The classic jazz song “April in Paris” may praise “the charm of spring” in the City of Light, with “chestnuts in blossom” and a “feeling no one can ever reprise” but fall is also a very pleasant time of year to visit the French capital. In autumn, the city is bustling with energy, the air is crisp and the tourists fewer — meaning that the hotels are also cheaper. Paris Plage may be long gone but starting with les Journées du Patrimoine in mid-September, there are plenty of fun cultural events and festivals organized to prevent you from longing for the brighter days of summer.
1. Journées Européennes du Patrimoine – September 18-19
I love Jack Lang, and not just because he is a regular at my marché on Boulevard Richard Lenoir. The French take great pride in their cultural heritage and have a whole ministry dedicated to nurturing, preserving and promoting this heritage. Jack Lang was France’s Minister of Culture from 1981-1986 and then again from 1988 to 1993. He did more than any other occupant of the position before him to help the average French person feel more connected to this heritage by introducing a festive and popular element to the celebration of culture. In 1981, he created the Fête de la Musique. In 1984, he launched Les Journées Portes Ouvertes des Monuments Historiques, which allowed visitors to sneak a peek into monuments that are not otherwise open to the public (like the Presidential Palace of l’Elysée, for example.) Once a national event, the Journées have now gone European with 49 countries opening the doors to their cultural heritage during the third weekend in September.
2. La Nuit Blanche – October 2
I can’t believe this is the 9th year that Paris is putting on this event. I actually attended the very first Nuit Blanche back in 2002! Nuit Blanche literally means White Night or All-Nighter and like its name indicates it’s basically an all-night, free contemporary art festival. The night of the first Saturday in October, Paris hosts a series of cultural “happenings,” art installations, performances and events celebrating the artistic magic and luminance of the night. It is concentrated in in three main locations: the Trocadero and Alma area (ie. around the Eiffel Tower); the city center (my hood: Marais, Île St.-Louis and Île de la Cité) and Belleville (also known as Paris’ Chinatown) in the northeast. This is truly a very cool event, though it’s not so unique anymore… cities around the world like Toronto, Brussels and the City that Never Sleeps are also hosting Nuit Blanche events this year. Renamed Bring To Light, New York’s version will take place in Greenpoint, Brooklyn on October 2nd.
3. Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre – October 6-10
Tourists who visit Montmartre typically overlook Le Clos De Montmartre but this small vineyard just blocks away from le Sacré–Coeur basillica is one of the only vineyard in Paris and worth visiting, particularly during the celebrated Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre in Octobre.
Sure, the wine it produces is barely drinkable, but that doesn’t really matter. Every year, some 700 bottles of Le Clos Montmartre rosé wine are produced by the townhall of the 18th arrondissement and sold exclusively for charity. And every year, the vineyard of Montmartre throws an awesome harvest festival. Don’t expect any grape picking or stomping during the 5-day affair but do expect to have a lot of fun as you watch parades, listen to marching bands and of course taste some mouthwatering regional products like foie gras, breads and oysters. There’s also a Cérémonie des Non-Demandés en Mariage which celebrates singletons NOT getting married and culminates in a popular bal and firework displays. Each year the festival takes on a different historic theme, and this year’s will be humour, with comedian Gérard Jugnot acting as the G-dfather of the Fête.
4. International Contemporary Art Fair – October 21 to 24
Known simply as the FIAC, this event is one of the major dates on the global arts calendar. Artists, gallery owners, art aficionados, currators and collectors flock to Paris’ Grand Palais, the Louvre and the Jardin des Tuilleries to discover the works of young, emerging artists, as well as check out the latest offerings from newer galleries.
5. Le Salon du Chocolat – October 28 to November 1
Being allergic to chocolate, this isn’t an event that I personally would look forward to. But if you are a chocolate amateur, then the goal of this festival (celebrating chocolate in all its shapes, tastes and forms) is likely to get you very very excited. This yearly international trade fair is targeted mainly at international chocolate industry professionals but also opens its doors to visitors from October 28 to November 1st (visitors need to purchase a day-pass for 12.5 euros). Need another reason to go besides tasting lots and lots of some of the best chocolate in the world? Each day concludes with a fashion show. A chocolate fashion show! I mean, chocolate and fashion… how much more Parisian can it get?
Voilà! Here are five great resons to love Paris in the fall! But in my opinion, the main incentive to visit Paris in autumn comes from (you may have guessed it) that wonderful pastry shop called Ladurée and yes, it would be a macaron! Ladurée‘s seasonal macaron flavour Jasmin-Mango is so delicious it justifies the seven hour flight!