I love Paris in the springtime…April in Paris, flowers in blossoms… Great singers have said it all before, and spring can indeed be an enchanting time to visit the City of Lights. Between the parks in full bloom (don’t miss the cherry trees in the Jardin des Plantes and behind Notre Dame), and the first rays of sunshine, the Parisians themselves are in a – relatively – good mood. Besides, visiting Paris in the spring is also your chance to enjoy some beautiful weather without the crowds as long as you avoid the school holidays around Easter and les ponts in May.
However, the weather can also be, literally, a bit of a damper. Between March and June, the temperatures vary with averages from the low 40s up to the mid-70s. Besides, rain showers (or, as the French call them, les giboulées) are just as likely to make an appearance than clear blue skies, all within a day. You guessed it, packing for Paris in the spring – especially if you don’ want to spend your next paycheck in luggage fees – can be a bit of a headache.
After multiple trips to the French capital, I have sort of figured it out so now you can learn from my mistakes. If you are visiting Paris in the early spring (March and early April), I would also recommend that you check out my packing list for winter and keep an eye out for what the weather will be like during your stay. I have experienced snow in Paris as late as mid-March!
- It’s all about layers
Yes, I have said it all before. It is true any time of year, but particularly during the shoulder seasons like the spring and the fall. The weather can change dramatically multiple times, leaving you either wet and freezing or sweating, all within the span of a single day.
You may seriously regret your choices of the morning by the time lunch rolls in, but don’t make a detour to drop off your warm coat at your hotel because you will likely miss it as soon as the sun goes down or the next rain shower hits. My advice would be to carry around a bag big enough to carry around any extra clothing and accessories so you can peel them off like an onion and carry them conveniently.
My scarves are my constant companions in any season, and they make a welcome addition to any outfit in the morning or once the sun goes down in the springtime. Bring both long sleeve and short sleeve tops to layer up comfortably. I would also recommend bringing a couple of warm but lightweight but warm cardigans (now is a good time to invest in that cashmere sweater you have been eyeing) in neutral tones to go with different outfits.
- Be weatherproof
The impromptu rain showers that make their almost daily appearance from March until May will be your biggest adversary when it comes to packing for Paris in the spring. They are often short but can be violent and leave you wet and shivering for the rest of the day. Not fun for a day of exploring! No matter what the weatherman may say in the morning, I would strongly recommend being ready to fend the rain at all times.
A travel umbrella is great to keep in your bag. It’s light, it doesn’t take much room, and you will be thrilled to have it when needed. Make sure that your outerwear is waterproof and preferably hooded. As always, when traveling to Paris, leave the technical gear at home and go for something more stylish. A classic belted trench coat is a favorite among Parisians and for good reasons. It goes with everything, will take you from a walk in the park to dinner at a fancy restaurant, and is light enough to carry around once the weather warms up.
- A jacket of all trades
As always, the key to a good travel wardrobe is to make sure that it’s a) easy to travel with, and b) goes with everything. In the spring, a reliable jacket is a crucial element to your capsule wardrobe. Depending on your style, go with classic choices like a leather jacket or a denim jacket. If you are planning a fancier trip or will be attending work events, a smart blazer is also a great way to dress up more casual outfits or a little black dress to go out for dinner.
You can layer your trusted jacket under your raincoat on chilly mornings and evenings or use it as outerwear once the weather warms up. All of these choices will fit right in with the Parisian crowd, and they are versatile enough to go with almost everything, from jeans to flowy dresses on the hottest days.
- Shoes for all-weather
Shoes are one of the most challenging items to settle on when traveling to Paris. You will most likely be walking a lot. You want them to be comfortable and sturdy enough to handle anything you may throw at them, from the stairs of Montmartre to the slippery cobblestones of the Latin Quarters or the gravel alleys of Versailles. You also want to make sure that they can handle the changing weather. If your favorite shoes are made of more delicate material (like suede or fabric), waterproof them before packing.
I usually recommend picking a single pair of shoes if possible, but spring is possibly the only time of year that may warrant bringing an extra one just in case. Sneakers were a no-no until relatively recently, but they are definitely in again, and not only with the younger crowd. Of course, this being Paris, expect fashion sneakers made of leather or neutral fabric, not the technical ones you wear at the gym. Personally, I like Converse. They are lightweight enough to pack in a suitcase as a complement of warmer, sturdier leather booties you can wear on colder days.
- Outfits you can dress up and down
With the ever-shrinking size of allowed suitcases on airplanes and the endless sea of stairs in the metro (or your Airbnb!) in mind, make sure you pack as light as possible. It can be a hassle when you are already planning all the cute outfits you will wear in Paris in the spring, but trust me: you will most likely end up with outfits you will not wear rather than missing things you left at home. Worst case scenario, you are in one of the fashion capitals of the world, and you have the perfect excuse to do a little shopping.
When packing for your spring trip to Paris, choose outfits you can dress up or down, not only from day-to-night but also according to the weather. A well-cut pair of dark jeans is always appropriate. Add a short sleeve t-shirt layered under a long-sleeve button-down shirt and cardigan, and you are good to go no matter the weather. A t-shirt dress can be warm enough all day long if you add a pair of leggings and a warm cardigan in the morning. You can always remove them discreetly in the restroom if needed if the afternoon. You get the jest.
- Long and short sleeve tops
- Button-down shirt
- Travel umbrella
- Waterproof trench coat
- Jacket (leather, denim or blazer)
- Leather booties
- Fashion sneakers
- Dark jeans
- T-shirt dress
How about you? What is your must-bring item when traveling to Paris in the spring?
Illustrations commissioned from Linden Eller.
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