• Summer in the City: Paris Plage, Bruxelles-les-Bains and the Madrid Río

    by  • June 30, 2014 • Brussels, City Breaks, Madrid, Paris

    As summer gets into full swing across Europe, so the cities take on a seaside style as they embrace the seasonal sunshine and great outdoors with their very own beaches.


    In Paris, a summer walk along the Seine is an altogether different experience as between the 19th of July and the 17th of August, Paris Plage takes over the city centre. Amidst the architectural grandeur and charismatic charm of Paris’ grand boulevards and beautiful bridges, you’ll find deckchairs, ice cream vendors and sandcastles in abundance as Paris goes for a sandy, sunny vibe and brings the coast to its own back yard. There’s activities and events for both the young and young at heart to enjoy, be it a games of boules or badminton at the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville and, since 2007, the Bassin de la Villette in the 19th arrondissement offers a superb water-based menu of fun, from rowing boats, kayaks, pedalos and dinghies to shooting fountains guaranteed to delight – and drench – the little ones in your life. Linking the Canal de l’Ourcq to the Canal Saint Martin (a lesser-known yet beautiful area in which to relax in the summer sun) and measuring 800 metres long and 70 metres wide this is the largest artificial stretch of water in the French capital and beyond its watery exploits, also offers a superb cultural programme of concerts and theatrical productions.

    Following its French counterpart meanwhile, Belgium’s capital lays on its very own ‘Brussels by the Beach’, transforming the cobbles of Place Sainctelette into a sandy shrine to the sun complete with sun worshippers, palm trees and straw huts. Running from the 4th of July until the 10th of August, Bruxelles-les-Bains caters for both the young and young at heart with daytime child-friendly events such as kids’ concerts, sand sculpting and story time complementing the more adult-oriented bars and parties opening up as evening falls. There’s also a wealth of sporting opportunities including beach volleyball, beach football, table tennis and boules, in addition to kayaking or pedalos. Or if you’re more of a big-screen or opera buff, take advantage of the programme of outdoor operatic and cinematic screenings including Cosi Fan Tutte, Roman Holiday, Gladiator, The Talented Mr Ripley and Cinema Paradiso.

    Madrid Rio

    Over in Spain, there’s certainly no shortage of beaches but given Madrid’s position slap-bang in the epicentre of the country, you might be surprised to learn that the city plays host to its own stretch of beach as part of the Madrid Río, a 10km-long park running along the Manzanares River. As well as its urban beach, situated close to the Arganzuela Park, you’ll also find here sporting and cultural facilities, cafes and restaurants, play areas (17 in total), water jets, zip wires, cycle paths and rowing lanes. And amidst the vast areas of tranquil, verdant spaces, there’s not only a number of lesser-known, historic sights to be seen, such as the Puente de Segovia and Puente de Toledo bridges and the Virgen del Puerto Chapel, there’s also some great vantage points over the city itself, offering the opportunity to appreciate Madrid from a new angle.


    With a French grandmother, childhood holidays on the continent and a degree in French and Spanish, a love of languages and travel has always been in my blood. Fresh from university with an unfettered enthusiasm to show off my linguistic ability and first-hand knowledge of the world beyond the UK, I entered the travel industry and, 16 years on, I’m still there! With several years spent in the luxury sector planning escorted holidays across Europe for the American market, followed by an even longer tenure designing short breaks with a difference in the must-see cities of Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Amsterdam, Madrid, Prague, Florence, Brussels, Venice, Salzburg, Milan, Krakow and Berlin (to name but a few), it’s fair to say that Europe is my passion! Today my travels have taken me far beyond the boundaries of Europe with so many destinations still to discover, yet the continent abounds in such a wealth of treasures – historical and architectural, cultural and musical, gastronomic, artistic and linguistic – that its appeal, for me, will be eternal.