November might not be the first month you consider for a trip to Paris. Hear us out though – the eleventh month isn’t all doom and gloom.
The fall weather may mean you have to spend more time indoors, but with a world-class selection of museums to choose between, that shouldn’t be too much of a hardship. And as visitor numbers thin out, it’s all the easier to have a tête-à-tête with the Mona Lisa or a Van Gogh self-portrait.
Paris in November certainly isn’t quiet when it comes to things to do either. Two public holidays and an expansive list of – largely indoor – events are sure to keep you on your toes, whilst the latter half of the month sees Christmas slowly put its festive embrace over the City of Light.
When it comes to museums, art lovers visiting Paris in November can rejoice at the number of first-rate galleries, or panic because of the number of first-rate galleries. A common place to start is at the Louvre. But as the second-largest gallery in the world, its 38,000 objects can be overwhelming.
Just across the River Seine, the Musée d’Orsay’s works span less than 70 years. It’s no less impressive for that, containing one of the most important collections of impressionist and post-impressionist art in the world, by the hands of luminaries including Renoir, Sisley and Gauguin.
To delve into the thought processes and inspiration behind Pablo Picasso’s extraordinary output there’s Paris’s National Picasso Museum. Having lived in the city for over 40 years, its mass of sketchbooks, paintings and sculptures come directly from Picasso’s heirs, having initially formed part of his own private collection. It spans a lifetime of work, from his Blue Period to his surrealist masterpieces.
The nights drawing in during November have their advantages. Amongst them is the ability to experience the City of Light at its most enigmatic and atmospheric – when the sun settles over the French capital and its grand monuments are artificially illuminated.
The Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and Sacré-Coeur Basilica are all elegantly lit. A Hop-on Hop-off sightseeing bus tour will save your feet, and also provide a little background to the backdrop of world-famous landmarks.
Towards the end of the month, visitors to Paris are also able to experience the switching on of Christmas lights in around 150 streets. The obvious place to start is probably the Champs-Élysées, where no less than a million individual bulbs are draped over the trees.
Elsewhere, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré and Avenue Montaigne are also reliable sources of festive cheer – and looming credit card limits.
Check out alternatives to the high street
The shopping doesn’t have to stop just because you head under cover. Some Parisians aren’t even aware of its maze of covered passageways. These decorative arcades host a fantastic array of independent stores, from jewelers to secondhand booksellers. You’ll also find a number of authentic cafés and bistros, whether you’re desperate for chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) or steak frites (steak and fries) and a glass of red wine.
If the hot chocolate got you in the mood for all things cocoa based, you’re in exactly the right city. The history of how the odd-looking bean became one of the world’s most desirable crops can be discovered at The Gourmet Chocolate Museum Choco-Story.
Meanwhile, the Salon du Chocolat fair at the end of the month sees five full days of chocolate-related fun. If the wines of France are more your cup of tea (to mix our metaphors), turn your attention to the city’s myriad caves (wine cellars).
The third Thursday of November is the annual date set for the release of Beaujolais nouveau, and connoisseurs throughout Paris race to be the first to taste its youthful bouquet.
Experience Paris on a day off
‘Beaujolais Day’ isn’t a national holiday – yet. However, Paris does have two bona fide jour fériés to prepare for in November. It begins with La Toussaint (All Saints’ Day) on the first of the month.
With offices, stores and restaurants closed for the day many families pay their respects to lost loved ones. Visitors might instead make a short pilgrimage to heroes including Oscar Wilde or Jim Morrison of The Doors at Père Lachaise cemetery in the 20th arrondissement (district).
The second national holiday lies ten days later on November 11. Commemorating the end of the First World War in 1918, Armistice Day focuses on the Arc de Triomphe. The French President lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier beneath the main arch.
Further details of this time reveal themselves at the Musée Clemenceau, the former home of the French wartime prime minister. A giant of his day, Georges Clemenceau counted Claude Monet among his friends, and supported Alfred Dreyfus during the affair bearing his name which rocked France at the turn of the twentieth century.
Get set for Christmas
In addition to the arrival of its Christmas lights, Paris in November sees the appearance of many other seasonal activities more usually associated with December.
Stores big and small, budget and luxury, compete against one another to have the most alluring window displays, with the large department stores renowned for going all out on the decorations.
At the same time, Alsatian-style chalets start to appear in various public spaces as Paris’s Christmas markets take form. The Tuileries Garden hosts one of the largest, combining funfair rides, souvenirs and a decent supply of vin chaud (mulled wine). The La Défense district’s version welcomes an amazing 350 different stalls, alongside a large outdoor ice rink.
The Grand Palais opposite the Eiffel Tower is turned into one giant indoor ice rink from around the middle of November, with music and light displays some evenings. Other outdoor rinks include those at Le Plaza Athénée and the rooftop of the Galeries Lafayette flagship store on Boulevard Haussmann.
Get the most out of Paris in November
Brilliant museums, dazzling night-times, wondrous foods and the start of the Christmas festivities. Is there anything that could make November in Paris any better? How about savings on admission to many of its top attractions? Explore with Go City and that’s exactly what you get!