Did you know the banks of the Seine River and the Bassin de la Villette turn into a Parisian beach resort each summer? Ever since 2002, when Mayor Bertrand Delanoë launched the first “Paris Plage” for all of the Parisians who couldn’t join the annual exodus from the city for the summer, it has become a beloved annual event, copied by cities all over the world.
For the 2022 edition, the “beaches” of Paris Plage take place from July 9th through August 21st in two locations: Rives de Seine (central Paris) and Bassin de La Villette (northeast Paris at the top of the Canal St Martin).
Rives de Seine (daily 10am-10pm)
This is the “original” Paris Plage with its chaise lounges, palm trees, and water misters. Located on the historic quays in central Paris on the Right Bank (from Quai du Louvre to Quai Henri IV) this is now known as Les Berges or Parc Rives de Seine on the Right Bank. Although a bit crowded on sunny afternoons, this part of Paris Plage is ideal for lounging, DJ music sets (and live music in the evenings, usually from 6pm), and beautiful views of Paris. There are two areas with misters to cool off, foosball, pétanque/boules courts, art expositions, an open-air library, free Swedish Gym, boxing, and running coaching sessions, and activity areas for kids.
Sprinkled throughout are different lounge chairs, picnic tables, al fresco cafés, and refreshment stands. The car-free quays are popular with runners, cyclists, and skaters of all ages as well as strolling beach bums, so watch your back (and your bags…yep, pickpockets).
Eating & Drinking
Dining options rage from snack bars and ice cream stands to café barges and restaurants such as Maison Maison (near Pont Neuf) and Les Nautes (near Pont de Sully). There are plenty of places to picnic if you bring your own food/drink. Happily, there are also free public restrooms so you can stay hydrated without fear.
Bassin de la Villette (10am-10pm)
The Bassin de la Villette is the widest section of the Canal St-Martin just outside the Parc de la Villette. This is the place to come to escape the biggest crowds on Paris Plage, and to take full advantage of water sports and swimming areas. Like the other Paris Plage site, there are lounge chairs, pétanque, snack bars and barge cafés, and plenty of kids activities, although in a less picturesque scenery than you’ll find on the Seine (some areas are downright scruffy, if festive).
There are four swimming pools right on the water (open daily 11am-9pm, although they also seem to close 30 minutes for “cleaning” at random times): two lap pools, a kiddie pool, and a 2-meter deep swimming pool. They’re free, but can only hold 300 swimmers. This year there’s a comic book library (“Bédéthèque”) and first-aid classes by the Secours Populaire and lifeguarding workshops “Geste qui Sauve”. See the full schedule at the official Paris Plages website. The pic above is one of the official photos on a sunny day. I took the photos below on a slightly cooler and overcast day a few moments after the pools just opened:
In the afternoons (1-7pm) you can rent paddle boats, kayaks, and paddle boards. In addition to paddle boats, you can also see the electric boats available for rental year-round (in the photo below) from Marin d’Eau Douce.
Unlike the Paris Plage on the Seine, this one has no grassy areas, and all of the chairs seem to be the foldable fabric and wood ones. There were also far fewer picnic tables specifically for Paris Plage, but the length of the Canal and Bassin de la Villette is pretty much always meant for picnics (happily there are water fountains and public restrooms at Paris Plage, which are lacking elsewhere along the water).
All day long there is a climbing wall, boules, foosball (babyfoot) and trampolines. On Sunday mornings you’ll find breakdance classes 10am-noon! The special activity areas are cordoned off by white picket fences. Most are closed by 7pm, except for the live dancing stage close to the MK2 cinemas at the south end of the Bassin de la Villette.
Some Rules & Advice
Parisians are actually pretty relaxed, so you can bring your dogs, your own food for a picnic, and even alcohol (unless you’re misbehaving). However (buzz kill alert): No topless bathing, g-string bikinis, or loud music allowed. For the moment, smoking is still permitted except around children’s play areas. Note that no one is allowed to take photos of the children’s play area (there are signs); in fact, just don’t take photos of any kids that aren’t your own.
Finally, be careful of pickpockets (like at any public beach), don’t forget your sunglasses, and get there early if you want a good spot!
Free entry. Open daily July 9th through August 21st, 10am-10pm. Free restrooms and water fountains throughout (tissues and a reusable water bottle recommended). There are info kiosks at both Paris Plage sites and orange-shirted “Plagistes” strolling the grounds if you need directions. The official Paris Plage information website is ete.Paris, but they haven’t yet created an English version.
More on Paris Plage
- Relaxing at Paris Plage while Gearing up for the Rentrée: commentary on the “Back-to-School” mood in Paris by Scott Carpenter
- The Seine before Paris Plage: historic photos of the Seine River