Last Updated on March 2, 2023
Are you planning a visit to Paris in April? Congratulations! Hate crowds? Hmm, I may just have to take back my congrats. As you probably know, the month suffers a bit from its own ridiculous popularity– not to mention its idyllic portrayal in Hollywood films. So if you’re intent on enjoying it to the fullest, you’ll have to be tolerant of the pack.
I also recommend that you abandon any and all images you may be harboring in your head that involve, say, Meg Ryan strolling through fields of daffodils with the Eiffel Tower looming behind, accordion music swelling in the background.
Trash the inflated expectations, and open your eyes to the small, and beautiful, details around you. Then, and only then, will you be able to fully enjoy this time of the year in the capital.
While April can be enchanting in the surreal, larger-than-life way you may be hoping for, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that it can also be expensive, noisy, and quite claustrophobic. High season resumes this month, so hotel stays, flights and train prices all go up.
You’l have to adjust your budget accordingly. Luckily, it’s also a time when being outside, even into the evening, is once again a pleasant prospect, and many outdoor activities are free or inexpensive. The sprawling spaces in certain less-trodden areas will also offer you some relief from the crowds, hopefully– read on for some suggestions.
To put it all rather simply, there are some very good reasons why so many visitors throng on the capital during the month lauded by poets and even by the one and only Josephine Baker. But when a place (and time) is too-loved and too-inflated, it can degrade or even cheapen the experience of it.
So don’t “just” be a tourist. Be a true urban and cultural explorer, determined to unearth some quiet or secretive beauty– even if you spend lots of time in “iconic” places.
Again, look for small details in the familiar postcard scenes. I will pester you with this until it becomes your mantra. Defamiliarize the familiar: that’s how meaningful encounters with a place happen.
But enough pontificating! On to some practical and concrete suggestions for how to make the most of your trip.
The Matter of the Mercury: April Weather & Packing Tips
In April, daytime temperatures in Paris are generally on the cool to “warmish”– but not truly warm– side. Rain is expected about nine days out of the month, and sometimes it comes down in torrents. The late afternoons and evenings can be pretty cold. A favorite (rhyming) French expression of mine warns of the unexpected chill, too: “En avril, ne te découvre pas d’un fil” (In April, don’t take off a thread).
As I’ve no doubt noted elsewhere, I find it charming and hilarious that so many Parisians take that maxim so literally, remaining encased up to their chins in thick scarves during the spring. But they do have a point. Layering is always a good idea, as nights are generally chillier, and sometimes even daytime temps can creep back toward winterish ones.
Minimum Temperature: 7 degrees C/44 degrees F
Maximum Temperature: 15 degrees C/59 degrees F (in recent years, warmer highs have been common)
Average temp: 11 degrees C/51.8 degrees F
Average monthly precipitation: 45 mm/1.7 inches
In your suitcase, I’d recommend packing a few good sweaters, a spring coat that’s waterproof, a couple of moderately warm scarves and at least one pair of good, waterproof shoes for walking.
It can get pretty wet at this time of year, and you don’t want to be caught in a deluge unprepared– however romantic it may sound.
Best Things to See and Do in April?
My suggestions here are far from exhaustive, but here are a few inspiring ways to really see the capital in the fourth month.
1. Get out and frolic in some green spaces
Ok, so the frolicking part is just a suggestion. This bit of advice is repeated in all of my spring calendars, but it’s unavoidable: who wouldn’t want to spend some time ambling through, or lounging around in, some of the most beautiful parks and gardens in the city?
As long as it isn’t pouring or irritatingly drizzly (the French like to call the latter une petite pluie de merde or “shitty little rain”), I’d recommend spending some time getting to know the winding romantic lanes, quaint ponds, elegant statues, lush trees and flowerbeds at the city’s many lovely green havens.
Parc Monceau (pictured above; Metro: Monceau) is one of my favorites: with a long literary and artistic history, it features statues of writers including Guy de Maupassant (who referenced the park numerous times in his stories and novels), the composer Frederic Chopin, and the poet Alfred de Musset.
Other green spaces I love include the Promenade Plantée, a mile-long garden path built on a defunct railway above-ground and perfect for a long stroll around the Bastille district; the formerly royal Jardin des Tuileries, and the wildly popular but irresistible Place des Vosges in the Marais.
Originally built for King Louis XIII and a favorite spot for enjoying a casual picnic of falafel and gelato as soon as spring rolls around, this elegant square is simply idyllic once the flowers bloom and the temperatures creep up. See my related piece on some of the better places for street food in the capital to find out where to procure the goodies I mention above.
Finally, the Parc de la Villette in the far corners of northeastern Paris doesn’t get a lot of footfall from tourists– but its fascinating thematic gardens, science and industry museum and Philharmonic orchestra offer more than mere greenery.
Day Trips From Paris
You may also want to have a look at my full guide to some of the best places outside the Paris city limits for daylong excursions, from the lush gardens at Versailles and Giverny to medieval villages surrounded by sprawling fields or forests.
2. Wander through outdoor book stalls and flea markets.
Another thing that calls my name once the temperatures creep well above zero is to wander through outdoor book, antique and flea markets. Paris has an abundance of centuries-old stalls and markets that are as much a part of the cultural fabric of the city as its monuments are.
While some are widely known– such as the famous “bouquinistes“ (independent booksellers) along the Seine with their deep green metal stands bursting with reading materials– others are a bit more off the beaten path, and frequented mostly by locals.
The weekend antique market at the Village St-Paul (pictured above; metro: St Paul) is one example of a quieter, but incredibly vibrant, spot to keep on your radar. Wander through its interconnected passageways on a Saturday or Sunday, and browse through antique coins, furniture, objets d’art and more.
Dating to as early as the 7th century, when the site harbored a nunnery, the Village St Paul was also once home to King Charles V, who had a residence built here in 1360. For the following two centuries, the royal French Parish had headquarters on the site.
Otherwise, while many visitors know about the world-famous Puces de Clignancourt flea market to the extreme north of the city, the quieter, but equally fascinating, Puces de Vanves in the far south is arguably more charming (and a tad less overwhelming).
Barter your heart out among the dozens of overflowing stalls at the Vanves flea market, or just amble through and revel in the interesting and sometimes downright-bizarre wares.
From old paintings, creepy antique dolls, records and books to commemorative silverware and porcelain depicting kings and queens of old, outdated gadgets and fine rugs, there’s a wealth of beauty and weirdness to behold.
A word of warning, however, the stall owners WILL often take issue with you photographing them or their items without permission. Sometimes, they refuse outright when you do ask, too.
Getting There: Metro Porte de Vanves (Line 13)
3. Explore less-trodden corners of the city
Of course, it goes without saying (I hope) that you should extend your wanderings to explorations of as many neighborhoods and quiet nooks of the city as you can manage. See this guide for suggestions on places to get away from the crowds and see “Paris au printemps” through a fresh lens.
4. Soak up some art & culture: exhibits & shows in April 2023
The city is fully emerging from the winter season at this time of year, so galleries, museums and other major venues start to really get back into gear in April. Here are a couple of shows I particularly recommend in 2023.
Sayed Haider Raza (at the Centre Pompidou)
The Centre Georges Pompidou is currently running a major retrospective on the work and legacy of Indian (Punjabi) painter Sayed Haider Raza. Raza, who died in 2016, was one of the most famous members of the Progressive Artists Group founded in Mumbai in the mid-twentieth century.
Considered one of the most important Indian painters of the modern era, Raza lived in France for decades. Running through mid-May, the exhibition highlights a selection of his works painted between the 1950s and the 1990s, and shows how the artist’s innovative approaches to color and form translate important “transcultural dynamics and issues at stake in 20th century art”, according to the exhibition website.
When: This show runs through May 15th, 2023 at the Centre Pompidou. We also strongly recommend that you take the opportunity to see the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art there, and featuring masterpieces by Matisse, Picasso, Braque, Miró, Modigliani and many other artistic giants of the 20th century.
Manet/Dégas (at the Musée d’Orsay)
Fans of French impressionism should beeline to this extraordinary exhibit at the Musée d’Orsay, curated jointly by the Musée de l’orangerie in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It juxtaposes the artistic techniques and genius of two major impressionists, Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas, who were both working at their peaks during the 1860s to 1880s.
The two friends had major influences on the work of the other, but also differed greatly in terms of their aesthetic sensibilities and spirit. This is a show that not only sheds light on the oeuvre of two great artists, but on the artistic zeitgest of France in the mid-19th century.
- Dates: From March 28th, 2033 through July 17th, 2023
- Where: Musée d’Orsay (see more info on the show here)
Matisse: Cahiers d’Art – The Pivotal 1930s
True, there’s been no shortage of exhibits on the painter Henri Matisse in the past few years. But his body of work is so complex and monumental that this new show at the Orangerie in Paris promises to draw crowds nonetheless.
Showing through late May, the exhibition casts a spotlight on a pivotal decade in the painter’s career: the 1930s, when he traveled to Tahiti and took a bit of a hiatus. During the interwar period, Matisse’s artistic techniques and approaches evolved tremendously under the influence of modernism and avant-garde movements; these were repeatedly spotlighted in the avant-garde publication Cahiers d’art during that time.
Dates and location: The show opened at the Musée de l’Orangerie in late March and runs through May 29th, 2023. Learn more and buy skip-the-line tickets for the museum here (via Tiqets.com).
Other Shows & Events
For anyone interested in contemporary art, April is a great month to be in town. The Art Paris Art Fair brings together some 130 galleries from around the world to showcase their acquisitions under a single roof.
Dates: In 2023, Art Paris runs from March 30th through April 2nd at the Grand Palais Ephémère, near the foot of the Eiffel Tower on the Champ de Mars. See more info (including on how to buy tickets) here.
For a more complete list of exhibits, shows, and special events around town in April, see this page.
Book Your Trip: How to Prepare?
Especially when traveling in high season, planning ahead is essential. If you’re going by plane, search for deals on flights several months in advance (via Skyscanner). Taking the train? You can book tickets and discount passes at Rail Europe. Also remember to read up on travel insurance options for France.
You can see more on current safety guidelines for Paris, including updated information on current Covid-related travel regulations, at this page.
Looking for a high-quality tour of Paris that matches your interests? Consider browsing the selection of tours offered by GetYourGuide. They have a wide number of tours that should fit well with any budget and set of interests, from visits to popular museums to day trips, food and wine experiences.
Like This? Pin & Share It!
Courtney Traub is the Founder and Editor of Paris Unlocked. She’s a longtime Paris resident who now divides her time (as well as she can manage) between the French capital and Norwich, UK. Co-author of the 2012 Michelin Green Guide to Northern France & the Paris Region, she has written and reported stories for media outlets including Radio France Internationale, Reed Business Information, WWD, and The Associated Press. She has also been interviewed as an expert on Paris and France by the BBC, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Le Figaro, Matador Network and other publications. In addition to pursuing an insatiable interest in French culture, history, food and art, Courtney is a scholar of literature and cultural history whose essays and reviews have appeared in various forums.