Category Archives: Paris, Île-de-France

Visiting Paris in August, Episode 188

Visiting Paris in August

On today’s episode, Annie and Elyse chat about the pitfalls and joys of visiting Paris in August. Things are different in Paris in the summer months and we review them all in this episode of the podcast!

What Closes in Paris in the Summer?

People who are coming to Paris for the first time in August or in the summer wonder what’s going to be open and closed? It’s a fair question and I caution you against relying on information that started circulating decades ago that somehow still gets repeated today: No, Paris does NOT shut down in the summer!

In fact, Paris is teeming with activity in the summer! That’s why you should have a strategy to minimize wait time at popular museums, which we explain in this episode.

Airbnb and Pickpockets

Elyse and I also get talking about Air B&B in Paris, there are some things you need to know about that so you can ask the renter important questions that will impact the quality of your stay.

We also recap some quick tips about prevailing against pickpockets in this episode and about the best kinds of bags for a trip to Paris for both your comfort and your safety.

Go to Some Guinguettes!

Visiting Paris in August or in the summer months is a joy! It’s a great time to rent bikes because the car traffic is lighter. It is also the time for Guinguettes. Even if you don’t remember the word Guinguettes, I’m sure you have seen them pictured in paintings and in the movies!

They are places where locals and visitors alike go to on summer evenings to have some drinks and dance.

There are some famous ones and some not so famous ones all along the Seine River and the Marne River. One we recommend is close to the Eiffel Tower on quai de Suffren.

August in Paris is also the time for walks in neighborhoods you don’t know, trying boulangeries and restaurants you’ve never heard of. You shouldn’t be weary of doing that, we have great food all over Paris! One great place to take such a walk would be around the delightful Palais Royal area as we’ve mentioned in previous episodes.

Ignore at Your Own Peril

We want you to have a wonderful time in Paris in August, which in our mind includes this piece of advice: Yes, you do need Air Conditioning when you are visiting Paris in August, July or maybe even June and September. Having lived in France so long, Elyse is not a fan of Air Conditioning. But even she admits that when the temperatures climb over 95F (which they do, sometimes for days-on-end!), it is really hard to get some rest without AC.

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people hanging out at the bottom of the eiffel tower; visiting paris in august

Timestamps: the Joys and Pains of Visiting Paris in August or During the Summer Months

[05:45] The conversation between Annie and Elyse starts.

[06:54] What changes in Paris in July and August.

[09:05] Head’s Up about what Paris is like in the summer!

[10:43] Parking is free in Paris the first 2 weeks of August. You can rent electric cars to get around if you wish. Traffic is much lighter in Paris in the summer.

[12:14] Paris can get very hot in the summer. Some metro cars are air conditioned, not all. Buses are air conditioned.

[13:09] Some of the small stores and restaurants do close to take their vacation. All the big stores, department stores, are open, but not on Sundays for the most part. Don’t save your shopping for Sundays!

[14:48] There are masses of tourists who come to Paris in the summer. Museums can be terribly crowded. Use the site J’aime attendre to figure out the best time to go.

[24:30] Strategies for visiting museums in Paris.

[29:00] Plan which days you’ll go to which museums so you don’t get stuck waiting in long lines!

[32:00] French people love to go to wonderful Paris exhibits also, it won’t just be foreign visitors!

[34:13] More and more, Museums and attractions will force people to use Apps instead of queueing up. For instance JeFile to go up the Towers of Notre Dame.

[35:44] If you are staying 3 or more nights late July until the last week of August, you can negotiate a very good deal. There are lots of tourists, but no business travelers. To get the best rates, call the hotels.

[38:05] Air B&B questions you need to know about. Triple rooms for 3 adults (like for 3 adult sisters) are hard to find!

[44:08] Small restaurants do close in the summer in Paris! If you have your heart set on a specific place, check it out ahead of time on their site! Big Brasseries never close, but small restaurants do. Have a backup plan!

[49:00] Pickpockets in Paris and how to defeat them in the Paris metro, especially when you’re on line 1. Leave as much as you can in the hotel safe.

[51:54] What bag to take to Paris and why.

[52:53] Vélib’: Rent a bicycle and enjoy the low Paris traffic! Really cheap, can be free if you switch bikes every 30 minutes.

[54:50] Les Guinguettes. You will see them if you go on a ride on the bateaux mouches. There are a lot of fun and you should go! Great place to go for a drink and some dancing. Along the 13th arrondissement is great with free dance lessons! This makes Paris into a summer festival.

[58:30] In France in the summer you can always find something to do to find besides museums and restaurants.

[61:00] Sunset in France is late in the summer in France, if you want to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night, you have to go fairly late.

[63:00] Don’t sweat the small stuff: you need to know where you’re going sleep and what places you’re going to visit. But you don’t need to go to any one bakery or restaurant no matter what bloggers and guide books tell you!

[65:19] Too many tourists who come to Paris have not put any effort into planning anything, which is why they get in trouble.

[68:00] Get AC in your hotel or accomodation in Paris in the summer. It will be hot and muggy and that can ruin a vacation because you’ll have a terrible time to sleep. Big thick walls do nothing against muggy.

louvre courtyard with water feature; visiting paris in august

Overview of Paris Museums, Episode 187

Overview of Paris Museums

In today’s episode, Elyse and Annie give you and overview of Paris museums. Big museums, small museums, museums that present great temporary exhibits, museums that appeal to locals, museums famous for their permanent collection. Odd little museums around a specific topic, museum who are good for visitors who bring children, and museums that are good for people who don’t really love museums.

If you’re preparing your first visit to Pairs, this episode is important for you because that’s how you’ll learn about what’s out there for you to enjoy besides the ones everyone has heard about like the Orsay and the Louvre.

We don’t list all Paris museums, there are too many, but we do our best to give you a comprehensive review of the wonderful Paris museum scene. And if you don’t understand some of the names of the museums we mention verbally, read on, the list is all written out here!

Don’t miss our tip about the Museum Pass for children and teens at the end of the episode!

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Overview of Paris Museums: Museums You Will Learn About in this Episode


  • The Orangerie Museum: Lilypads!
  • The Louvre Museum: Make a Plan Before You Go
  • The Orsay Museum: Popular and Approachable
  • The Rodin Museum: Meet the Relentless Worker
  • The Cluny Museum: Medieval Art and Culture (Closed until late July 2018)
  • The Pompidou Center: Bringing Art to the People
  • Musée Maillol: Great Temporary Exhibits
  • Musée du Luxembourg: Temporary Collections Year-Round
  • Centre Louis Vuitton of Contemporary Art: Headliners Only
  • Delacroix Museum: a Tiny Bijoux in a Charming Neighborhood.
  • Fondation Cartier: Contemporary American Arts
  • André Jacquemart Museum: Prestigious Small Temporary Exhibits
  • Guimet Museum of Asian Art: Trocadero Area
  • Marmottan Monet Museum: Founding Pieces of Impressionism
  • Petit Palais (Permanent Exhibit) and Grand Palais (Temporary Exhibits)
  • Musée National Picasso Paris: That’s How Picasso Paid His Taxes!
  • Le Palais de Tokyo: Edgy Contemporary Art
  • The Museum of Modern Art of the city of Paris: Orsay Overflow and Great Temporary Exhibits
  • La Bibliothèque Mitterrand: Exhibits Having to Do With Books, Printing, and Writing Systems
  • The Jewish Museum, Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme: This Is Not a Shoah Museum
  • Institut du Monde Arabe: Ancient and Contemporary Arts from the Arab World
  • The Paris Museum of Natural History: Great for Kids!
  • Le Musée de l’Armée and Napoleon’s Tomb: Made for Warriors.
  • Musée des Arts Décoratifs and Espace Mode et Textiles: Amazing Temporary Exhibits
  • Nissim de Camondo Museum: Elegance Past
  • Le Musée du Quai Branly: Traditional Arts
  • Le Musée des Égouts de Paris: Not for the Faint of Heart, It Stinks!
  • Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, Musée des Monuments Français: Lifesize Reproductions of Most Famous Cathedrals in France
  • Philarmonie de Paris: See It Up-Close!
  • La Crypte Archéologique du Parvis de Notre Dame: Roman Ruins
  • Le Palais de la Découverte, Universcience: Great for Kids!
  • The Pantheon: a Secular Tribute to Great Men (and Too Few Women)
  • Musée Grévin: a Museum of Celebrities Made of Wax
  • Le Musée des Arts et Métiers: Foucault Pendulum and Beautiful Instruments
  • The Paris Catacombs: Dem Bones Dem Bones Dem Dry Bones
  • Homes of Famous People You Can Visit: Balzac and Victor Hugo
  • La Maison de Balzac in the 19th Arrondissement
  • Maison de Victor Hugo on the Place des Vosges
  • International Center of Photography
  • Jeu de Paume at the Tuileries
  • Musée des Arts Forains in Bercy: Fairground Attractions
  • The Chocolate Museum in Paris: Delicious!
  • The Musée de la Magie: Monsieur Houdin and His Magical Cabinets
  • The Wine Museum in Paris: Also Has a Great Lunch Restaurant!
  • Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature: Taxidermy Paradise
  • Musée Carnavalet: the History of the City of Paris
  • La Conciergerie: Learn About the French Revolution
  • Les Arènes de Lutèce: Go for the Neighborhood
  • Le Mémorial de la Shoah: In the Marais
  • The Memorial of the Deportation: Behind Notre Dame Cathedral
  • Opéra Garnier: Over-the-Top- Gorgeous!



The Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, Episode 184

 The Luxembourg Gardens in Paris

When we do  a tour in Paris, we always start with the Luxembourg Gardens. Why? Because it’s a haven of peace and simple joy for everybody we know who has ever visited it. Our tours also always start on a Sunday, and Sundays and Wednesdays are the best times to go to the Luxembourg Gardens, not that there is a bad time to go, mind you.

In this episode of the podcast we explain how the Luxembourg Gardens came about historically and we list most of the things you can enjoy there today. The Jardin du Luxembourg is one of the best places to take a walk in Paris, and it is also something we recommend to everyone, even first-time visitors to Paris.

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Luxembourg Gardens, pond and toy boat with the Senate building in the background

What You Will Learn About in this Episode

 The Luxembourg Gardens Are a Favorite

[02:00] The Luxembourg Gardens are a favorite for both Annie and Elyse and for most people who know Paris well. Tuileries and Luxembourg Gardens are roughly of the same size, but have a different feeling to them.

The Origins of the Luxembourg Gardens

[04:06] At first there was a large Palace and they built the Luxembourg Gardens around it. The large Palace you see today is the French Senate, this dates from the late 1500s. But first, there was a smaller palace that is now off to the side. The small palace dates from the late 1300s. It was the residence of the Duke of Luxembourg, and it had a small garden and orangery to begin with.

Marie de Medici Commissioned both the Palace and the Luxembourg Gardens

[07:00] Marie de Medici was the wife of Henri IV and a cousin to Catherine de Medici (who was the wife of Henri II and they are hard to keep straight!) Marie grew up in Florence with the Boboli Gardens. When Henri IV was assassinated in 1610, she became the regent. She hated the Louvre, so she hired Italian designers and engineers to build her a wonderful palace and gardens. You can’t visit the French Senate other than on the Week-End du Patrimoine each September.

The Life of Marie de Medici and Henri IV Painted by Rubens

[10:53] Marie de Medici also commissioned a series of 24 paintings on her life by Rubens. You can see them in a special wing at the Louvre. When you visit the Louvre it is good to target a particular area to look at so it is not so overwhelming and this cycle of paintings by Rubens would be a good choice for that!

The Medici Fountain at the Luxembourg Gardens

[12:57] Marie de Medici kept the name Luxembourg for the park, but she had the fountain named after herself. It is not a large fountain, but it was a replica of one in Florence. The reflecting pool was added later. This fountain is really dark by now, it would look much nicer it they cleaned it up. This is in stark contrast with the Senate that looks lovely and creamy.

Luxembourg Gardens Medici fountain and reflecting pond
The Medici Fountain and Reflecting Pond, photo Annie Sargent

A Symmetrical Garden

[14:58] The style at the time was to build symmetrical gardens and that’s what they decided to do at the Luxembourg Garden, except for a small part of the garden that is more English-style. The Statues were not part of the original design of the garden, they were added in the late 1800s, Annie will talk about that later on.


Historical Tidbit: Marie and her Son Louis XIII Didn’t Get Along!

[165:48] In 1642, Marie’s son kicked her out of the Palace and the Luxembourg Gardens and she had to go live in a different palace. The palace was turned into the French Senate after the French Revolution. In the meantime it was a museum that has since moved to the smaller building that was owned by the Duke of Luxembourg, a good place to visit if it starts raining while you are visiting.

An Official Government Building

[18:25] The Luxembourg Gardens today belong to the French Senate. As such, it is an official governmental center, it is well protected and could be closed on account of a terror alert, but we’ve never seen that happen.

luxembourg gardens senate building with dramatic grey sky
Photo Annie Sargent

The Attractions You Will Find at the Luxembourg Gardens

Small Is Beautiful

[20:18] The Luxembourg Gardens are tiny compared to major parks in world capitals. It is only 23 hectares of which 21 are open to the public. By comparison, Central Park in New York is 315 hectares. Hyde Park in London is 256 hectares. A small park is better in Annie’s opinion because there is so much in a small space, it’s easy to enjoy because all the different attractions are near one another.

  • The French Senate
  • The Medici Garden and reflecting Pond
  • Circular pond in the middle with little boats you can rent
  • Large children’s playground, fenced, good for people with toddlers who tend to run off!
  • Puppet Show: Guignol. This is a classic show that won’t suit everybody, it’s like English Pantomime but simpler. All in French, the idea is to interact with the children, if your kids don’t speak any French they won’t understand anything.
  • Pétanque Club. Anybody can play if they buy a yearly membership for about 20€. Super friendly people that welcome people from all over the world. Great place to go try pétanque!
Pétanque game at the Luxembourg Gardens
Pétanque game, photo Annie Sargent
  • Statue of Liberty that was made to test the bigger one you see in New York. There’s another one near the entrance of the Art & Métiers Museum in Paris.
  • Music kiosk where amateurs get to play, your mileage may vary.
musical kiosk at the luxembourg garden
Music Kiosk at the Jardin du Luxembourg, photo Annie Sargent.
  • Paths for joggers.
  • Wonderful chairs that are free now, but you had to pay to sit on them long ago. Free today! You will see people reading, chatting
Couple sitting in chairs at the Luxembourg Gardens
Photo Annie Sargent
  • There are two cafés where they make crêpes and sell good coffee.
Luxembourg Gardens café with chairs
Photo Annie Sargent
  • It is very scenic, the trees are cut in a rectangular shape, topiary-style to maintain the one point perspective.
  • Les Reines de France and Femmes Illustres: this is a hodge-podge collection of French women who are mostly wives and mothers of French Kings.
statue of the famous women of france at the luxembourg gardens
Notable women of France, photo Annie Sargent.

Other Major Attractions You See Near the Luxembourg Garden

[33:00] The Pantheon is nearby (episode 71). You also have the church of Saint-Etienne-du-Mont is next to the Pantheon, Annie’s favorite church in Paris. You can also see the magical steps in Midnight in Paris next to the church. The neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Près is also nearby. Beautiful stores, lively most of the time. The theater of the Odeon isn’t far, Elyse thinks it’s gorgeous. The Marie Curie Museum (episode 79). It is also a lovely area to stay in if you like a quiet area.

The Luxembourg Gardens Are a Must-See

[37:43] If you are going to Paris, even if it is your first time, go to the Luxembourg Garden. You will feel a part of French life that is genuine, posh, historical, and pleasant. There are also photography exhibits outside of the garden, it’s fun to walk around the outside of the gate to see that too. We like the café called Le Petit Suisse on rue Vaugirard. It is full of Parisian charm, you will love it!

Is It OK to Bring a Bottle of Wine to the Luxembourg Gardens?

[39:42] Whenever Annie goes to the Luxembourg Gardens she sees people enjoying wine there. They bring a bottle of wine to share with friends. It’s a bit crass from a French perspective, but not forbidden. Open container rules in France are very lax, unless you’re a homeless person or it’s an area where students get out of control.

Free WiFi in Paris

[43:00] Like any other fenced park in Paris, you will find free WiFi at the Luxembourg Gardens.