Having lived in Paris for more than five years now, I have finally graduated from being a quite knowledgeable regular visitor to someone who intimately knows the city’s seasons, its highs and lows, its scents, lights, and moods. And, believe me, Paris truly is special in every season, even during the dreaded grisaille, the gray that hangs over the city in winter with its lack of color and its cold dampness.
Be it spring, summer, fall, or winter, there is always something unique to do in Paris, with special events, activities, and treats in store. I have chosen some of my personal favorites, all tried and found fun to do and experience. I look forward to these activities each year, as they are season-specific and allow you to celebrate in style. The only difficult part is picking a favorite season!
Winter in Paris has the distinct advantage of drawing fewer crowds. Yes, the Christmas markets and the January sales attract people to the city, but overall, you’ll have more space, and you can admire the architecture without any foliage in the way. Bundle up, enjoy the fresh air, pop into a cafe, and be sure to try one of the following activities.
Take To The Ice
In winter, ice rinks pop up in the most wonderful places: on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower, on the roof of the modern Grande Arche de la Defense, under the majestic roof of the Grand Palais, and in front of the Hotel de Ville. But you don’t have to skate if it’s not your thing -- each location offers a cafe, a hot chocolate stand, or even a champagne bar, so you can enjoy the location, watch the skaters, and have just as good a time as they.
Every Christmas season, the grand department stores Printemps and Galeries Lafayette decorate their windows to tell a themed story, with little walkways provided for children so that they can see better, but just as lovely for adults. Galeries Lafayette goes one step further and puts up a gigantic Christmas tree, reaching several stories high to the top of the dome. Each year, the tree is different. There is a glass walkway above it for scary selfies, but the view from the small champagne bar on the first floor is also fabulous -- especially with a flute of bubbles in your hand.
Visit A Magical Museum
Every Christmas, the Musee des Arts Forains, normally only accessible via organized tours, opens its doors to visitors. In winter, you are free to roam by yourself and admire all things fairgrounds and magic, from old carousels to secret gardens. This is a magical place that enchants the old and young alike.
Pro Tip: If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, then go for a meal at Auteuil Brasserie. This is a former train station that served the old Petite Ceinture, and the entire brasserie is transformed every winter into a snowy wonderland complete with snowmen, reindeer, twinkling lights, and a menu that will warm you up.
Ah, springtime in Paris -- it sounds like a movie. And it truly is glorious, with the city’s 420+ parks all bursting into bloom. With the warm sunshine on your face, you won’t have a care in the world.
Marvel At The Cherry Blossoms
In April, Paris explodes into numerous shades of pink, with many parks showing off cherry trees in full bloom. The best places to go to marvel at the cherry blossoms are the tiny Square Marie Trintignant near the Marais, the even tinier Square Gabriel Pierne by the Institut Francais, the amazing Jardin de Reuilly Paul Pernin along the Coulee Verte, and the Jardin des Plantes.
Walk The Coulee Verte
To appreciate the beauty of fresh, young green leaves and spring flowers, walk the aforementioned Coulee Verte from the Bastille all the way to the Chateau de Vincennes. It’s about an hour and a half’s walk, gentle and bucolic, along another former railway line, the forerunner of New York City’s High Line. You’ll enjoy great views of Paris along the way.
Enjoy An Easter Concert At Sainte Chapelle
One of the most enchanting places in Paris, Sainte Chapelle, with its stunning stained glass windows, hosts a series of concerts over the Easter period. With music filling the chapel and the sun setting behind the windows, you can be certain of a wonderful evening in a special setting.
Pro Tip: Whether you are interested in horses or not, the spring show-jumping event Saut Hermes at the Grand Palais is a sight to behold.
Summer in Paris can be frustrating. It gets hot, most places do not have air-conditioning, and the city is crammed with tourists. In August, the city is also devoid of Parisians, which many people consider a bonus. Residents leave Paris en masse, and many restaurants and shops off the beaten track are closed for the month. So, if you walk in the more residential areas, you’ll get some peace and quiet.
Go Swimming In The Open Air
The city is aware that it can get hot, and it offers its people various ways of cooling down. Piscine Josephine Baker is a fabulous open-air pool on a boat in the Seine where you can swim, relax in the sun, and enjoy the views. The Bassin de la Villette cordons off a part of its canal, and you’ll find a sandy beach and plenty of sun loungers alongside it. Other beaches open near the Hotel de Ville. These are perfect for a taste of the Caribbean in the city.
Dine On An Island
Summer is the best time to head to the Bois de Boulogne and have lunch on a terrace that feels a million miles away from the city. The restaurant Le Chalet des Iles has its own island in the large lake in the Paris forest; you get across on a small ferry boat, and then you can roam the island and enjoy lunch in a bucolic setting, with many trees offering shade.
Picnic In The Park
Paris has more than 420 parks, and the vast majority of them are lovely. But one of my favorites is the Parc Montsouris in the south of the city. Unknown to most visitors, it has it all: a lake, a pavilion, hills and valleys, plenty of art to explore, a cafe or two, and many secluded places to find some shade and enjoy a picnic. Either buy a fresh baguette and some cheese nearby, or have a picnic delivered to you in the park via a service such as Casual Picnic.
Pro Tip: Summer is the time for music festivals in Paris, and whatever gets your foot tapping -- be it jazz or hip-hop, pop, or rock -- there is a festival for you. The majority of the festivals take place in August. Check out the full list here.
This is the season when the city’s trees are most beautiful. An explosion of color can be found along every street, and while the weather can be damp, walking in Paris with its lights reflected in puddles is magical.
Celebrate The Wine Harvest In Montmartre
Did you know that there are several vineyards in the city of Paris? The city hosts an entire festival celebrating the grape harvest each autumn, the Fete des Vendanges de Montmartre. All around Sacre Coeur huts spring up, each selling either wine, champagne, or food, ranging from tapas to tartiflette, sandwiches to mushroom pans. It gets quite crowded later at night, so aim to go in the early evening.
Catch An Opera Al Fresco
Each year Les Invalides, home to Napoleon’s tomb, hosts the Opera en Plein Air in its courtyard. A stage and seating are set up, champagne tents offer sustenance, and the atmosphere is fantastic. It is usually scheduled to start just before dark, so you get the sunset as well as a musical performance. It’s a really special treat.
Appreciate Contemporary Art
FIAC, the annual international contemporary arts fair, takes over Paris’s boulevards, parks, and squares each fall. Tents filled with representatives of international galleries line the Champs Elysees, the Grand Palais hosts special exhibitions, and you’ll find free art installations across the city.
Pro Tip: Every year, Paris hosts Nuit Blanche, a Saturday night when museums stay open all night. The streets are filled with art installations, food stalls, and special events, and everybody stays up until the early morning hours.