While most people prefer sightseeing against the backdrop of sunny skies and a cool breeze, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the best of the city when it pours. Paris is a pretty wet city: it gets some 111 days of rainfall and up to 25 inches of annual precipitation.
Damp and chilly conditions are so common here that you’ll have to figure out ways to make the most of your trip, rain or shine. Luckily, the capital is brimming with interesting, fun and cozy activities for such dreary days.
Here are just a few of my picks of the best things to do on a rainy day in Paris. Do get yourself a sturdy, wind-proof umbrella, waterproof shoes and/or jacket before you venture out, though.
Visit a museum or art gallery.
Museums and art galleries offer great shelters from the rain, and Paris boasts some of the best collections in the world. On rainy days, especially on weekends, you can expect The Louvre or Musée d’Orsay to be packed to the rafters, making any chance of seeing The Mona Lisa or any other prized masterpiece even scarcer than usual.
That’s why opting for smaller, less crowded venues may not be a bad idea. See our guides to the best independent art galleries in Paris and the loveliest small museums in the capital, then peruse my suggestions below.
The Jeu de Paume
- Address: 1 Place de la Concorde, 75008 Paris
- Metro: Concorde
- Tel: +33 (0) 1 47 03 12 50
Nestled at the edge of the Tuileries Garden near Place de la Concorde, the Jeu de Paume is an arts center dedicated to photography, video and arthouse films.
During World War II the gallery was used by the Nazis to store so-called degenerate art, modern works the regime deemed taboo or distasteful. Today, the Jeu de Paume is the leading national gallery of contemporary art and has mounted exhibitions on Cindy Sherman, Ed Ruscha and Portuguese photographer Helena Almeidad, among other acclaimed artists.
The rectangular building, which was constructed under the reign of Napoleon III as an across-the-park twin to the Musée de l’Orangerie, is a sight to see in and of itself.
The Atelier des Lumières
This recent addition to the Parisian arts scene has drawn crowds of thousands for its monumental, multimedia shows.
Melding digital images with music, they bring well-known masterpieces and artistic movements to startling new life. Past shows have focused on Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, Vincent Van Gogh and several contemporary artists.
Getting There: See our complete guide to the Atelier des Lumières for info
Browse boutiques and old-world department stores.
Paris brings out the inner shopper in even the most reluctant consumerist. Why? Its hundreds of specialty shops and boutiques lure you in with elaborate and beautiful window displays, for one. Much of the city lacks the corporate monotony of comparable shopping districts in other cities.
Whether it’s clothes, homemade chocolates and pastries, bespoke perfumes or souvenirs you’re after, there are countless indoor spaces calling your name.
And even if you’re just in for a bit of lèche-vitrines (window shopping, or literally, “window-licking”), the city affords plenty of opportunities for that, too. No need to spend money: walking around and casually browsing is a great way to get out of the rain, too.
- Address: 40 boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris
- Metro: Chaussée d’Antin – Lafayette
- Tel: +33 (0) 1 42 82 83 88
Department stores are a great antidote to rainy days. In Paris, they’re far more than just places to shop: they’re feats of beautiful design that make for a unique and memorable shopping experience.
Galeries Lafayette has a palatial feel that renders any visit there eventful and exciting. Boasting lavish Belle-Epoque and Art Nouveau architectural details, the store is an unending maze of fashion boutiques, bars, restaurants and food stands that’ll ravish the pickiest of palates.
Make sure to see the elaborate glass cupola that extends through the rooftop of the main building on Boulevard Haussmann. Here, an annual Christmas tree display adds tons of festive charm.
There’s even a rooftop terrace with a panoramic view of the Eiffel Tower, the Montparnasse Tower, Invalides and Opéra Garnier.
La Grande Epicerie
- Address: 38 Rue de Sèvres, 75007 Paris
- Metro: Sèvres-Babylone
- Tel: +33 (0) 1 44 39 81 00
Paris’s biggest food shop, known as Heaven to foodies, carries great quality products; France’s culinary savoir-faire at its best.
If just to sample mouth-watering gourmet food or get some inspiration for delicious gift ideas, la Grande Epicerie is the place to stock up on the country’s finest.
It’s part of another grand old Belle-Epoque department store, Le Bon Marché, which offers another excellent refuge from the rainy conditions. This is a good option when you’re visiting nearby areas such as the Latin Quarter and Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
More on Shopping in Paris: See this complete guide from TripSavvy for more on the best boutiques and shopping districts in the capital.
Huddle in a lovely café or tearoom
Watching the rain fall on Paris’s fabled cobblestoned streets has a romantic ring to it– and there’s no better place than the capital’s hundreds of charming cafés to witness such a lovely scene. Here are a few we recommend:
- Address: 226 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
- Metro: Tuileries
- Tel: +33 (0) 1 42 60 82 00
Although a bit touristy, a visit to Angelina promises a foray into the spirit of The Belle Epoque, a time of great economic prosperity and cultural innovation. With its mouldings, bevelled mirrors and grandiose paintings, this Viennese-style tearoom offers the perfect escape from bad weather conditions.
Plus, their hot chocolate is to die for, and this is one of the best spots for an idyllic afternoon tea in the capital— another wonderful way to wait for the rain to abate.
The Jardin du Petit Palais Café
- Address: Avenue Winston Churchill, 75008 Paris
- Metro: Champs-Elysées-Clémenceau
- Tel: +33 (0) 1 53 43 40 00
This spacious outdoor café with a warm contemporary décor opens on to a superb enclosed garden of blue and gold mosaic pools, colonnades, and exotic plants – a hidden gem that provides shelter while affording some stunning views.
This one is probably best for a warm but wet spring or summer evening, though.
This cozy, stylish newcomer just off the Canal St-Martin is a great place to perch for a fantastic artisanal coffee or cup of tea. The beans used here are hand-roasted by the much-lauded Café Lomi-– another great place to perch, incidentally.
The cookies, cakes and bars are also delicious here, and the spacious tables offer plenty of space to read or write if you’re feeling inspired.
Looking for the perfect café near you? See this guide to find one.
Go see a movie at a historic cinema.
There’s nothing like a great movie to forget about the rain, and luckily Paris is full of old-world movie theaters screening the latest films, reruns of cult classics and retrospectives on great directors.
- Address: 170 Boulevard de Magenta, 75010 Paris
- Metro: Barbès-Rochechouart
- Tel: +33 (0) 1 44 63 96 98
This 1920s Egyptian/Art Deco film house is one of the only cinemas left from pre-war entertainment and possibly the oldest movie palace of Paris.
Inspired by the movie Cleopatra, it initially specialized in exotic cinema, screening primarily Bollywood, North African films, and erotic features late at night. Sold in the 1990s and later abandonned, the lavish theater reopened in 2013 to everyone’s delight.
My Tip: Buying a movie ticket will give you access to the bar upstairs, on the secret rooftop.
Le Grand Rex
- Address: Boulevard Poissonnière, 75002 Paris
- Metro: Bonne Nouvelle
- Tel: +33 (0) 1 45 08 93 89
Known for its sumptuous decor and 2,800-seat main auditorium, Le Grand Rex is considered to be a landmark of Art Deco architecture.
Built with the aim to create the most beautiful movie theatre in Paris, where cinema-goers would have the illusion of watching a film in the open air, Le Grand Rex has an atmospheric feel.
A starred ceiling and fantasy-inspired decor on either side of the screen adds to the enchantment.