If you've checked out the weather patterns in Paris prior to your trip, you won't be surprised when 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 putting a damper on picnics and dousing fans at outdoor music festivals.
Luckily, there are plenty of interesting and inspiring things to do in the city on a rainy or chilly day. Paris sous la pluie (under the rain) can be subtly beautiful as artists like Gustave Caillebotte have discovered. You'll enjoy discovering art in one of the many Paris museums, relaxing with coffee or a glass of wine at a cafe, and even shopping in a historic Paris department store.
Join Parisians at the Centre Georges Pompidou
You'll 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 Centre Georges Pompidou has become a gathering place for Parisians of all backgrounds who spend time in the enormous central lobby, have a coffee with friends at the mezzanine-level cafe upstairs, browse for books or design items at the center's shops, and go to the cinema. The Centre can easily provide you with a whole day's entertainment—and you can look outside and watch the rain pelt the sloping plaza.
Some favorite places to duck into on a rainy day include the permanent exhibit at the National Museum of the Middle Ages (Musée Cluny), where the sublime series of tapestries known as The Lady and the Unicorn never cease to intrigue.
While there is art from that era, many enjoy other exhibits including items related to war, hunting, and tournaments. There are items from everyday life such as games and recreation and farm implements. On the events calendar, you'll find concerts and seminars.
Reflect on Monet's Art
The Musée de l'Orangerie, where Monet's Water Lilies series is on exhibit, offers a perfect place to peacefully contemplate and take in the moving play of colors and light in his masterpiece. The museum is an art gallery of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings located in the west corner of the Tuileries Gardens next to the Place de la Concorde. Within the museum are a coffee shop and bookshop.
Some among you (especially the claustrophobic) won't necessarily be thrilled with this rainy day option, but Paris boasts several fascinating underground spaces that can offer good refuge from the wet conditions, and make you forget where you are all together.
Descend hundreds of stairs into the Paris Catacombs, which includes a two-mile circuit to explore. Open to the public in 1809, the Paris Catacombs is the largest ossuary in the world. Tickets can be purchased online.
Tour the Paris Sewers
Visit the Musee des Egouts (Sewer Museum) and get an intriguing glimpse into the historic sewer system, first developed around 1370, and extended very slowly across the city in the centuries that followed. On this visit, you have the opportunity to visit the sewers walking across raised walkways and can see the sewage running below. If you're sensitive to unpleasant smells, this may not be the museum of choice for you.
Cozy Up and Contemplate in a Good Cafe
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, 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 protected cafe terraces so that they're outside, feeling the chilly air and watching sheets of water come down.
Duck Into an Old Cinema
When it's wet, windy, and forbidding out, a great thing to do is get familiar with some of the city's fantastic old cinemas and historic movie houses. Paris' best cinemas and movie theaters, over 100 of them, include charming old salles that cinephiles will adore. So buy a ticket and lose yourself in one of these treasured old establishments and it may even offer a great opportunity to challenge your French comprehension skills (though you can find plenty of films with English subtitles, too).
Shop the Quaint Arcades and Boutiques
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 and marble. Arcades were constructed beginning in the early nineteenth century and were in part designed to get residents out of the dirty, muddy, sewage-filled streets.
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.)
The Paris Wine Museum includes some old and fascinating artifacts displayed in 15th-century vaulted wine cellars. Tasting classes take place in the cellars of the Wine Museum on Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or from 3:00 p.m. to 15:00 p.m. depending on the scheduled sessions. Not far from the Eiffel Tower, the museum also has a restaurant featuring local cuisine with wine pairings.
Whether you need to purchase an umbrella or not, you'll enjoy a visit to the historic department stores of Paris. The beautiful Galeries Lafayette, a Paris heritage site, is worth visiting for the breathtaking architecture and decor alone. The store's unique Belle Epoque architecture features a dramatic colored glass dome and an ornate Art Nouveau staircase.
Au Printemps is yet another sumptuously designed mid-19th-century store. Stop for a warm drink at the rooftop bar, with its fantastic panoramic views.