Paris in the summer has a bad reputation. It is – no surprises here – a very popular time to visit for foreign tourists. Meanwhile, the Parisians themselves fly away to their second homes in Provence, the beaches of the Riviera, or their own exotic adventures abroad. The result is a strange mixture of effervescence in touristic hot spots and sleepy deserted streets in the rest of the city.
There is no denying that Paris has a very different atmosphere in the summer than any other time of year, and yet, the City of Light has plenty to offer. You may need to fight the crowds in the main sites. However, you will also experience leisurely afternoons lounging in the shaded parks in full bloom, picnics along the Seine as the long sunsets illuminate the sky, and strolling through the streets at night when Parisians all seem to be out and about, dead set on having a good time.
However, to enjoy your summer trip to Paris fully, you will need to pack according to the weather. June, July, and August are the hottest months of the year in the French capital, with temperature ranging on average between the low 60s and the high 70s. However, in recent years, France has been dealing with heat waves when temperatures reach the 90s for days on end.
It may not seem like much if you are used to the brutal heat of the Southern states, but remember that buildings in Europe are older and not necessarily built to deal with such high temperatures. Forget the air conditioning running on full blast everywhere! Some newer buildings and chain hotels have A/C, but it is still an oddity in most of the city, which relies on opening the windows at night and closing the shutters to keep inside temperatures down during the day. Besides, although rain is not as frequent from May to September as it is the rest of the year, you should still expect freak thunderstorms that can drench you within minutes and disappear as quickly as they appear.
So how to pack for summer in Paris? As in any season, you will want to bring clothes that are both comfortable and stylish enough not to stand out in the crowd of well-dressed locals. My five tips for how to pack for Paris still apply. Besides, here is what you will find in my suitcase when I travel to Paris between May and September!
Bring the right shoes!
This has continually been my mantra for my fall, winter, and spring packing lists as well, but it bears repeating! The right pair of shoes will make or break your trip to Paris. You will most likely spend hours on your feet exploring the city (or waiting in line to get into the Louvre), so make sure that you are comfortable. With that in mind, don’t reach for your favorite flip-flops or trusted running shoes just yet.
Just because it is hot doesn’t mean that Parisians do sloppy: if you can wear it at the beach (or the gym), it will look out of place in the city. Instead, find a pair of leather flat sandals that can take you from day to night. You can also bring a pair of lightweight canvas fashion sneakers (think Converse or Keds) that will be comfortable for long days of exploring. Another popular option is espadrilles, which originated in Spain and the South of France but will not look out of place in Paris. They are comfortable and versatile, making it a great traveling shoe.
No matter which type of shoes you end up bringing on your summer trip to Paris, make sure that they are waterproof enough to withstand a rain shower. You can spray them ahead of time if needed. They should also be broken in ahead of time: you don’t want to spend your entire vacation nursing a blister or two!
Don’t skip on accessories
Accessories are an easy way to spruce up your outfit – a great asset when you are dealing with a limited wardrobe while traveling. I have talked at length of my lifelong passion for scarves. Just because the temperatures warm up doesn’t mean that you should leave them at home! They are probably the most useful accessory you could bring on a trip to Paris. Is it a bit chilly one morning? Do you need to cover up your shoulders to visit one of the beautiful churches on a hot afternoon? Your scarf can save the day. Find a lightweight one, in silk, cotton, or linen, and you are all set.
Besides scarves, a hat and sunglasses and sunscreen should also be on your summer packing list for Paris. Shade can be limited, especially if you are waiting in line to enter one of the major monuments. Avoid a painful sunburn or insolation, which would put a damper on the rest of your day. Again, anything too sporty will scream tourist. Leave your favorite baseball hat at home, and instead, bring a more elegant straw hat with wide brims, like a Panama. Some of them are packable, so you can shove them in your suitcase for traveling if you don’t feel like wearing them on the plane.
Finally, it is a good idea to bring a refillable water bottle. You will find heftily priced up water bottles in most touristy places. However, Paris is also home to over 700 public water fountains (including some distributing sparkling water!) where you can refill your own.
Dress it up
Just because it’s hot doesn’t mean that Parisians are letting go of their legendary sense of style. The same rules they follow the rest of the year still apply during the summer months. Anything too short, sporty, or beachy will look out of place and will be frowned upon in the French capital. Leave technical fabrics and sportswear in loud colors at home. Instead, find outfits that are tailored, in natural fabrics like cotton or linen, and neutral tones such as beige, white, navy, or black.
Summer dresses are the outfit of choice of Parisiennes. If you want a touch of fantasy in your life with flower prints and colors, that’s the way to go. Remember that Parisians tend to dress conservatively, even in the summer. Avoid anything too short – knee-length is best, although midi and maxi dresses are also trendy these days – or low cut. I love cotton t-shirt dresses that are comfortable and travel well. You will also see a lot of skirts that follow the same rules.
Shorts are acceptable, but the ones you will find in Paris are a far cry from the cut-off jeans you may find in the United States. Instead, they are closer to the shorter version of tailored pants. You can also go with well-cut linen pants in neutral colors, which can be very chic. Pair them with a cotton blouse, a button-down shirt, or a linen t-shirt.
Be ready for all eventualities
The summer weather in Paris is as temperamental as it is for the rest of the year. Keep a close eye on the forecast before your trip, and make sure you bring clothes that will keep you comfortable no matter what comes your way. Thunderstorms are frequent and violent, especially at the end of a scorching day. Don’t get caught off guard!
Bring a packable, lightweight rain jacket and a travel umbrella you can keep in your handbag just in case. Mornings and evenings can also be chilly. Besides the scarf I mentioned above, you won’t regret traveling with a cardigan and a light jacket to use as a cover-up if needed. A well-cut denim jacket is easy to pack and versatile. Even if the weather is supposed to be hot during your stay, I would still recommend bringing along your favorite pair of jeans, just in case!
- Comfortable shoes: espadrilles, leather sandals and/or canvas sneakers
- Lightweight scarf
- Summer accessories: straw hat, sunglasses
- Summer cotton dresses (above the knee, midi or maxi)
- Tailored shorts
- Button-down shirts
- Cotton blouses
- Linen t-shirts
- Lightweight cardigans
- Denim jacket
- Packable rain jacket
- Travel umbrella
Packing for Paris by Season
What are your must-haves when traveling to Paris in the summer?
Illustration commissioned from Linden Eller.
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