendations on food and activities and a few other specifics inside.

First of all, I've read the other Paris questions, but didn't really get a lot for current (covid-affected?) information. I've been to Paris, but a long time ago; husband and daughter have not.

We are staying for a week. We have an airbnb in the 8th arrondissement. We are aware that August isn't the best time to be in Paris, but it's the only time we could swing. While we don't have a wide-open budget, we are not budget travelers, and can splurge on things that are worth it to us.

Looking for general recommendations on

* day trips from the city (we decided to stay in one spot for ease, but happy to travel out and about

* restaurants (omnivores but excited for vegetarian stuff if it's great)

* general activities, both free form and organized (i.e. walking tours) and maaaaybe more off the beaten track stuff, although happy to hear that XYZ touristy thing is actually worth doing

I have specific asks about

* good/safe running routes (for a middle aged woman running solo) that aren't along the Seine (just because I assume that's a popular/easy route

* places someone could go and hear some good punk rock/hard rock/metal (all ages? bars? anything.)

* record stores

* is Disney a hassle to get to on public transit? (kid would be thrilled, parents not really into it, but may indulge her)

Finally, any other general info you might have about Paris and also traveling into Europe in covid. We have not left the US during the pandemic, so if there is something I might have overlooked, please mention it!

thanks, mefites rarely steer me wrong when it comes to travel.
posted by gaspode to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (22 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: First I thought I wouldn't have anything for you, but some of your specific questions I can answer in spite of not having been to Paris since the plague.
When I go back, I will be curious about all the new bistros and boullions. But I can't recommend anything specific. Maybe David Lebovitz has ideas.
Starting from the back: avoid Disneyland. It is far away from the 8th, and getting there is a hassle and the lines are insane (I bet they still af after COVID) and it just isn't worth it.
Touristy things that are worth it: visit Sainte Chapelle. I do it every time I am in Paris, in spite of the lines and hassle. I also like Palais de Tokyo and tons of other stuff. But Sainte Chapelle is amazing.
Claude Monet's gardens in Giverny is a better day trip option than Disney. When I was 14, I would have enjoyed it. Versailles is good too. Maybe focus on one element, since it is so huge. Teenager can do the research in advance.
posted by mumimor at 2:25 PM on July 22, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: We went to Paris for a week last month and stayed in the 18th.

Go to any one of the Breizh Café locations for some good Breton food.
Also, Bouillon in Pigalle or Republique. No reservations but the line moves quick and the food is great.

Mango and Passionfruit Caramels from Jacques Genin (locations in Marais and near Sèvres-Babylone in the 6th) have been the big hit gift.

If you use Apple Maps, MeMail and I'll be happy to share the guides (one for restaurants, one for bread/pastry/chocolate) I compiled from a few sources including David Lebovitz's mentioned above. It's light on stuff in the 8th.
posted by Maecenas at 2:37 PM on July 22, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Stay in Paris for the week. You're going to be tired from the trip, and you've got great sites right within the 8th arrondissment on your first day or two without having to negotiate buses and Metro. Travel time getting to out of town places sucks up the day. But if you must, you could take the train to Monet's Giverny. Arrive at lunchtime, and all the belching tour buses will be gone. You can catch a taxi from the train station. Check hours, though, for everything. It is August when the French go on their vacations. And there's still Covid, which I can't fill you in on.

Here's something none of you has seen: Paris Plages--sand and lots of it trucked in, beach games, lounge chairs, umbrellas, snack bars, and more set up along different sections of the Seine. Go there! Better than Disney. Don't go there! Loads of people watching at PP. Put together a gourmet picnic for yourselves. Watch the boats and people go by from a lounge chair. I once commented to a Parisian friend that installations like Paris Plages are so wonderful and elaborate for tourists. She said: "They don't do it for tourists. They do it for themselves." PP was actually created for workers who can't get away in summer as most Parisians do. French people enjoy life and create these things for their own pleasure at a very high level.

Paris Plages

My suggestion for newbies is to take the on and off tourist bus the first day or two when you're still jet lagged. It stops at all the notable sites, which you can decide to see or not by getting on and off depending on your fatigue level. Ditto a tourist boat at nighttime with people waving to you from the bridges. Doesn't have to be a dinner cruise unless you want it to be. The whole city is reflected in the river.

Here's a link to the now permanent pedestrianized streets which are carnival like:
Pedestrianized areas of Paris

--The Luxembourg Gardens along the periphery path is a great place to run while Dad and daughter visit the sailboat "pond" then stop at one of the park's charming tiny cafes for an ice cream.

--I know it's hokey, but Montmartre might be fun for your daughter. She can have her portrait done. Watch Amelie before your trip then find a walking tour that takes you to sites in the movie. It's fun! Or even the sites in the ridiculous Emily in Paris

--Others will chime in with restaurants, but since you have an apartment, getting takeaway you can heat up from the best street markets is a great and delicious way to integrate yourselves into the daily life of the city. It still leaves you with hours in the evening to take that boat ride or walk along the river.

Others will give you more specifics, but those are mine. Do be careful about your pocketbook/backpack wherever you go. Pickpocketing is rampant unfortunately.
posted by Elsie at 2:42 PM on July 22, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, and Versailles! It was great; we used the free Rick Steves audioguide. The entrance procedure has changed a little so the intro sections don't entirely make sense, but it was easy to figure out. We were there on a Musical Fountains day, which I would recommend--definitely align your visit with the fountains being watered. Many of the groves are still cool without active fountains but the active ones are simply spectacular. The musical syncing is also cool. I think we spent twice the time in the gardens that we did in the palace itself.

I might be inclined to skip the Trianons if I were going again, except Marie Antoinette's hamlet is genuinely wild and fun to see in person, plus it's got animals wandering about.
posted by Maecenas at 2:45 PM on July 22, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A less popular but very worth it museum - Arts et Metiers. It's a museum of historical industrial design, with tons of visual exhibits and models of everything from grain milling to the space race. Come for the history of the industrial revolution, stay for the crushing sadness of seeing things from your childhood like tape decks and 3.5" disks in a museum exhibits. Also, fully air conditioned - we went to Paris during the 2019 record high (42c / 109f) and that place was an oasis.
posted by true at 2:52 PM on July 22, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: * is Disney a hassle to get to on public transit? (kid would be thrilled, parents not really into it, but may indulge her)

I can't speak to whether or not it's worth it, but transport-wise it is a straight shot on the RER A from any central Paris station (i.e. Charles de Gaulle-Étoile, Auber, Chatelet, Gare de Lyon, etc.) to Marne-la-Vallée-Chessy, which is located smack dab in the middle of the Disney park complex.

Charles de Gaulle-Étoile is located at the western edge of the 8eme and Auber just east of it. Depending on where your lodging is, you may be able to walk directly to one of the RER stations.

The only possible snag is that if your trip falls between 13-19 August (inclusive) there are works on the line that will close it between La Défense and Auber.
posted by andrewesque at 3:30 PM on July 22, 2022

Best answer: Paris Plages is amazing! Agreed! Also, if you're in the Marais and want vegetarian food, even Lenny Kravitz endorses L'As du Fallafel.
posted by atomicstone at 5:15 PM on July 22, 2022

Best answer: I really enjoyed having a museum pass while I was there. Allowed me to not feel like I needed to get my "money's worth" from every museum (a one way ticked to exhaustion) and since there are SO MANY museums throughout Paris, you can wander into one for 30 minutes for a pee and a bit of AC when you need to.
posted by stray at 5:28 PM on July 22, 2022

Best answer: While I wouldn’t necessarily spend a day if I only had a week, Parc Astérix is based after the beloved comic book characters and would be a bit more flavor than Disney.

It’s been a while since I’ve been to Paris, but I lived in France for 2010-2011 and 2012-2013. I would highly recommend the museum pass. By using that you’re often able to skip a lot of the lines (especially at the Louvre).

I was luckily enough to go to Paris when I was around 14. The things I remember most are getting ice cream at Berthillion, pursuing cute shops (especially in a largely pre internet shopping era), the Fragonard perfume shop (perfume seemed so grown up!), and the typical tourist locations of the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, etc. I had taken French in middle school so I really wanted to see everywhere that was mentioned in my books.

You’ve already made mention of this, but I really emphasize planning well as to not be disappointed by various closures while you are there (like thinking there’s a wonderful bakery across the street from your stay and then realizing it’s closed for the month.)
posted by raccoon409 at 8:02 PM on July 22, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh! And the sewer tour and the crypts (not crypts- ossuaries? Where the bones are kept) also had a strong impression on me at that age! And seemed so much cooler than the “touristy things.”

(And in general I’d say present this as a list of options and let the kid guide the way a bit to decide what they are excited for and want to do)
posted by raccoon409 at 8:04 PM on July 22, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: E-bikes! There are a bunch of companies offering bikeshares, so many new bike lanes, and it’s just unadulterated joy zooming through the city. Also the pastry? meringue? things at Aux Merveilleux du Fred; they are indeed marvelous. For the 14-year-old, the friperies in the Marais, and stop at the Carnavalet museum while you’re there.
posted by scyllary at 9:23 PM on July 22, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: As someone said above, and I'm going to double down on. Paris shuts down in August, everyone is on holiday and thinks nothing of closing up for a few weeks to vacay. Particularly small restaurants, so think of a few options if you're in a specific mood. Nothing worse than having your heart set on something, and getting there to find a note on the door.
posted by socky_puppy at 12:43 AM on July 23, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You've gotten a lot of great and helpful answers about the Paris part but I feel like the Disneyland Paris bit has gotten a bit of short shrift.

I haven't yet been there but I've done a lot of research in preparation for a family trip. Some potentially useful information:

• Disneyland Paris (or "DLP") was built with train travel from Paris in mind and (as andrewesque noted) is very easy to get to when the trains are running properly.

• DLP consists of two parks sitting side-by-side: Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park. Disneyland Park was built at a peak of the Disney company's wealth and success, and many afficianados consider it the most beautiful and best-designed of the Disney castle parks around the world. By contrast, the Walt Disney Studios Park was a slapdash effort built at a time when the company was in dire straights, and it was widely considered one the worst Disney parks in the world.

• Over the past few years, Disney has been spending a lot of money to improve Disney Studios Park. The first step was adding in a Ratatouille-theme area and ride. The second step was the opening of a new Marvel-themed land (Avengers Campus) earlier this month. By all accounts both lands represent a huge improvement.

• Nonetheless, if you have limited time in Paris and want to squeeze in a one-day trip to DLP, you are probably better off focusing on Disneyland Park and not bothering with Disney Studios (unless your daughter is a big fan of Ratatouille or Marvel Superheroes.)

• DLP has some unique rides that do not appear in any other Disney park. However, most rides in DLP can be found in either Anaheim or Orlando or both. (That said, with at least some of the shared rides, DLP seems to have the best version. The consensus, for example, is that Big Thunder Mountain is better at DLP than anywhere else. I'm not sure this distinction would matter to somebody who is not as themepark-obsessed as I am.)

• August is one of the most crowded times of the year at DLP, but my observation is that queue times tend to be shorter at DLP than at the American Disney parks. As I write this, it is 1PM on a Saturday in July, and the wait at DLP for Pirates of the Caribbean, Autopia, Tea Cups, Phantom Manor (aka the Haunted Mansion) and Star Tours are all under 30 minutes. Waits for Big Thunder Mountain, Hyperspace Mountain, Dumbo, and Peter Pan are 45 or 50 minutes. (Those rides are all in Disneyland Park. The waits in the Disney Studios Park tend to be longer-- there's an 80 minute wait for the new Spiderman ride, and and 85 minute wait for Crush's Coaster, and a 10-minute wait just to be allowed to walk into the new Avengers Campus land. One more reason to skip the Studios if you only have one day!)

• In America, the Disney parks tend offer food that is far above the average for a theme park. French food, of course, is the best in the world. You'd therefore expect the food in Disneyland Paris to be spectacular -- but apparently, it's pretty mediocre.

• Disney parks are always expensive but (especially with the strong dollar) you will probably find Disneyland Paris more affordable than either the California or Florida parks. In fact, I have seen some Florida natives claiming that it would actually be cheaper to fly to Disneyland Paris than to spend a week in their local Orlando park, but I haven't checked these calculations and I can't vouch for them!

• All in all, I would recommend a trip to Disneyland Park if you really love Disney parks and want to experience one of the Imagineers' finest creations... or if you merely like Disney parks and this feels like a geographically or financially convenient opportunity. But if you aren't a huge Disney fan and/or it's no big deal to get to Anaheim or Orlando, then it may not be worth giving up a day in Paris.
posted by yankeefog at 5:20 AM on July 23, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster:
As someone said above, and I'm going to double down on. Paris shuts down in August, everyone is on holiday and thinks nothing of closing up for a few weeks to vacay. Particularly small restaurants, so think of a few options if you're in a specific mood. Nothing worse than having your heart set on something, and getting there to find a note on the door.

Yes, thank you. As I said in my question, I'm well aware. We couldn't go at any other time.
posted by gaspode at 5:56 AM on July 23, 2022

Best answer: I'm going to go against the grain and say Versailles was definitely not worth the effort. Took the better part of a day, and our time would have been better spent chilling in Paris. We went in July a few years ago, Versailles was gorgeous but absolutely PACKED with crowds that limited our enjoyment. Especially inside the palace, we were literally shuffling through the rooms shoulder-to-shoulder like sardines. Bad enough in the before times, no way I'd do it now.
We liked the history museum at les invalides. I didn't expect to, but it gave me a new understanding of the period up to and between the world wars.
posted by evilmomlady at 6:48 AM on July 23, 2022

Best answer: I was in Paris with my 14-yo daughter last month and we had a great time! She really enjoyed Versailles, despite the crowds. We also saw a lot of art but your family might not be as interested in that. The Pinault Collection at the Bourse is new since I was last in Paris and was interesting, for sure. We also went to Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergerie (make advance reservations!). Sacré Coeur was good for a view of the city and meant we both didn’t feel like going to the Eiffel Tower. As another mentioned David Lebovitz’s guides are good for food (Bouillon does take reservations now!) and I had the best pastries of my life at Yann Couvreur, based on his recommendation.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:39 PM on July 23, 2022

Best answer: As well as much being closed down for August, more that lots of museums close on Mondays, some on tuesdays, check ahead. Plenty of other stuff is shut on Sundays, there are quite a few guides online as to what makes for good activities in Paris on a Sunday.
posted by biffa at 4:23 PM on July 23, 2022

Best answer: Since nobody else has mentioned shopping, here you go. Ride the escalators up to the rooftop at Galeries Lafayette Haussmann for a wonderful (and free) view of the Opera House in the foreground, and the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur farther away. And while you're there, you can check out the great selection of souvenir items. Go to Monoprix for small food items to bring home - cookies, mustards, etc. And if you are at all interested in specialty food items, don't miss the Grand Epicerie next to Bon Marche. And the bakery Poilane! There are several locations around Paris. Also, you'll probably walk past one of the locations of La Meringaie, so check it out! So good.

I agree about St. Chapelle and the Conciergerie. They are right by each other so easy to do back to back.

If you go to the Louvre, the newly re-opened Samaritaine department store next door is definitely worth a quick walk through.

Another vote for skipping Versailles. Given the length of your trip, the size of the palace and gardens, the heat of August, and the time it takes to get there and back, I'd pass. We were there a few months ago both during the day and for the night fountains show, and it was good, but eats up lots of time.

Just wandering around is the best. Have so much fun!!!
posted by MelissaSimon at 7:10 PM on July 23, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This YouTube channel has recent videos on finding the best croissants, macaroons and rooftop bars in Paris.
posted by conrad53 at 7:58 PM on July 23, 2022

Best answer: My second time in Paris, in response to a careless “what should we do?” question, a French friend asked, “have you been up the Eiffel Tower yet?” I hadn’t, because it seemed, I dunno, like not much of anything. Or so touristy. He specifically recommended *walking* up it. So we did.
It was great! Admittedly the weather was perfect - sunny with v dramatic clouds, not too hot or cold - but I would never have considered walking up and I’m so glad I did. Surprise: it was less crowded that way. But I also came away with a much different relationship with the iconic monument than I had before. Walking it made a mythological thing more real. Plus I took a photo that love enough that I had it printed; I wake up to it every morning.

I haven’t been to too many of the Paris art galleries, but I had my favourite, most memorable experience in the Louvre. We got there early to do our Mona Lisa Duty, but on the way I was stopped in my tracks by another Da Vinci. No one else seemed to care about it. But it was transfixing. And you could walk right up to it. I could have spent all day in front of it.

So I guess I’m recommending the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. But that’s the way it goes I guess: if you’re lucky, and if you can get in the right head space, these things can get you good.

(Someone else may know better, but would the Promenade Plantee meet your running needs? I don’t know if it makes for good running, or if you’re close to it, but worth a check.)
posted by TangoCharlie at 8:20 PM on July 23, 2022

Best answer: I was in Paris in early June. There were no mask requirements and not much else in the way of COVID precautions going on.

I also recommend the Paris Museum Pass as most of the museums (with some exceptions such as the Opera) are included. Do note that some of the museums, (Louvre, Orsay, Ste Chappelle, and Orangerie come to mind) require signing up for a time slot to enter which is done by going on each one's website.

If you have not read about the covered passages, you may wish to consider those for some interesting shops. The Earful Tower (blog and podcast) covers them here.

If you go to Place Tertre (the artist's square mentioned by someone above) you are very near Sacre Coeur. If you take the Metro, there are signs for the Funicular which you can ride up the hill with your subway ticket. Speaking of which, I recommend using the ticket machines in the Metro stations to purchase. Specifically, I recommend the Paris Visite multi-day pass. You will be asked to select your zones. Zones 1-3 cover most of Paris but Zones 1-5 cover the airport and Versaille. The ticket machines do not seem to accept US credit cards but will take euros (but will not take large bills).

I referenced the Earful Tower above and of course, Rick Steves is always useful. The Earful Tower is currently doing a series on each arrondissment of Paris counting down from the 20th and has just finished the 3rd. He makes restaurant and bar recommendations in each arrondissment.

For day trips, we went to Versaille and while it was impressive, I felt that the time could have been better spent. If I go back, I would likely skip the palace itself and go straight to the gardens and possibly rent one of the golf carts to get around.

Our other day trip was a champagne tour to Epernay. The countryside was beautiful, but I am not sure if champagne tastings would be okay for a 14 year old. We used Go-Go Tours which we accessed through Trip Advisor/Viator and they did an excellent job.

I used Google Maps extensively and also downloaded the Next Stop Paris (Metro app) which were both great helps in getting around. I am an AT&T cell customer and had the International Day Pass enabled ($10/day maxed at $100) added to my phone plan. I found it much easier than trying to buy a local sim card and using it.

I also recommend bringing a collapsible water bottle or cup. Paris has free water fountains in much of the tourist areas known as Wallace fountains. The water tastes good and is safe to drink. In the heat of August, I expect this would be even more welcome.
posted by statusquoante at 7:14 AM on July 24, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: First of all, I've read the other Paris questions, but didn't really get a lot for current (covid-affected?) information

Everything is wide open at the moment. We were in Paris a couple days ago. We wore masks on the Metro because it can get extremely crowded but nobody else was wearing one, there or anywhere.

You might enjoy walking down to the Seine and watching the skaters at the Palais de Tokyo or grab a meal at the museum restaurant which is on a terrace overlooking the Seine and the Eiffel tower, which is across the river.

Paris is enormous and it can take more time than you think to get across it. My advice is to group activities by area to avoid hopping around too much.

People overlook the Victor Hugo museum but it is small and very pretty and also sits in the Place des Vosges which is a great place to just walk around.

Walking along the Left Bank westwards from the Pont de Sully goes by all the dancers who are dancing their heart out beside the river. Its a great atmosphere. From there you can walk to the Jardin des Plantes.

You will want to carry around water because it is hot now and will be hot when you are there.. You can find water fountains by using an OpenStreetMap based app (I use OsmAnd on my phone) and searching for 'drinking water' otherwise the fountains can be difficult to find.
posted by vacapinta at 6:27 AM on July 26, 2022

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