Paris in summer: 6 questions to ask yourself before visiting this year

Paris tourism is back. You can see it in return of long, snaking lines outside the Louvre, the crowds of tourists snapping selfies with the Eiffel Tower, and the packed terraces of outdoor cafés.

The numbers also tell the same story. According to the Paris tourism office, international airline arrivals for the month of July are expected to fall just 10% shy of pre-pandemic levels in 2019, while hotel occupancy is projected at 70% for the week of Bastille Day, July 14.

In short, if Paris is on your travel itinerary this summer, brace yourself for the crowds and book ahead, advises Kate Schwab, media relations manager at France’s national tourism development agency Atout France in the US.

“If you’re traveling this summer and this fall, book everything in advance, your hotels, restaurants, and museums ahead of time, because things are getting busy,” she said.

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While the pandemic situation is always subject to evolving, unlike last year, visits to museums and restaurants no longer require proof of vaccination, a negative COVID test, or proof of recovery in the form of a health pass. French authorities have likewise ruled out its return when the state of emergency ends across France on July 31. 

With all of that in mind, here are a few questions to ask yourself if you’re planning a trip to Paris in 2022:

1. Have you checked ahead for airport strikes, flight cancellations, and public transit works?

On top of general travel chaos at airports across Europe due to staffing shortages and a huge spike in post-lockdown travel, labor disputes had forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and Paris-Orly in June. Fortunately, no further airport strikes are expected this summer following a round of successful labor negotiations. Follow the Paris airport authority’s Twitter account and website for the latest updates on strikes, flight cancellations, and disruptions.

If you’re planning on using public transit to and from the airport, keep in mind that the regional train line RER B, which services both main airports, is under construction and will experience scheduled disruptions until 2025. If you’re flying internationally, arriving three hours before your flight is recommended. The recommendation is two hours before departure if your flight is domestic or within Europe.

Many businesses close in July and August when locals take holidays © Getty Images

2. Have you planned for business closures in July and August?

If there’s a Paris restaurant on your must-eat list this summer, book as far in advance as possible. Because more often than not, reservations at the most popular restaurants across the city are out for a few weeks, if not a few months. Also, take note that France is divided between two camps: Juillettistes, or those who take the bulk of their holidays in July, versus Aoûtiens, those who leave in August. If you leave it to chance, you risk being disappointed if your restaurant is closed for the entire month of July or August. 

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3. How do you plan to get around?

Last fall, the city began phasing out packs of 10 paper tickets in favor of rechargeable passes. For visitors, your best bet is the Navigo Easy Pass which you can buy at all station counters for €2. The cards can be loaded and reloaded on the Bonjour RATP app or at station kiosks. Single trips are €1.90, but if you buy a pack of 10 for €14.90, you save €4. 

Over the last few years, Paris has made good on an ambitious plan to become one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world with the aggressive expansion of cycling lanes. The city’s official bike-sharing system, the Vélib, has 20,000 mechanical and electric bikes but is not without its drawbacks. Foreign credit card holders are subject to a €300 deposit per bike, and some Canadian and American cardholders report that their cards are repeatedly declined. Alternatives include Lime for electric bicycles (rates start at €1, then €0.25 per minute); Paulette (day rates for touring bikes around €22); and Fat Tire Bike Tours, where bike rentals start at €4 per hour. Bikers also share cycling lanes with electric scooters, which can be rented from Lime, Dott, and Tier.

When visiting any big city, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your belongings © Getty Images

4. Do you know measures to safeguard against being pickpocketed?

Overall, Paris is a safe city, and you shouldn’t have any problems when visiting. But along with the return of tourists, police warn that pickpockets have also made a significant comeback in post-lockdown Paris this year. Hence, it’s a good idea to take practical precautions when out and about. Visitors should be especially vigilant in the neighborhoods designated by local police as the most popular areas for both tourists and pickpockets: the Champs-Ėlysées; the Eiffel Tower; Trocadéro; Montmartre; Opéra/Boulevard Haussman; the Louvre; the Latin Quarter; and the banks of the Seine, a new addition to the list this year.

To minimize the chances of being targeted, police advise visitors never to leave their smartphones out in the open (on a terrace table, for instance), to opt for cross-body over-shoulder bags, and to avoid leaving wallets and phones in back pockets. If traveling by bus, head straight to the luggage compartment and retrieve your bags no matter how excited and tempted you may be to take your first photo of the Eiffel Tower. 

Paris airports have introduced flat-rate systems for official taxis so that passengers can calculate how much they owe before leaving the airport to avoid overcharging. Know that the fixed rates as of February 2022 are applicable to taxi rides to and from the airports:

€53 between Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport and anywhere on the Right Bank
€58 between Paris-Charles de Gaulle and anywhere on the Left Bank
€37 between Paris-Orly and the Right Bank
€32 between Paris-Orly and the Left Bank

5. Does your itinerary include the latest museum reopenings?

During the pandemic, a handful of museums and landmarks underwent major renovations and (re)opened in time to welcome the first post-lockdown visitors last year. Some of the most noteworthy reopenings include the Musée Carnavalet, where visitors learn about the history of Paris; La Maison de Victor Hugo, where Hugo wrote large parts of Les Misérables; and Hôtel de la Marine, which houses the furnishings of the royal court. The most anticipated opening in the French art world last year was the Bourse de Commerce, a contemporary art museum housed in a former grain exchange and storage building.

In time for peak tourist season this year,  Musée de Cluny, the national museum of the middle ages, reopened this spring after 11 years of renovations. While reconstruction efforts continue at Notre Dame Cathedral following the devastating fire of 2019, tourists can visit via an immersive, 45-minute VR experience called Eternal Notre-Dame which launched this year.

Though online bookings are no longer mandatory as they were at most of the big museums last year, they’re highly recommended. Also, remember that major museums require you to book a specific time slot for your visit.

Paris Plages, a city beach on the Seine riverbank © Pawel Libera/Getty Images

6. Have you added seasonal outdoor, day trips events to your itinerary?

Parisian summers herald the return of outdoor cultural events and festivals that bring music and art to its stunning cityscape. This year marks the anticipated return of the Rock en Seine festival after a two-year, pandemic-forced hiatus (August 25-30), with acts like Rage Against the Machine and Arctic Monkeys. Paris Plages, or Paris Beaches, turns the banks of the Seine and the Canal de l’Ourcq into urban beach fronts, complete with parasols, deckchairs, palm trees, and water sports (July 9-August 21). 

Kate Schwab from Atout France also recommends venturing beyond Paris to explore sites like Auvers-sur-Oise, where Van Gogh spent the last few months of his life; Reims, the capital of the Champagne region; or Châteaux Vaux-Le-Vicomte, which puts on candle-lit garden visits throughout the summer (May 1 to October 1).

“There’s so much in the greater Paris region and beyond that is easily accessible within an hour or two by train,” she said.

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