I have visited Paris countless times. Each season has its charm, but in my opinion, you can’t beat visiting the City of Light in the fall. The Parisians, who deserted the city during the summer months, are back in town full of energy just in time for la rentrée. No need to wait in line for hours among the crowds – summer tourists have gone home, and the holiday travelers have yet to make their appearance. And if you needed another reason to pack your suitcase, fall is the least expensive time of the year to visit Paris. Not only are the flights cheaper, but so are the hotel rates!
But most important of all, fall in Paris is drop-dead gorgeous. You may have missed the bright flowers and green grass in the Parisian parks, but the autumn colors are breathtaking. The allées in the Palais Royal and Tuileries Garden are spectacular. Place des Vosges is a dream. With the Indian summer that takes over the city, you still have time to pack a bottle of red wine and a cozy blanket for a picnic under the golden canopy.
Drink & Be Merry!
Speaking of wine, there is no better time to appreciate it and the culture surrounding it than in the fall, a.k.a. Harvest season. You don’t need to head to Bordeaux or Bourgogne to experience the excitement of the vendanges. Montmartre, once a country village outside of Paris, has its own vineyard with a dreamy view over the Parisian roofs. Every year, the Fête des Vendanges celebrates the harvest, and you can enjoy a full (and mostly free) program mixing good food, drinks, dancing and art installations. Just outside of Paris, the Festival des Vendanges de Suresnes also celebrates the harvest with a large performing arts festival in the largest European garden-city. If you want to get out of the beaten tracks, this is the one for you.
Fall is also the season of the Beaujolais Nouveau! On the third Thursday in November, the famous “vin primeur” takes over the country. It may not be the best wine you will ever try in your life, but its arrival is celebrated in all the bars and restaurants. You must try it at least once if you are in France around that time!
If the Parisian rain and grey skies are getting to you, stop for a glass of vin chaud. This French take on mulled wine is only available during the colder months leading to the holidays. It is one of my favorite treats after a refreshing walk through the city. Sit down at a terrasse – lots of them are heated or offer blankets for extra warmth– and watch the world go by.
Delicious Seasonal Treats
As a foodie, I love that the French still eat very seasonally. Whether you eat at a restaurant or head to one of the many farmers’ market, you will see the offerings change month after month. In the fall, there is still plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, but the seasonal dishes are all about comfort food and treating yourself.
First, it’s wild mushroom season. The French are obsessed with them, and you will see countless cars parked on the side of the road near the woods while the drivers go mushroom picking – don’t try to follow them, they all have their secret spot that they guard jealously! Try truffles for a special treat. Then, there are chestnuts: they are delicious in a soup or side dish, or simply roasted on the street corner. With hunting season, game is widely available. Fall is the perfect time to drown in melted cheese with fondue or raclette – but stay clear of the debate on whether it originally hails from France or Switzerland! Finally, finish your meal with a crisp apple or a pear straight from one of Normandy’s orchards.
And what about a rich chocolat chaud? I can’t stomach it in the heat and humidity of the summer, but it is divine once the temperatures drop.
Since we are on the subject of chocolate, I must mention the Salon du Chocolat. If you time your trip just right, you can visit this chocolate lover’s paradise and one of the largest events featuring chocolate in the world. It’s the perfect occasion to see, smell, and taste every variation of this delicacy!
How To See Paris In The Fall
In the fall, the days get cooler and shorter, but it has its advantages. As a wife of a photographer, I appreciate that you can actually see a sunrise without having to get up at the crack of dawn. When I get up for sunrise shoots most of the year, I usually have to wait for hours for my first espresso and croissant as the shops don’t open until mid-morning. But in the fall, I can have my gateau and eat it too!
It might not be prime sightseeing weather every day, but it is the perfect occasion to dive into one of Paris countless museums. You might feel guilty spending your time indoors in the spring or summer, but there is no such predicament on a rainy day. Take your time to explore classic must-sees like the Louvre and Orsay, or discover new favorites depending on your interests. And why not do something entirely different, like trying a cooking class?
Fall is also the time when Paris puts on the red carpet for all kinds of festivals, from the Fashion Week in late September to contemporary art at the world-renowned FIAC or the home design paradise of the Foire d’Automne. Art lovers shouldn’t miss the Nuit Blanche, an all-night festival when artists take over the city from dusk until dawn. Stroll among the huge artworks and light installations spread throughout the city and discover Paris through new eyes.
A Word On What To Pack For The Fall
To stay cozy in Paris in the fall, it is all about layering! Fall mornings are cold, but by the early afternoon, the sun comes out and warms up the temperatures, only to cool down again in the evening. Don’t forget comfortable, waterproof shoes and coat (a classic trench will serve you well), well-cut jeans for day-to-night city exploration, and a scarf to stay warm in the early morning and the evening!