When a heatwave strikes Paris, we tend to want to avoid the sweaty metro, the sidewalk traffic, and the city’s air-conditioning problem– the problem being, that there is none. Come summertime, Parisians attempt to make their escape to the countryside or to the beach as often as possible at weekends until they quit the city entirely for their god-given month-long holiday in August, rendering Paris a deserted ghost town. But what of those who don’t have access to riviera retreats and countryside hideaways on the regular? Sparing a thought for anyone stuck in the city during an unexpected heatwave, we’ve come up with a few ideas to fake a summer holiday around Paris. So meet us on the river Seine, conveniently dotted with natural islands that make an ideal impromptu escape for sunbathing, picnicking, and fresh air by the water’s edge.
1. Île Saint Germain:
Let’s skip Paris’ most famous islands in the city centre (you won’t find much country greenery there) and wander out yonder to the lesser known islands in the region of Paris where summer nonchalance is in full speed and tourists are nowhere near. A half hour bike ride up from the Eiffel Tower is Île Saint Germaine with its charming fishing village vibes, superb sprawling park, wild flower gardens and a horse pavilion to boot.
Technically made up of two islands bridged together (l’île de Billancourt and l’île Longueignon), the island of Saint Germain is essentially divided into two parts, one part residential, the other part an 18-hectare park to withdraw from the sounds of Paris under willow trees.
This island has had several lives however, spending many unfortunate years forgotten as an abandoned military camp, before it was transformed from wasteland to an urban island oasis in the early 1980s. More info.
2. Île de la Jatte
The island immortalised a painting, you’ve probably visited Ile de la Jatte many times before through the eyes of one of the most notable impressionist painters in history. Once the private getaway of the Duke of Orléans and his family, in the early 1800s, the island belonged to the surrounding park of the nobleman’s extravagant estate, the Château de Neuilly, and was accessible only by boat. Later on, Napeleon III and Baron Haussmann modified the island for the public, attracting many artists who began painting there, particularly impressionist artists such as Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh and Albert Sisley. One of the best known post-impressionist paintings by Georges Seurat “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” commemorates this island in the history of art forever.
With its manicured lawns, remaining bourgeois villas still left to manicured lawns and a “Temple of Love” moved from Parc Monceau by the Duke in the 19th century, this island always appealed to the higher tiers of society. We recommend booking a table by the water at the Duke’s old hunting lodge which is now a lovely lunch spot called Les Pieds dans l’Eau (feet in the water). Bring a glamorous hat, maybe even an umbrella (or just your swimsuit) and go back in time…
3. Châlet des Îles
Taking the most adorable private ferry to the Chalet des Isles is already half the fun. Knowing that you’re headed for lunch at an authentic Swiss chalet that was shipped to France by Napoleon III as a gift to his wife Empress Eugenie in the 19th century– puts the cherry on the cake. When she fell in love with the cottage in Switzerland, her totally reasonably husband had it dismantled and rebuilt on this little island in the middle of a lake in the Bois de Boulogne park. It later became a favourite literary café, frequented by the likes of Proust and Zola.
Come for lunch and you’ll stay until sundown under the string lights with endless bubbly and a festive summer vibe. More info.
4. Ile aux Cygnes
We often forget about the lonely uninhabited strip of land with front row views of the La Tour Eiffel called Ile Aux Cygnes (Island of Swans). Perfect for an afternoon read on one of its benches and sometimes you might catch an al fresco tango in the evening. It’s also most notable for its quarter scale replica of the Statue of Liberty, given to the city of Paris by the Parisian community in America to mark the centennial of the French Revolution. More info.
5. Floating Gardens
While there are only three natural islands along the Seine officially within Paris, there are 6 more artificial ones positioned near the Eiffel Tower. They are each connected in a rectangular tetris and designed according to particular gardening themes.
Officially known as the very long-winded “Jardins de l’Archipel des Berges de Seine – Niki-de-Saint-Phalle”, these floating islands are a convenient and central summer fix. They have deck chairs, a greenhouse and you can even lay on a bed of ropes, because what else do you really want to do in Paris? More info.
PS. If you’re looking for a particularly romantic island getaway…
And for more summer in the city tips, stay in the loop with Messy Nessy’s Paris on instagram.