As the heat of high summer recedes, Paris starts to prepare for the fall and the winter. But don't be fooled by the weather in Paris in September, when summer can sometimes linger for a month or more. The thing is, the crowds tend to melt away as August departs, making September an idyllic time to wander the boulevards and sample Paris' dining options. However, there are some things to remember when visiting Paris at the tail end of summer. Let's have a look at what visitors need to know.
Summer in Paris tends to peak in early August and by the end of the month, you can feel a chill in the air in the early mornings. Average highs start to dip, slowly at first, then more quickly as September develops. By mid-September, the 80-degree days of August are a distant memory. But the sun doesn't disappear, and the departure of summer is compensated by a huge variety of bonuses. As Parisians return from their "vacances," the city roars into life, and the sleepy summer capital becomes a cultural powerhouse.
What temperatures can I expect?
If you head for a late summer/early fall vacation, expect the weather to be fairly warm, but not hot by any means. Average temperatures start at around 65 degrees Fahrenheit at the start of the month and decline slowly to about 60 degrees by the month's end. On any day, though, you can hope for highs of over 70 degrees or more. One of the great things about September is that extreme highs or lows are very rare. Nights won't freeze, and daily lows only occasionally dip below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. It's cool compared to July and August, and it's certainly not shorts weather, but the weather in Paris should be comfortable for most visitors.
Does it mean I need to pack wet weather clothes?
Ask any Parisian and they will tell you that the weather tends to bring a few more showers than August. It's almost a routine to expect a few drops here and there at around 2 p.m., and the month as a whole averages 16mm of rain. That's not so bad, however, when you put the month into perspective. September averages 11 days without rain, which is the lowest number of the year. But the actual amount of rain that falls is also the lowest of any month. For example, 26mm of rain falls in May, and 25mm in October. The weather is a strange mixture: it's likely to rain, but not that much. Although you'll need an umbrella and raincoat, getting around shouldn't be affected much by downpours, and entire days generally won't be ruined by incessant rain.
Is the weather variable?
Yes, the weather in Paris can be unpredictable, which is another good reason to be prepared. Some years have seen heatwaves strike during the early fall, sending temperatures soaring to 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit. So check forecasts just before you travel, and make sure you pack accordingly. Annoyingly, it's one of those months when you'll often have to pack for "two seasons." In fact, the French government officially marks the end of summer and the start of autumn on September 21st. It's no surprise, then, that the weather can be difficult to predict.
So you're planning to visit France in the post-summer shoulder season. Should you prioritize Paris in September or head to another part of the country where searing hot sunshine and beach weather is guaranteed? Other parts of Europe could even be more appealing for sun-seekers who are more concerned about perfecting their tan than perusing the artworks of the Louvre. So think about what you want to get out of your vacation, and find a hotel with the perfect climate for the time of year you intend to fly.
What about areas outside of Paris in September?
For those who can't stand cool evenings or the chance of gloomy days filled with drizzle, the south of France could make more sense. The Côte d'Azur in Provence remains drenched in Mediterranean sunshine until into October, and temperatures in excess of 75 degrees Fahrenheit are normal. City break destinations like Marseille or Bordeaux also have higher average temperatures, peaking at 75-77 in both cases. Both destinations tend to be drier as well. Then again, Paris is warmer than other tourist areas like Brittany, where the tourist season ends more abruptly in early September, after which temperatures rarely beat 60 degrees. So in a way, the weather in Paris is a good compromise. It's not hot by French standards, but it's comfortable and pleasant. In other words, perfect for sightseeing.
How does the weather change during the month?
Another thing to think about is timing a vacation to Paris during the month of September. As we noted earlier, you can generally (though not always) expect higher temperatures in early September than at the end of the month. Often, the first week of September has the feel of summer, along with the relaxed, almost sleepy vibe of August. The final week can be a total contrast, with the early stages of fall colors, windy gusts, and a hectic, business-like atmosphere. And in the middle of the month, anything could happen. As the seasons change, enjoy the best of both worlds: warm, dry, but fresh weather, with few fellow tourists and a packed cultural calendar.
Mixing the weather in late September and early October
One option is to combine the weather in late September and early October. If you take this option, you can certainly expect autumnal conditions, and a fair amount of rain. But this doesn't mean that your trip has to be gloomy. The early fall rain can make the architecture of Paris look stunning (check for reflections of the Eiffel Tower in puddles on the Quai Branly). What it does mean is that you should be flexible about your schedule in late September and early October. Every day, pencil in outdoor and indoor activities, and choose one that suits the weather. That way, you won't be stuck in a café as the rain drums against the glass, although that in itself can be a satisfying Parisian experience.
Could I mix up my trip to blend sun and cultural activities?
Another option is to avoid the worst weather in September and early October by mixing up your trip. For instance, you might schedule a week in Paris in mid-September to take advantage of summer's conclusion. You could then then take the train south to Provence, for a week of sunshine by the Mediterranean. While France is fairly large by European standards, you can travel from Paris to Marseille in a little over three hours, so the transfer is easier than you might expect. And along the way you'll be treated to stunning scenery as the track weaves its way through the country.
One of the most important aspects is how the drop in temperatures changes the tourist scene. Generally speaking, September prices drop as summer falls away, but don't expect immediate rate reductions from Parisian hotels as August ends. It doesn't work quite like that. Prices will fall, for sure, but the cutoff often lies in the middle of the month. This is when families need to return for new school years, and the cooler weather drives off some visitors. Unlike some destinations, the cultural scene doesn't decline as visitors depart. Actually, the fall is a dynamic season in France, with festivals, fairs, concert seasons, and exhibitions aplenty. That's what makes September so magical: It can be cheap, hassle-free, and full of cultural delights.
How Parisian life changes when the temperatures start to dip
The way Paris changes in September is the key to this month's appeal. Traditionally, Paris' summer holiday lasts from 16th July through to 10th August. The whole of August, however, is generally low key, and the streets won't be full of busy Parisians. That all changes in September. Monuments and museums host "Heritage Days," opening up areas that are usually closed to public visitors. Galleries and museums like the Musée d'Orsay often restart their exhibition schedule in September (2018 sees a stunning event showcasing Picasso's Blue and Rose periods). When it comes to festivals, there's a touch of summer and fall all in one. You can experience the tail end of open air cinema or music seasons, and events such as the citywide Festival d'Automne kicking off. So there's plenty to see and do, more so than in the peak summer months.
Things to remember when picking hotels in Paris in September
September's thriving cultural calendar means that you'll probably want to pick somewhere close to major venues and museums. Somewhere like So-Pi (South Pigalle) or Saint-Germain-des-Prés is ideal. And the weather means that you need to be flexible. Sometimes you'll want to bolt back to your hotel to dry off or change into warm-weather clothes, so a centrally located hotel really makes sense. Montmartre is another place that's worth a look. This gorgeous part of the city is rarely more beautiful than during the transition from summer to fall, and the views from its Sacré-Coeur summit are sublime.
Creating a schedule based around the weather in Paris in September can present some challenges, and it's important to plan things well before you travel. As far as major sights go, nothing will be off limits in September due to seasonal closures. This means that you can still look forward to highlights like the fountains of Versailles. But if you're traveling as the months change, be aware that some attractions close in October. Double check before you book anything to avoid disappointment. In general, outdoor activities will still be fine, but be realistic about long walks, boat trips, and bike rides. You should be fine as far as rain goes, but checking the forecast never hurts.
The best outdoor attractions to enjoy
If you can't resist the urge to get outdoors, September is a wonderful month to do so. For sports fans, it's a good time to head to Paris St. Germain's soccer fixtures. 2018 also brings golf's Ryder Cup to Le Golf National in Guyancourt, around 30 miles southwest of the city. Back in town, Paris' historic gardens like the Tuileries or the Jardin Luxembourg won't be filled with tourists taking in the scenery. And September is also a great time to join walking tours. Hop between atmospheric wine bars, take in the city's food markets, or trace the back alleys of the Parisian underworld with expert guides. Finally, if you're in Paris on the 8th, the Saint-Cloud Fireworks are unmissable. Europe's largest pyrotechnic display, it mixes two hours of jaw-dropping illuminations, accompanied by live music, in one of the city's most beautiful palaces.
How does the weather affect Disneyland Paris visitors?
Many families visiting Paris in September won't be too worried about golfing tournaments or fireworks displays. Instead, they will probably be more interested in whether the weather is right for a visit to Disneyland Paris. The answer is basically yes. Temperatures at the resort average 63 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the month (ideal for wandering the extensive site). More importantly, visitor numbers fall quite a lot compared with August's peak season, so queues for the rides won't be anywhere near as long. The only problem is variability. Temperatures can soar (but rarely plummet), and rainfall can be heavy (or completely absent), so pack the right protective clothing and sunscreen if you think it will be required. And if you intend to watch the nighttime Illuminations show, have a sweater or blanket on hand, as the evenings can be much chillier.
Great day-trip ideas for a Parisian vacation in September
Finally, there's always the possibility that you'll feel the urge to roam beyond the city limits of Paris. So what day-trip options are there for visitors in September? Actually, there are plenty. Chartres is one candidate, with its incredible medieval cathedral and Festival of Lights on 15th September. Wineries in Burgundy or Champagne will be less busy in September, too. You might even have the the chance to chat to producers if they aren't busy with the harvest. However, if you are visiting Versailles, be sure to get there early and book ahead. Because of its appeal, the palace and gardens are still a magnet for French and international visitors well into September. The same goes for attractions like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, but to a lesser extent.
For Parisians, September is when the city awakes from its summer slumber, festivals and concert seasons get underway, and the fashion scene unveils its latest collections. This also makes it a fantastic time for tourists to visit, especially as the crowds start to thin and prices decline. With the generally fine weather in Paris in September, it's easy to see why this month has become popular for travelers wanting to get under the skin of this fascinating city. Tell us if you've been inspired to do the same and discover a Paris that's easy to miss during peak tourist season.