how to survive Paris in the summertime

As promised! A guide to surviving Paris in the summetime, if you’re like me and can’t go into hermit mode like you normally do because you don’t have any Internet chez vous.

There’s so much shit to do in Paris, especially in the summertime when there are tons of things going on. July 14th, camp out on the Champ de Mars for a fantastic, big-name Bastille Day concert (if you want to be in the front row, get there at like 1pm). Every night there’s at least one good club open for free (bonus if you’re a lady: many clubs have a ladies’ night, like Le Queen on Wednesdays.)

If you don’t have a lot of friends in Paris, get the hell out and meet new ones! Rock clubs are great for this, because bars and techno clubs are way too sketchy. It’s hard to meet people in the daytime during the summer because Parisians are usually out of town for vacation then, especially in August.

There is so much free stuff going on in Paris that spending money would be kind of idiotic if you have the patience to look. The week-long Fête du Cinéma at the end of June gets you into movies for 2 euro if you go to another movie at full price (you’ll get a pass). There are jazz concerts, and tons of bars and stuff have free music (theoretically you have to buy at least one drink, but whatev). Just pick up a copy of LYLO (‘Les Yeux, Les Oreilles‘) which is a handheld guide to gigs and concerts all around Paris for the next two weeks. You can usually find it at the handouts table in clubs, small CD shops and other music stores, or in the student center at schools (like in the basement of ISEP).

If you’re a student under the age of 26, a whole new world of free or cheap things opens up to you. With a student ID card (the International Student Identification Card, or the ISIC, works too) you can buy year-long museum passes for ridiculously cheap (15 euro at the Louvre, 18 at Orsay, 22 at the Pompidou– and that gets discounted during the Nuit des Musées in May), movies are discounted, food at university restaurants (‘Resto U’s) is mad cheap, even yearlong Navigo passes are discounted (apply for the Imagine R if you’ll be here for the year; not only is it way cheaper, you get to go anywhere within the Transilien/SNCF zones during weekends and holidays!).

If you really want to buy stuff like food (kind of important), try the open-air markets for produce and cheap accessories (5 euro for ballet flats. Yes.), which are usually open on the weekends and perhaps Mondays, Wednesdays and/or Fridays. And there’s the gigantic Marché aux Puces in Métro Porte de Clignancourt for everything non-edible, from shoes to leather jackets to multicolored bags. Take advantage of the waning sale season!

3. STAY COOL (but not too cool)
Expect there to be alternating periods of sweltering heat, rain, and cool and cloudy. Go ahead and wear a tank top/t-shirt, but always have a light extra layer in your bag if you’re a coldy-cat like I am, or plan to stay out until dark (which comes pretty late in the summer, but you get what I mean). It could be sweltering outside or in the tourist-filled museums and monuments, but you never know when it’ll get cloudy or whether you’ll walk into an air-conditioned Metro or building (which is rare, but still).

During the canicule (dog days of summer– the really hot part of August), if you do want to wear as little clothing as possible, keep Parisian dress standards in mind: no booty shorts or exceptional cleavage– too much skin will get you shamelessly hit on. Also, flip-flops are common, but if you want to be more fashionable, go for tennis shoes or the sandals with the elegant middle strap; cheap but good-looking ones with black straps are found at H&M. They make most feet look really pretty and elongated.

The main point: no matter how hot or cold it is, never go outside looking like shit. Parisians take this to heart because for them, Paris is so small that they never know whom they’ll run into. For the rest of you, though, here’s a guide on what to wear so you don’t look too disgustingly much like a tourist:

For going out during the nighttime, or daytime, in general.
Guys: Collared shirt, ALWAYS. And maybe dark jeans or slacks with shoes. In the daytime you can get away with a nice brand-name t-shirt (no college tees!), but even if you sweat like a pig, get a fucking dress shirt.
It’s Europe, so remember that colors like pink, purple and yellow do not diminish your manhood. Unnaturally bright vestments, however, may make you look like Eurotrash, i.e. cheap, gaudy and/or verrry sketchy.

Girls: In the nighttime, the older the crowd is, the more likely you’ll be able to get away with a mini or cocktail dress, or any dress in general. Do yourself a favor and stick to a flattering pair of dark skinny jeans, because Parisian girls’ stick-thin legs probably put yours to shame. If you do wear a t-shirt, it should at least be a band tee. Tennis shoes usually complete the outfit, but if you have bejeweled I-strap sandals like those described above, those work too.

If you do want to wear a dress, wear a comfy t-shirt dress belted at the waist, but this is usually worn with jeans too. In the daytime, summer dresses of the flowery and even brightly-colored kind are usually ok. Just don’t go overboard.

It’s Paris. Like in any other true metropolis (‘cept maybe Tokyo), dark colors are your best bet in any season. This is why Californians stick out like brightly-colored sore thumbs in New York City during any season but summer.

The end! I’m sure there are other things you can do in Paris, so I’ll probably be adding more to the list. Next post will probably include something about getting free WiFi in Paris, as that’s what I’ve been trying to do ever since I moved out of my host mother’s.


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This is a blog of things place-related, by a cash-strapped Stanford grad who's lived in various places and writes about life. She's currently looking for a job in Manhattan or the Bay Area.

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