Autumn is one of the most inspiring times of year to visit the French capital. There's a contagious surge of energy in the air as people roll back into town and get back to business or school. Exciting new exhibits, shows, and new movies fill the events guides. There's also that hint of the approaching winter, and walks in the crisp air, that some will find invigorating. In truth, most locals consider Paris in the fall the "real" new year: a time when the city is again abuzz following a summer lull, humming with new exhibits, projects and ideas.
On the other hand, it can be less attractive for those hoping to spend lots of time outdoors, or to experience the iconic backdrop of Paris in full bloom. If you're considering whether to book your trip during the fall, read on for advice on what to pack, annual seasonal highlights, and travel tips-- including advice on the pros and cons of visiting the city of light at this time of year.
Weather in Paris During the Autumn
During the fall, temperatures vary widely. In September, for example, the mercury can rise to a maximum average of 70 degrees, and it's been known to climb even higher in recent years, with notable heat waves hitting the city as late as the end of September and early October. In November, by contrast, the average high temperature is around 51 F, with lows inching toward the freezing point.
The city tends to be quite windy and wet during the fall months. Average rainfall is around two inches per month, with September generally the rainiest. In October and November, icy rain, sleet and even hail can turn the streets into an icy, slushy mess, and wind chill can be biting. Snow is rare in the autumn, but has been known to occur in late November and early December. However, it almost never sticks to the ground. Read our packing tips below for suggestions on how to ensure you're prepared for wet, icy conditions later in the fall.
Because Paris is situated in Northern Europe, daylight grows quite short in late October and November. It can start getting dusky as early as 5:00 pm in late November and early December, and the sun rises at around 8:00 am. Plan your day accordingly if you wish to make the most of outdoor activities or go on a day trip.
What to Pack
This will largely depend on how late in the autumn you choose to go. In late September and early October, you can expect cool mornings followed by relatively warm to hot afternoons. You should pack your suitcase with items for layering: a combination of long pants, shirts and sweaters with cooler items such as t-shirts, pants in breathable materials and dresses. Make sure to bring a good waterproof coat and shoes, as well as a sturdy, windproof umbrella.
Later in the autumn (mid-October to early December) temperatures dip and can reach freezing, so pack your suitcase with plenty of warm sweaters, pants, a scarf and gloves. A good hat can help protect against windchill, too. As always, plan for rainy days and even sleet: a warm, waterproof jacket and sturdy waterproof shoes with good grip in case of icy conditions are essential.
Fall Travel Tips
As with any season, autumn has its pros and cons. There are several reasons why this might be the ideal time to book your next trip to the capital-- and factors that may persuade you to decide against it in favor of another time of year. Here's an overview to help you make an informed choice.
Pros of Visiting in the Autumn:
- Autumn can be a less expensive time to visit, especially in late October and November. Airfares and train tickets take a dip as early as October-- it's the beginning of low season. Similarly, booking a hotel at reasonable rates is less of a challenge, since occupancy rates are much lower from around mid-October, and hotel operators are trying to lure travelers in with great deals.
- It's energetic, and authentically Parisian. While summer in Paris may appear to be hopping, most locals are away on holiday, and very few new films, major exhibits, or other exciting events (save some great summer festivals) are on. Visiting in the fall means you'll feel a part of something distinctively Parisian, rather than experiencing events mostly designed with tourists in mind.
- Enjoy gorgeous light and colors. While some days it'll admittedly be cold, wet, and blustery, on a bright and crisp fall morning or late afternoon you'll get some of the most memorable light you'll see all year. Enjoy the changing trees, the ambiance of sitting in a warm cafe people-watching and sipping a chocolat chaud, and contemplating the city in all its autumnal poetry.
Cons of Visiting in the Autumn:
- It can be dark and cold. Luckily, there are plenty of indoor activities for those days when being outdoors just seems forbidding. See our list of suggested things to do by continuing to scroll down.
- Some tourist attractions are closed. Most of the major museums, monuments and tour companies stay open year-round, but some are more seasonal. If you're interested in doing something specific, make sure to check website schedules and opening hours to avoid disappointment. Some restaurants even close in low season.
- Locals can be a bit gloomy and withdrawn. Many visitors to the city have noted that Parisians don't necessarily seem at their most cheerful in the late fall/winter, often exhibiting SAD syndrome (Seasonal Affective Disorder). This is certainly not always true, though-- do remember that generalizations are never very helpful.
Annual Fall Events and Activities in Paris
As we touched on earlier, autumn is an exciting time in the French capital. Museums and galleries inaugurate some of the most-anticipated shows of the year, and annual trade shows and fairs attract thousands of people to crowded convention centers. Here are a few highlights to prioritize during your trip.
- Taste some local wine and join in a panoply of traditional autumnal festivities in Montmartre at the annual wine harvest festival (Vendanges de Montmartre). This is a fantastic way to enjoy the fall ambience while learning about centuries-old traditions of French winemaking.
- Raise your artistic street cred by exploring some of the city's best museums and galleries. The FIAC is an annual art show that brings buyers and art admirers from all over the world to the Grand Palais every October. Also in October, Nuit Blanche (White Nights) stages free exhibits and artistic performances throughout the city for all to enjoy, all night long.
- Have a longer nightcap and explore some of the city's most alluring bars, clubs, wine bars, or cabarets. See more in our complete guide to nightlife in Paris, and find elegant or hip places for an evening out in our guide to the best cocktail bars in the capital.
- Cozy up with a good book and coffee somewhere picturesque, or dingy but adorable: explore some historic Parisian cafes and brasseries. In early fall, meanwhile, it's often still warm and sunny enough on certain days to enjoy lounging at one of these fantastic sidewalk terrace cafes in Paris.
- Fall is a time to admire the changing foliage and take a few strolls in the crisp air. We recommend you take a long walk at one of these sublime Parisian parks and gardens
- Gain some architectural and/or spiritual perspective by exploring the grandeur and mystery of some of Paris's most beautiful churches and cathedrals. We especially recommend a trip to the neglected but marvelous Cathedral Basilica of St Denis, also home to the burial place of dozens of French kings and queens.