Since its inaugural appearance in 2002, Paris-Plages has grown from a fun but seemingly oddball idea of building a temporary beach in the heart of the city to a worldwide phenomenon copied in other capitals like Berlin and Madrid.
The viral-like spread of the concept has coincided with a massive expansion in the size of the event in Paris, which was extended in 2007 to include an outpost at the Bassin de la Villette, an artificial lake which links the Canal de l'Ourq to the Canal Saint Martin.
The size and scale of the event is now pretty impressive.
Five thousand tonnes of sand are carted in for the pop-up beach that stretches several kilometers and is then fitted out with 50 palm trees, 550 deckchairs and 450 beach umbrellas. But that’s just the scenery for the event, which runs until August 17th and costs around €2 million per year to put on.
There’s also the dozens of events, concerts, contests and classes that offer a pretty decent substitute for those who won’t be heading to the beach in the annual French summer getaway.
Here The Local has dug through the Paris Plages programme and come up with the ten things you shouldn’t miss this year:
Art on the beach: The Louvre Museum is bringing part of its massive collection to the beach and turning the Tunnel des Tuileries into an art gallery. Appropriately enough, they are going with a bathing theme. It’s open everyday from 10am-6:30pm. There’s also a free drawing everyday at 2pm where you can win free museum passes and books.
(Montgeron Ma Ville/Flickr)
Sandcastle contest: After carefully sculpting your own sandcastle out of some of the 5,000 tonnes of sand on the beach, take a picture of it with the Instagram app and post it with the hashtag #chateaulafargepetitnicolas. The 20 best pictures will be displayed at Paris Town Hall and the owners of the top four entries will win an iPad.
Pop-up library: No need to bring your own reading material to the beach this year. Publishing house Flammarion will be loaning out some 300 titles for all ages and tastes at the Pont Marie everyday from 11am to 7pm. You’ll be able to find everything from graphic novels to crime fiction and kids’ books. Though it’s important to note all the books are in French, so it’s BYOB for those not fluent in the language of Molière.
Sandcastle class: Paris is offering a master class for young sand castle constructors. During a 45-minute training session for 6-10 year olds, the kids will get tips from teachers who were themselves trained by former world champion sand castle builder Dale Murdock. Buckets and shovels are provided for the class, which runs from 2-7pm everyday at Pont Notre Dame.
Your own boat: Here’s your chance to hit the murky waters of the Bassin de la Villette lake. Everyday from 1-8pm there will be kayaks, rowing boats and even games of kayak polo available for those who’d like to join in. There’s no charge to use the boats, which you can pick up on the Quai de la Loire side of the water.
Wheelchair ball: In order to help people think differently about what life is like for people who use wheelchairs, the charity arm of France’s national lottery is offering an initiation into wheelchair basketball. The practice and games, which culminate in a tournament, will run from July 25th to August 15th between 1-8pm at Paris Town Hall.
Treasure hunt: It’s more so for families, but the Treasure or scavenger hunt, which is put on by the folks who run Paris’s water system is open to anyone with the wits and patience to try. The water-themed clues will run hunters up and down the beach and those who make it to the end will be rewarded with special edition water bottles. Sign up at Paris Town Hall for the hunt which runs every weekend from 11am-1pm.
Zip-line!: Parisian daredevils looking for a new risk besides not washing their hands after a ride on the Metro can fly across the Bassin de la Villette on a zip-line. It’s open from 1-8pm everyday, but it's only for 6-17 year olds. Find it on the Quai de la Seine side of the Bassin de la Villette.