Local Experiences

A Complete Guide to Visiting Paris in Autumn

While it may be true that Springtime in the city of light is adulated as the most poetic time of year, and summer the most fun and laid-back, Autumn in Paris has a special, sublime beauty about it that those with quieter, more subtle sensibilities will appreciate. The light filtering through changing trees can be astoundingly beautiful, the pace is contemplative, and for those who want to get in a good dose of arts and culture, this is a season that can’t be beat. Here are some of my picks for what to do and see in the city this fall:

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Parks and Gardens

While it might sound counterintuitive as temperatures drop, I recommend you set some time aside for a stroll at one of the city’s many gorgeous parks or gardens. While picnics may still be in order in early October, clement weather allowing, wrapping yourself in some oh-so-elegant Parisian scarves and coats and going for a solitary or romantic walk in places like the Jardin du Luxembourg (Metro: Odeon), the Jardin de Tuileries (Metro: Tuileries), or the Bois de Boulogne on the city’s western edge (Metro: Place Dauphine) is a must during the fall. If you have children, they might enjoy pushing toy sailboats on the fountains at Luxembourg, or being treated to a traditional puppet show.

Montmartre Wine Harvest (“Les Vendanges”)

Tourists make regular “pilgrimages” to the iconic Sacre Coeur Basilica overlooking one of Paris’ highest points in the northeastern Montmartre neighborhood, but generally miss out on one of the area’s most festive and interesting events of the year: The “Vendanges”, or wine harvest. Montmartre, formerly a rural outskirt of Paris, was once home to a considerable number of vintners; today, a mostly symbolic but still treasured vineyard remains (at 14-18 rue des Saules, Metro Lamarck-Caulaincourt). The Vendanges — to be held October 9th through 13th in 2013– is a coveted tradition in the area, and features wine tastings, musical performances, and even a fireworks show one night. For more information on this year’s festivities, visit the link above.

Cinema, Museums, and Monuments

Since tourist numbers dwindle from October onward, Autumn is one of my favorite times of year to visit arts exhibits, take in the city’s momentous monuments, or loiter in a good arthouse cinema. To avoid the crowds even further and enjoy sights to the fullest, book a skip-the-line tour at major museums such as the Louvre or at monuments like the Eiffel Tower. Guaranteed headache-prevention as you get to know the city…

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Cafe-Loitering and People-Watching

Finally, to me the fall means spending hours at a good table in a Parisian cafe, perhaps with a notebook, pen, or good book, and watching the world go by as I think and sip my cafe creme. This is also an excellent way to spend those rainy days during the autumn months.  I recommend eschewing the tour guides altogether for this one, venturing out on a stroll wherever you’re staying in the city, and grabbing a table at the first cafe you see that inspires you. That’s the truly Parisian way– “au pif”– (literally, at the nose, meaning using your intuition and gut instinct.)

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A family by the eiffel tower.