This summer, Paris is tapping into its resilient spirit. And with good reason: thanks to leafy boulevards, riverside perches and myriad terraces, the city is the perfect spot to rediscover a certain joie de vivre. Parisians have wholeheartedly embraced the easing of lockdown, but pandemic precautions are still de rigueur here.
Ingeniously, authorities have handed parking spots over to cafés and restaurants. Improvised terraces now spill out onto the street, lending social distancing a certain kind of bohemian charm. Hip eateries have been quick to adapt: why queue for Circus Bakery’s rustic fruit pies and cardamom buns, when you can have them delivered by bike anywhere in Paris?
Masks may be mandatory on public transport and in indoor spaces, but the city is easy to navigate on foot. A stroll from Montmartre to Montparnasse takes just over an hour, and you’ll take in designer boutiques, gourmet streets and cultural institutions along the way. The banks of the Seine are equally pleasant to explore, particularly on a pay-as-you-go bike or scooter. Thrillingly, this might be the best time to hit the hotspots usually teeming with tourists. The Eiffel Tower’s top floor officially reopened on 15 July – so grab an e-ticket and enjoy those iconic views without the crowds.
There’s much to enjoy if you’re travelling with little ones. Ride ponies in the city’s genteel parks, feast on ice cream by the canal or head to the outskirts of the city for a heady dose of fresh air. Disneyland Paris has reopened, too – with digital maps, hand sanitiser, socially distant rides and far fewer queues.
To travel responsibly this summer, it pays to plan ahead. Here are our top picks for a safe, relaxed getaway in Paris – a city that can’t wait to welcome you back.
Forget queues snaking around the pyramid. If you’ve ever dreamed of exploring the Louvre’s 300 rooms of paintings, sculptures and antiquities, now’s the time. Visitor numbers are limited with allocated time slots; it’s best to book online, though some same-day tickets may be available at the museum. Don’t forget to wear a mask – a small inconvenience for a chance to gaze at the Mona Lisa’s smile without raised smartphones ruining your line of sight.
At the southern tip of the Bois de Boulogne’s leafy expanse, these glorious greenhouses grow much of the city’s municipal plants. Social-distancing and mask-wearing rules apply, but the off-the-beaten-path location makes it a pleasure to wander through the elegant glass structures and the quiet, well-tended formal gardens. The central building is the most impressive, with its luxuriant collection of palm trees, tropical flowers and papyrus plants.
If you’ve been craving a shopping fix, this iconic Left Bank address is packed with Parisian must-haves. After a thorough clean, the department store has reopened with all the safety precautions you’d expect, including hand-sanitiser stations, protective screens, and regular cleaning of changing rooms and payment points. Once you’ve raided the summer sales (15 July–11 August), pack a picnic from La Grande Épicerie’s tempting food hall – the banks of the Seine are just a 15-minute stroll away.
These palm-dotted, easy-to-reach gardens have something of a cult following. Locals love it for its picnic-friendly lawns, pétanque pitches and metal chairs just made for soaking up the sun. Groups of more than 10 aren’t currently allowed but, happily, the park’s ponies are still on standby for rides most days during school holidays. Expect under-helmet hair nets, mask-protected staff and delighted little ones.
This arthouse cinema in the sleepy 14th arrondissement has handed over its boho conservatory and garden to talent incubator Fulgurances. It’s an airy, light-filled space with plenty of room between tables. At the helm until November 2020, Iran-born Minou Sabahi is the first resident chef. Order small plates inspired by her extensive travels: pistachio-flecked sardines, say, or meringue dressed with carrots and cardamom. Book ahead.
Queuing for ice cream is a summer pastime for Parisians – even in these socially distanced times. Bachir kept locals stocked in home-delivered treats during lockdown; now, a stone’s throw from the Centre Pompidou, its red-and-white awning provides welcome shade for patient punters. The pistachio-crusted, Lebanon-inspired scoops are worth the wait: sample rose or orange-flower flavours, or opt for seasonal fruit such as apricot or blackberry.
Usually crowded with tourists, the neighbourhood of Montmartre has gone back to its quaint village roots – at least for a little while. If you’re not quite ready to bust out your own easel on the Place du Tertre, take a stroll around the tranquil cobbled lanes, looking out for the two surviving windmills. There’s no better time for a selfie in front of La Maison Rose. The charming pink restaurant is as popular with influencers now as it once was with famous writers and artists.
60 metres above ground, this open-air rooftop bar is arguably the most coveted sundowner spot in town. Take your pick from intimate tables, sociable sofas or laid-back bean bags on the lawn. The drinks menu runs from spritzes to natural wines and glasses of champagne. Bar snacks are equally enticing – think oysters, terrines and charcuterie platters. It’s best to drop by early: access is limited to 100 guests at a time, and you’ll need to wear a mask to access and move around the venue.
Cheap, trad and cheerful, the bouillon – an eatery serving old-school, no-frills fare – has had something of a renaissance of late. Top of the class is Bouillon Pigalle (no prizes for guessing its location), a classic of the genre in a lofty space dressed with red banquettes and reassuringly spaced tables. The menu (cod brandade, duck confit, peach melba) is equally comforting. If you’d rather eat out, the set takeaway lunch is a steal at €10 for three courses.