Since 2002 the banks of the Seine in Paris have been transformed each summer into a beach-- Paris Plage. This offers Parisians and tourists a rather surprising plot twist when strolling along the river.
For several weeks, the roads along the Seine are closed, and a "beach" is created. Tons of sand are crated in, potted palm trees are placed, beach chairs and umbrellas are arranged. The typical Paris dress code is reduced substantially.
The plage visits Paris for a month, usually from the third week in July through the third week in August, from 8:00 a.m. to midnight. Don't forget your bathing suit!
For many years it was the case that Paris virtually shut down during August. I guess in the days before air-conditioning it made alot of sense. Nowadays, it is still the case that many smaller, usually family-run, restaurants and shops close for the duration of August (or sometimes July, or sometimes both). The same is also true of many theatres and similar places.
It must be a mark of how well Paris does as a tourist destination, as elsewhere in Europe August is the month when such businesses make a good deal of their annual turnover.
It is a mark of how much the city 'empties out', that for the fast few years (since 2002) a two mile stretch of the right bank of the Seine is converted to a beach. I've not been, but thousands of tons of sand, palm trees and a swimming pool seem to have been an enormous hit - and now a tradition that Paris will expect to see every year.
The beach area is normally a dual carriageway, and closing it for a month (last week in July and first three in August) at any other time of the year would cause mayhem and gridlock.
Paris-plage is an initiative of the Paris municipality to bring the beach to the Parisians who cannot or are too lazy to go to the sea, to go there or simply want to get tanned. This enterprise suggest turning the proverb if the mountain will not go to Mahomet, let Mahomet go to the mountain into if the Parisians don't go to the beach, the beach goes to the Parisians! So, it was decided to provide a beach along the Seine.
Paris-plage has been existing since 2002 and it has proved very successful. My parents and I saw also artists who were building sculptures of sand, as the last photo shows.
The only disadvantage is that people are not allowed to bathe in the river.
Whilst on our river cruise we observed many locals enjoying the sun and beauty of the river whilst they sunbathed on the river embankment. I wonder whether they were interested in watching the tourists go by on their river cruise, I know most tourists on board were looking at the sunbathers.
We did not see anyone swimming in the river, I do not know if it is allowed or too dangerous due to the river traffic.
Near the Notre Dame during the months July and August one of the streets along the Seine is transformmed into a beach. If the sun is shinning you can tan your skin but unfortunatly not swim in the Seine.
Too dangerous ?? or too much pollution ??
Well, at least the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, is hoping it will become a local custom. The banks of the Seine are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so they have removed the highway along the river on the Left Bank from Port Solferino (or Léopold-Sédar-Senghor) to the Port Du Gros Caillou and has been pedestrianized and set up with all sorts of activities that should appeal to nearly everyone. This is for Parisians and visitors. It even includes little tipis that can be used for kids' birthdays. There are running tracks, meditation areas, lessons in all kinds of things from running to yoga. There are restaurants and even food mobiles. It all looks like great fun and especially in the summer when everyone will be out enjoying the river, it certainly would be worth exploring.
Check the web site for the activity schedules or just go to the information booths that are on site.
“To err is human. To loaf is Parisian.”
— Victor Hugo (1802-1885)
SUMMER LOAFING Our visit coincided with the sixth annual installment of Paris Plage, when a two-mile stretch of Rive Droite is turned into a beach with 2,000 tons of golden sand. Potted palm trees, blue chaise lounges and sun umbrellas help Parisians loaf in style.
Unlike many beaches in France, topless sunbathing is not allowed; Paris Plage is a family friendly happening. Swimming in the Seine is verboten.
Some locations of the beaches, they do not line the entire length of the river, are listed below.
From the Louvre to Pont de Sully
Opened in 2002, this 1.8- mile stretch was the first plage. It runs along the River Seine through historical Paris, and features a swimming pool, concert stage, rollerblading, tai-chi, wall climbing, boules etc.
The beach at Port de la Gare is below the François Mitterrand National Library in the 13th arrondissement. This spot is for the cerebral crowd not the family; it offers free newspapers, books on loan, a café with wi-fi access, and classes in drawing, painting, writing, etc. The floating swimming pool, named for Joséphine Baker, gives relief from the heat in the daytime, and musical shows are offered on the boats moored by the river banks.
Since 2002, the City of Paris has turned the banks of the Seine into a summertime "beach oasis." Mid-July through August, over 2,000 tons of white sand is brought onto the banks from Ile St. Louis to the Jardin des Tuileries for this temporary beach party. August is typically the month when most Parisians hit the road for their summer travels. Chatelet is a good metro stop to get off at to get to the plage. Those who are stuck in the city can be found lounging under the big umbrellas and enjoying free concerts and family activities at Paris Plage. If you really want to fit in, don a wide-brimmed hat and grab your sarong!