Paris in November: Why to Embrace the Short, Cozy Days

Paris in November: little daylight, but cozy and intimate. By Valerii Tkachenko [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Paris in November: little daylight, but cozy and intimate. Image: By Valerii Tkachenko [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Many tourists don’t even consider visiting Paris in November, fearing they’ll be “regaled” with icy rain, miserably dark days and grumpy, sleepy locals. But while it’s certainly not for everyone– and you occasionally do encounter all of the above (I can’t lie)– the 11th month offers some unexpected charm, too.

In November, the city celebrated for its light 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) illuminate things toward the end of the month (see more below)– but until then, it’s steadily increasing darkness and a looming sense of quiet.

Related: Why Paris in the Fall Can be Ideal– & How to Make the Most of It 

The Conciergerie in Paris, shot on a cold winter morning. Maurice Svay/Creative Commons

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.

The Vibe: Intimate and Calm

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.

A strong, good Americano or "café allongé" at the Grand Café Tortoni, Paris. Image: Courtney Traub/All rights reserved
A strong, good Americano or “café allongé” at the Grand Café Tortoni, Paris. Image: Courtney Traub/All rights reserved

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?

By Guilhem Vellut from Paris, France (Berges @ Seine @ Paris) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Image credit: Guilhem Vellut/Wikimedia Commons

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.

A rainy day in Paris-- typical of weather in November. Nick Page/ Creative Commons.
A rainy day in Paris– typical of weather in November. Nick Page/ Creative Commons.

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?

By Falcon® Photography from France (Carrousel) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Falcon® Photography from France (Carrousel) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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 For a November Trip to Paris?

Paris in its January guise, outside the Centre Pompidou.

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: A Few Suggestions

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 (Thursday, November 17th in 2022). For Beaujolais-related tastings and happenings this year in Paris, see my full guide. It’s generally updated sometime in October.

A cafe somewhere in Paris

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.   

Paris Photo in 2017, Grand Palais, Paris. Hernan Pinera/Creative Commons
Paris Photo in 2017 at the Grand Palais in Paris. Hernan Pinera/Creative Commons

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 2022, Paris Photo will be held from November 10th to 13th.

Also in November (some years) 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.

(Note: In 2022 the Salon de la Photo was held in October rather than in November).

3. Take in a film or two (or three).  

The Champo is one of the Latin Quarter's beloved historic cinemas.
The Champo is one of the Latin Quarter’s beloved historic cinemas.

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…

See this page at TripSavvy  for my favorite cinemas in the capital. Time Out Paris also offers some good suggestions for indie theatres here.

4. Shows, Seasonal Events & Exhibits: My Picks in November 2022

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 beyond — and consider my picks below.

Edvard Munch: A Poem of Life, Love and Death

Edvard Munch, “Fresh Snow on the Path”/Munch Museum, Oslo /Public domain

Head to the Musée D’Orsay through January to see an exhibit that examines the work and tumultuous life of Norwegian painter Edvard Munch, famous for his angsty painting “The Scream” but in reality a painter with a much greater range than he is typically given credit for.

Staged in collaboration with the Munch Museum in Oslo, the exhibit represents a major retrospective of the artist’s work, who was born in 1863 and died in 1944. Some 100 paintings, drawings, etched blocks, prints and other works convey Munch’s enduring emotional themes of anguish, passion for life, and curiosity about the inevitability of death as a human experience.

Dates: The show runs through January 22, 2023 . See more about it at the official website.

Frida Kahlo, Beyond Appearances

A more intimate look at the life and daily rituals of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo is attracting visitors to a unique show at Paris’ Palais Galliera/Museum of Fashion— offering and unusual glimpse into the painter’s life, personal style and struggles

The exhibit, “Frida Kahlo: Beyond Appearances”, showcases around 200 personal items from the Casa Azul in Mexico City, the emblematic, brightly hued blue house that Kahlo shared with fellow painter and husband Diego Rivera. Kahlo’s garments and accessories, beauty products, letters and correspondence, and even medications and orthopedic aids are among the unique items making up the collection on display. Why medications? Kahlo was seriously injured in a bus accident as a young woman and suffered terrible pain for the rest of her life.

This is the first time the items in the show have been released for public display– a true opportunity for Kahlo fans to experience them.

  • Location: Palais Galliera, Paris
  • Dates: Through March 5th, 2023

Book your tickets online here (via Tiqets)

Paris Christmas Markets and Holiday Festivities (from Late November)

Paris Christmas market, with Eiffel Tower in background, Trocadero

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 are set to open in 2022, check back here in early November. 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. 

*Disclaimer: This post includes a few affiliate links. If you book travel-related products or services though them, it comes at no cost to you, but will fund more in-depth features and tips at this site. Thanks!    

One thought on “Paris in November: Why to Embrace the Short, Cozy Days

  1. Considering a;’ family trip in November 2023 over Thanksgiving. Even though that is considered low season, I still would like to get the best deals I can for airfare. When do you start looking/ booking for those Thanksgiving trips? And do you book accomodations first or vice versa. Thanks!

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