Paris in the Fall

Paris in the fall walking along the Seine.

Have you ever thought about visiting Paris in the fall? Or do you love Paris but you’re not sure if fall is the right time to go? The French capital has a lot to offer no matter when you decide to visit.

Paris Paris…my wife loves Paris in the fall and all things French, so I’m careful not to mention France on a daily basis. During COVID we watched Escape to the Chateau and Escape to the Chateau DIY.

Warning, if you get inspired by fixer-upper shows, you could be renovating at home and abroad.

Insider Tips

Paris is beautiful any time of year and there are always things to do. The Eiffel tower will be standing there waiting for you whenever you go.  

There are endless restaurants ready to prepare all the French food you can eat and pour all the French wine you can drink. Just walking out on the street you’ll be embraced by stunning architecture winter, spring, summer, or fall.

If you choose autumn to travel, say October or November, the weather is pleasant with temperatures in the mid-50s to mid-40s. 

Paris in the fall is a bit gray and there are chances of rain, but the rain we’ve experienced at this time of year has been more of a mist, similar to the Pacific Northwest.

The days seem quite long for a changing season. But since Paris is even more beautiful at night, you’ll want to take advantage of the city after the sun sets.

Make sure your packing list includes comfortable walking shoes, pants, layers, and a water repellent jacket. Oh, and one of the best travel tips I can give is don’t forget a travel guide book or tourist map.

If you’ve been to other capital cities in Europe such as London or Stockholm, you may have noticed how small they feel. Paris on the other hand is a sprawling city with hills to walk up and down, thanks Montmartre.

Where to Stay

This may be the most important section of the blog. There are more choices of where to stay than you’ll be able to comprehend. 

If you’ve never been to Paris everything looks fine. But not so fast.  You have to be careful with your selection because there are nice areas bordered by sketchy areas. 

If you pick one of these, you might feel uncomfortable leaving your hotel or riding the subway.

We like the Latin Quarter. It’s located on the left bank of the Seine River by several universities, to include the Sorbonne.  It’s a safe, stunning area with a lively atmosphere and plenty of bistros and shops. 

You really do feel like you’re in old Paris the moment you step out of your hotel.

Things to Do

There are a ton of things to do in Paris in the fall, day or night.

An ornate opera house and churches, museums, gardens, palaces, monuments, restaurants, entertainment venues, or simply just looking at the breathtaking architecture as you walk around ancient streets. 

I won’t attempt to cover everything or overwhelm you with details, but here are a few of my favorites.

Eiffel Tower and Seine River

Warning, there are almost always crowds at the Eiffel Tower. Less in the fall, but it’s still a popular place. 

I prefer to visit the Eiffel Tower at night. 

If you’ve never been to Paris, the Eiffel Tower is lined with lights that can be seen from quite a distance.

Skip the lines and just enjoy the view from the ground. The Eiffel Tower is a must see if you visit Paris, but I actually prefer to stroll along the Seine River at night instead of dealing with tourists. 

The Eiffel Tower sits along the Seine River, so you’re already there. The walkways, ornate bridges, and illuminated Paris skyline are magical at night

It feels like you really are walking in a postcard or movie, it’s just that picture-perfect.

Paris in the Fall: Eiffel Tower. Photo Credit: Heselholt Group, LLC.

Louvre Museum

If you arrive at the Louvre and there isn’t a line, take a second to thank me for recommending you visit Paris in the fall. Summer crowds can be daunting. 

But we’ve had great luck, or planning actually, walking right past the empty crowd control measures, buying tickets, and enjoying the museum in autumn.

The Louvre has numerous world famous artworks, but queen among them for the average person is probably the Mona Lisa. 

Be prepared to be underwhelmed.  Sorry, there’s a good chance you’ll agree with me.

The Mona Lisa is a small, little painting surrounded by other magnificent pieces of art. Yep, I just double checked, it’s only 30×21 inches. 

My wife wasn’t happy this is my main takeaway from seeing the Mona Lisa, but it is.

There are numerous travel blogs dedicated to listing the top Louvre attractions, but I recommend just jumping in and taking a look for yourself. 

If you’re looking for specific recommendations, my favorite pieces are “The Archangel Leaving the Family of Tobias” and “Tobias and the Angel by the Water.”  

Come to think of it, that may have something to do with my name.

There are way too many museums and galleries too mention, but here’s a pro tip. If you’re flexible, look up the date for the next Nuit Blanche (White Night). 

Normally in October, this is an annual all-night arts festival with free admission to most museums and galleries.

Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris)

Notre Dame sits on a picturesque little island named Île de la Cité. Initial construction of the cathedral began in 1163 and took nearly 100 years to complete. 

Its seen numerous additions and renovations since then, but in 2019 the cathedral was badly damaged by fire. 

The last time we saw Notre Dame was just before the fire, so I’m not sure about their rebuilding and restoration progress.

The front towers seem to be in place, but the beautiful side view from the Seine looks like it sustained the majority of damage. 

Even in its incremental state of reconstruction, a visit to view the outside of Notre Dame is a must for any trip to Paris. 

If you’re on the island and want to see the inside of an ornate 13th Century church, there’s a royal chapel named Sainte-Chapelle close by.

Paris in the Fall: Notre Dame before the fire. Photo Credit: Heselholt Group, LLC.

Basilique du Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre (Sacred Heart of Montmartre)

Get ready to walk up, and then up some more. The basilica sits at the top of a magnificent hill. 

The reward for walking up the hill isn’t just the basilica, it’s the panoramic views of Paris.

The basilica is nice on the inside, but the exterior lines amplified by its position on the hill is what sets it apart from other Paris churches. 

I learned that those in the know often carry drinks and snacks up the hill to have a memorable happy hour sitting on the steps in the glowing afternoon light.

Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe is pretty cool, but get ready to dodge traffic. The monument is the center of a busy traffic circle with the Champs-Élysées jutting out on one side. 

There’s a little lane for pedestrians to huddle and take pictures, but it looks like a dangerous mess as you get ready for your turn in the middle of the street. 

This is a quick event that pretty much ends when you’re done snapping your pictures. Luckily, you’re on the Champs-Élysées, so I hope you brought your wallet.

L’Arc de Triomphe. Photo Credit: Tayla Bundschuh, Unsplash.

A Walk in the Gardens

If you haven’t guessed, we walk a lot. Two must visit gardens in Paris are the Jardin des Tuileries and the Jardin des Plantes (Garden of the Plants). 

Luckily, each garden is conveniently located with the Tuileries beside the Louvre on one side of the Seine and the Jardin des plantes on the other side of the Seine in the Latin Quarter.

These aren’t just any old gardens. The Jardin des Tuileries is a beautiful park that you might stumble on by accident. 

This 16th Century masterpiece was once part of the former Tuileries Palace, but now hosts anyone and everyone that decides to visit.

The Jardin des plantes is France’s premier botanical garden.  It’s anchored by the majestic Gallery of Evolution, and offers anything and everything you could imagine, to include a zoo.

Shopping

The Champs-Élysées is packed with stores. The Galeries Lafayette Champs-Élysées is an iconic department store surrounded by Louis Vuitton, Chanel, H&M, and even an AppleStore if that’s what you prefer. 

I guess I’d describe it as a nicer 5th Avenue, with almost anything you’re looking to buy.

The Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann is over by the Palais Garnier (Paris Opera House) if you want to stay away from the busy Champs-Élysées. 

It reminds me of Selfridges or Harrods in London where the architecture and views are just as much a draw as the merchandise.

There’s enough shopping in Paris to last a lifetime.  I won’t get into antique stores and flea markets, but if you run into the latter there are some great deals to be had. 

Shipping might be an extra expense if you can’t carry your hidden gems home, but there’s a nice ring to telling your friends you bought this or that in Paris.

Day Trips

Versailles

Versailles started out as a hunting lodge and later small chateau just outside of Paris in the early 17th Century. That is, until Louis XIV decided to expand a little. 

The grand palace is now a World Heritage Site and open to the public.

Versailles really is an excellent example of over the top opulence of the former French monarchy. It’s easy to access from Paris with modern transportation, and well worth carving out a day to visit. 

To get excited about your tour to Versailles I’d recommend the television show by the same name.

Loire Valley

The annual grape harvest is late-August to mid-November. As you can imagine, there are numerous grape harvest festivals to celebrate. 

If you plan ahead, you can participate in a harvest festival. When I say participate, I mean anything from tasting wine to literally jumping in and stomping a bit of grape juice yourself.

If you just want to see one chateau after another, and maybe stop by a winery for a tasting, you’re in luck. 

There’s no prior planning necessary for this type of day trip from Paris, since the Loire Valley is the epicenter of French wineries and chateaus.  

Normandy

This day trip is much more somber. If you’ve never read a book on World War II, Normandy, France was the site of the June, 6, 1944, Allied D-Day invasion. 

The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer is the home of 9,386 servicemembers that lost their lives in France.

The war is long over, but most Americans still associate Normandy with World War II. It’s important to know that Normandy is a region, not a town. 

You’ll find day trips available to towns such as Bayeux, Caen, Mont-Saint-Michel, and Rouen, but I recommend a D-Day inspired trip to the cemetery and Omaha beach for American tourists.

Final Thoughts

Paris autumn is lovely. You just can’t go wrong taking a trip to Paris any time of year. 

Two points that make autumn a great time to visit are the weather and lack of tourists. The weather is comfortable and not standing in line for everything makes you feel like a local, not a tourist. 

I just checked tripmasters.com for two people arriving November 1st for five nights from Huntsville, Alabama.  The base price was $965.97 each, not bad.

WANT MORE TRAVEL IDEAS?

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