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

(Last Updated On: November 1, 2018)
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 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.

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

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.

A cafe somewhere in Paris

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 Your Suitcase This Month?

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?

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), a convivial spot right off the beloved Aligre market.

Enjoy the Beaujolais Nouveau Season
Beaujolais Nouveau tasting at Le Verre Volé in Paris. Image credit: Le Verre Volé /Official Facebook Page

A bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau at Le Verre Volé in Paris. Image credit: Le Verre Volé /Official Facebook Page

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 15th in 2018).

For a guide to Beaujolais-related tastings and happenings this year, see this page. It’s in French, but you can use Google translate or simply scroll down to the full list of bars and addresses by arrondissement (district).

Coffee at an old-world style bar and apothecary in the Marais. Image credit: Courtney Traub/All rights reserved

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 in Paris, and this one for tearooms worth lounging around in.

 

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.

Also in November, from November 8-12, 2018, is the Salon de la Photo, a massive show at the Porte de Versailles convention center. This one’s great for anyone interested in practicing photography as well as admiring it, whether as a hobby or as a professional ambition.

 

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 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 2018

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.

Jean-Michel Basquiat at the Fondation Louis Vuitton

Jean-Michel Basquiat at the Fondation Louis Vuitton

This is one I’ve been incredibly excited about, as a big fan of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. He’s being paid a proper and sweeping homage at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, the much-talked-about new venue owned by the luxury goods group of the same name and designed by Frank Gehry.

Basquiat, who started out as a graffiti artist on the streets of New York City before he was recognized as one of the most visionary artists of his generation, painted with fitful and hallucinatory precision. He was influenced by everything from neo-cubism to Afrofuturist performance art. The retrospective at the Fondation Vuitton does a remarkable job of showcasing his mercurial, brilliant perspectives and improvisational techniques. The exhibit runs through January 14th, 2019.  See this page for tickets and opening hours. 

Klimt: A Voyage to the Heart of the Viennese Secession Movement (through January 6th at the Atelier des Lumières)

The Atelier des Lumières is a new all-digital arts and culture center in northeastern Paris that’s taken the city by storm– and their inaugural exhibit on Gustav Klimt and the Viennese Secession movement has been a stunning success. So many people have flocked to see the mesmerizing, “immersive” digital exhibit/performance that the show has been extended through early January. While I was initially a bit skeptical and even expected something on the side of gimmicky, I, too, was won over by this surprisinglyevocative and sense-opening experience.

Atelier des Lumieres in Paris/Inaugural exhibit shows the classical sources of the Vienna Secession movement

Image: Culturespaces

Digital animation and hypnotic music come together to plunge you into the Vienna of the early 20th century– a time of profound artistic innovation as well as social and cultural upheaval.

For more, you can read my full review of the show and the Atelier des Lumières here.

 

An ephemeral digital moment at the new Atelier des Lumieres, Paris. Image: Courtney Traub/All rights reserved

An ephemeral digital moment at the new Atelier des Lumieres, Paris. Image: Courtney Traub/All rights reserved

The Paris Lift-Off Film Festival

Film fans, this event is one to put on your calendars. The international festival running at the Lucernaire theatre through November 4th showcases indie cinema and directors from around the globe, and is a welcome addition to an already vibrant cinema scene in the capital. Shorts, features, documentaries– there’s something for all tastes and moods. See the full program here.

 

Christmas Markets and Festivities (from Late November)

Christmas markets in Paris are always festive

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.

Travel 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!    

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