Visiting Paris in March: How to Make The Most of It?

(Last Updated On: March 8, 2020)
The Canal St Martin in Paris, sometime in March. This is a lovely place to stroll in early spring, by the way. Image: By La Citta Vita (Canal St Martin) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The Canal St Martin in Paris, sometime in March. La Citta Vita (Canal St Martin) [CC BY-SA 2.0]

If you haven’t yet experienced Paris in March, you’re in for a slow-motion magic show. There’s a quiet, but real, sense of rebirth that settles over the city. I liken it to a fine mist that gets into every pore and changes its color and substance, but mostly goes unnoticed.

Without thinking about it much, locals start to poke out of their apartments and gently shed their wintery cocoons. Lured by warmer temperatures, they spend a bit more time walking along the riverside quays and boulevards, on cafe terraces and lounging in parks. But the shift is so subtle that it doesn’t quite feel yet like spring, in its full-tilt, buzzing glory. And it isn’t, technically, until later in the month.

Read related: Make Your Spring Trip to Paris Magical– & Keep it Real  

Since we’re at the tail end of low season in March, you’ll still likely feel a sense of relative spaciousness and calm. I’m not promising that you’l exactly have the city to yourself: this is, after all, the world’s single most-visited city.

But the crowds will still be noticeably thinner at this time of year than they are starting in April and through the late summer/early fall– and you should take advantage of that. If you’re on a tight budget, you’re similarly in luck: airfares and hotel rates are lower now than in peak season.

A mural somewhere around Montmartre, with cherry blossoms in the foreground. Image credit: Courtney Traub/All rights reserved.
A mural somewhere around Montmartre, with cherry blossoms in the foreground. Image credit: Courtney Traub/All rights reserved.

In short, a Parisian sojourn at this time of year can be ideal: you’re unlikely to have to fight back crowds with the aid of your trusty, crusty baguette (I kid, but it probably would be handy in that situation) nor to send your bank account into overdraft to pay for the trip, but there are nearly countless ways to enjoy the city.

I’ve listed a few ideas below– so keep reading–and if you want a fuller picture of events around town this year, I’d recommend consulting the Paris Tourist Office page and their full event monthly calendars. 

The Matter of the Mercury: March Weather in Paris & Packing Tips

A cafe terrace near Abbesses, in Montmartre. Image: Courtney Traub/All rights reserved
A cafe terrace near Abbesses, in Montmartre. Image: Courtney Traub/All rights reserved

March can be anywhere from quite chilly to almost balmy, and it’s difficult to predict what conditions you’ll encounter on your trip. Clouds, cold breezes, and rain are common, but so are sunny conditions and spring temperatures, especially later in the month when the mercury tends to climb.

I always recommend that you prepare for fickle, changeable conditions by packing both cold-weather clothes and accessories alongside lighter clothing.

Layering is never a bad idea, especially since the mornings tend to be on the cold side, with temperatures warming up throughout the day in many instances.

Minimum Temperature: 5 degrees C/41 degrees F
Maximum Temperature: 13 degrees C/55.4 degrees F (in recent years, it’s been known to get even warmer)
Average temp: 9-10 degrees C/48.2-50 degrees F
Average monthly precipitation: 1.3 inches

While it can be warm enough to enjoy sitting out on terraces like the one pictured above, you’ll probably still need at least a light sweater or jacket if you want to stay outside comfortably for long stretches. I’d also recommend packing a light rain jacket and at least one pair of waterproof shoes.

Read related: When is the Best Time of Year to Visit Paris? There’s No Easy Answer.

Best Things to See and Do in March?

This list is by no means exhaustive, but here are (what I hope are) a few inspiring ways to spend your March getaway in the capital. Scroll down even further for current exhibits and shows I recommend seeing.

1. Roam through (and relax in) the city’s parks and gardens.

Things start to thaw in March-- including people. Strolling or sitting to read in a city park is always a good idea. Image: Jeanne Menjoulet/Creative Commons
Things start to thaw in March– including people. Image: Jeanne Menjoulet/Creative Commons

In March, things start to see a slow but palpable thaw– even people seem to ease out of their icy winter countenances, warming up with the promise of the coming spring.

Make sure to take to the city’s many lush, gorgeous parks and gardens– from the Tuileries (pictured above) with its opulent statuary, formal flowerbeds, ponds and views over the Louvre, to the Jardin du Luxembourg (see below) with its romantic, tree-lined lanes and generous lawns.

All of these spots are perfect for a simple Parisian picnic.

Jardin du Luxembourg/Mike Hauser/Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons 2.0 license.
Jardin du Luxembourg/Mike Hauser/Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons 2.0 license.

Read more about how to take full advantage of green spaces in Paris (and outside the city limits) in my complete guide to visiting Paris in the spring.

Also make sure to peruse my piece on some of the best day trips from Paris by train: this is an excellent moment to venture beyond Paris proper and enjoy outdoor excursions to nearby gardens, forests and chateaux.

2. Visit an open-air market and taste some delicious local produce.

A vendor offers heaps of cherries and other fresh produce at the Marche d'Aligre, one of Paris' loveliest open-air markets. Image: Courtney Traub
A vendor offers heaps of cherries and other fresh produce at the Marche d’Aligre, one of Paris’ loveliest open-air markets. Image: Courtney Traub

Another wonderful thing to do at this time of year is to hit a good open-air market in Paris. A personal favorite of mine (and I’m far from alone or original in this, of course), is the Marché d’Aligre, a bustling neighborhood market near the Hospital Saint-Antoine and, a bit further afield, Bastille.

Note: there’s a market closer to the Place de la Bastille that’s also very good, but this is a different, arguably more intimate one. Open every day of the week except Monday, the Marché d’Aligre is coveted among gourmet types, owing to the incredible variety and quality of the produce sold here.

The market includes open-air stalls, permanent street shops dotted along the Rue d’Aligre (bakeries, cheesemongers, fishmongers, you name it) and the covered Marche Beauvau, which opened in 1779.

Beautiful purple artichokes at the Marche d'Aligre: who said produce couldn't be poetry in its own right? Seasonal and fresh products are guaranteed at most Parisian farmers' markets. Image: Courtney Traub
Beautiful purple artichokes at the Marche d’Aligre: who said produce couldn’t be poetry in its own right? Seasonal and fresh products are guaranteed at most Parisian farmers’ markets. Image: Courtney Traub

The quality at the Aligre and most other traditional markets in the city is almost guaranteed to be high, and the cultural experience is, in my humble opinion, an essential one.

“Slow living” may be a tiresome buzzword these days, but many French people never forgot that there can be joy in taking time to admire and carefully sleet good products– and that they don’t have to be expensive, either.

March is an ideal time to take part in the tradition, since temperatures a bit warmer. You might even want to stock up on goodies for a picnic and head to a nearby park or river quay.

A poissonier (fishmonger) outside his shop on Rue Montorgueil. Image credit: Marcus Chance/Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons 2.0 license
A poissonier (fishmonger) outside his shop on Rue Montorgueil. Image credit: Marcus Chance/Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons 2.0 license

I also recommend exploring the permanent stalls on streets such as Rue Montorgueil (pictured above)-– no matter what day it is, you can take a stroll through the marbled pedestrian streets and take in the sounds, smells and sights of French tradition. See my full guide to the Rue Montorgueil district here.

3. Take a bike or boat tour.

Since March generally offers some mercifully warm days, it can be very pleasant to take to the water on a boat tour of the Seine, drifting lazily past some of the city’s hallowed places and institutions and perhaps indulging in a dinner amid the glow of soft lights.

Sometimes, doing the slightly cliche things are rewarding and wonderful– and I’m the first to admit it. I remember one year, following a particularly difficult winter in which nothing was going my way, I boarded a boat tour solo sometime in late March, just to get a change of perspective and some fresh air.

I may have been slightly embarrassed to admit (as a longtime city resident) that I had spent the afternoon doing something so touristy, but guess what? It lifted my mood and kicked me out of my rut.

Book Seine River cruises, commented tours & dinner packages (via Getyourguide.com)

While I don’t especially recommend renting a bike and attempting to navigate the city by yourself on wheels– as I argue over at TripSavvy, cycling in Paris can be very dangerous and stressful for the uninitiated– a guided bike tour is a great alternative.

This is a nice time of year to see the city in the open air, and you can cover more ground on bike than you can on foot. I like, and recommend, Fat Tire Tours-– they have knowledgable, friendly guides and put safety first.

Exhibits & Shows Worth Seeing in March 2020 

The exhibits and shows scene starts to pick up in March, so there’s usually quite a lot on around town to sate your desire for artistic and cultural activities. Here are a couple of my picks this month.

Also make sure to peruse our full guide to what’s new to see & do in Paris in 2020, with suggestions for each month of the year. 

The Paris Book Fair: An International Event for Bibliophiles

An author signs a book for a reader at the Salon du Livre in Paris (Paris Book Fair)

(PLEASE NOTE: Sadly, due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis in France and around the world, this year’s event has been cancelled.) 

Book lovers of all stripes, take note of this one: from March 20th to March 23rd, 2020, the Paris Book Fair comes to town, bringing together hundreds of authors, thousands of readers and a gaggle of publishers under a single roof in southern Paris.

This year, a spotlight on India and Indian literature and a special section on children’s literature are among the highlights. Fans of literary fiction, mysteries, mangas and many other genres can also find something new and exciting to read at this annual event.

William Turner at the Musée Jacquemart-André 

William Turner exhibit at Paris' Musée Jacquemart-André

Another exhibition that’s eagerly awaited by both Parisians and visitors? A major retrospective from the English painter William Turner at the Musée Jacquemart-André, one of the city’s loveliest small museums. 

Opening from March 13th, 2020 and extending through July 20th this yearthe show features some 60 arresting, singularly composed watercolors from the artist, whose inimitable use of light and shadow have led critics to consider him one of Britain’s most important painters. 

Christo & Jeanne-Claude: Paris! (At the Centre Pompidou)

Acclaimed for their large-scale, urban art installations, Christo and Jean-Claude have stormed numerous cities around the world with memorable, impossible-to-ignore works of open-air art. But it all started in Paris. This important retrospective at the Centre Georges Pompidou  examines the early days of their work, from around 1958 to 1964. 

Opening on March 18th and running through June 15th, this promis2es to be a fascinating show, particularly if you’re interested in how art can transform landscapes and draw broad popular attention. Learn more and buy tickets here. 

For a more complete list of exhibitions and events too beeline to in March, try visiting this page.

Book Your March Trip to Paris

Paris in the spring months can range from chilly to balmy. Image credit: Dmitri Dzhus/Creative Commons 2.0

If you’re flying, get a head start by searching for deals (via Skyscanner). If you have the luxury of taking the train (something I highly recommend, by the way), you can book  train tickets and discount passes over at Rail Europe.

For updated information on the ongoing coronavirus crisis in Paris and safety-related information, including advice on whether to consider canceling or postponing your trip, see this page. 

Guided Tours I Recommend

Looking for a decent tour of Paris that actually corresponds to your interests? You may want to check out  the tours currently offered by ParisCityVision. From guided tours of top museums such as the Centre Pompidou, to segway and boat tours and neighborhood explorations, they offer a large number of options that are well suited to modest budgets.

You may also want to consider a tour with The Tour Guy: guided visits to the Louvre, a scrumptious food tour in the Marais, and a whirl through the creepy Paris Catacombs are among their current offerings. You can browse and book Paris tours here. 

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