It’s the last weekend of Paris Plages, one of the many efforts of the city government to make life a little easier for its citizens (and attract even more tourists) by bringing the beach (the plage) to the city. Jan and I went to the Seine-side plage the other day and heard hardly any English, a sure sign that it was being used mainly by the locals.

This is the tenth August that the city has closed the Pompidou Expressway along the Right Bank, trucked in tons of sand, beach chairs, prefab restaurants and toilets, and invited everyone to spread out under hundreds of beach umbrellas. The Parisians love the sun (watch how many of them choose the sunniest seats in sidewalk cafés), so they flock to Paris Plages.

The Seine is not for swimming. Aside from the barge traffic, it’s not really clean, although it’s much better than it was a few years ago. But the foot-deep sand of the plage makes you think you’re at the seaside, if only for a while.

The plages expanded this year to the banks of the Bassin de la Villette in the 19th arrondissement, up in the northeast corner of the city. On Saturday it was full of families, many of them waiting in line to rent pedal boats. The concrete ping-pong tables were getting a workout, and the sandboxes were full of children and their parents.

Some interesting links about the Plages and related subjects:

Secrets of Paris

A selection of Google Images photos from Paris Plages last year.

The city’s web site page on the Plages (English). (The site,, is a treasure trove of information.)

Another city government effort to improve the Seine — Les Berges (A travel story from the New York Times).

The Telegraph on Parisians and water generally, and Paris Plages specifically.

And here’s a brief photo gallery (all photos by John Pearce):


Children play in the sand while their mother watches



What’s a beach without a restaurant? This one is full all the time, and has a great view of the Seine. The bridge in the distance is the Pont Neuf which, despite its name, is the oldest in the city. The famous statue of Henri IV appears above the head of the diner in the center.



An active game of foosball under Pont Neuf



The Louvre Museum has its own exhibit of reproductions. All the pictures are bathers.


Meanwhile, at Bassin de la Villette:


Parents and children wait in line to rent the pedal boats at the “Port de Paris Pages”



…And the kids wind up having a great time.