Paris in spring is probably the city’s dreamiest and most romantic season, but a Paris spring can be experienced from a number of perspectives. Here are 6 wonderful ways to see the City of Light.
New beginnings. That’s what spring is all about, in Paris and everywhere.
Florists overflow with blooming bouquets, tree branches are heavy with new growth, and people have a spark in their walk. It’s one of my favorite seasons, and for many, spring is the best time of year for Paris. This is the season that gives Paris its reputation for romance.
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Not only is there plenty to see and do in Paris, but there are also different ways of doing them. Paris lends itself to so many different types of exploration, especially as the days get warmer and longer.
1. Paris seen from the streets
Probably the best way to admire Paris is from its streets, which were made for walking – one of the most joyous pastimes of any visit to the capital, in any season.
Pick a neighborhood and explore it. The trees will be growing madly, and the weather will be perfect for strolling, with none of the crushing heat of summer or bone-chilling humidity of late fall and winter.
Here are a few fun ways of exploring the streets of Paris:
- Look for the Wallace fountains. I’m sure you’ve seen these (usually) bottle green bronze structures! Paris has 109 of them, and the kind people at the Wallace Fountains of Paris have put together a walking map and challenge to help you find all of them.
- Explore the subway. This is more “below the streets” – but a great way to explore Paris is through its Metro stations. If you love Parisian history, grab a copy of Lorànt Deutsch’s Metronome and see Paris as you’ve never seen her before.
- Ride a bike. Paris has vastly improved its bike lanes and there are many streets in which you won’t be facing certain death at the hands of drivers. You can “borrow” a bike by joining Velib, or better yet, take a bike tour with someone who can explain everything you’re seeing. If the weather is warm enough, you can find evening bike tours, with all the brilliance Paris has to offer.
- Stroll among the bouquinistes. As I write this in early 2024, the Olympics are in the future and the traditional booksellers haven’t yet been cleared away from the banks of the Seine.
- Rummage through the flea market. Paris is full of the most wonderful brocantes, with the gigantic Saint-Ouen being my favorite, and spring is ideal for doing the rounds. Or try one of the others – Vanves, Montreuil, Aligre… (at Aligre, you can also grab a baguette and some charcuterie because shopping makes one hungry!)
- Go for a run! Spring is time for the Paris Marathon, but for something different, why not try the Holi-inspired Color Run? (site in French) If organized running isn’t your thing, then head off and jog down the streets to your heart’s content… just remember Parisian drivers are convinced the streets belong to them, and them only.
- Head for the ice cream stands. Most of these are closed for winter so it’s a welcome sight to see the colorful tubs back in full sight. You probably won’t eat ice cream to cool off in spring, but you won’t have to avoid it because of the cold.
- Sip a coffee. As soon as it gets warmer, head for one of the many café terraces and watch Paris go by.
- Take a scooter or sidecar ride. On a balmy spring day, jump on a guided scooter tour and whip through the city streets and see them from a unique viewpoint.
2. Paris seen from above
Paris is the perfect city to look down upon.
Wonderfully bereft of skyscrapers, the city’s skyline unfurls into the distance, punctuated by the occasional landmark, like the Eiffel Tower or the Opera or Arc de Triomphe. Or maybe just the patchwork of grey roofs and orange chimneys, with the Seine elegantly winding through.
Whatever you look onto, it’s bound to be stunning. Paris from above is like that.
Here are a few fun ways of seeing Paris from above:
- Climb a hill. Paris has several: you’ve probably already admired the view from Montmartre, but what about the Buttes Chaumont? Or Belleville Park?
- The top of the Eiffel Tower. Let’s not neglect it – it does have some of the best views of Paris. Just make sure you book your ticket well ahead of time. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The drawback? You can’t see the Eiffel Tower if you’re on it!
- Go to the store. Not just any store, mind you, but one of the classic departments stores in Paris, with an expansive rooftop terrace and views to die for, like the Galeries Lafayette or the Printemps Haussmann.
- The Tour Montparnasse. Central Paris only has one skyscraper, and this is it. Its 56th-floor observatory is one of the best places from which to see the Eiffel Tower. Book your tickets here.
- Other rooftops of Paris. Try the dome of the Pantheon, the Promenade deck of La Grande Arche de la Défense, or the viewpoint of the Pompidou Center.
- Visit a rooftop bar. Paris is full of these – but check first to see if they have an enclosed area or if they are open in spring. The Paris Tourist Office has an excellent list of rooftop bars.
- Book a hotel with a view. Another way of seeing Paris from above is to book a hotel room with a balcony view. You won’t have to go far – just stepping out of bed in the morning should do the trick!
And finally, allow me to share an incredible anecdote. Years ago, when I was a journalist, I went to Lebanon at the height of the civil war. A group of us were flown from Paris, courtesy of a Lebanese millionnaire who lent us his private plane for the ride. As we took off, the pilot – who must surely have been a close relation of the President of the republic – took us on a swoop past the Eiffel Tower.
These days, of course, you could be the president yourself and not get permission for such a low-altitude flight… but there she was, in all her splendor, close up and brilliant, as I’ll never see her again. And no, I didn’t have a camera with me.
3. Paris seen from the Seine
Spring is the perfect time to see Paris from the Seine River. The river has a life and personality of its own, which changes as you move up or down it. For a perfect introduction to the Seine, read The Seine: The River That Made Paris, by New York Times foreign correspondent Elaine Sciolino. I never looked at the river the same way after reading her book.
As you drift by and look above, you’ll float under the city’s most beautiful bridges and along the tree-lined banks, bursting with blooms as you watch from below.
There are several ways of enjoying Paris from the Seine:
- Take a river cruise. This is the most obvious, but shouldn’t be neglected just because it is popular. I’ve been taking the boats on the Seine since my childhood, and the magic is still there. You can book a Seine river cruise.
- Hop on and off the Batobus. As its name implies, this is a boat bus: you can hop on and off any one of its 9 stations. Unlike the bus, you can’t buy a single ticket but you need a one- or two-day pass, which you can buy on their site or at one of their ticket counters.
- Take a walk. These days, the Seine riverbanks – a UNESCO World Heritage site – have been converted into a 7km park full of greenery and color.
4. Paris seen from its natural spaces
Even without the spring blossoms, Paris’s glorious green spaces would beckon in spring.
Of course, these things are hugely subjective, but at least one major UK site considers Paris the greenest city in Europe! Even if other cities vie for the title, the fact that it’s up there (especially on a British list) means a lot.
There are many ways to enjoy the natural green corners of Paris:
- Head for the woods. A walk through one of the city’s woods in springtime is peaceful, regenerating, and energizing. Take a stroll around the woods of Vincennes or Boulogne for a respite from the city air, but make sure you stick to populated areas (and I repeat, not at night, and certainly not at night alone).
- Go to the park. Did you know Paris had 530 parks and green spaces (site in French)? When the number of sunny days increases, these urban oases are heaven.
- Have a picnic. Some excellent spots include the banks of the River Seine or one of the city's many parks. This is such a fun thing to do in Paris once the spring weather warms! It’s allowed, as long as you take your garbage with you (and your group is under 30 people). Curious about the perfect French picnic? Here’s how you prepare one.
- Pay your respects. A cemetery might seem like an odd place to visit, but the Père Lachaise cemetery is delightful in spring, uncrowded and serene, and there are moments when all you’ll hear is the chirping of birds in the distance. It’s one of my favorite places for a spring time stroll.
- Go bloom-hunting. When Paris is in full bloom, there’s a special feeling of joy around the city, and hunting for magnolia or cherry blossoms is a fun way to replace the greyness of winter. Try an early-morning jaunt down the Champ de Mars and past the Eiffel Tower, or head for the Jardin des Tuileries or Luxembourg Gardens or the Palais Royal…
If you want to see the blooms, consider visiting Paris in late March and April, and even into May for some of the later rose blossoms. I’ve had great luck in mid- to late-March with magnolia, but of course, climate these days is unpredictable.
5. Paris seen through its festivals and events
With winter over, Parisians (and visitors) want to break out of the confines of indoor heating and early sunsets to enjoy the longer days and warmer temperatures of the Parisian spring.
Here are some of the special spring events in (or very near) Paris you shouldn’t miss:
- Les Grandes Eaux de Versailles. Beginning in early April, on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles, it’s time for the spectacular water shows you may have heard so much about.
- Go to the fun fair. Each April and May, the giant Foire du Trône sets up on the Pelouse de Reuilly, at the edge of the Bois de Vincennes. With more than 350 rides and attractions, it is the largest and oldest (more than 1000 years old!) fun fair in Paris.
- Celebrate Easter. Apart from its religious meaning, Easter in Paris is when the city’s chocolate makers exhibit their best Easter creations and when Easter egg hunts take place all over town. One of the most famous of these is in the André Citroën Park.
- Take an equine break. Spring is horse season, from the famous races at the Hippodrome d’Auteuil, or the gala event at the Chantilly horse races, big hats and all. I’d mention the Saut Hermès jumping competition in a temporary ring at the Grand Palais Éphémère, but in 2024 it takes place in mid-March, just a few days before spring officially begins.
6. Paris seen from the great indoors
The summer crowds haven’t arrived yet, and the air is still crisp and clean, without the heat pollution that is just around the corner.
But not every day is sunny, and you may have rainy days or windy moments. What better time to head for some of those indoor venues?
- Visit a world-class museum: A windswept day is ideal for the Louvre Museum or the Musée d’Orsay, for example, or for one of the smaller, more offbeat museums (Museum of Counterfeiting, anyone?) You can buy most of your tickets online, at least for the larger establishments.
- The Night of the Museums: Each May, the annual Nuit des Musées stay open at night and admission is free. This is the perfect time to cross several of these off your list.
- Go to the movies: Printemps du Cinéma – Cinephiles will rejoice, as the end of March allows visitors to enjoy film screenings for low prices during this season during the Printemps du Cinéma, or Movie Spring.
When is spring in Paris? And what about Paris weather?
Officially, spring starts on 20 March and ends on 20 June.
In reality, March feels like winter and spring is in the air beginning in April, when the grey of winter recedes and blue skies are no longer an anomaly.
Spring, however, means change, and you can go from snow to short sleeves in days during this season.
Broadly speaking, and I’ll insist on the broadly, April is a transition month, with cool to cold temperatures and occasional rain.
May, however, tends to be rainier (the rainiest month after December and October), but we’re creeping towards summer and you’ll feel it in the air. It’s a beautiful month to be in Paris, where the energy of winter and the glory of summer intersect.
Be aware, though, that there's a public holiday nearly every week in May, and depending on the day, a long weekend may be involved and some things could be closed.
Finally, along with May, June is a favorite month for visitors to Paris. It is almost summer, after all. The air is balmy, Parisians are still scurrying about their business – and you can pull out your pastel or white clothes!
What to pack for Paris in spring
Travel in the shoulder season is often a packing challenge because the spring months can be fickle when it comes to the weather.
How should I dress for Paris spring? The same way you would dress in any world-class city in a northern temperate zone. Rather than itemize a travel wardrobe or provide a packing list (we all have our favorite clothing items), I’d like to suggest 5 key items or accessories you’ll need:
- An umbrella. Normally I don’t recommend bringing your own because you can always pick one up when you arrive at destination. BUT – Paris weather can change quickly in spring, so better safe than sorry. The Tumella is sturdy, tiny, pretty, and has a lifetime replacement policy!
- A scarf. And here you have a choice: either a regular, woolly winter scarf, or a “magic scarf” with a hidden pocket, which doubles up as a money belt but is a fashion item. Check them out here.
- A jacket. A proper one, warm enough witshtand the cold (if you wear layers underneath) but that isn’t so heavy you can’t use it when the weather warms up. Others will also pack a trench coat or raincoat but when I travel, everything has to fit into a carry-on, so I travel light.
- Great walking shoes. Remember, you’re in Paris, it’s spring, and there’s a good chance you’ll be on your feet all day and maybe evening. Stairs, hallways, cobblestones, sidewalks – your feet will remember every one of these if you're not wearing comfortable shoes.
- An anti-theft purse. This is my one absolute must-have. You may have heard of the notorious Paris pickpockets – they’re notorious for a reason. Don’t ruin your holiday because of theft and if you don’t have one already, get one of these practically-impossible-to-break-into purses (I have three in different sizes and colors).
Paris in springtime: A few things to watch out for
- While the spring season is delightful, bear in mind that Paris high season is the summer, so the closer you get to summer, the higher the cost of hotel rooms and the longer the lines at the best attractions.
- I mentioned this earlier but it’s worth mentioning again: Paris weather in spring is unpredictable.
- You may have heard that France “enjoys” many strikes, including transport strikes. It is almost a national pastime so please, expect that at some point, someone will go on strike over something. You’ll have to exercise that flexible muscle.
- Beware the school holidays, which take place sometime around Easter. Paris is a favorite destination and school holidays mean more families, more people, and possibly higher prices. Check here for dates.
Final thoughts on springtime in Paris
Paris will spoil you for choice, whatever your taste – culture, food, fashion, art, the outdoors… but if you have the time, a great idea would be to enjoy one of these day trips and explore other pockets of France. Art Nouveau in Nancy? Gastronomy in Lyon? Monet delights in Giverny?
You’ll visit some surprising sights and dcities, and enjoy some of France’s most famous landmarks (they’re not all in Paris!)
Whether you’re looking for fun-filled festivities in the city or its surrounding areas, this city and its tapestry of close-by day trips will have you spoilt for choice. Come rain or shine (as drizzly days are common in this season), Paris in spring has ample indoor and outdoor activities to indulge in.
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