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10 Best Free (Or Almost Free) Paris Summer Events

Not all of Paris heads to the south of France during July and August, and those who stay spend time enjoying dozens of free outdoor events that take place in the city’s serene parks and gardens, and sizzling streets. Here’s a roundup of our favorites, from now until the rentrée (return), which marks Parisians’ official end of summer.


1. Paris Plage
(July 20-August 20)

For an entire month, the right bank of the Seine is transformed into a long, sandy beach, with lounge chairs and tables with umbrellas, activities (especially for kids), and even public art and fountains. It’s an extremely popular place to be—and not just on sweltering weekends. This year, there’s a “green” spin on the plage, with recyclable materials used to build wooden decks and cabins along the river’s banks.

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2. Parc de la Villette Open-Air Cinema (Cinema en Plein Air)
(July 15-August 16)

Every evening of the week except Mondays, you can catch open-air screenings of English and French films at this 130-acre ultramodern park. Some of the films on this year’s calendar include Broken Flowers, Brokeback Mountain, Mulholland Drive, and Little Miss Sunshine. Most people spread a blanket out on the grass, but if you’d rather sit in a chair, rentals are available for €6.50.

3. Cinema au Clair de Lune
(August 5-23)

Seeing a flick projected on the side of a building is about as urban cool as it gets, and for a few weeks in August there’s a different Parisian-themed film shown in a different arrondissement Thursday through Sunday nights at 9:30 (although the premier film is on Wednesday, Aug. 5). Visit their site »

4. Bastille Day Celebrations
(July 13-14)

Paris explodes into one huge party on Bastille Day, but two particular events for the 2009 celebration should not be missed. At the Place de le Bastille on the eve of July 13th there’s a huge dance and music party, and to mark the Eiffel Tower’s 120th birthday, it will sparkle even more than usual as a fireworks and light show will happen around 10:45 on July 14th.

5. Paris Jazz Festival
(June 6–July 26)

On Saturdays and Sundays in June and July, this annual jazz festival comes to the lovely Parc Floral de Paris, the Bois de Vicennes’s 70-acre park and flower garden. Entry to the Parc Floral is €5, but the concerts are all free. Visit their site »

6. Festival Paris Quartier d’été
(July 15-August 9)

This festival offers a mix of dance, music, and theater performances held at some of Paris’s top sites, including the Jardin du Luxembourg and the Palais Royal. Many events are free, although note that some performances require advance registration. Check the Web site for details. Visit their site »

7. Festival Sous la Plage
(July 12-13)

All of young and ultra-hip Paris makes this yearly alternative music and arts festival at the Parc André Citroën in the 15th arrondissement a must-do on the calendar. Visit their site »

8. Festival Fnac Indétendances
(July 25 to August 15)

Leave it to Paris’s largest music store to put on one of the best free outdoor music festivals of the summer, as part of the ever-popular Paris Plage. From July 25 to August 15, concerts will be held every Friday and Saturday, 5-10 p.m. Visit their site »

9. La Foire Saint-Germain
(Through July 5)

If you want to feel like a left-bank local, head to this neighborhood fair that lasts six weeks each summer. There’s a interesting and somewhat eclectic mix of markets, music, and lectures, and most events are held in the lovely Place St-Sulpice. Visit their site »

10. Tour de France
(July 26)

Snag a spot along the Champs-Elysées and watch this year’s participants of the world’s biggest bike race whiz past as they cross the finish line. Visit their site »

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