It hasn’t been a great year (relatively speaking) for bank holidays in France, what with Labor Day (May 1st), Victory in Europe Day (May 8th), and Christmas (you probably know this one) all falling on a Sunday. Mercifully, Assumption Day, the one set aside by this secular nation to celebrate Mary, Mother of Jesus, ascending into heaven, gives all those unlucky Parisians who haven’t got the whole month off from work a free Monday on August 15th to do what they please. Read on for our guide on how to get the most out of the city when the time comes.
It’s only right that we thank the Virgin Mary for affording us this day off work by putting her celebrations, centered at Notre Dame de Paris, at the top of our list. As well as numerous masses and prayer services, there will be two parades in her honor. The first, a river procession around the Islands of Paris, starts at 8:30pm on Sunday evening and the second, which is undertaken on foot around the Île de la Cité, begins at 3:45pm on Monday. Both are likely to attract large crowds and are certainly a worthwhile cultural spectacle.
If you have been too busy actually living in Paris to see any of its major attractions, Assumption Day could be the perfect opportunity for you to get your tourist on. The majority of the city’s monuments are staying open including the Panthéon (10:00am-6:30pm), the Eiffel Tower (9:30am-11:00pm), the Arc de Triomphe (10:00am-11:00pm), the Conciergerie (9:30am-6:00pm), Sainte-Chapelle (9:30am-6:00pm), Tour Montparnasse (9:30am-11:30pm), the Paris Zoo (9:30am-7:30pm), and the Paris Aquarium (10:00am-7:00pm).
On equally good form is Paris’s principal museums, with only a handful closing for the day (including the Petit Palais, the Musée d’Art Moderne, the Musée Carnavalet, the Institut du Monde Arabe, and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie). Those remaining open include the Musée du Louvre (9:00am-6:00pm), the Centre Pompidou (11:00am-9:00pm), the Musée du Quai Branly (11:00am-7:00pm), the Fondation Louis Vuitton (10:00am-8:00pm), the Musée de l’Homme (10:00am-6 :00pm), and the Musée de l’Orangerie (9:00am-6:00pm).
So what if you can’t make it to the coast, there’s a beach right here in Paris. Two, in fact. The first stretches three kilometers along the Seine from the Louvre to the Pont de Sully and provides activities such as rollerblading, tai-chi, wall climbing, and boules. The second is located in the 19th Arrondissement at the Bassin de la Villette where you can rent rowing boats, kayaks, pedal boats, and dinghies. Both beaches are open non-stop from 10:00am to 10:00pm from Sunday to Thursday and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
If you prefer the water to the sand and feel like getting some exercise done on your day off, there are a small number of public pools across the city remaining open over the holiday weekend. The following pools will be open on Sunday and Monday: Suzanne Berlioux in the 1st (9:00am-7:00pm), Pontoise in the 5th (8:00am-7:00pm), Roger Le Gall in the 12th (8:00am-7:00pm), Joséphine Baker in the 13th (9:00am-8:00pm), Keller in the 15th (9:00am-7:00pm), Champerret in the 17th (8:30am-7:00pm), Georges Hermant in the 19th (8:30am-7:00pm), Edouard Pailleron in the 19th (9:00am-6:00pm), and Georges Vallerey in the 20th (9:00am-6:00pm).
The Fête des Tuileries, which bills itself as the most elegant funfair in France, has been going for over 30 years and thrills huge crowds with its massive rides in the center of Paris every summer. Over Assumption Day weekend it will also host two days of free concerts. On Sunday, it’s classical music with a performance by Dimitri Naïditch at 8:00pm. And on Monday from 2:00pm it’s all about jazz manouche, or gypsy jazz, a style of the music created by guitarist Jean “Django” Reinhardt in the 1930s.
If you fancy the idea of a funfair and getting out (but not too far out) of the city then head to the Fête des Loges. Set amidst the woodland bordering Saint-Germain-en-Laye, there are over 200 rides and attractions to be enjoyed. On August 15th, the fair closes after welcoming more than three million visitors to what is astonishingly its 364th season.
France is becoming more and more like Britain and the US in terms of its retail hours and this Assumption Day is no different for many of the big stores. It’s practically business as usual for the big department stores and malls like Printemps (11:00am-7:00pm), Galeries Lafayette Haussmann (10:30am-8 :00pm), BHV (9:30am-8:00pm), Le Bon Marché (10:00am-8:00pm), Beaugrenelle (10:00am-8:00pm), and the Carrousel du Louvre (10:00am-8:00pm). However, the Forum des Halles, the Passage du Havre, Italie 2 and Montparnasse Rive Gauche will all be closed.
It’s no secret that Paris is a city of coffee lovers, and it seems equally accurate to say that if ever the supply of home-roasted beans was taken away, even for a day, the city would be burned to the ground. Thankfully, plenty of quality coffee joints are staying open for the bank holiday including Culture Trip favorites Honor Café, KB Café, Matamata, Ten Belles, Fondation Café, and Terres de Café.
Because cooking is much too much like working, you’re best to finish off your Assumption Day in a fine Parisian restaurant. The trouble is that many of them are closed for the month. Nevertheless, a few choice picks like the Frenchie Bar à Vin, L’Avant Comptoir De La Mer, and Le Verre Volé are remaining open. ParisByMouth also has a useful database of restaurants staying open throughout August.