“We apologise for the ‘exceptional’ closure, we will open again on September 1st” is often what you will find posted on a restaurant or shop door in August in Paris.
I planned my trip with my kids to Paris this summer around their schedule, and their work schedules only allowed them to go in August. I knew when we planned this trip that many restaurants and shops close in August, but I never realized the vast number! It became obvious when I was attempting to secure dinner reservations online a couple of months before we went…and nothing was available in many of the popular restaurants.
My daughter Carly at Musée Picasso…
…and at the top of Sacré-Cœur Basilica
But I found this less populated version of Paris even more enchanting. Since most Parisians are out of town in August and tourism is down 30 percent (sadly because Paris is on high alert), we Uber’d through the city with no traffic at all. We took leisurely walks and runs along the Seine without it being too crowded. We were easily able to get into the few restaurants that stay open all summer, dined on delicious dinners every night, and didn’t wait in any lines for museums!
So if you find yourself in Paris in August, don’t despair. In addition to Paris being less crowded in August, there are even dance parties along the Seine! And, they set up beaches complete with chairs, umbrellas, and sand.
Our apartment in Paris
I am lucky enough to have an apartment to stay in when I go to Paris. My husband’s cousin always offers their place to us every summer, so I took advantage and stayed two weeks this year. The first week I invited my friend Tricia Calloway, and the second week two of my children came over.
My favorite open-all-summer restaurant we found was a place called, appropriately, Frenchie. There are actually three Frenchies: Frenchie To Go, Frenchie Wine Bar, and Frenchie Restaurant, all on the Rue de Nil, a very small alley. The restaurant is closed for the month of August, but I think I would prefer the wine bar anyway — I went three separate nights! You will read online that you need to get there early to wait in line to get in since they don’t take reservations. While that may be necessary the rest of the year…not in August!
My other favorite place was Mary Celeste in the Marais neighborhood. It really is a little hole in the wall, but the wines and food were amazing. The menu is very short, but everything is divine. All the wines were fine natural wines.
The only wines we drank the entire trip were natural wines. I’m now hooked. No sulfites, no added preservatives, no fake colors…I felt great every morning!
Café Constant and Les Cocottes in the 6th arrondissement close to the Eiffel Tower were also favorites, each owned by Christian Constant and again side by side. Paul Bert Bistro in the 11th arrondissement, a typical French bistro, is wonderful, too. The best lunch we had was at Miznon in the Marais — another hole in the wall but delicious! Another place not to miss is Avant Comptoir in St. Germain. Again, another chef who has three restaurants in a row on the same street.
Tricia, Wendylyn, and me
I found all these restaurants through wendylyn.paris. She was even nice enough to pick up the phone and book a table for us at Paul Bert for that night. She seems to know everyone in town! Wendy also offers foodie tours so Tricia and I booked a tour. She taught us a lot about French culture, including social etiquette rules many Americans don’t know.
For example, when visiting a cheese shop (Fromager) or a bakery (the Boulanger) one must wait in line and ask before taking a sample and ask for help. As Americans we are so used to going to a store and trying samples at our leisure. She says in these small shops it is more like walking into their home, so we should ask. Now that I know that, it makes sense.
Tricia and I hired another guide one day, an American opera singer hired by the French government to come over years ago (apparently he has a rare tenor voice that the French opera needed). He has since retired from the opera but still performs, and between performances, as an art history major with tons of personality, he loves to take people on tours. He took us to the Musée d’Orsay, which we loved and we were so happy we hired a wonderful guide. Listening to him was so much fun — we learned much more than going on our own.
Afterwards he took us to the Paris Flea Market, which I was so excited about, but like everything else in Paris much of it was closed, so alas that was a bit of a letdown.
Sunset on the Seine
Another fun thing to do in August in Paris is go to roof top bars where the views, as you can imagine, are spectacular. I would recommend the Hotel Raphael and the Peninsula Hotel, both between the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower.
Our guide taught us a lot about Versailles but we taught him how to dab.
Monet, Museum Orangerie.
I love how the statue’s pose is mirrored by the tourist below in a very modern way!
All the museums in Paris are beautiful. I wish I had had the time to go to all of them. This year I went to the Louvre, d’Orsay, Rodin, Monet, Picasso, and the Orangerie. I definitely got my fill of Impressionists paintings, but that is my favorite period of art.
I will never tire of Paris and can’t wait to return and explore more and try more restaurants!
Tricia waving au revior. Until next time!