5 Great Things to Do in Paris on a Rainy Day

Gustave Caillebotte, 'Paris Street; Rainy Day', 1877.

Heritage Images Hulton Fine Art Collection 

If you've done your homework on weather patterns in Paris prior to your trip, you won't be surprised when, and if, you get some rain during your stay. It's a fairly wet city, especially in the autumn and spring, but also during the midsummer season, when muggy storms often hit, disrupting Parisian picnic-goers and (literally) dampening the many outdoor music festivals. 

Luckily, there are plenty of interesting, inspiring, and poetic things to do in the city on a rainy (or otherwise inclement) day. Even if the weather foils your plans, the trick is to have some backup plans handily waiting up your sleeve to pull out, saving the day. Besides, Paris sous la pluie (under the rain) can be subtly beautiful-- just ask Gustave Caillebotte, one of my favorite French impressionists and the artist behind the 1877 painting shown above. So go make the most of it by clicking through to some great rainy-day ideas. 

01 of 05

Rainy-Day Idea #1: Get Lost in Paris' Breathtaking Museums

Entrance to Centre Pompidou

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre 

Don't let a few drops get you down: there are so many fantastic permanent collections awaiting you in Paris' dozens of museums, and many of these are free. Some of my favorite places to duck into on a rainy day include the permanent exhibit at the National Medieval Museum (Musée Cluny), where the sublime series of tapestries known as The Lady and the Unicorn (pictured here) never cease to intrigue and soothe me.

I also never tire of visiting the Centre Georges Pompidou and its remarkable permanent collection of twentieth-century art at the onsite National Museum of Modern Art. The works are regularly and freshly circulated, so it's rare for the experience to feel repetitive. The Pompidou's mezzanine cafe, Flammarion Arts bookshop, Printemps design store, library, and cinemas can easily take up a whole day-- and you can watch the rain pelt the sloping plaza outside. 

Other favorites include the permanent collection on the history of Paris at the Musee Carnavalet, and the Orangerie, where Monet's Nympheas series offers a perfect place to peacefully contemplate and take in the moving play of colors and light in his masterpiece.

In addition to the permanent stuff, the city hosts first-rate temporary exhibits year-round, so ​check out our monthly calendars for updated information on finding out what's on while you're in town. 

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02 of 05

Rainy-Day Idea # 2: Traipse Through Underground Paris

Skulls and bones in the catacombs of Paris, Les Catacombes de Paris, Paris, France, Europe
Roetting / Pollex / LOOK-foto / Getty Images

Some among you (especially the claustrophobic) won't necessarily be thrilled with this next suggestion, but Paris boasts several fascinating underground spaces that can offer good refuge from the wet conditions, and make you forget where you are altogether. I personally enjoy getting a little disoriented when I'm traveling; it makes it all the more fun and distanced from my everyday routine.

Descend hundreds of stairs into the Paris Catacombs, which includes a two-mile circuit open to the public, and the creepy remains of millions of Parisians exhumed here in the eighteenth century; or visit the Musee des Egouts (Sewer Museum). Not to worry: it's not nearly as smelly or unpleasant as you might imagine!

Here are some of the places I recommend you explore-- and no, I'm not including the Paris metro among these, even though it's easy enough to get lost in there, too!

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03 of 05

Rainy-Day Idea # 3: Cozy Up and Contemplate in a Good Cafe

Cafe scene with couple in rain, Paris
Stuart Dee / Getty Images

It may seem stereotypically Parisian, but so be it: it's practically an unspoken tradition to cozy up in a cafe or brasserie and watch the rainy world go by. Whether you want to get lost in that good book you've been meaning to read, attempt to pen some poetry or start your novel (come on-- when else will you finally do that?), or chat away with a friend or sweetheart, little beats sitting at a corner table with a steaming cafe creme (or even a glass of wine or beer) and listening as the rain hits the pavement outside. Some people even like to sit under one of those prototypical protected cafe terraces so that they're virtually outside, feeling the chilly air and watching sheets of water come down. Tellement romantique...

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04 of 05

Rainy-Day Idea #4: Duck Into an Old Cinema for the Afternoon...

Exterior of Reflet Medicis

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

When it's wet, windy, and forbidding out, one thing I can't recommend enough is to get familiar with some of the city's fantastic old cinemas and historic ​movie houses. As I detail in my guide to Paris' best cinemas and movie theaters, the city counts an astounding 100+ theaters, many of these charming old "salles" that cinephiles will adore; and runs hundreds of films on any given week. So buy a ticket and lose yourself in one of these treasured old establishments...it may even offer a great opportunity to challenge your French comprehension skills (though you can find plenty of films with English subtitles, too). 

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05 of 05

Rainy-Day Idea #5: Explore the City's Charming Shops, "Arcades"...

France, Paris, Vivienne galerie
Tuul & Bruno Morandi / Getty Images

Last, but certainly not least: if it's wet and unwelcoming outside, it's the perfect opportunity to go amble around in some of Paris' charming shops, stores, and "arcades"-- gorgeous covered galleries made with glass, marble, and other materials that were built from the early nineteenth century, and were in part designed to get residents out of the dirty, muddy, sewage-filled streets.

I especially like to duck into the Galerie Vivienne near the Palais Royal. In addition, the semi-covered galleries around the Palais, lined with shops, afford great opportunities for window-shopping (in French, "leche-vitrines", or literally, "licking the glass".) Check online for information about ​the Grand Boulevards neighborhood for more information on these remarkable old "arcades": the guide also includes details on Paris' Belle-Epoque department stores district on Boulevard Haussmann.

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