Of all the summer months in Paris, June may just be the most pleasant. The temperatures generally remain on the mild side, and even though the occasional thunderstorm cuts picnics and strolls short, it’s typically far from the muggy, overpowering heat of late July and August.
Following on from May, the city continues to fully unveil its many outdoor charms, allowing visitors to spend much of their time outdoors. Music festivals and concerts fill the streets and parks, and are usually either cheap or entirely free. Denizens crowd sunny terraces to sip white wine (and increasingly, craft beers). They stage impromptu picnics on the banks of the Seine and the Canal St Martin, and amble aimlessly on seemingly endless early summer evenings. They also flock to the shops in late June for summer soldes (sales) an event that will overjoy some and send others in the opposite direction. And for those who can afford courtside tickets, the French Open tennis matches at Roland-Garros are an undeniable seasonal highlight.
Idyllic? Well, sure. It certainly can be.
June does have its drawbacks, too, and they’re similar to those of other months falling in high season. If you come at this time of year, you’ll be arriving in peak season: don’t expect hotel prices, air or train fares to be at their lowest. To lock in good deals, I strongly suggest you book well ahead. You can compare prices on flights and hotels at Skyscanner, and find deals on trains over at Rail Europe.
It will also be a *bit of a challenge* to avoid crowded conditions at exhibits, shops and popular museums. And while you can expect some sunny, clear days, Paris is a city that remains rainy year-round– so you’ll have to set aside any image you may have of spending all your time in the fresh air.
Nevertheless convinced this may be the time of year for you? If so, read on for my full tips on how to pack, things to see and do and, well, how to suck all the marrow out of this generally pleasant month in the capital– to paraphrase Thoreau.
Weather Trends in June, & Some Packing Tips
In June, clement and mild weather conditions generally reign. Those seeking a “just right” balance between warmth and coolness will enjoy the averages during this time of year. In the early morning, temps can hover on the chilly side– you may even need to keep your scarf and long sleeves on. As the afternoon progresses, the mercury tends to climb into the early to mid-70s (early 20s in C)– ideal for anyone who loathes sweltering heat but still hankers for a bit of warmth. Do be aware, though, that in the past few years, some very hot days have been recorded in Paris during the month of June– likely as a consequence of climate change.
The inevitable rain: As mentioned earlier, rain is a year-round fact in the French capital– and June is no exception. While summer storms aren’t usually as strong now as they are later in the season, they can still come on suddenly and violently. It may be worth bringing a rain jacket with hood along on any longer stroll. If you’re like the locals, you’ll simply dress for sun and then take shelter under an awning, or inside a museum or cafe. You could even call it a charming escape.
Minimum Temperature: 14 degrees C/57 degrees F
Maximum Temperature: 23 degrees C/73.4 degrees F (do note that in recent years, even warmer max temps have been registered)
Average temp: 18.5 degrees C/65.3 degrees F
Average monthly precipitation: 56 mm/2.2 inches
Make sure to bring along waterproof clothing for the rainier and stormier days. This includes a good, light jacket and closed-toed, waterproof shoes: walking around the city with soggy shoes and/or socks is never desirable.
It’s also a good idea to pack a couple of long-sleeved shirts or blouses, and jeans, alongside lighter summer wear. Don’t neglect to bring along plenty of sunscreen, either: even on hazy days, it’s necessary to protect against insidious UV rays. And in France, sunscreen is preposterously expensive, so you may be better off stocking up at home.
Best Things to See and Do in June?
This isn’t a month where you’re likely to be bored or run out of things to do. See a few of my suggestions below, and you can also consult this page at the tourist office for a full calendar of events, festivals and various happenings this year.
1. Enjoy a few good terraces, “à la parisienne”…
What would Paris be without its cafe and bar terraces? They figure so predictably in paintings, photographs and films depicting the city for a reason: Parisians can’t seem to get enough of them. An enduring and important part of the local cultural fabric, terraces lie at the very heart of social life in many neighborhoods around the capital.You can read my piece over at TripSavvy on some of the best rooftop terraces in the city, as well as this list of some of the capital’s enduringly charming sidewalk cafes.
In case you’re wondering, the chairs commonly face outward not only to save space on the sidewalk (although that’s often part of it): the tradition also relates to the habitude très parisienne (very Parisian habit) of people-watching while sipping a coffee, perrier with lemon, or summery blanche (white beer) on the terrace. If you’re the object of what feels like brazen observation, there’s no need to feel awkward or put off: just look right back, perhaps lowering your sunglasses to make a point. The French generally know how to take what they dish out– at least in my experience.
A note for anyone irked by or sensitive to cigarette smoke, however: since France passed its anti-smoking law a few years ago, smokers have become pretty dominant out on many terraces, since they aren’t allowed to light up indoors. Partly covered “semi-terraces” can be especially smoky and unpleasant– I can vouch for this. Choosing a larger terrace with more space should help.
2. Enjoy music in the open air
June is the beginning of music festival season in the capital, and anyone on a restricted budget will be overjoyed to know that free concerts and shows abound at this time of year. Take note of the following dates, and then go revel in everything from jazz to indie rock and hip-hop.
On June 21st, the Fete de la Musique (shown above) brings in the summer solstice on a festive note. This all-night music festival sees dozens of free concerts take over street corners, bars, river quays and enormous Parisian squares– all for free. There are a few big-name acts that draw crowds, but my preferred way of enjoying the event is simply roaming the streets at random, taking in a song or two from amateur performers before moving on to hear others. This year, highlights will include a free concert featuring traditional Irish folk at the Centre Culturel Irlandais (Irish Cultural Centre) and a performance from the singer-songwriter Melissa Laveaux at the Mona Bismarck American Center. See a guide to this year’s festivities and highlights here— and don’t hesitate to take full advantage of a Paris overtaken by joyful noise.
Jazz Concerts at the Parc Florale:
Next up, the end of June is an ideal time for jazz enjoyed in the open air, with concerts staged every year at the Parc Floral de Vincennes just east of Paris (and easily accessible by metro by taking line 1 to the Chateau de Vincennes). Tickets are reasonably priced, and this is a wonderful way to enjoy music, early-summer blooms and perhaps even a picnic complete with a bit of wine.
The Open-Air Opera Festival
Last, but certainly not least, the Opera en Plein Air (Opera in the Open Air) festival offers fans of classical genres an opportunity to enjoy operatic performances in some idyllic outdoor settings. “Carmen” is a highlight in 2018. Visit the official website to reserve tickets and view the program (in French, but you should be able to use the “translate this “page” function in your browser if necessary). At around $40 or less per ticket, prices are quite reasonable compared to traditional fares for opera.
3. Get ye out of the city limits
I’ve given this advice in many places on this site, including in my complete guide to visiting Paris in the spring months— but it’s worth repeating. Especially given the crowds that you’ll have to contend with at this time of the year, getting out of the city for some fresh air and a bit of space will likely feel essential.
You might go frolic around the extensive, lush gardens at Versailles or the quietly poetic Japanese gardens at Giverny, Claude Monet’s chosen haven. Or you may opt for a day-long trip over to Provins, one of the prettiest and best-preserved fortified medieval towns in France, much less the region.
Or– as I will always heartily recommend on a sunny day– take a long, lazy river cruise on the Marne River, sipping a glass of champagne or rosé and perhaps stopping for a picnic on the lush, green banks of the river. The whole area was painted countless times by the likes of Cézanne, Pissarro, Sisley, Manet, Monet and even Van Gogh. Traditional guinguettes (riverside cafes) were 19th-century centers for music and socializing, and a few remain today as quaint getaways from modern life. There’s little more idyllic in the early summer than climbing aboard and spending a few hours drifting down the wild riverways, where many bird species still thrive. Far from the urban blight? You bet.
4. Art & culture: Exhibits & shows to beeline to in June 2018
It’s not as active a time of year for major exhibits as the fall and spring are, but there are still plenty of interesting shows to enjoy in June. Here are a couple I particularly recommend– and you can also see a more complete list here.
Tintoretto: Birth of a Genius (at the Musée du Luxembourg through July 1st)
Ever since the Musée du Luxembourg reopened a few years ago following extensive renovations, its temporary shows have proven captivating, illuminating us on overarching trends in art history and/or showing the diversity and depth in a single artist’s oeuvre. This interesting show on the Italian artist Tintoretto, widely credited as founding the school known as Venetian mannerism, is no exception. The frenetic energy evident in his painting style is worlds away from the sometimes-cool, ultra-rationalist approach found in the work of his Renaissance contemporaries, including Da Vinci– and earned him the nickname “Il Furioso”. While Tintoretto isn’t really a household name, his oeuvre certainly merits a close look.
Corot: The Painter And His Models (through July 8th at the Musée Marmottan-Monet)
July marks your last chance to see this fascinating show at the Musee Marmottan-Monet, dedicated to the fascinating and uncannily vivid portraits of the French painter Corot. If many art history amateurs are familiar with his landscapes, this show turns our attention to his sumptuous depictions of contemporaries, students and other figures of his days. Some 60 paintings are featured at the show, brought together in a single space from numerous major collections around the world.
Other Shows & Events
Featured in my calendars for April and May this year, a retrospective on Russian Avant Garde Painting of the 20th century at the Centre Pompidou will run through July 16th; make sure to reserve tickets in advance as this exhibit has proven quite popular. Fashion history fan? Through July 15th at the Palais Galliera, you can revel in a retrospective that celebrates the life and work of the designer Martin Margiela. And through July 30th at the Grand Palais, take in a show on the work of abstract painter Frantisek Kupka.
Ready to Book Your Trip?
That’s great news. If you do take the plunge, don’t forget travel insurance. It will offer the peace of mind of knowing that in case of an accident or illness, you’ll be covered while roaming abroad. Travel Nomads is one respected and trusted provider of travel insurance: you can compare and buy policies direct here.
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