Paris in the Rain: 5 activities for Paris when it drizzles

Notre Dame in the rain
Take in Notre Dame without the crowds in the rain. Photo: Malias

Travelers are spoiled when there is constant sunshine in Paris, but when the weather turns to rain complete with lightning strikes, it gives a new meaning to the name “City of Light.”

Walking or biking around Paris, however, can become a drag when the sky opens up and even the most prepared tourist may be caught off guard. Fear not, there are plenty of things to do in Paris when it rains–if not, do you think so many of us would still live here?

Here are five activities perfect for Paris “when it drizzles”:

Louvre rain1. Museums — but be careful!

Museums seem like an obvious choice, but choose wisely. If you decide to visit the Louvre on a rainy day, you very well may be lined up outside of that big glass pyramid waiting under your umbrella like everyone else who had the same idea.

Instead, try the Carnavalet museum in the Marais which features highlights of Parisian history, and it’s free. Or for €9.50 you could easily spend an entire day in the Hotel des Invalides visiting Napoleon’s tomb and the museum’s collection of war artifacts from medieval times until World War II. The perk? The museum is in French and English.

2. Pompidou Center Library

Everyone heads to the Pompidou Center for their modern art galleries, but if you just need a break from the rain, head to their library which is free of charge. The entrance is along rue de Rénard and any line that may form is rain-free.

Head upstairs to browse the collections or just bring your own book and grab a seat by the large windows overlooking the city and watch the rain fall. There is even a little café, bathrooms, and a covered balcony for smokers.

Related: How to spend three days in Paris

3. Park it at a café

Everyone always wants to play Parisian by passing a few hours sitting at a sidewalk café, and a rain storm provides the perfect excuse. Head to any café and order coffee for €1-3 and kick back.

Going solo is entirely acceptable, just bring a book or a notepad to make yourself look busy while you enjoy the pitter patter of the rain on the sidewalk.

4. Movies!

Movie time was always the perfect rainy day solution when I was a child. In Paris, the cinema is still a great option. Many theaters have special daytime or student prices, just make sure you see the “VO” version, the version original, or else you’ll be getting the version dubbed in French.

Head to the UGC at Bercy, for example, where shows before noon are only €6.70. Rainy mornings are just as bad as rainy evenings, right?

5. Brave it outdoors

If rain doesn’t faze you, then bite the bullet, put on some rain boots, grab an umbrella and take advantage of the fact that the rain scares most tourists away from the city’s most popular sights. A promenade in the rain through the Tuileries or Luxembourg gardens can be spectacular when no one else is around.

As long as you’re feet are fine and you leave your electronics in the hotel or hostel, you can really enjoy Paris during a summer afternoon shower.

Once the rain stops, you might even get lucky and catch a rainbow over Paris! Photo: ttrueman

Once the rain stops, you might even get lucky and catch a rainbow over Paris! Photo: ttrueman

Accessories

No matter what you do, plan accordingly. Proper shoes and umbrellas are a must for all seasons in Paris. If you are carrying any documents or important papers, keep them in a waterproof bag or leave them in the hotel safe–nothing is worse than a soggy passport at customs.

Your rainy-day activities

Paris proves, again and again, rain or shine, it’s always one of the most beautiful cities in the world. What are your favorite rainy-day activities? Share with us in the comments section.

Note: This article was updated on July 4, 2014 to reflect price changes.

About the author

Bryan Pirolli
About the author: With his college diploma fresh off the press, Bryan Pirolli headed for Paris and four years later he’s still there. A journalist and a tour guide, his main M.O. is pursuing a doctorate degree in communications at the Sorbonne Nouvelle. Bryan regularly travels on a budget, experiencing the best of European culture while still trying to make rent.  So far, so good. You can follow his adventures on his blog: www.bryanpirolli.com.
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Cheapo Comments

7 Responses to “Paris in the Rain: 5 activities for Paris when it drizzles”
  • Sugar Daze says:

    Great ideas! We love to go to the big FNAC on Ave des Ternes when it rains. The children’s section on the top floor has tons of books, open space and lots of comfy chairs to welcome you as you laze about and browse the books on a rainy day.

  • I never wait in the rain for museums because I buy the Paris museum pass (carte musee )that lets you skip the lines. You can get a two-day, four-day or six-day pass.
    They aren’t cheap, but with limited time in Paris, why waste it standing in line?

    • Nancy Farestveit says:

      I agree with Terri about the museum pass and its convenience. If purchasing a museum pass doesn’t add up economically for you, you can still access the Louvre via alternate entrances, including through the Carrousel de Louvre underground mall and the little used Porte des Lions (check for hours when open).

  • [...] Piroll’s tips on what to do when rain falls in [...]

  • KC says:

    What good timing! It was pouring buckets at times on Sunday and today. I waited out the showers over lunch.

    KC

  • Terri’s suggestion is a good one that we also followed. And I wouldn’t miss the Louvre for anything — rain or shine! It was a highlight of Paris for me.

  • Kay says:

    I took the metro line 9 almost to the end and had a short walk to the Basilca St Denis. All but 4 of the kings of France are buried there. Interesting….audio guide available.

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