How to celebrate fall in Paris like a local
Ah, Paris in the fall. The golden-hued trees lining the Seine, the cool air carrying the scent of roasted chestnuts, and the gentle hum of Parisians returning to the city after their summer holidays. While the City of Light is a sought-after destination any time of year, there’s something profoundly magical about Paris in autumn. If you’re looking to experience Paris in the fall like a local, step away from the well-trodden tourist paths, and immerse yourself in a Parisian autumnal adventure.
- Delve into Parisian Café Culture:
Parisians have a penchant for whiling away hours in their favorite cafes, especially when the weather takes on a chillier edge. Secure a cozy corner at an iconic café like Café de Flore or Les Deux Magots. Or better yet, find a less touristy spot in the 11th or 20th arrondissements. Order a ‘noisette’ (an espresso with a dash of milk) and watch the world go by, or dive into a good book.
- Feast on Seasonal Delights:
Come fall, Parisian menus get a delicious overhaul. Indulge in ‘potimarron’ soup (a type of pumpkin), wild mushrooms, and roasted chestnuts from street vendors. Don’t forget the wine – autumn sees the arrival of the Beaujolais Nouveau, celebrated on the third Thursday of November. And if you have a sweet tooth, tarte Tatin (an upside-down caramelized apple tart) is a must.
- Explore the Local Markets:
Visit the bustling food markets of Paris, like Marché Bastille or Marché d’Aligre. In autumn, they are filled with seasonal produce like pumpkins, figs, and fresh game. Strike up a conversation with the vendors, and maybe you’ll even pick up a local recipe or two.
- Participate in the Nuit Blanche:
This annual all-night arts festival transforms Paris into a playground of exhibitions, performances, and installations. Held usually on the first Saturday of October, it’s an opportunity to see the city in a new light and engage with contemporary art in unexpected places.
- Take a Stroll in Montmartre:
Montmartre’s winding streets and bohemian ambiance are even more enchanting in the fall. The falling leaves and fewer tourists make it a serene spot to discover local artists, cafes, and the panoramic views from the Sacré-Cœur Basilica.
- Attend a Wine Harvest Festival:
While Paris isn’t wine country, Montmartre hosts its own grape harvest festival, ‘Fête des Vendanges’. Celebrate with locals by tasting wines, cheeses, and enjoying parades and concerts.
- Revel in the Jardin des Tuileries:
This famous garden between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde is radiant in fall. With fewer crowds and the foliage taking on hues of amber and crimson, it’s the perfect place for a tranquil walk.
- Warm Up with Hot Chocolate:
Angelina’s near the Louvre is famed for its decadent ‘chocolat chaud’, but there are countless cafes serving up rich, velvety hot chocolate to fend off the fall chill.
- Wander through Parisian Covered Passages:
These Belle Époque-era covered arcades, like Passage Jouffroy or Galerie Vivienne, are hidden gems where you can shop, dine, or simply admire the architecture.
- Experience the Festival d’Automne:
This festival spans from September to December and celebrates contemporary arts from theater and dance to visual art and film. Join Parisians in attending some of the many events that reflect the dynamic cultural scene of the city.
- Get Cozy in a Bookstore:
Shakespeare and Company might be the most famous English bookstore in Paris, but many other smaller shops dot the city. Settle down with a book and let the hours pass in these literary havens.
- Engage in La Rentrée:
‘La Rentrée’ or ‘The Return’ marks the end of summer holidays and the beginning of the academic and cultural season. With Parisians back from their vacations, the city springs back to life with a flurry of activities, exhibitions, and events.
Autumn in Paris isn’t just a season; it’s an experience. The city, with its rich tapestry of culture, history, and artistry, comes alive in a distinctly beautiful way during these months. To celebrate fall in Paris like a local means to immerse oneself, not just in the sights and flavors of the season, but in the very rhythm and heartbeat of the city itself. So, put on a scarf, grab a fresh croissant, and allow the golden glow of Paris in the fall to envelop you.
While the Luxembourg Gardens and Jardin des Tuileries are undoubtedly beautiful, locals often escape to lesser-known spots. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, with its romantic temple perched atop a cliff, and Parc de Bercy, with its themed gardens and vineyards, offer autumnal tranquility away from the bustling crowds.
- Attend Local Jazz Venues:
Paris has a rich jazz history, and fall evenings are the perfect time to sink into the deep sounds of a saxophone or double bass. Check out local favorites like Le Caveau de la Huchette or Sunset/Sunside to groove with the locals.
- Sip on Cider:
While wine and champagne might be the beverages of choice in Paris, autumn ushers in a love for apple cider, especially from the Normandy region. Head to a local bistro and ask for their best ‘cidre’ to experience a different, effervescent taste of France.
- Vintage Shopping in Le Marais:
Autumn is the perfect season to update your wardrobe. And what better place than the trendy district of Le Marais? Dive into its myriad of vintage shops, where you can find unique pieces that tell a story of their own.
- Visit Cemeteries:
While it might sound morbid to some, Parisian cemeteries like Père Lachaise and Montmartre are beautiful in the fall. The peaceful lanes, lined with golden-leaved trees and dotted with historic graves, offer a contemplative space for walks.
- Indulge in Local Festivals:
Fall is the season of festivals in Paris. From the Fête de la Gastronomie celebrating French cuisine to local neighborhood fetes, there’s always something happening in the city. Check local listings and join the festivities.
- Warm Up in Local Hammams:
As the temperatures drop, the city’s hammams (Turkish baths) offer a warm respite. Many Parisians head to these steamy sanctuaries for relaxation and rejuvenation. The Grand Mosque of Paris has a particularly renowned hammam.
- Board Game Cafes:
As the evenings become chillier, locals often gather in board game cafes, where they indulge in friendly competition over classic and contemporary games. It’s a cozy way to spend an evening, paired with a cup of hot tea or coffee.
Paris in the fall is not just about the landmarks or the seasonal treats, it’s about the very essence of being in the city and blending in with its rhythm. The rustle of fallen leaves underfoot on a Montmartre stairway, the muted conversations in dimly lit cafes, the embrace of a warm scarf as you gaze upon the Seine — these are the moments that capture the soul of Paris in autumn. So, step off the beaten path, engage with the locals, and let Paris in the fall reveal its intimate secrets to you. Bon automne!