As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been to Paris every single month of the year and have lots of experience with visiting the city of light under a variety of circumstances. My mother-in-law’s birthday is in March and we often made it point to be in Paris (where she lived for 30 years prior to moving to Auvergne) to celebrate with her. Here is the secret that only frequent travelers know: March is one of the best months to visit Paris. You’ll enjoy amazing weather, save significantly on travel costs, and be able to experience unique walking tours and festivals.
Why should you visit Paris in March?
It’s the last few weeks of winter, and the weather is in that zone where it can be comfortably cool in the morning and evening, but the sun can warm you to the core during the day. You may still need a scarf, but otherwise, you can spend the whole day outdoors—enjoying both the sun and a lovely breeze. However, since March still isn’t peak “tourist season,” you can avoid the crowds and lines. Even top attractions have only a few visitors, so you can take your time to savor the scenery and take gorgeous photos. It’s like having Paris all to yourself.
It’s the last month of the low season and airfare, travel, and hotel prices are considerably lower than the summer months. If you’re on a budget, or simply want to get a better deal, booking your Paris trip in March—just a few weeks ahead of the Spring season—can help you save hundreds of dollars. You’ll also have your choice of seats and rooms, and may even be able to negotiate for upgrades.
What can you do in Paris in March?
There are the usual things that many first-time (and second-time) visitors will want to do when you’re in Paris: see the Eiffel Tower, visit the Louvre (especially after the most recent Lupin hoopla!), stroll down (and shop) the Champs Elysee. Not my cup of tea, but I get it. But there are some special March activities and festivals that are definitely worth making time for in between all the other attractions.
Find rare books at the Paris Book Fair (Salon du Livre)
This is Paris’ largest book festival (location: Porte de Versailles in the 15th arrondissement) and is attended by both book lovers and industry professionals. You can look at exhibits of rare books, attend book signings and talks, and even hear your favorite author read some of their work. Check the website for updates on the final dates. (Note for 2021, the salon has moved to May.)
Attend a Film Festival
Cinema was invented in France with the first film and device created by the Lumière brothers in 1895, so it is only natural that film festivals are an important part of the cultural landscape, Paris actually holds several annual film festivals in March. The International Documentary Film Festival (or the Cinéma du Réel) is your chance to see the work of award-winning directors, as well as emerging new talent from all around the world. The Printemps du Cinéma, held in the last days of March, brings together some of the best foreign films of the year. Many small cinemas participate in the event, and tickets are inexpensive.
Join the Carnavel des Femmes
The Carnavel des Femmes is a colorful costume parade with an equally colorful history. It started in the 18th century when the washerwomen who would work along the Seine River would select their Queen for the Day and then dance from dusk till dawn. It’s a lighthearted festival, and open to everyone. The parade’s theme changes from year to year. You can watch it, or even better, show up in a costume and join the parade. The route begins at the Gambetta Metro station (in the 20th arrondissement) and ends at the Place de la République (at the intersection of the 3rd, 10th, and 11th arrondissements). (Next occurrence is March 27, 2022.)
Visit the parks and gardens
The earliest spring flowers are starting to appear, so grab your camera and take a stroll. Aside from the famous cherry tree blossoms that line the city’s prettiest streets, make time for a proper day trip to one of the most famous parks and gardens. Try the Jardin de Luxembourg (in the 6th arrondissement), a 25-hectare park where you can have picnics or take a ride on pedal karts, swing boats, or even on a pony! This is a really great place to take your kids. If you have a tight itinerary, swing by the Jardin des Tuileries (in the 1st arrondissement) after visiting the Louvre. This beautifully landscaped park was designed by André Le Nôtre and features terraces, hexagonal ponds, and replicas of famous statues and sculptures.
But to see the most flowers (and even some zoo animals) go to the Jardin Des Plantes (57 Rue Cuvier in the 5th arrondissement). This botanical garden boasts of over 10,000 plant species, including rare blooms that are kept in tropical greenhouses. The garden was founded in 1626. Be sure to include this in your itinerary when you visit Paris in March! If you want to see flowers and birds, go to the Le Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil (3 Avenue de la Porte d’Auteuil in the 16th arrondissement). It was first opened in 1895, as a way to cultivate plants for the city’s parks, gardens, and other public spaces. After visiting the greenhouses, visit the tropical pavilion—where you’ll find many birds as well as ponds teeming with Japanese carp.
Lastly, there are the wonderful gardens in Palais Royal (in the 1st arrondissement). This famous royal residence not only has beautiful gardens and pavilions but is now home to some of the finest boutiques and restaurants. You can find perfumes, antiques, designer labels, and artisan shops that sell hand-crafted items (like the famous glove-makers Lavabre Cadet and Maison Fabre). Go window-shopping, enjoy the weather with an alfresco lunch, and stroll around the perfectly manicured gardens. You can also book a table at the Michelin-starred Restaurant du Palais Royal, or the famous Grand Véfour restaurant (a favorite haunt of Zola, Collete, and Proust, and also recently spotted on Emily in Paris!).
Depending on the weather the blooms will start in March towards the end of the month. It was last a week or two maximum, so you could get very lucky! You can find the trees all throughout Paris.
Go on a balloon ride
Do you want to visit a garden and get a fantastic view of the city? It’s a personal favorite of mine. Head to the Parc André Citroën (in the 15th arrondissement). This park has a very unique “postmodern” vibe, with themed gardens and computer-controlled fountains. Designed by Gilles Clément and Alain Prévost, it combines nature and art – a living exhibit, so to speak. The highlight of the trip is a balloon ride, where you get a breathtaking view of the entire garden and surrounding areas.
Watch the Eiffel Tower Vertical Race
Every March, there is a “vertical race” at the Eiffel Tower where athletes climb the 1,665 steps of the Eiffel Tower. There are time trials and heats to qualify for participation, not something the average tourist is going to do, BUT you can watch the race!
Take a champagne cruise on the Seine
I am a huge fan of the Bateau Mouche as a means for both seeing the sites as well as taking a rest. Any boat ride on the Seine will allow you to see the city from a different angle and you can’t visit Paris without going on a Seine River cruise, especially if there is champagne involved! The weather is perfect for a slow, relaxing ride that takes you past some of the most famous monuments. In the evening, you can sip your bubbly under a starry night, and toast the beginning of Spring.
Take an Art Walking Tour
Enjoy the great weather, art, and even history with a guided tour through Montmartre (the 18th arrondissement). This famous village was the home and haunt of some of the greatest artists and poets. Visit the house of Vincent Van Gogh (54 Rue Lepic), one of the earliest studios of Picasso (49 Rue Gabrielle), and the windmill cabaret (a.k.a the Moulin Rouge, 82 Boulevard de Clichy) that was painted by no less than Renoir. The tour is offered by many local guides, some will also include a ticket for Musée d’Orsay, where you’ll see many famous Impressionist works. It’s one of the most popular Paris art tours! I have done this tour in the spring and the extra show that the gardens and blooming trees add to the walk is phenomenal!
Take a Gourmet Food Tour
Paris is synonymous with gourmet food, but it’s hard for tourists to know where to find the best restaurants or even what to order. A guided food tour—accompanied by a guide who can help explain the history, ingredients, and traditions of the dishes—can help you fully appreciate why and how the city got its culinary reputation. You can do a chocolate tour or a gourmet tour that includes cheese and wine samplings. The point is with the nice weather and fewer tourists, any type of outdoor tours, particularly if food is involved as so much more enjoyable at this time of year! See more food-related activities below!
- Festival 100%: a multi-disciplinary festival 100 %, mixing theatre, dance, circus arts, music, and contemporary art in the La Villette complex in the 19th arrondissement (211 Avenue Jean Jaurès).
- Saut Hermès: an annual horse-jumping competition held at the Grand-Palais in the 8th arrondissement (3 Avenue du Général Eisenhower).
- Circulation(s): a festival promoting young photographers held at the La Villette complex in the 19th arrondissement (211 Avenue Jean Jaurès).
- Salon Destinations Nature: a festival dedicated to all things hiking at the Porte de Versailles in the 15th arrondissement.
- Paris Color Run: Paris takes part in this world event, for every kilometer of the race there is a “color” zone where volunteers throw 100% natural corn starch-based colored powder. Participants try to cross as many color zones as possible before hitting the finish line.
Culinary Delights of March in Paris
Oh, you know me. This is always my favorite part! No trip to Paris is complete without a deep exploration of all the eats. You should definitely try the classics, but don’t forget the season as well!
Macaron Day (March 20)
A very popular day in France and beyond, bien sûr! If you are in Paris you can visit many patisserie shops and take advantage of macaron day where many of the boutiques give out free (or packaged deals on) macaron, including special edition ones! Sadly, now that Ladurée is bankrupt things may change for one of the most famous stops on the Macaron Day tour.
Festival Bouche à Bouche
This food, music, and street art festival has been held in March. Entrance is free and event-goers listen to DJs while eating yummy food.
French Cuisine Festival (Gout de France)
A food festival that celebrates traditional French dishes served in the “old” way as well as transformations. There are food booths, trucks and markets, demonstrations and workshops, and meet-and-greets with chefs. It’s a great way to see food from all across the country.
Fête de la Gastronomie (The French Cuisine Festival)
Very similar to the French Cuisine Festival, this one is put on by the French government to celebrate France’s rich food heritage.
What to eat in Paris in March
Many restaurants offer season menus so it is always good to know what is actually in season! Paris has many tastes to experience, but during the winter there are some seasonal specialties. If you visit the marchés (farmer’s market) you will see many of these items listed below.
- Fruits in season: kiwis (France is the 5th largest producer of kiwis in the world), apricots (abricots), cherries (cerises) (look for the dessert cherry clafouti to start showing up on menus mid-march), strawberries (fraises), lemons, pears, and pineapples.
- Vegetables in season: March is the start of the asparagus (asperges) season! You’ll also find artichokes (artichauts), beets (betteraves), carrots, English or snow peas, Fava beans (haricots de Fava), Green beans (haricots verts), green garlic (ail vert); potatoes (pommes de terre), radishes (radis), rhubarb rhubarbe), spinach (épinard), arugula (roquette), endives, escarole, chicory, (chicorée), Vidalia onions, leeks, cauliflower, and zucchini.
- Seafood is wonderful in March! Look for dishes featuring these in restaurants. This is what is in season: Pollack or (lieu jaune) from Brittany, cod, coley, sole, oysters (from Brittany, especially Cancale), haddock, skate, scallops, monkfish (lotte), sardines, clams, and mussels.
- Did you know that there are seasonal cheeses (fromages)? It’s true! March is the last of the season for fondue cheese such as Comté, Emmenthal, and Beaufort (here are my recommendations for the best fondue in Paris). Also seasonal in March are Mimolette, also called “Vieux Hollande”, Coulommiers and Pont-l’Évêque AOC.
- In the restaurants (tips for dining in Paris here), Salade Nicoise is a very popular spring salad that you will see on the menu. You’ll see spinach soufflés and a spring soup with leeks, potatoes, carrots, and fresh asparagus. It may not quite be lamb season, but you can still get the last of the winner stew dishes such as navarin d’agneau which is perfect if there still a bit of chill in the air. In brasseries and Alsacian restaurants, you will find start to Baeckeoffe, a spring casserole with lamb, pork, or beef marinated in white wine with berries and mixed with sliced potatoes and onions.
Save on food costs by visiting the local markets and shops.
Paris restaurants can be expensive, and while it’s worth splurging on one good meal, you don’t want to blow your entire travel budget just on food. Luckily, you can find a lot of treats at the local markets (here’s the etiquette). You can also ask the hotel staff or locals to recommend small cafes and bistros that they go to. This may save you from “tourist rates” and will definitely have good food. March is also the first month where having a picnic is realistic with warm afternoons. Buy at the local market and head to one of the 9 ideal picnic spots in Paris.
Important tips to remember
Dress in layers.
I have a full post on what to pack and wear for spring in Paris, make sure to check that out. Mornings can be cold, and then gradually becomes warmer as the day passes. So, it’s best to wear a scarf and dress in layers, so you can shed the jacket at the end of the day.
While there are fewer crowds to compete with, it can save you a lot of frustration if you book your slot or buy your ticket ahead of time. Many places have also adjusted their schedules and dates due to The Queen (reference here), so check their websites to get the most updated information.
Take the metro.
While walking around Paris is certainly one of the best ways to really enjoy its culture and architecture, taking public transportation can help save time—especially if you want to maximize your stay. Your hotel can provide you with a map of the metro, and most establishments will list the name of the nearest station.
Why is March the best time to visit Paris?
Paris is beautiful any time of the year, but going there in March can help you make the most of your limited time and money. Since there are fewer crowds, you can visit more places without worrying about lines. You’ll also enjoy off-season rates and can even find special packages.
Have you ever visited Paris in March? What was your experience? Did you go to any events? Do share!
For a visual summary of this post, check out my Paris in March web story!
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