Paris may be flooded with sun-seeking locals and visitors in the summertime, but fall is equally beautiful and offers a host of events, festivals, and exhibits to explore. October, for example, is packed with Parisian art fairs, harvest celebrations, and open-air concerts.
Many events have been canceled or altered in 2020, so check the websites of organizers for updated information.
Nuit Blanche (White Night)
Nuit Blanche is a Paris tradition nearly two decades running. It means "white night" or "all-nighter" in English and is celebrated with a full night of art installations throughout the city. It typically attracts a million people and includes special exhibits at the major museums. Although the 2020 edition of Nuit Blanche is slated to take place as planned—on the night of October 3—it will be more orderly than past years. No more than 1,000 people will be able to gather in the same place, restaurants and bars will close at 10 p.m., public transportation will stop running at 2 p.m., and museums will require reservations to enter.
The beloved fountain shows and musical gardens at the Chateau de Versailles—perhaps the world's most famous—take place on weekends for about five months during summer and fall. The display combines light and water with classical music for an inspirational and artistic show for which visitors travel from all over France and beyond. In 2020, the Musical Waters will occupy weekends from June 6 to November 1. Face coverings and advanced tickets are recommended.
Since 1972, the Festival d'Automne à Paris (aka the Autumn Festival) has rung in the post-summer season with some of the most compelling works in contemporary visual art, music, cinema, and theater. Although it kicks off in early September, the festival takes place through the new year, boasting ample opportunities to catch a show through fall and beyond. 2020's event will feature more than 150 different artists (all described in detail in a 95-page program) from September 5 to February 7, 2021.
One of the most important annual events for Paris' contemporary art scene is the International Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC), showcasing work from 80 international and smaller galleries and some 3,000 artists at three locations on the city's right bank. Part fair, part trade show, the FIAC features both established artists and emerging talents. In 2020, the event has been postponed to January 29 to 31, 2021, and will take place Paris Expo Porte de Versailles.
Every year, the Porte de Versailles convention center at Paris's southern edge hosts a show entirely dedicated to chocolate—a French culinary specialty—offering visitors the chance to sample everything from dark chocolate chunks to savory chocolate-based concoctions (think: foie gras and olive oil). Meanwhile, a runway fashion show showcases zany chocolate couture creations. The 2020 event has been postponed to October 28 to November 1, 2021.
Vendanges de Montmartre (Montmartre Wine Harvest)
Witnessing the Vendanges de Montmartre—a genuine harvest in the heart of wine country—is a fantastic way to experience the best of Paris in autumn. The village-like (and tourist-popular) Montmartre neighborhood has its very own vines and each year, the harvesting of them is celebrated with much fanfare, bringing together musicians, performing artists, and wine connoisseurs for a joyous three-day fall festival. In 2020, the Vendanges has been canceled.