Paris: 10 top free events in July and August

Courtesy Meg Zimbeck
Paris Plages

The only thing better than visiting Paris is being able to enjoy free events in Paris. Here's a round-up of activities for the hot summer months of July and August.

Sous La Plage Festival (July 12–13) Electro-loving locals who are "making the bridge" (not working the Monday between the weekend and Bastille Day) will be heading to the Parc André Citroën. The annual Sous La Plage festival features workshops, DJs, performances, and plenty of dancing—plus some great activities for kids. Details here. Parc André Citroën, 15th arrondissement.

Firemen's Balls (July 13 & 14) As I wrote about here Parisians like to celebrate their fraternité by dancing with sexy firemen. Who can blame them? Check here for a good list of (mostly) free Firemen's Balls on and before Bastille Day.

Festival Quartier d'été (July 15–August 9) This annual festival brings high culture down to street level, sponsoring hundreds of dance, theater, and music performances in neighborhoods across the city. You'll find everything from circus and classical music to Cuban hip hop. Consult the full program here.

Paris Plages (July 20–August 20) The original urban beach is back for an eighth edition, with sites along the Seine and the Bassin de la Villette. You'll find palm trees, sand, lounge chairs, activities for kids, and plenty to eat and drink. voie George Pompidou in the 4th arrondissement and the Bassin de la Villette in the 19th arrondissement.

Festival Fnac Indétendances (July 25–August 15) In association with Paris Plages, the music megastore Fnac will be putting on free concerts during the first three weekends of August. Outdoor shows Friday-Sunday, with highlights including Peter von Poehl and Naïve New Beaters on August 15. Full program here. Hôtel de Ville, 4th arrondissement.

Paris Jazz Festival (through July 26) This annual Jazz Festival provides a great excuse to laze about in the Parc Floral, part of the sprawling Bois de Vincennes. Free concerts are held on the grand scène (big stage) every Saturday and Sunday at 3:00 and 4:30 p.m. Consult the online program here. Food and drinks are on sale inside the park, but most people bring their own stock of nibbles and wine. Entry to the Parc Floral is €2.50, but the concerts are all free. Parc Floral, Esplanade de Chateau de Vincennes, 12th arrondissement.

Classique au Vert (August 1–September 20) At the end of July, the sound of jazz in the Parc Floral will give way to the music of Ravel, Dubussy and Mahler. As with its summer predecessor, the classical music festival is an occasion for leisurely picnics before and during the concerts at 4:00 p.m. Parc Floral, Esplanade de Chateau de Vincennes, 12th arrondissement.

Festival Cinéma en Plein Air (July 15–August 16) My personal fave of all the summer festivals, this outdoor film series is once again free in 2009. Screenings begin at nightfall (usually between 9:30–10:00 p.m.) and picnics are encouraged. Chairs and blankets can be rented for a small fee. The lineup includes plenty of English language titles like Brokeback Mountain and Little Miss Sunshine. Consult the full program here.

Clair de Lune Festival (August 5–23) If you can understand a little French, you'll love this quirky festival, which projects classic films like Godard's Pierrot le Fou in offbeat locations every Thursday–Sunday in mid-August. Locations vary, consult the online program here.

Festival Silhouette (August 29–September 6) Short film are the focus of this festival in the beautiful Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. Screenings take place every night at dark on the lawn in front of the lake. Consult the online program here. 1 place Armand Carrel, 19th arrondissement.


Magicien de Fer (through August 31). Give your wallet a rest and check out the free and fascinating exhibit about the career and personal life of Gustave Eiffel. As I wrote about here, this show is helping to celebrate the Eiffel Tower's 120th birthday. Place de l'Hôtel de Ville, 4th arrondissement.


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