If you haven’t experienced Paris sous la pluie, or “in the rain,” then you haven’t experienced the real Paris. No stranger to frequent wet weather, the City of Lights comes alive in a different way in the rain than it does in sunshine. Silver skies, beautiful architecture reflected in puddles – some say it’s even more beautiful… Read on for our favorite things to do in Paris when it rains.
Our Top Things To Do in Paris When it Rains
Rather than grumbling, embrace (and enjoy) it by checking out our guide to Paris in the rain. It never stops a Parisian!
Get Tropical at Les Grandes Serres
Our antidote to Paris when it rains? A trip to the tropics.
Anyone can go, too, with a visit to the massive glass greenhouses of Les Grandes Serres, situated in the sprawling Jardin des Plantes. Located near the Natural Museum of History, these Art Deco-style greenhouses comprise the city’s main botanical garden and mimic the top five earthly environments: dry forest, wet forest, mangrove, savannah and mining scrub. Home to both local and exotic flora and fauna, learn about plant evolution and explore this magical indoor rainforest. Seventy-six percent of the species housed don’t exist outside these glass walls, so this is your chance to see lots of rare varieties.
Allée Jussieu, 75005
Have a Cinematic Experience at Opéra Palais Garnier
One of the most regal things to do in Paris when it rains – or whenever, really – is a trip to Opéra Palais Garnier. A stunningly-preserved treasure of nineteenth-century art, theater and architecture – complete with an 8-ton crystal chandelier – book a guided tour to visit these vast rooms. Do your best Audrey Hepburn impression and take a walk down the Grand Escalier, the famous double staircase under a breathtaking 100-ft marble vault that leads to the theatre, which is designed in the traditional French horseshoe shape. With an extravagance that you’ve likely only seen in the cinema, Palais Garnier truly has to be seen to be believed. And if rain is forecast for the evening, try snagging some tickets to a show.
Place de l’Opera, 75009
Be a Chic Book Worm at Bibliothèque Richelieu
Have a penchant for books and history? Consider checking out collections that date as far back as 1368 at Paris’ Bibliothèque Richelieu, the national library of the French Republic and one of the oldest cultural institutions in the country. Opened to the public in 1719, it is home to some of the most important literary collections, documents and manuscripts in French history. Also available for viewing are antiques, rare coins, medals, maps, prints, photography and more. Definitely one to add to your list of things to do in Paris – come rain or shine!
58 Rue de Richelieu, 75002
Visit the City’s Oldest Shops at Galerie Vivienne
Built in 1823, Galerie Vivienne is one of Paris’ most iconic covered passageways. When it rains, take cover and immerse yourself in its winding hallways of luxurious beauty. At your feet, a colorful floor of period mosaics. Above, a magnificent glass roof that lets in natural light while sheltering you from the drizzle. On either side of you, discover all kinds of boutiques, shops, tea rooms, bookshops, clothing stores, gourmet food vendors and more. And by the by, Paris’ covered passages contain of the oldest shops in the city!
4 Rue des Petits-Champs, 75002
Eat Around the World at Marche des Enfants Rouge
The perfect way to combine food and site sighting when it rains. The Marché des Enfants Rouges – a historic monument established in 1628 – is the oldest covered market in Paris. Located in one of the city’s trendiest areas, the Marais, its name translates to “Market of the Red Children,” a nod to its historical origins as a sixteenth-century orphanage where children wore red, the color of charity. Browse through aisles of local, organic fruits and vegetables, bouquets of flowers and freshly baked goods, all under the same roof. There is also a range of artisanal stalls and international vendors offering cooked meals to have in, so you can shelter a little bit longer.
39 Rue de Bretagne, 75003
Spend a Rainy Day With Art’s Greatest Masters
The Atelier des Lumières has been a hit in Paris since bursting onto the cultural scene in 2018. Using sound and 140 laser projectors to create immersive digital surroundings, the Atelier has introduced a way to experience famous works of art in an entirely new way. Housed in a nineteenth-century former iron foundry, the physical space includes mirrors, a storage room, a tank and a reflective pool – all of which have been utilized to contribute to an unforgettable and interactive experience. The Atelier’s next installation – “Journeys around the Mediterranean,” which will run from February 28, 2020 until January 3, 2021 – is a themed retrospective of over 500 works spanning from Impressionism to Modernity. Spend a day with art’s greatest masters – Monet, Renoir, Chagall, Picasso and Matisse, to name just a few. Don’t get caught out – this is one of the most popular things to do in Paris, so booking is essential.
38 Rue Saint-Maur, 75011 Paris
Luxury Shopping at Galeries Lafayette Champs-Élysées
Shopping may seem like an obvious, even mundane choice for something to do in Paris when it rains, but not if you go to the new Galeries Lafayette on Champs-Élysées. In March 2019, the famous Parisian department store opened a new location on the city’s most famous shopping street. A whopping 70,000 square feet of total luxury, Galeries Lafayette invites you to peruse four floors of the latest and most exclusive fashion, lifestyle and culinary collections. Offering new technology-based services such as the ability to book a trained Personal Stylist or use “smart hangers” (which advise you whether or not your desired style and size is available), it is the perfect blend of Art Deco heritage and modern day efficiency. Don’t miss having a coffee or lunch at one of the two dining spaces – Café Citron and Oursin – both curated by famous French fashion designer Simon Porte Jacquemus.
60 Avenue des Champs-Élysées, 75008
Soothe Your Senses At Paris’ Aquarium
Dive into a colorful world of water while staying dry at Paris’ Aquarium. This contemporary aquarium boasts an impressive array of sea life (over 13,000 fish and invertebrates!), an interactive fish pool, a shark tank and the largest jellyfish exhibit in Europe. Further discover the depths of the ocean to your heart’s content with their range of unique activities and shows; the Aquarium even has a two-screen cinema – la Cinéaqua. Located in Paris’ Trocadéro gardens, don’t miss checking out the outside area to score an exceptional view of the Eiffel Tower in the rain.
5 Avenue Albert de Mun, 75016
Get Your History Fix at the Catacombs
Fancy something spooky to do in Paris when it rains? Head down – quite literally – to the city’s underbelly to see the Catacombs. The history of Paris’ Catacombs began in the late eighteenth-century, when a public sanitation issue forced the city to transfer the contents of their cemeteries to the rock quarries under the plain of Montrogue; the site was dubbed the “Paris Municipal Ossuary.” Later commonly referred to as the Catacombs, it first opened to the public in 1809 and remains one of the largest of its kind. Not for the faint hearted, the experience is winding corridors, eerie tombs and endless rows of painstakingly-organized bones and skulls. The journey begins by descending a spiral staircase 66 feet (the height of a 5-story building) – don’t forget a jacket, it gets very chilly!
1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014
Embrace the Elements Like A Parisian
Having said all that, the most authentic thing to do in Paris when it rains? Grab a brolly and get out there. From shower to storm, the weather never stops a true Parisian from going about his business. Our Jan-Feb 20 Portfolio by Nathalie Geffroy is testament to that fact! You can see more of her beautiful images of the city, mid and post rainstorm, in on p8 of our Paris Special – out now.
What do you like to do in Paris when it rains? Let us know in the comments below!