It's still comfortably warm in Paris during the month of September and up to the first week of October. Fall is also when tourist season declines and normal Parisian life resumes. You'll get a better sense of how Parisians truly live. Moreover, ticket prices drop, and you'll find better deals on plane and train tickets. It's the perfect time to go to Paris!
1. Get outside of Paris and visit nearby sites like Giverny, Versailles, or Château de Fontainebleau without the lines
If you love palaces/castles and have already had the pleasure of visiting Versailles, you should head over to Château de Fontainebleau! A French king's palace for summer vacations and later on, the summer getaway for Napoléon, Fontainebleau is just 45-50 minutes outside of Paris. You can take the suburban train, which shouldn't cost you extra if you have a Navigo pass or a normal Île-de-France metro/bus/Transilien ticket. The town surrounding the château is beautiful in itself; there are numerous little châteaux of former lords and ladies, as well as other royalty-inspired buildings.
At the king's château, there are many beautiful gardens and lakes. You can even rent rowboats (cash and credit accepted) and have a romantic ride around the lake. The interior of the palace is incredible and I believe even more splendid than Versailles only in that this palace wasn't as plundered or ravaged during the Revolution. Napoléon did an excellent job of preserving Château de Fointainebleau, even keeping certain sections of the royal apartments in good condition. He did of course make his own personal changes in the palace with his large N's and a customized throne room befitting an Emperor of France.
2. Check out the last summer blooms among the Victorian greenhouses of Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil
Jardin du Luxembourg, Jardin des Plantes, and Jardin des Tuileries are the most well-known parks inside the city center. Just on the edge of the 16th arrondissement is the magnificent Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil. When you first enter, there is a little park with lots of shade where you can picnic or read a book. After passing this entrance, you will climb down a beautiful staircase leading to the perfectly manicured lawn of the main garden. You're not allowed to step on the grass, of course! The outside flowers are spectacular in color as they are in size. And they're still blooming in September!
Originally built in 1761, the garden has enjoyed many upgrades since its first founding. There are currently five 19th century greenhouses that house rare plants, flowers, exotic trees, and an aviary. There's even a dedicated building to palm trees!
While the 16th isn't such a hotbed for clubs or the exciting, fast-paced kind of life you'd encounter in the hip parts of the right bank, it is one of the richest neighborhoods in Paris. Enjoy the beautiful Haussmannian buildings, lovely traditional bistrots, and other hidden, lesser-known parks.
3. Dare yourself to gulp down fresh oysters and sea urchins from Brittany
As you know, I'm quite obsessed with going to the farmer's markets in Paris. My first time at one of the markets, I saw plenty of tourists gulping down fresh, live oysters on a platter. I had never done such a thing and while sushi is my favorite food to eat (surprise!), I was always scared of eating a raw mollusk of any kind. But when in Rome, do as the Romans do... or in this case, tourists! I had a small platter with two oysters and two sea urchins. Let me tell you... I did not regret the experience at all. It was fresh, funny, and delicious (especially with that vinegar onion sauce). However, having an oyster platter at the market is quite the tourist treat. You won't really see locals standing up in public to gulp down a platter of oysters (unless it's at a festival with seating!). But who cares about what anyone thinks, right? Make Paris your own experience. Find stalls that advertise Brittany oysters and order the biggest platter you can eat!
Then reap the benefits of the last fresh produce of summer.
4. Drink a Martini Rouge on a terrace before the weather changes
You may think I'm talking about a James Bond cocktail with some red dye involved, but in fact, Martini is a brand of Italian aperitif-- a pre-dinner drink that is, in this case, a very herbal-tasting vermouth. I love Martini Rouge (also known as Martini Rosso) as it is a bit sweeter than the other Martini-brand vermouths. You can mix this vermouth with a strong liquor or have it plain with ice. I always prefer the later, especially in the late afternoons and early evenings.
And since the sun is still out, you can live the terrace life with other locals. You know it's a great day in Paris if everyone is sitting outside a bar or bistrot having a glass of wine or an aperitif.
5. Snack on delicious Jewish pastries in the Marais
Rue des Rosiers is well known for falafels, but I love indulging in the amazing Jewish pastries that next door bakeries provide. Chez Marianne has a great bakery inside the restaurant displaying an array of freshly baked sweets. There is also Boulangerie Murciano, another celebrated bakery, pictured above. It's a nice stroll down this street, even if it can get crowded. Cars do pass through, so pay attention to your surroundings. Rue des Rosiers is busy in every season. Still, it's a must-do if you're in Paris this fall.
6. Search for street art in the Marais and Belleville areas
If you’re from California, you’ll know LA has more tags than graffiti art. However, in the streets of Paris, it’s the opposite case. You’ll find many works by celebrity artists such as Space Invader and Banksy, but you’ll also find graffiti by Paris’ own great local artists such as Nemo, Diamant (diamonds made of mirrors), Monsieur Chat, and my all-time favorite, Jérôme Mesnager. The Marais is free reign, and you’ll find all kinds of graffiti work, hidden and in plain view. In Belleville, you’ll see more local artwork on Rue Dénoyez and the neighboring area of Ménilmontant.
7. Learn about the evolution of humankind at the Musée de l’Homme (Museum of Mankind)
Petit Copain had to drag me all the way to the Trocadéro area to see this museum. And I’m glad he did! With a dazzling view of the Eiffel Tower as well as close proximity to other cool museums like Palais de Tokyo, Musée de l’Homme offers an interesting and progressive look on human evolution as well as the formation of different cultures and languages. There’s a “tongue wall” with (plastic) tongues that you can lightly touch and hear different dialects and languages from all around the world. With a mélange of different types of installations (from taxidermy to touch screens and interactive displays), Musée de l’Homme is a great museum for kids as it is for adults.
8. Pay tribute to Oscar Wilde’s grave with a heavily lipsticked kiss or poem of your own
Pére Lachaise is already on many tourists' maps, mostly to see the grave of fallen rock n' roll star Jim Morrison. Jim Morrison's grave is cool to visit but there are plenty of other amazing people in history that are buried here.
The fabulous (and somewhat notorious) writer Oscar Wilde has become a renewed person of interest in Paris right now. The Petit Palais will be doing a big exhibition on his life and works called "Oscar Wilde: Insolence Incarnate". The exhibition begins September 28th and runs until January 15th. You can check out more about the exhibition here.
While you wait for the exhibition to open or if you're lucky enough to visit both the exhibition and cemetery, you can come to Wilde's resting place and pay homage. You'll find handwritten copies of Wilde's poems, original poems inspired by Wilde, flowers, books, letters, and most strikingly, bright red little kiss marks. While the tomb is surrounded by tough plexiglass, it hasn't stopped people from paying their respects to Wilde, however they like. Nevertheless, I always stress that if you're in a cemetery, you should respect the deceased and not tamper with or destroy their graves. I think it's okay to leave a little kiss on the plexiglass (make sure to bring a little hand sanitizer there to prep your place), but I wouldn't try to break through it. Also, please don't carve your name onto anything!
9. Take a little cruise around the Seine and give yourself a break from all that walking
Many tourists love taking this short, comforting cruise on the Seine. You don't need to bring any dramamine as the river is very smooth. There are numerous options for boats, but if you'd rather pay local prices, Batobus is cheap and has a discount for Navigo pass holders. If you'd like more of a cruise with some tour guide information, there's Bateaux Mouche. However, it's kind of hard to hear the overhead tour information, and most tourists just nap or lazily gaze at the sites around them. Bateaux Mouche also offers a more intimate dinner cruise. I hear the food isn't so excellent and a bit overpriced, but I still want to try it out (much to the dismay of Petit Copain). Have you, my dear readers, tried dinner on a Paris boat cruise? Please tell me if you enjoyed it (or not)!
10. Or read a book, make out, and fish alongside the Seine
No, you don't have to do all three things simultaneously or at all. Many locals love to hang out by the Seine, have a drink, or simply people watch. It has also become a hot spot for Pokemon Go (shhh, yes I play). I love sitting on the banks of the Île Saint-Louis and watching the tourist cruises go by. There is also a special park on the bigger Île de la Cité, right on the tip of the island, opposite of Notre Dame. That park is called Square du Vert-Galant.
Just a safety note: I wouldn't go alone on the banks of the Seine late at night. People party hardcore down there and it is home to groups of rather large rats (and that's not a metaphor). Morning, afternoon, and early evening is fine-- but take a companion with you if you'd like to do a later stroll.
BONUS TIP: Attend the Montmartre Harvest Festival during the first week of October
I'm sad I can't find last year's pictures from this festival, but it's one of my favorite things to do in Paris, ever. You'll find an array of booths selling regional foods and crafts, but Petit Copain and I love to get some tartiflette or raclette that come in the form of a giant, melted cheese, potato, onion, and sausage pile or a large melted cheese and ham sandwich. You can also sip on vin chaud (hot spiced wine), eat fresh oysters (acceptable here in public, but eat them at a table), and sample/buy the wine grown behind the monastery at the Basilique du Sacré Cœur. I have to warn you though, the Montmartre wine is a bit overpriced and probably not as delicious as wine from Bordeaux or Burgundy. After gorging yourself on delightful cheese dishes and hot spiced wine, you can catch some fireworks on the steps of the basilica. Because France is still on high security alert, this year's fireworks might be cancelled. Double-check before your trip here.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoy some of these activities like I do. À bientôt!