Ten Free Activities in Paris: Summer 2014 Edition

Paris can be a notoriously pricey city to visit, but a visit doesn't have to break the bank. Here are some ideas of completely gratuit (free) events and activities available to enjoy this summer. Profitez! 

1. Enjoy a view from the terrace of the Institut du Monde Arabe. 

I asked on Monday for guesses on where a free terrace in Paris could be that offers a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower and a view of Notre Dame. The answer? At the Institut du Monde Arabe in the 5th. 

Just go through security to enter the building and take the elevator up to the top (9th) floor. Exit onto the free terrace for this view - not pictured are some of the other monuments you can see, like the skyscrapers of La Defense, the Centre Pompidou, and the Colonne de Juillett monument at Place de la Bastille. 

Looking out at the back of Notre Dame from the terrace

Institut du Monde Arab, 1 Rue des Fossés Saint-Bernard, 75005 Paris, Terrace open Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00am-6:00pm

2. Watch a movie outdoors. 

The Parc de la Villette plays movies on a big screen every evening for a month during the summer for the "Cinéma en plein air" festival. This year it's going on from July 23rd - August 24th. Pack a picnic and enjoy a free movie outdoors as night falls (around 10pm). This year's theme is "Adolescence" and all films will be shown in the "VO" (version original), meaning it will be watched in the language the film was produced in, with French subtitles below. Check out the program here!

Parc de la Villette, 211 Avenue Jean Jaurès, 75019 Paris / July 23 - August 24, 2014 / Screenings start at night fall (around 10pm) 

Also happening in August is the "Cinéma au Clair de Lune" (Moonlight Cinema) festival. Between August 1-11, nine evenings of movie showings have been planned. Each night will feature a different movie about Paris, each night in a different location. What's more romantic than watching a movie such as Midnight in Paris by the moonlight of Paris?!

Multiple locations / August 1 -11 (excluding August 5th and 6th) / Movies start at 9:30pm

3. Listen to lots of live music.

This summer is full of free events to hear some live musical performances. First up is La Fête de la Musique on June 21st, an entire day (and night) when the entire city celebrates the first day of summer and the longest day of the year with music. Take a look at the website for official events, or just wander around Paris following your ear to participate in the festivities.

Then the Festival Soirs d’été (Summer Nights) is happening on the evenings of July 7-11 at Place de la République. Check the official website as it gets closer to the event for the program and get ready for 5 nights of live entertainment!

Also in July is the Festival FNAC Live, four days of free concerts in front of Hôtel de Ville (see location in picture below). Catch one or more of the 32 performances going on between July 17th - 20th. Concerts start at 5:30pm each evening - see the official website for the program.

4. Go to the free exposition"Libération de Paris, août 1944, le combat pour la liberté"  at Hôtel de Ville.

History buff alert: The year 2014 marks the 70th anniversary of Paris and the city's town hall, Hôtel de Ville, is commemorating it with a free exposition entitled "Libération de Paris, août 1944, le combat pour la liberté"  (Liberation of Paris, August 1944, the fight for freedom). Learn more about the days leading up to the liberation of Paris during World War II and the struggle for freedom that the capital faced. The exhibition starts on June 20th and will be on until September 27th. (Pro tip: Even if you're coming to Paris after September, there are often free expos being held at Hôtel de Ville so always check to see what's on!)

Hôtel de Ville, 5 rue de Lobau, 75004 Paris /June 20th - September 27th, 2014 / Open Monday-Saturday (closed Sundays) 10:00am - 7:00pm

5. Find some peace and quiet at Cimetière du Père-Lachaise.

I've mentioned before that Cimetière du Père-Lachaise is a lovely place to walk through as a slightly different site to see in Paris. It's open and free all year, but the warm, sunny weather will make this a good place to walk around, sit and reflect, or even read a book. It can also be a good activity for kids to go on a "treasure hunt" in search of famous graves located here.

Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, 16 rue du Repos, 75020 Paris, Main entrance:  8 boulevard de Ménilmontant / Summer open daily from Monday-Friday 8:00am-6:00pm, Saturday 8:30am-6:00pm, Sunday 9:00am-6:00pm

6. Sunbathe on the beach at the Paris Plages.

The Paris Plages (beaches) are open from July 19 - August 17 this year! For those who can't leave the city for a holiday by the beach, the city brings the beach (5,000 tons of sand!) to the people. Join the fun for the 12th edition of Paris Plages, a completely free event. There are two locations - in central Paris along the Seine at Voie Georges Pompidou between the Tuileries and Sully, and also in the 19th arrondissement at Le bassin de la Villette along the Quai de Seine and Quai de Loire (across from each other). There are games, food, water sprinklers, playgrounds, and events (such as dance classes, etc). Don't be afraid to wear your bathing suit and sunbathe, or come as you are to enjoy some sunshine and fun at the beach.

Paris Plages / Along the Voie Georges Pompidou and at the Le bassin de la Villette / July 19-August 17 / Open daily, 9:00am-midnight

The Paris Plages along the Seine at sunset 

7. Explore the residential areas of the city on foot.

Two walks that I love that are "off the beaten tourist path" are the Canal St. Martin and Promenade Plantée.

The Canal St. Martin connects to the Seine and re-emerges from underground in the 10th arrondissement. Enjoy a walk through the hip residential area all the way up to Parc de la Villette (perhaps in time to watch a movie as mentioned in #2). Or pack a picnic and join the locals on a warm summer evening.

The Promenade Plantée is a re-purposed park where old train tracks once were. Walk along the elevated park from Bastille (along Avenue Daumesnil) and continue for as much as you want - you can walk all the way to the Bois de Vincennes if you so desire! 

Place des Vosges in the Marais, the oldest planned square in Paris.

8. See the free sights of the Marais.

I may be biased, but I think that the Marais is one of the nicest neighborhoods to walk around in Paris. Wander over to the beautiful Place des Vosges, a popular spot to sit on benches or picnic during the warmer months. If you want to explore some museums, the Marais has a bunch of free options to choose from: Victor Hugo's house (right at 6, place des Vosges), the Musée Cognacq-Jay with its 18th century art (8, rue Elzévir), or the Musée Carnavalet (16 Rue des Francs Bourgeois) which features the history of Paris.

9. Enjoy the gardens of Versailles like royalty. 

A visit to the Château de Versailles can be an expensive attraction, at €18 / adult (and €25 / adult on fountain days). But what many don't realize is that the gardens are completely free to visit! (Just note that the gardens are only free to the public when special events are not going on. Every Saturday and Sunday during the summer is the Musical Fountain show when the fountains are turned on and classical music played throughout. Likewise, Tuesdays are Musical Garden days, when classical music is played throughout the formal gardens.) Get to the gardens on a non-event day, pack a picnic, and enjoy the vast gardens of Versailles completely free! 

Gardens of Versailles / Place d'Armes, 78000 Versailles, France / Free on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays / Gardens are open daily from 8:00am-8:30pm (note that the château is closed on Mondays)

10. Take advantage of the free sights on Île de la Cité.

Don't overlook the free things you can take advantage of right in the center of the city on Île de la Cité! There is Notre Dame, a noteworthy church to admire its outside and interior. Behind Notre Dame is a lovely park to rest and relax (the Square Jean XXIII). From the park, cross the street (Quai de l'Archevêché) and you'll be at the Memorial des Martyrs de la Deportation, a memorial to all the Jews who were deported to concentration camps during WWII. Also on the island is the Marché aux Fleurs Reine Elizabeth II, the historic flower market (that was recently renamed after Queen Elizabeth II this month). Stop by the market on a Sunday and also catch the bird market! 


What would you add to this list of free things to enjoy in Paris this summer?