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Paris in the off season

I'm thinking of taking my two adult daughters to Paris. Since cost will be a factor I was thinking of March or November. None of us likes the cold but we are Midwesterners so we would be able to survive less than ideal weather. I know Paris is wonderful any time of year but I wonder what there would be to do in the evenings? The days will be shorter and I assume some of the sights will close earlier. Will the river cruises still run? How about café life? Does that go on as usual or are the patios closed in bad weather? Thanks for your help!

Posted by
6670 posts

March will have more daylight hours than November, especially late in the month. Major sights probably won't close any earlier in either month. Lots of them, like museums, will keep you indoors if the weather's bad. River cruises will run, perhaps shorter hours than in summer. Cafes will be open, often with propane or electric heaters for the sidewalk areas, and/or awnings and plastic sheeting to keep warmth in and weather out. Not as pleasant as in warmer months but still fun. And indoors they should be the same.

In the evenings there will be concerts in some of the churches, major museums open certain nights, river cruises (bundle up), and all the entertainment options you'd expect in such a big city, though most movies and plays will be in French (duh!).

You Midwesterners should have no trouble with the climate. Wear layers rather than heavy coats. Have something waterproof for the days you'll need it, and a wool hat. We spent about a week in late March a few years ago, it was chilly and drizzly on several days. I brought a fleece vest, Gore-Tex hooded shell parka, and wool watch cap and did fine.

Posted by
9436 posts

Paris is very lit up once it gets dark, more so than any city I've been to. Paris is still very lively in the winter. In the evenings... walking and seeing the sights, museums, shopping, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Montmartre, rue Mouffetard, rue Montorgueuil, restaurants... still lots to see and do even in winter. There are cafés everywhere, so if you get cold or wet just stop at a café for a hot drink and warm up. I'm going in February and I can't wait.

Posted by
15686 posts

One of the perks of going in March is that you'll have more opportunities to see Paris after dark. Even in April, evening tours are half in daylight. You can take a Seine river cruise (Les Vedettes du Pont Neuf is excellent) at sunset, then go out for dinner. In mid-March sunset's around 7 p.m. In mid-November 5 p.m.

There are several sights that are open at least one evening a week. The ones that come to mind immediately are the Louvre (Wed and Fri) and the Orsay (Thurs?). The modern art museum in the Pompidou Centre is usually open every evening. Versailles probably closes earlier when sunset is earlier, but you'll still have plenty of time to see it all. Other than that, I don't think sights have curtailed winter hours.

Posted by
2466 posts

I'd recommend early to mid-November, and definitely not March or even April.
As Woinparis said, March and April have the most unpredictable weather patterns and are normally miserable.

You never know when the river will rise, preventing cruise boats and other river traffic from passing under the bridges. Sometimes, you only have one day's notice about this, so if you buy tickets for a cruise, make sure you can use them anytime.

Cafe terraces are required to keep one side of the plastic sheeting or one door open to ventilate smoke away from their workers and customers. Overhead heating will burn your heads, and your feet will freeze. I'd recommend eating inside - and if you don't smoke, drink inside, too.

Nothing closes. People go to work, school, out to dinner, to the movies, to spectacles, and are on the Metro until it closes. People also walk around in the rain/snow/sleet - day or night - along deserted streets without any trouble.

Posted by
162 posts

I'm originally from the Midwest and am going in March as well. Frankly, I'm looking forward to some chilly and even drizzly, rotten weather. What could be more romantic in that most beautiful city than walking around all bundled up on a good foggy evening when the lights glow in the halo of mist? I won't miss anything but the heat and thronging crowds of the summer, and that not at all.

Posted by
9436 posts

Totally agree with Brenda. Spent the whole month of April in Paris many years ago w/my husband and it was romantic and so much fun. It rained a bit most days but it made no difference. We walked everywhere, saw and did everything, laughed and were just so happy and thrilled to be there. Sitting in cafés drinking coffee to warm up is one of a hundred fondest memories.

I've spent many summers there (including living there twice) and the heat and crowds and long lines were negatives. I love Paris anytime of year including winter and early spring... it's all fun and wonderful imo.

Posted by
565 posts

I've been several Novembers and a few Marchs. To be honest, I'm not sure it matters. March might have been nominally better? Not enough I remember. My experience with cities is there's always something to do. Cafes are open as usual. Attractions have easy to look up hours. I've done River cruises during these times of year too. I've also been lucky enough to walk right up to the Eifel tower and catacombs this time of year. Also Versailles. The trade-off of ideal weather has been worth it for me.

Posted by
11507 posts

Hotels often have "l'ete promotions", summer sales , for days from late July through August , I have stayed in several hotels that were cheaper in August than April , may , June or sepetemberbor ictober .

Posted by
2466 posts

Tourism is down about 30% in Paris, since people have been worried about terrorist attacks. Hotels, train tickets, even airline prices are dropping pretty drastically. I know several people who booked $433 r/t tickets from Atlanta to Paris, recently.

I really don't think there's any "down time" in Paris, anymore. There's been an effort by the Mayor's Office to have a lot of events going on constantly throughout the year.

Posted by
196 posts

nikkiagee, I agree with chexbres - nowadays there seems to be no real "off season" in Paris (except for maybe Jan-Feb). I would like to offer an alternative. My absolute favorite month of the year in Paris is October. The air is getting crisp (not cold), the leaves are turning on the trees (wonderful colors, especially along the quais and in the parks!) and you can feel the crunch under your feet as you walk (by November, most of the trees are bare) and I have had the good fortune of having mostly great weather that time of year there. In 2017, the Montmartre Wine Harvest takes place the first week of October, Nuit Blanche ("White Night") is the night of October 7 & 8 (the all night arts festival) and the Chocolate Festival starts on Oct. 28 at the Porte de Versailles. If there is not a big price difference, consider October as the time to visit Paris!

Posted by
288 posts

We just returned from Paris and Belgium from 11/16-11/26 on our kids thanksgiving break. The weather was cool(highs in the high 40s to low 50s) with occasional rain but nothing that affected our plans at all. Crowds were not crazy, some hours were a bit shorter than summer at attractions. We got to see daylight/sunset/darkness from the Eiffel tower at a reasonable hour and prices were crazy low for flights $480 from Denver. Evenings were full of activity between eating out, Eiffel tower, after dark river cruise, seeing sacre couer and notre dame at night, Concord place ferris wheel, catacombs. Later in November Christmas markets are starting to open. We loved our time in November, but haven't been in March.

Posted by
776 posts

Loved the first 2 weeks of November in Paris last year. No rain and just warm enough and not too cold. Loved seeing the Christmas decor going up. The only problem we ran into was the attacks. It was so sad but the Parisians were so open and happy to see us travel. We feel a kinship with our Parisian friends.

Posted by
8240 posts

Must you go then? It won't be much more expensive to go in October and the odds of pleasant weather are much better. I'd be looking for an apartment that meets your budget rather than choosing the ugliest months. The last time we spent all of November in Paris, it was overcast every single day and rained most of them including a few where it poured all day. The last two Octobers we spent in Paris had mostly lovely sunny cool weather with only a couple of rainy days.

March is awful, cold and rainy and November while a bit better still likely to be gloomy. YOu won't save money on much in Paris besides lodging by choosing March or November.

In winter all of culture is up and running. The opera, concert venues etc are all in full swing so there is lots to do in evenings and of course the Louvre is open evenings on Weds and Friday and the Orsay on Thursday and it can be nice to visit these crowded venues in the evening when they are a bit less so.

Posted by
308 posts

I am happy to report that my husband and I just made plans to spend a week in Paris in February for our 15th wedding anniversary.

Posted by
15 posts

It sounds like October or November would be a better choice. If I can pull this off, I'm sure we will have a great time no matter the weather! Thanks for all the help!