This Summer in Paris: More ‘Open’ Signs, Thanks to the Olympics -

This Summer in Paris: More ‘Open’ Signs, Thanks to The Olympics

News Jun 5, 2024

Anyone who has visited Paris in late July and August is familiar with the term “fermé.” It appears on the shuttered windows of chic boutiques and cozy bistros whose owners, along with other locals, have left the city for their annual vacations. This summer, with Paris expecting nearly 15 million visitors between July 26 and Sept. 8 for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, that custom is uncertain. Many shopkeepers, bakers, restaurateurs, and tour guides — motivated by patriotism and profit — plan to stay open.

It’s a choice filled with unpredictability. The 2012 London Olympics cast a long shadow over Paris. Before those Games, warnings of overcrowded roads, congested transit, and security concerns emptied much of the popular city center and the West End, leading to a tourism slump in those areas. Small-business owners in Paris hope history does not repeat itself.

The French capital is in a better position than the British capital was, insisted Pierre Rabadan, Paris’s deputy mayor for sports. Most of the events in London were held in one section of the city, he said, while in Paris, they’re happening all over. “So when businesses ask if they should stay open,” he explained, “we tell them we’re trying to create the conditions for this to be a real opportunity and for the city to function normally.”

How to Plan for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris
Source: Outside Online

With restricted streets, closed Metro stations, and likely jammed public transportation, “normally” might be a stretch. But if you’re traveling to Paris for the Olympics or Paralympics, you will likely find more dining and shopping options than usual for that time of year. Here’s what to expect.

Preparations and a few disruptions

“If you want to have your ‘Emily in Paris’ trip this summer, you absolutely can,” said Olivia Grégoire, France’s minister in charge of tourism. Most popular attractions will remain open as usual, but a few closures could complicate plans.

The Place de la Concorde is set to be blocked off, even to pedestrians and cyclists, as of June 1, and three nearby Metro stations will close until Sept. 21. The Eiffel Tower will remain open except for the eve and day of the opening ceremony, on July 26. The region’s airspace will also be closed for six hours before and during that event. And because the opening ceremony is set to take place on the Seine, river cruises, among the city’s most popular sightseeing experiences, will stop seven days before the ceremony and resume on July 27 at noon.

Place de la Concorde, Paris
Source: Vlator

Owners of businesses that focus on tours and cultural experiences are banking on early-summer visitors to soften the blow from a potential drop-off during the Games, after the Paris Tourist Office reported that participation in cultural activities was down 15 percent during the London Olympics.

Fat Tire Tours, a leading bike tour company, will run special Olympics-themed tours in early summer, then pivot to bike rentals during the Games to compensate for an expected drop in tour bookings. Jane Bertch, a co-owner of La Cuisine Paris cooking school, which offers English-language classes near City Hall, said she had noticed a sharp drop in bookings for late summer, but will “run as many classes as possible.”

Rising to the challenge

The Olympic crowds will bring appetites for Paris’s renowned cuisine, but for months, restaurateurs worried that restrictions on motorized vehicles in security zones around the city’s 25 competition venues could curtail deliveries. City officials have calmed some of those nerves.

“We don’t want restaurants to close during this monumental event because they’re worried about deliveries,” said Grégoire Ambroselli, a co-founder of the food logistics start-up Choco, during an Olympics-related conference in March. Now, armed with more clarity on how to adapt to delivery challenges, most restaurants and bakeries report they will stay open during the Games, with one big caveat: Many plan to take a break between the closing ceremony, on Aug. 11, and the start of the Paralympics, on Aug. 28.

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Maslow, a centrally located vegetarian restaurant facing the Seine, wouldn’t dream of closing, given its proximity to the Olympic action. But that decision comes with some unease. “We’re staying positive because the energy will be incredible, but we’re a bit worried about how hard it will be for our staff to get to work,” said the executive chef, Mehdi Favri, who is also a co-owner.

Commuting has ranked high among businesses’ concerns. However, locals have faced similar hurdles getting to work before. In 2019, trains across France and public transport in Paris were severely disrupted for nearly two months during a nationwide pension reform strike, forcing workers to walk or cycle long distances. André Terrail, the owner of the Michelin-starred restaurant La Tour d’Argent, which overlooks the Seine, doesn’t think the Olympic commutes will be quite that complex but admits such challenges, in general, are the price of doing business in Paris. “It’s going to be complicated. We’re all going to be running around. But it’s also going to be amazing,” he said. “If other host cities have found solutions, so will we.”

Etheliya Hananova, a co-owner and sommelier at the contemporary French restaurant Comice, is perhaps the most enthusiastic about the summer ahead — enough to remain open seven days a week for three weeks through Aug. 10. “It’s one of the biggest events in the history of Paris. We’re here to be part of the welcoming committee,” she said.

The scaling-back of the opening ceremony on the Seine has given the antique booksellers, or “bouquinistes,” that line its banks a reprieve, and many plan to stay open. Shoppers will also be able to browse in department stores such as Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, and Le Bon Marché. For those seeking something unconventional, the St.-Ouen flea market will sprawl out as usual, offering antiques, vintage clothing, and more.

Outside the tourist areas, popular restaurants and bars like Holybelly, Folderol, Kubri, Abricot, Le Mary Celeste, and Fulgurances aim to draw visitors seeking a break from the crowds. “We’ve decided to open more — six days a week,” said Rebecca Asthalter, a co-owner of Fulgurances. Likewise, independent boutiques such as Landline, which sells home goods in a residential neighborhood east of the Bastille, are hoping travelers branch out to calmer parts of the city.

Le Mary Celeste
Source: Weekends

Back in the thick of the action, Marin Montagut, an artist and illustrator who sells hand-painted table accessories, stationery, silk scarves, and candles from a boutique near the Luxembourg Gardens, is planning a Paris-inspired display of his wares. “I’m looking at this like it’s the World’s Fair. I want to honor the city and be open to all,” he said. “If I’m not optimistic during this period, when will I be?”


Oliver Hughes

Oliver has over 15 years of experience in travel journalism. He focuses on European travel, providing expert reviews of vacation rentals and cultural experiences across Europe.