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Regular visitors to Paris will doubtless have their own favorite time of the year to visit Paris, be it out of choice or convenience to fit in with school holidays or work commitments. For those planning a visit for the first time or those wondering about changing their customary dates and not sure what to expect, here is a rundown of what happens in Paris month by month.
(The weather forecasts are based on monthly averages-but we all know how totally unpredictable the weather is. I spend March in Paris and have experienced snow one year and temperatures of over 20 degrees Celsius the next, so be prepared!)
Average daytime temperature of 7 degrees with an average rainfall of 18mm.
January in Paris means fewer crowds and shorter lines at museums and art galleries— an absolute bonus for those wishing to cram in as many museums as possible in a short time. Restaurants and cafés will be pleased to see you and you are more likely to be treated as a resident than one of the thousands of tourists they serve each year. January Fashion Week will be in progress and the winter sales will have started, running through January and half way through February.
Ice skating outside the Hotel de Ville is always a special sight and continues until the first weekend in March. If you are quick, ice skating at the Trocadéro lasts until the end of the first week of January.
Any time of the year is special for walking through the Luxembourg Gardens or the Tuileries, but with a light frost on the trees or a thin covering of snow brushing the statues, January can be a magical time.
Average day time temperature 8 degrees with an average rainfall of 22mm.
Valentine’s Day in Paris! Could anything be more romantic? The city is still relatively quiet although everything is open and there are many special events to enjoy.
The Vintage Car Show at the Porte de Versailles is a must for all car buffs. The Rugby 6 Nations attracts crowds and the fabulous Paris Carnaval— starting at Place Gambetta and ending at the Hotel de Ville– is another “must see.” For more parades and exhibitions, take in Chinese New Year in various locations all over Paris.
Average day time temperature 12 degrees with an average rainfall of 24mm.
Spring is just teasing us and often the Luxembourg Gardens are already producing more than a hint of the flowers and buds to come. Children are sailing their boats on the bassin or riding donkeys through the park and runners circle the gardens, throwing off the sluggishness of winter.
Events are plentiful: La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel, when athletes ascend the 1,665 steps to the top of the Eiffel Tower; a procession of the Carnaval des Femmes starting at the place du Châtelet; and the most important book festival in France: the Salon du Livre (the Paris Book Fair) at the Porte de Versailles.
More and more tourists appear leading up to Easter and the Bateaux Mouches and tourist buses begin to fill up. Cafés and restaurants open up their terraces and the atmosphere of imminent longer days infects the streets.
Average day time temperature 16 degrees with an average rainfall of 25mm.
Easter in Paris. Songs have been sung, films made, and when you see the apple blossoms along the Seine, the glory of the Luxembourg Gardens and the Tuileries in bloom, it isn’t hard to see why. Tourists are now in full flood; expect to queue longer for popular museums and galleries. Pre-book if possible or arrive early to avoid the worst of the queues. Almost all attractions can be booked online and I would strongly advise you to do this right through until October if you are eager to sample popular attractions like the Louvre, the Orsay, or the Eiffel Tower.
Participating in mass at Easter in Notre Dame Cathedral (even as a spectator) is a truly special event not to be missed. As is the Paris Marathon that the passes through Place de la Concorde, the Tuileries, Bastille, Bois de Vincennes, and Notre Dame– ending at the Arc de Triomphe. Not a day to be out in a car– often crossing the road in front of the runners is hazardous enough. Try watching from the Promenade Plantée above the road near Place de la Bastille for a great view of the runners and jazz bands.
The International Rare Book and Autograph Fair exhibits at Le Grand Palais– indeed any excuse to visit the Grand Palais!– is valid. However if lighthearted entertainment is more your bag, the Foire du Trône, a massive funfair dating back to the 12th century, can be found at the Pelouse de Reuilly in the 12th arrondissement.
Average day time temperature 20 degrees, average rainfall 24mm.
The St Germain Jazz Festival spills out in historic spots, cafes and theatres throughout the Left Bank. The streets are alive day and night; the city is buzzing.
European Museums Night (La Nuit européenne des musées) is the night that museums stay open late with concerts and fun events planned across Paris with free entrance to many museums.
If antiques are your passion, the Antiquites Brocante is held at the Bastille, a massive market of 480 stalls specializing in antiques and second-hand items from all over France.
Last but definitely not least, the French Open is held each year at Roland Garros.
Average day time temperature 23 degrees with an average rainfall of 24mm.
A month packed with events. Take the metro to Chateau de Vincennes and stroll to the wonderful Parc Floral behind the Chateau for the Paris Jazz Festival. Take a picnic and enjoy the free concerts in beautiful surroundings.
More free concerts throughout Paris in the Fête de la Musique held every year on the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year.
The colorful and noisy LGBT Gay Pride parade starts at Montparnasse metro station in the 15th and ends at the Place de la Bastille.
Not to be missed is the Fête du Vélo where thousands of cyclists pedal through Paris for a huge picnic celebration. Bicycles are available at various pick-up points in Paris.
Don’t forget, bargain hunters; the Summer Sales start this month!
Average Daily temperature 25 degrees with an average rainfall of 22mm.
July 14th, Bastille Day. The French National Holiday celebrates the storming of the Bastille in 1789 and the beginning of the French Revolution. The most important national holiday in France with military parades down the Champs-Élysées, culminating in a fireworks display at the Eiffel Tower.
The Champs Elysee stars again as the triumphant final to the Tours de France.
To help you cool down in the rising temperatures, Paris Plages, the temporary beaches appear along the Seine with refreshment stands and more than a whiff of the South of France.
Average daily temperatures 25 degrees with an average rainfall of 20mm
The Parisians desert Paris for beaches in the south taking their annual monthly holiday en masse. Tourists take over the city which can be uncomfortably muggy as the humidity rises.
Rock en Seine, featuring some of the world’s biggest bands, goes from strength to strength at the Domaine National de Saint Cloud.
At Notre Dame, Pilgrims of the Faithful celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Following a special mass a grand procession on foot takes place through L’île de la Cité.
Last chance for shoppers as the summer sales end.
Average daily temperature 21 degrees with an average rainfall of 16mm.
The Grand Palais once more hosts an artistic exhibition of master craftsman and artists from around the world in the Fine Craft and Creation Fair.
September also sees Paris Design Week with 150 venues across Paris.
The Fête des jardins, held for one week in September, is not just an opportunity to witness special events in popular locations, but also an opportunity to wander around small gardens not normally open to the public.
Back in the Parc de Saint Cloud, Le Grand Feu, the largest firework display in Paris, is held.
Average daily temperature 16 degrees with an average rainfall of 25mm
Autumn leaves carpet the Luxembourg Gardens and the Tuileries, the air becomes crisper and Paris breathes out.
The Montmartre Grape Harvest Festival is not to be missed. The vendage at these tiny vineyards and subsequent wine tasting has an unsurpassed charm of days gone by. (There’s a parade, concerts, food tastings, and much more.)
In the Bois de Boulogne, the biggest racing event in France, the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe featuring the world’s best horses, takes place at the Hippodrome de Longchamp.
While in the grounds of the Chateau de Versailles, the Musical Fountains show combines a spectacular light show with the fountains dancing in time to classical music. (Runs from late March to the end of October.)
Average daily temperature 11 degrees with an average rainfall 22mm.
Another great month to visit museums and art galleries; the pace of life is unhurried without the summer crowds.
The biggest event on the calendar is Armistice Day, another National Holiday on November 11th, with a solemn ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe where the President lays a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Winter is a great time for visiting the many, many jazz clubs in Paris. Dark nights, coming in from the cold to a cozy cellar club to enjoy good music and a welcoming atmosphere–what could be better?
Average daily temperature 8 degrees with an average rainfall of 26mm.
December in Paris is another magical month. The streets glittering and bright with Christmas lights, the bustle in the streets of Christmas shoppers, Christmas trees decorated with tinsel and holly, and the shops with lavishly decorated displays banish any winter blues.
The ice skating rinks at the Hotel de Ville and Trocadero are set up, and Christmas markets appear. The Champs-Élysées is lined with stalls, the trees lit up on both sides of the avenue. In fact, there are Christmas markets all over the city, including St Sulpice on the Left Bank, which add to the festive atmosphere.
A nativity scene is built inside Notre Dame and a light show of works of art plays on the Cathedral walls.
New Year’s Eve is celebrated in the streets with firework displays as in all great cities. (Editor’s note: Because of security concerns, the 2015 fireworks show was canceled.) Yet in Paris the ending of an old year and the beginning of another seems to have a special feel, different from other cities somehow.
But then Paris is different from other cities, offering a rich travel experience whichever month you decide to visit.
Lead photo credit : Flowers on rue Montorgueil, the historic market street in the 2nd. Photo: MW Nicklin