Autumn is, hands down, my favorite time of year in Paris. Why? Well, for one, there's a contagious surge of energy on the air as people roll back into town and get back to business or school, while a host of exciting exhibits, shows, and new movies fill the events guides. There's also that hint of the approaching winter, and walks in the crisp air. It's a heady mix, and as I often note, the "real" new year when you consider the sense of renewal and enthusiasm for new ideas and projects.
When asked which season I recommend for a trip to the city, I often answer by saying "Do you want post-card perfect apple blossoms and hordes of tourists? Then go in the spring or summer." On the other hand, I say, if you want to see the city in a more subdued but still exciting guise, try booking a trip in the fall.
Why to Love It:
- It's often cheaper, especially in late October and November. Airfares and train tickets take a dip as early as October-- it's the beginning of low season (Look for a travel package). 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.
Taking the train from within continental Europe or the UK? Book high-speed rail and train passes at Rail Europe.
- 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.
A Few Cons:
- It can be dark and cold. Luckily, there are plenty of indoor activities for those days when being outdoors just seems forbidding. See the 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 gloomy. Many visitors to the city have noted that Parisians don't necessarily seem at their best in the late fall/winter, often exhibiting SAD syndrome (Seasonal Affective Disorder). This is certainly not always true, though-- and then, Parisians never were acclaimed for their wide-smiled, cheery demeanor, anyway.
What to Do?
- Stroll and admire the fall foliage in one of these sublime Parisian parks and gardens
- Taste some local wine and join in a panoply of traditional autumnal festivities Montmartre at the annual wine harvest festival (Vendanges de Montmartre)
- Raise your artistic street cred by exploring some of the city's fabulous institutions: Exploring Paris Museums and Galleries.
- Have a longer nightcap and explore some of the city's most alluring bars, clubs, wine bars, or cabarets: Complete Guide to Paris Nightlife
- 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.
- Gain some architectural and/or spiritual perspective by exploring the grandeur and mystery of some of Paris's most beautiful churches and cathedrals. I 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.
Get inspired for your fall trip to Paris by browsing our gallery showing gorgeous pictures of autumn in Paris.
Month-by-Month Autumn Guides:
- Paris in September Weather Outlook, Packing Guide, and Highlights
- September Events in Paris
- Paris in October Weather Outlook, Packing Guide, and Highlights
- October Events in Paris
- Paris in November Weather Outlook, Packing Guide, and Highlights
- November Events in Paris
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