I’m taking the next few weeks off — when I’ll be wandering about Paris rather than dreaming about it — so I’ll leave you on the subject of Paris in October.

Paris in autumn

It might not at first seem the ideal month in which to visit Paris, but for me it’s one of the most magical times to revel in the City of Light. There are fewer people, for one, so even though the days are shorter, you can immerse yourself more deeply, and be more at one with the city. Paris feels more your own.

It’s getting colder, of course. But Paris is at heart a winter city, a city of lush and cosy interiors. It adapts effortlessly to autumn, with café terraces covering and heating up, and serving mugs of velvety hot chocolate or spicy vin chaud. Boutiques, meanwhile, fill with stylish boots, elegant coats and woollen scarves in every which colour and texture — all that you need to continue that favoured Parisian pastime of flâneur-ing, wandering with no particular purpose except to observe and appreciate a beautiful city.

And Paris is particularly visually pleasing in autumn, when the many deciduous trees — horse chestnuts, lindens, London planes — also make themselves over for the new season, dressed in shades of reds, orange, yellows and browns.

Sure, Paris in spring is heart-palpitatingly pretty with its frilly pops of pink, as the cherry and magnolia trees burst into blossom. And in summer the city’s trees are as richly green as emeralds. But Paris, a capital built of limestone, is not really a colourful place. It’s most harmonious, most itself, when graced in muted tones, soft nuances, such as the warm hues of autumn.

So if you can’t get to Paris for a spring or summer, don’t discount an autumnal holiday. And if you happen to be going to Paris this particular October, you’re in for an extra treat. Read on for all the month’s highlights …

Pack & Go

First up, some packing essentials. Make sure to add to bag: Boots that will be sturdy on cobbled streets, lots of layers (such as Uniqlo’s thermal tops), and a fabulous coat that will take you from day to night. As for accessories: chic gloves and a colourful scarf will make you look like a local, and if you’ve ever wanted to perfect that oh-so-Parisienne beret, now’s the ideal opportunity to practise. And make sure to have a bag on hand large enough to tote around the all-important umbrella.

Leaf Peeping à la Parisienne

Paris Tuileries autumn

Two of the loveliest places to see fall foliage are the Jardin des Tuileries (above) and the Jardin du Luxembourg; you can really appreciate the planning genius of these formal French gardens when the falling leaves throw the precision-clipped trees into sharp relief, and put greater emphasis on the parks’ various statues.

Montmartre Autumn

You should also make time to wander the winding back streets and many stairs of Montmartre, a district that seems all the more atmospheric when sprinkled in red and yellow leaves. Don’t miss the ivy-coated walls of Rue Saint-Vincent and Rue de l’Abreuvoir, and the vibrantly hued vines and blooms of the Clos Montmartre. As for the Place du Tertre, the famous square regains its olde-worlde charm at this time of year, now that the hordes of summer tourists have gone home; you can sit quietly en terrasse watching locals play boules as the sun filters through the golden-leafed trees.

On the Grapevine

Montmartre autumn

If you’re in town between the 9th-13th October, you’ll definitely want to head uphill, because it’s time for the much-loved Fête des Vendanges — the Grape Harvest Festival — a celebration of Montmartre’s rural past as a hilltop village laced in vines, and a hive of artistic and social activity. Click here for all the details of the programme, which includes wine and food tastings, art installations, musical performances, and more.

Night Visions

Nuit Blanche, or White Night, is another popular annual Parisian event, and this year occurs on Saturday 5th October. A celebration of the season’s longer evenings, the arts festival is designed to show the city off in a different light, be that moonlight or neon. For details, click here.

Grand Designs

Grand Palais art fair

The Grand Palais has quite a month ahead. If you’ve always wanted to find a way into le Nef (the ‘Nave’), where Chanel holds its extravagant shows, and you’re in town between the 17th-19th, you’ll be able to explore this magnificent glasshouse-like space, as well as be inspired at the Contemporary Art Fair (above). Click here for more details. Meanwhile, in the Grand Palais’ museum rooms, two blockbuster exhibitions will kick off: Toulouse-Lautrec: Resolutely Modern (9th October 2019–27th January 2020) and Greco (16th October 2019–10th February 2020).

Leave it to the Louvre …

Louvre Leonardo de Vinci exhibition

… to host this month’s — no, this year’s — landmark exhibition: Leonardo da Vinci (24th October 2019 – 24th February 2020), a ten-years-in-the-planning show to mark the 500th anniversary of the Italian master’s death. Alongside his most famous paintings will be an array of his drawings, illustrating da Vinci’s interest in man, science and the world around him; his iconic Vitruvian Man (coming out of a Venetian storage vault for the occasion) will surely be a highlight. Make sure to book online; this exhibition requires timed reservations. Click here for more.

Pomp & Circumstance

Pompidou view

The inside-out architecture of the Centre Pompidou, Paris’s museum of modern art, might remain controversial four decades after its creation, but the external tubular-glass escalators are a crowd-pleaser for the stunning views they proffer over Parisian rooftops. The tubes are set to close down for a year-long renovation beginning in November, so if you’re in Paris this month make a note to glide to the Pompidou rooftop for the heart-stopping view — and a cocktail up at the restaurant Georges while you’re up there.

Joyeux Halloween

Disneyland paris Halloween

October 31st is nowhere near as eventful as it is in many English-speaking countries, but if you’re in Paris at month’s end and hankering for some Halloween fun, Disneyland Paris will be celebrating with scary rides, spooky villains and, of course, all the dress-ups your inner trick-or-treater could desire.

Natasha Lester is the author of numerous books, including the internationally best-selling historical novels The Paris Seamstress, and The French Photographer, which has just been released in America as The Paris Orphan. As the titles suggest, Natasha loves to set a story in France, particularly Paris, and such is her love for the City of Light, […]

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The Jardin du Luxembourg is such a lovely world unto itself, no matter the season, that it well deserves its own day on a Parisian itinerary — especially if you’ve been to Paris several times before, and are looking for a slower kind of holiday this time, one of little moments rather than big monuments. […]

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