What’s Open in Paris in August?

Written by admin on July 26, 2011 – 2:41 pm -

It’s nearly August when most well-to-do Parisians flee the city like lemmings, leaving others behind to allegedly suffer. But, for the past 23 years, I’ve opted to stay here. To be truthful, August is my favorite month in the City of Light. You can veg out and, yes, restaurants are open. Perhaps not each and every one, but how many places can someone eat in a finite period of time?

For a calmer pace, choose Paris in August, not the countryside

Even though my husband and I owned a wonderful house in Provence, situated in the midst of the vines—with a pool and all—I’d rent it out during July and August and hightail it to Paris. I didn’t like the crowds or having to place an order for the next day’s bread unless I planned to be in town at 7 heures précises.

If I wanted the International Herald Tribune, it had to be ordered because the papers were snapped up by Anglophones passing through the region. And during the Tour de France, there were quite a few.

When we bought our house, it wasn’t in a chichi area. There was one design store and next to nothing for those hunting for bling. A butcher selling horsemeat didn’t qualify. After it was discovered, Vaison-la-Romaine assumed the characteristics of anything but a quiet village. Thank you, Patricia Wells, for writing At Home In Provence and so many other books that were researched or written from her mas overlooking the town.

Our area of the Vaucluse became so crowded that locals stopped going to the Tuesday market except if they could run in and out before the masses convened. You’d have to watch out for your feet and shoulders, and wrap yourself around the sack of fruit you had purchased since it would invariably end up squished while you were trying to exit the market. Some Tuesdays, it really felt as if shoulder and knee pads were necessary to run interference.

Ah, welcome, you busloads of tourists and when busloads of disciples of Rick Steves would come and go ooh, ah and isn’t this charming?

So much for the summery charm of Provence.

Paris in August is laid-back

If anyone tells you Paris closes during the month of August, that’s nonsense and someone is giving you outdated information.

Yes, “my” bakery will shut down and I’ll simply have to walk a block further if I’m craving a croissant in the morning. Or, I can get terrific frozen croissants at Picard. They’re open during August (even on Sundays) and if it’s a hot day, spending time in a store is a great way to lower your body temperature. It’s even cooler than the movies with their air conditioning—and you don’t have to buy anything.

Paris tourism numbers seem to be made of Teflon, especially when it comes to visitors from China. Hotels keep opening and  after a slight dip in 2009, tourism in 2010 and so far in 2011 has been good. Where there is business, there must be workers and they, too, want to dine out, shop and do many activities that travelers do.

The French also take vacations differently today than in the past.  Instead of using a month at once, workers today take more 3- and 4-day weekends throughout the year.

French workers in industries other than tourism are staying home more this year in particular for economical reasons according to The Connexion.

One of the things I love about being in Paris during August is that everyone who is here is very much more laid-back than when business and work are in full gear. Gatherings happen spontaneously and people you might never have met appear to turn up where you least expect to find them.

You may also notice more European tourists are spending their holidays in Paris.

Plenty is open in Paris in August

So, the answer to the title question, “What’s open in Paris in August?” Plenty.

First: perspective. There are about 8,000 restaurants in Paris and the great majority will observe normal business hours.

There are over 250 museums and galleries in Paris; some of the smaller operations may close, and the majors may show only permanent collections, but there will be plenty to fill your time.

Do check our Paris events calendar listings for August when published—you won’t lack for something to do.

Flea markets and farmers’ markets will be open and a visitor likely won’t notice that some vendors are away on holiday.

Switching back to restaurants, counter-intuitive as it seems, some restaurants popular with travelers close for part or all of August. For example, one of my favorites, Fish la Boissonnerie in the Paris 6th, will close the week of August 15th. That’s the only one I’ve found with a posted notice of a holiday break.

Before leaving for Paris, check your copy of the Michelin “Red Guide” to create a list of dining choices, then check restaurant websites for your favorites to see if August closure notices are posted. Make advance reservations if dining at a specific restaurant is important to you.

Advance reservations are always a good idea for dinner in Paris year-round, especially if you want something more elegant than a casual bistro or neighborhood restaurant. Remember, Paris chefs often shop at markets and buy only what is needed to cover two dinner seatings.

Don’t feel like you have to settle for dining at unimaginative chains or fast food restaurants. Ask your hotel concierge or apartment host for suggestions. Get suggestions when at museums and destinations—the locals are eating out still and they’ll know where to send you.

Businesses that are closing typically post signs on their doors or windows with closure dates. Note some are only closed for two weeks of the month; you may find your favorite is open only for a few days when you arrive or not until the last days of your stay. Again, checking in advance will help.

If it’s ice cream you want, work your way down our current list of Paris ice cream shops.

Some boutiques will take August breaks; again, check before leaving or call the moment you’re in Paris.

Here’s some good news for our many readers who love Pierre Hermé in the Paris 6th: his shop will be open regular hours.

That alone is justification for some to cross the pond.

How do you feel about being in Paris during August or any big city where people (if they can afford it) take off for the country?

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