Many tourists don’t even consider visiting Paris in November, fearing that they’ll be “regaled” with icy rain, miserably dark days and grumpy locals. But while it’s certainly not for everyone– and you occasionally do encounter all of the above (I can’t lie)– this time of year offers some unexpected charms, too.
In November, the city enters into a period of relative hibernation. This is waning season. The days grow short, with an average of only nine hours of daylight. Locals tend to spend much more time indoors. The winter holiday season only starts to (literally) light things back up toward the end of the month (see more below)– but until then, it’s steadily increasing darkness and a looming sense of quiet.
Yet there can also be joy and coziness in embracing the wane. This is an ideal time of year to really get to know Paris “behind the curtains”– those put up by the tourist industry, that is.
I’d venture to say that November (perhaps along with January and February) is the month that’s most authentically Parisian, in that tourism is at a low ebb and the city turns inward a bit, focused more on locals and their well-being and entertainment than on visitors’.
Read related: Why There’s Really No “Best” Time of Year to Visit Paris
Accordingly, there’s an unusual emphasis on traditional activities that bring people together in more intimate and laid-back ways. Think basement wine bars and warm cinemas. Think cafes with steamed-up windows and jazz music playing faintly in the background, as the clank of silverware and hum of conversation fills the air.
Think smaller exhibits and poetry readings, or warm French crepes and galettes gobbled down alongside Breton cider in small, rough ceramic bowls. Think wandering through the elegant covered passageways of the Grands Boulevards, admiring the old-world window displays and escaping the rain outside.
While Parisians have, like the rest of us, only recently discovered the concept of “hygge” imported from Denmark, there’s a French brand of coziness that’s always been present in the culture– and it certainly reigns in November.
Have I piqued your interest? If so, keep reading to figure out whether a low-season sojourn in Paris might actually be ideal. In addition to offering my advice on what to see in the eleventh month and tips for packing your suitcase, I also suggest general shows and exhibits to beeline to in 2018.
What are the Pros and Cons of a November Sojourn?
I’ve already mentioned the opportunity to explore the city in a more authentic way as one benefit. This is also an excellent time to de-stress, carving out time in your busy schedule to read, contemplate some gorgeous examples of fine art and architecture, tuck into a plate of delicious, warming French dishes, or bundle up and enjoy an early winter walk.
The crowds thin considerably in November, a fact that many will love. While the city is busy year-round, this is one of the best times of year to visit if you’re somewhat claustrophobic, and/or loathe long lines.
On a related note, prices for air and rail tickets as well as hotel or B&B stays tend to be lower at this time of year. Still, I suggest booking early to get the best deals.
To get started, you can compare prices and current deals on flights and hotels at Skyscanner, or book train tickets and passes to Paris (at Rail Europe).
Another benefit? If you can’t come at year-end, a late November visit can still allow you to take in some of the winter holiday festivities. Read on to learn how.
And the cons?
Every month has its downsides, and November might be considered to have an unusual number of these.
Shorter daylight hours and a significant dip in average temperatures from October makes outdoor activities less attractive. This is not the best time of year to attempt a lot of day trips from Paris, since you’ll have to rush to get in as much daylight as possible.
Cold rain, sleet and snow is common in November, and can be quite unpleasant. You may find yourself wondering why you didn’t come at a more clement time of year.
And while it’s true that the city has a more authentic feel in its darkest month, locals can be a bit withdrawn and unwilling to engage. People tend to be tired and just want to get home after a long day at work.
Whereas a spring trip to Paris might find you chatting away with strangers on rooftop terraces or in parks, in November the atmosphere is degrees less sociable.
November Weather in Paris: What’s the Mercury Doing?
As I mention above, temperatures take quite a dip in November, especially near month’s end. Icy rain can put a literal damper on outdoor plans, while in past years occasional snow has taken aback locals unaccustomed to it so early in the year.
By the same token, there have occasionally been “heat waves” in November– the mercury climbed to 23 degrees C in 2015 at one point, which is more typical of May or September!
It’s actually a bit less wet this month than it is in late spring or summer. Still, there’s still a fair amount of rainfall, which means you should always come prepared for it.
Minimum Temperature: 8 degrees C/46.4 degrees F
Maximum Temperature: 11 degrees C/52 degrees F (please note that warmer maximum temperatures have been logged in recent years)
Average temp: 9.5 degrees C/49 degrees F
Average monthly precipitation: 65 mm/2.5 inches (totaling around eleven days per month)
Average Daylight hours: 9
How to Pack Your Suitcase This Month?
To contend with colder days and less sunlight to warm you up, make sure to pack plenty of sweaters, warm pants or wool skirts and tights.
Waterproof jackets, shoes and a good, thick scarf is a must. Icy wind off the Seine might strike you as romantic, but if you have a bare neck it can be as unpleasant as Hades on a winter’s day.
Please don’t overlook the need for warm, waterproof shoes. When it rains, large, splashy puddles tend to form in some neighborhoods, and the last thing you want is to have to trudge around the city with wet, numb feet and sopping socks. The thought of it alone provokes shivers…
One thing I also recommend is a good thermos, so you can brave the chilly conditions and walk around the city, sipping hot tea or coffee to stay motivated and warm.
Best Things to See and Do in November?
While, as I’ve already argued, November affords unusual opportunities to just relax and take in the world, there’s no shortage of stimulation in the capital. Take note of my suggestions below, and then perhaps head over to the tourist office website for a more complete list of events and activities in November.
1. Huddle up around a good glass of wine (or other warm drinks).
Wine isn’t generally produced in Paris, but the city’s many charming wine bars are ideal places to huddle indoors with friends or travel companions, perhaps enjoying a spicy, warming glass of Burgundy or Cotes du Rhone red while tucking into a plate of creamy cheeses and crusty bread.
Read related: Cozy Things to Do in Paris During the Winter
Wine bars I particularly love and recommend include Le Verre Volé (67 Rue de Lancry, Metro République or Jacques-Bonsergent), where the small plates are as delicious and beautifully prepared as the wine selection is discerning and creative; Frenchie Bar à Vins (6 Rue du Nil, Metro Sentier) where British patrons offer an interesting variety of French and international wines paired (if desired) with English cheeses; and Le Baron Rouge (1 Rue Théophile Roussel, Metro Faidherbe-Chaligny), right off the beloved Aligre market.
Enjoy the Beaujolais Nouveau Season
November is also Beaujolais Nouveau season, when makers of this young red wine release their latest and bars around the city offer tastings, live music and other events.
Generally, the festivities kick off on the third Thursday of the month at the stroke of midnight (November 19th in 2020). For Beaujolais-related tastings and happenings this year in Paris, see my full guide. (Editor’s Note: Be aware that in 2020, most events are cancelled due to a full national lockdown in response to the coronavirus crisis).
Of course, if you don’t drink, there are still plenty of ways to warm up and take in some charming surroundings. See this page for a list of excellent cafes to hunker down in, and this one for suggestions on where to indulge in some of the best afternoon tea in Paris.
2. Bask in photography exhibits and trends.
Photography fan? If so, November is an ideal month to be in town. First, beeline to Paris Photo, the single-largest annual show in the world dedicated to the medium. Held each year under the grandiose rooftop of the Grand Palais, the event brings together hundreds of photographers, galleries, buyers and amateurs.
It’s a fantastic way to see work from promising new lenses as well as legendary ones– and perhaps even come away with a small acquisition. Some, especially works in smaller formats, are affordable for modest budgets.
In 2020, Paris Photo has sadly been cancelled due to a national lockdiwn through December 1.
Also in November is the Salon de la Photo, a massive show at the Porte de Versailles convention center at the city’s southern edge.
This one’s worth a morning or afternoon (and the trip south) for anyone practicing photography whether as a hobby or as a professional ambition. Simple admirer? The convention is also a good place to make an acquisition.
(The Salon de la Photo has been cancelled in 2020). It may be rescheduled.
3. Take in a film or two (or three).
With over 300 movies playing a week at any given time, Paris remains a stomping ground (or lurking ground, as it were) for film aficionados.
Of course, a cold, dark, forbidding month like November provides the perfect excuse to spend a whole afternoon or evening at the cinema.
And if you end up hopping between a couple of classic old theatres in the Latin Quarter (like the Champo, shown above), you’ll be exploring an essential thread in the Parisian cultural and historic fabric. So no need to feel guilty about staying indoors for a spell…
4. Shows, Seasonal Events & Exhibits: My Picks in November 2020
(As mentioned above, a national lockdown has led to the closure of all non essential businesses, including museums, galleries and other attractions. Sadly, this means that planned expositions and other events have been cancelled this year.)
It may be low season, but arts and culture still thrive this month. See this page for an almost-complete list of shows worth seeing this month — and consider my picks below.
Francis Bacon: Books & Painting (at the Centre Georges Pompidou)
The Centre Georges Pompidou is currently staging an important retrospective on British painter Francis Bacon that explores the 20th century artist’s work in an illuminating new light.
The show, stretched across six rooms at the National Museum of Modern Art, highlights several different periods in Bacon’s oeuvre, from the early 1970s to the early 1990s. It particularly explores the influence of (and references to) literature in his paintings and other works.
When: The exhibit runs throughout November and until January 20th, 2020. You can purchase tickets online here.
Leonardo Da Vinci at The Louvre
Don’t miss out on this monumental retrospective on the great Renaissance master at the Louvre, which brings over 140 works into a single exhibit. It’s considered one of the most innovative approaches to Leonardo in decades, casting his work in a light that has rarely been seen.
You’ll see some of the artist and inventor’s greatest masterpieces, from “Madonna and Saint Anne” to “La Belle Ferroniere”, as well as some of his most intriguing manuscripts and drawings.
Klimt: A Voyage to the Heart of the Viennese Secession Movement (special evening shows)
Last year, I managed to snag a ticket to a show that I initially felt skeptical towards, given the outsized buzz it had managed to generate. Perhaps needless to say, an afternoon at the exhibit persuaded me otherwise. Presented at the Atelier des Lumières, a new multimedia arts space and cultural center just blocks away from Père-Lachaise Cemetery, the exhibit creatively “recycles”– and effectively reinvents– the work and legacy of Viennese artists Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and the artistic movement known as the “Secession”.
Plunged into a mesmerizing display of light and sound, it’s easy to feel as if you’ve actually been transported to early 20th-century Vienna.
The show features animated artworks that reproduce in part the familiar (and lesser-known) oeuvres of Klimt, Schiele and others, melded with an original musical score. The result is a “multisensory” experience that I’d challenge you not to find captivating.
Because the initial run was such a success, the Atelier des Lumières is restaging the show for an extra five evenings, between October 29th through November 2nd. If you’re interested, I’d recommend booking as soon as you can; the tickets are likely to sell out very quickly. Visit this page to try your luck and buy a ticket online.
Also Showing at the Atelier: Van Gogh’s Starry Night
If you can’t book one of the five evening shows for Klimt, not to despair: the Atelier also continues to run a mesmerizing multimedia exhibit on Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh through December 31st. You can book tickets at this page.
The Golden Age of English Painting (at the Musée de Luxembourg)
If the Bacon show at the Centre Pompidou isn’t enough to sate your hunger for English painting, this show at the Musée de Luxembourg (at the edge of the lovely garden of the same name) will do just the trick.
The exhibit features numerous masterpieces borrowed from the permanent collections at the Tate Britain museum, and showcases what many critics consider a golden period in British painting: the 1760s through around 1820. You’ll see how the more traditional, classically informed paintings of figures such as Reynolds and Gainsborough give way to bolder, experimental movements in the early 19th century, notably with the advent of artists like Turner.
When: Through February 16th, 2020 at the Musée du Luxembourg
Paris Christmas Markets and Holiday Festivities (from Late November)
Image credit: Jean-Pierre Dalbera, Creative Commons 2.0 license
Late November marks the opening of several holiday markets around the capital, so if you’re hoping for a bit of seasonal warmth and light, you’re in luck if your trip falls toward month end.
To find out which markets open this month, see my guide to Christmas markets in the capital over at TripSavvy. Also be sure to look for updates on other seasonal events this month– from lights and window displays to ice-skating and “Santa’s Village” events for kids– at the Paris Tourist Office page.
Ready to Book?
Before you do, I strongly encourage you to slow down long enough to get your ducks in a row– and that includes finding some decent travel insurance. In my full feature on how to stay safe in Paris, I talk about how travel insurance can go a long way in easing the stress of going abroad, since you’ll be sure to be covered in case anything goes wrong.
World Nomads is a trusted name, offering numerous reasonably priced options. You can compare the policies they offer here.
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