Bastille Day in Paris
The highlight of the summer every year is Bastille Day, the French national day on 14 July. The traditional military parade will not be held this year and a decision about the fireworks display has yet to be announced, but the French air force flypast – a breath-taking aerial extravaganza – has been confirmed. Look up as you walk along Rue de Rivoli, one of the longest streets in Paris, and you’ll get an excellent view of a hundred-odd aircraft, including helicopters, flying past from 10.30am onwards.
During the summer months, the Paris Plages event (18 July to the end of August) transforms Paris into a seaside resort. The banks of the Seine (in the Parc Rives de Seine) and of the Canal de l’Ourcq are turned into sandy beaches dotted with palm trees, with deck chairs provided for people to sit in and relax looking out over the water. There are plenty of beach games and activities for both adults and children – in compliance with social distancing and other hygiene precautions.
More info about Paris Plages
Paris gets into the festival vibe in summer, with an eclectic selection of events to suit all tastes. Music, cinema, theatre: take your pick of the summer festivals!
The Festival Européen Jeunes Talents, a springboard for young artists, gives classical music fans an opportunity to watch some very talented young musicians perform works by Ravel, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Bartók. Another classical music festival, Classique au Vert, returns this year to the Parc Floral de Paris from 8 to 30 August. The Festival Chopin, however, will not be held this year.
From 29 July to 2 August, Paris l’Eté (the Paris Summer Festival) will be back in various towns in the Île-de-France region with an exciting programme of dance, music, circus and theatre events. And the Canal de l’Ourcq is the place to enjoy ‘L’été du canal, l’ourcq en fêtes’: a summer celebration packed with workshops, sporting activities and concerts, on from 25 June to 2 July.
Summer is also a great time to watch open-air screenings of films. If the idea of sinking into a deck chair and watching a film on a giant screen on a warm evening in Paris appeals, don’t miss the ‘Festival du cinéma en plein air’ held at La Villette (from 22 July to 23 August 2020). Some other good film events will be on too, like ‘Cinéma sur le Toit x Sofilm’, with rooftop screenings hosted by the Bar à Bulles from 8 July onwards.
There is an event for theatre-lovers too: Tréteaux Nomades, the Arènes de Montmartre theatre’s open-air festival with a focus on commedia dell’arte and burlesque theatre (from 21 August to 6 September 2020).
This isn’t a normal summer, as we all know. Many music festivals have been cancelled for safety reasons and postponed to 2021. The organizers of the Peacock Society festival, Lollapalooza, Fnac Live and Rock en Seine are already hard at work putting together next year’s events.
Full details of outdoor festivals in Paris
July has seen the reopening of most Paris museums. The Grand Palais is hosting the eagerly awaited Pompeii exhibition (from 1 July to 27 September 2020), with an immersive 3D experience bringing alive the wealth of archaeological finds on display.
The Musée d’Orsay is showing the works of James Tissot (1836-1902), as well as an exhibition titled The Land of Monsters: Léopold Chauveau (from 23 June to 13 September 2020).
The Grande Halle de la Villette’s new event Jam Capsule opened on 23 June and will run until 12 September 2020. This immersive cultural experience encompasses five ‘capsules’: ‘Legacy’ by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Maria by Callas, ‘Le 3eme scène’ (a short films from the Paris National Opera), ‘Japon un autre regard’ (a virtual tour of Japan) and ‘Jardins Mystiques’ (15th-century Flemish masterpieces).
The Pompidou Centre’s Christo and Jeanne-Claude exhibition opened on 1 July and ends on 31 August 2020. If you’re a fan of the great comic French actor Louis de Funès, head to the Cinémathèque to see an exhibition devoted entirely to him, starting on 15 July and running throughout the summer.
In Paris in summer, music lovers are spoilt for choice! As well as the many music festivals held in the capital, many top-billing artists are in concert. There are not just several music festivals taking place in various parts of the capital, but summer concerts and shows too.
The gardens of the Château de Versailles will pay sparkling tribute to Marie-Antoinette with an absolutely stunning fireworks show to be enjoyed every evening at nightfall (from 2 to 10 July 2020) – the perfect family outing! The Grandes Eaux Nocturnes (Musical Gardens) show has been open since 27 June and will continue until 19 September, while the ‘Grandes Eaux Musicales’ musical fountains show runs until 1 November.
At the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, the Candlelight Evenings are back as of 4 July, with nearly 2,000 candles lit within the chateau and garden every Saturday.
La Nuit aux Invalides is back this year too (from 8 July to 29 August 2020). The programme features a new version of the show Lutetia: 3,000 years of stories in celebration of the 350th anniversary of the Hôtel National des Invalides.