If you haven’t yet experienced Paris in March, you’re in for a slow-motion magic show of sorts. 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 on the quays and the 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.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 & Packing Tips
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.
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.
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, perfect for a simple picnic.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 2018
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.
Chagall, Lissitzky, Malevich: Russian Avant-Garde Painting of the Early 20th Century
This retrospective at the Centre Georges Pompidou examines the interconnected work of three major Russian avant-garde painters: Marc Chagall (who later emigrated to France), El Lissitzky and Kasimir Malevich. Working between the two World Wars, these painters’ surreal yet often deeply political and personal work reflect the tumult of modernity and the exaltation of a world that had just re-emerged from a period of unprecedented violence. It also reflects the immediate post-revolutionary period in the Soviet Union, when censorship wasn’t yet firmly in place, and a vibrant avant-garde movement rescrambled our available understanding of reality, and art. Some 250 works of art from the three aforementioned artists, as well as oeuvres and documents from others belonging to the “Vitebsk” school, are shown side by side in this much-anticipated show. It’s running from March 28th, 2018 through July 16th. Try to reserve tickets in advance if possible.
Corot: The Painter And His Models
Another ongoing exhibition that’s well worth a look is Corot, The Painter and His Models, running at the Musee Marmottan-Monet until July 8th. Corot is generally lauded for his landscape paintings, but this exhibit sheds light on his parallel career as a remarkable painter of portraits. It showcases around 60 breathtaking oeuvres drawn from collections around the world, and allowing even those of us familiar with the French painter’s work to see it in a new light.
For a more complete list of exhibitions and events on in March, try visiting this page.
Book Your March Trip to Paris:
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.
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.