Years ago, I moved to Paris in July. Perhaps not the smartest timing because I am not a hot-weather girl and that particular month was one of the hottest on record.

On several days the temperature was even over 100 degrees. The sky was a hard, unforgiving blue. Like this:

I was appalled. It felt so wrong! In my imagination, Paris skies were eternally a soft comforting gray, the weather always cool enough to wear a light jacket with a silk scarf stylishly tossed around my shoulders. Little did I know that hot summer weather is fairly common in France.

(Yet I should have known, shouldn’t I? Doesn’t the song go “I love Paris in the summer, when it sizzles….”?)

That experience, and a few other subsequent too-hot summers in Paris, led me to develop a personal list of Things To Do in Paris When It’s Too Hot:

  • Buy a sorbet (pear was my favorite) and find a shady place in the Jardin de Luxembourg. Eat it as slowly as possible.
  • Locate a quiet pew in any church or cathedral and contemplate the fate of humanity. Churches aren’t air-conditioned, but all that stone usually translate to a fairly cool interior.
  • Shopping! For reliable air-conditioning, you need to choose one of the big department stores: The Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, the Bon Marche, or–my favorite–BHV. Obviously, you don’t need to buy anything.
  • Go to a movie in English. (Plenty of movies in France are shown in their original language–these are marked “V.O.”)
  • Stay at home, fill the bathtub with cold water, and sit in it until you feel chilled. Get out, dry yourself, read a book until you grow hot again, then return to the tub. Repeat as often as necessary. This is how I survived that long-ago July.


Yes, I know. These options–though they have the advantage of being inexpensive–are perhaps not that great if you’re there for just a few days and you want to see a few things. You can of course also visit museums or (if you feel spendy) hole up in the lobby of a fancy air-conditioned hotel and sip icy drinks. You can, and should, take frequent breaks from your tourist activities to enjoy cool drinks in sidewalk cafes, choosing ones on the shady side of the street (surprisingly difficult, as Paris cafes are very frequently located on sunny corners). Finally, you can do “Paris by Night.” Every night.

And, next time, consider November!