There’s the song about Paris, written by Cole Porter and sung by Frank Sinatra, which we all know even if we don’t know we know it. It goes like this: “I love Paris in the spring time, I love Paris…” You probably heard it recently as piped in Muzak while you were buying a Covid test at CVS. And though its a gimmicky song in some ways, the moral of which is that Paris is awesome anytime at all, it’s absolutely right about spring. Here’s why:
1. The weather is perfectly dramatic: Located in the center north of France, Paris is still cool in March, April and May, but not so cool you can’t pack light jackets and t-shirts for those days when the thermometer goes over 60 and it’s sunny enough to lounge in a chair in the Jardin de Luxembourg after an exciting morning of visiting the Catacombs, the Rue Mouffetard and the Pantheon. It also rains in Paris in the spring, so pack a raincoat and/or an umbrella and some shoes that aren’t canvas. But often the rains only come in the afternoon, with heavy downpours happening after lunch when you’re happily sipping a cafe or having a petite verre and some roquefort. Then, like divine intervention, the rain clears and the sky is rosy and it’s time to go walk along the sparkling banks of the Seine and peruse the many booksellers until you end up at Shakespeare & Co. The whole city feels wiped clean and new after those rains, and the words “City of Light” take on new meaning as you watch the sunlight glint off of the rain dropped Eiffel Tower or the black iron streetlights.
2. The food is (even more) amazing in spring. On the food end of things, which is, of course, the reason we’re all hankering to go to Paris, spring is a wonderful time to visit because it’s when the chefs are shedding their months of preparing cassoulet and are reveling in the bounty of springtime from the nearby farms: strawberries, asparagus, green onions, tangy greens, young cheeses, artichokes, green garlic, spinach and zucchini among them. This website, Paris pas Chère, lists what you can get at markets and when and how eating fresh and seasonably is cheaper and yummier when in Paris. If you are lucky enough to be in Paris over Easter, then you can get any number of wonderful Easter chocolates at all the local chocolatiers–anything from roosters and bunnies to more elaborate bells and filigreed chocolate eggs. And, if egg hunting is your thing, many museums and parks will host eggs hunts for children. What could be more dreamy than combining a visit to the beautiful Rodin Museum and an egg hunt for your kids on Easter morning? More Easter info here, for a fun-packed day that won’t be expensive but is sure to please.
3. If you happen to be in Paris the week before Easter, you can watch The Paris Marathon on April 2nd. One of the biggest marathons in the world, over 50,000 runners from one hundred nations will take part, starting at 8:30 in the morning on the Champs Elysées. Winding around Paris, past many monuments and attractions, like the Nôtre Dame Cathedral, the race will captivate the entire city for a day. Look here to find a location you can watch from.
4. Ice cream. It’s now that time of year when you don’t feel crazy having ice cream as your mid morning snack or even twice a day. Warm enough it feels good going down, cool enough it doesn’t melt before you’ve even taken a bite, it’s the perfect time of year for a cold crème glacée. We have a great list of the perfect ice cream shops not to be missed in Paris, here. Arranged by neighborhood, you can plan your scoop fix for just after the Musée d’Orsay, Eiffel Tower, Rodin Museum or after gandering at the Nôtre Dame. Halvah ice cream anyone?
5. Blooms, birds and bees: Just when you think Paris can’t get any more sublime, you are there in the spring when, from late March until early May, the cherries, magnolias, wisteria, roses, and chestnut trees are all abloom, the many rooftop bees hives are abuzz and migrating and local birds are jeweling up the whole town. Here is a helpful list of cherry blossoms by arrondissement and garden or park. This wonderful blog, Flocking Somewhere, also has birds you can see by park and garden–from the Bois de Boulogne to the Cimetière du Père Lachaise. So pack your binoculars as you are in for some unusual sights. And do mind some beeswax, while you’re at it! Bees and honey are a lynchpin of French culture and food. Frenchly has this wonderful article here about beekeeping and honey in Paris, some monuments that are adorned with bee hives and local honey shops to visit.
6. Café culture: There is nowhere as wonderful to be as Paris in the spring, sitting in a sidewalk café, the sun coming down and a glass of red wine in your hand, while you watch people and wax erudite about the Mona Lisa you just saw over at the Louvre. If you are only in Paris for a few days and art is your focus, how about lunch in one of these outdoor museum cafés? If you can’t stop long enough to sit at a café, treat yourself to one of the world’s best lobster rolls or some awesome donuts, especially if you are hankering for a taste of home with a French flair, and find a park bench before you dive back into the art scene. (You want even simpler? Just buy a baguette, some cheese and some strawberries, and a picnic dinner is served en plain air!) Or, if you want to shoot the moon, combine a walk in the Jardin Palais Royale with lunch at the 2 Michelin starred restaurant inside La Comédie Française.
7. Art and more art: This spring, there’s Manet and Degas at the Musée d’Orsay; a show examining the work and life of the actress Sarah Bernhardt at the Petit Palais; Serge Gainsbourg at the Pompidou; Philip Starck’s “pataphysical” tour of Paris at the Musée Carnavalet, and more at the Louvre, the Rodin Museum and all over Paris. Bring your sneakers, as long days can be hard on the feet.
For more ideas, like a pop up vintage street clothing sale, or the Paris Book Fair, check out this great list of things to do in Paris this spring.
And remember, if you take everything in little bites, are sure to take breaks in the sun, you should enjoy every moment. Don’t feel badly just sitting for an entire afternoon–Paris is a moveable feast, one that can take a lifetime to imbibe.
Caitlin Shetterly is the Editor-in-Chief of Frenchly. She is also the author of 4 books: Fault Lines, Made for You and Me, Modified and the upcoming novel, Pete and Alice in Maine, which will be published on July 4th, 2023 by Harper Books. She is a native daughter and she lives with her two sons and husband in an old house on the coast of Maine.
Beehive photo, Philip Ruskin. The rest, Shutterstock.