“Actually, Paris is the most beautiful in the rain.” Lea Seydoux, Midnight in Paris
Paris weather can get pretty moody, but shouldn’t stop your Parisian adventures. Here are 25 ways to make the most of a rainy day in Paris:
Get lost in the Louvre.
This alone could fill an entire rainy day! At 782,910 square feet spread out over four main levels, the Louvre is the largest art museum in the world, and there is SO much to see and explore beyond the Mona Lisa, actual building included. The Louvre is a fortress turned royal palace with an insane amount of French history tied to it; you are not just observing art and history, you are walking through it! Read my pro-tip guide on how to get the most out of your time at the Louvre here, and make sure to stop and try a lait chaud vanille (warm vanilla milk) on the covered patio at Le Café Marly.
Enjoy afternoon tea at Ladurée in Madeleine.
Ladurée became one of the very first Parisian “salon de thés” in the late 1800s where, unlike Parisian cafes, women were free to gather on their own. Today, their colorful macarons are an international sensation and accessible worldwide, but the original tea room experience at 16 Rue Royale is still worth the hype! The treats are delicious, the window displays ornate, and despite the French way of turning their nose up at many other tourist-laden Parisian sites, even they cannot deny the modern-day marvel of the Ladurée macaron. Read more on how to have the perfect Ladurée afternoon experience here.
See Marie Antoinette’s prison cell in La Conciergerie.
The large medieval palace overlooking the Seine on the northwest end of the Île de la Cité used to be the royal residence of the King of France, but is more famously known for being a prison during the French Revolution. You can visit the final prison cell of Marie Antoinette before she, in addition to hundreds of other prisoners of the Revolution, was led from the Conciergerie to death by guillotine in the middle of Place de la Concorde. Don’t worry, all the museum is not quite as grim as the section of prison cells, and you can reserve a HistoPad that allows you to visually reconstruct how each of the prison and palace rooms used to look as you walk through them.
Contemplate impressionism in the Musée d’Orsay.
On the Left Bank of the Seine, opposite the Tuileries gardens, this museum is housed in the former Orsay Railway Station with the iconic clock window, which was built for the Paris Exposition (World’s Fair) of 1900. Dedicated to artwork from 1848-1914, and rich in the impressionist and post-impressionist works, I would argue that here lies the type of French artwork that many an uninformed tourist goes to the Louvre in hopes of seeing. You can easily spend hours pondering Renoir, Degas, Monet, Van Gogh, and Corbet, with highlights including Van Gogh’s self-portrait and Degas’s dancer statues and painting.
Rainy Day Tip: For just €4 more, you can purchase a combined ticket with the Musée de l’Orangerie, home of Monet’s Water Lilies. Plus, it’s an easy walk across the Pont Royal to get there from the Orsay, even in the rain.
Explore the underground labyrinth in the historic Paris Catacombs.
This underground tunnel network built five stories underneath the streets of Paris holds the remains of over six million people, most of which were transferred from graves during a public health crisis in the late 1700s when strong spring rains unearthed the smell and bones of rotting corpses- although this practice continued through the French Revolution. Creepy? Sure. Fascinating? You betcha. Today, you can enter the Catacombs through a museum entrance in the 14th arrondissement and explore over a mile of tunnels and bones while reading about the full history, which includes a time period when the City of Paris rented out portions of the Catacombs to host concerts and other special events.
Take a Parisian coffee break (prend une pause).
When walking the City on a rainy afternoon, there’s nothing like drying off and warming up at a Parisian cafe under an outdoor heater while thoroughly enjoying a book or lengthy people- watching session. I mean, French cafes line chairs in their outdoor dining space to face the streets for this very reason- you take your drink as you take in the city around you- c’est la vie parisienne! Here are my top 10 cafes to take a rainy afternoon coffee break throughout the city- one for every type of Paris visitor.
Admire the stained glass inside Sainte-Chapelle.
Just a couple blocks from Notre Dame on the Île de la Cité in the middle of King Louis IX’s royal residence lies another important cathedral. Known for its 1,113 stained glass windows, Sainte Chapelle was originally built to house the relics of the passion of the Christ, including the crown of thorns, which is still shown every year on Good Friday. The ornate, upper chapel built for the King as his family is still accessible to tour, and much more intimate than the massive Notre Dame. Plus, you are surrounded by walls of stained glass at eye level, and can therefore appreciate the intricate beauty and design of 1,130 biblical figures and scenes up close.
Walk the halls where Victor Hugo lived and wrote part of Les Misérables.
The House of Victor Hugo Museum is just off the corner of the beautiful Place des Vosges in the Marais neighborhood, in the building where the prolific author lived in a beautiful apartment from 1832-1848 and wrote some of his famous works there. Today you can visit his second-floor apartment and see many of his personal effects and paintings- the main exhibition is free and walks you through his life pre- and post-exile in Guernsey. The first floor of the museum has a rotating exhibition that you can buy a separate ticket for. To see more of Victor Hugo’s Paris, check out my free walking tour guide that retraces his firsthand experiences during the June Rebellion of 1832 that inspired him to write the story of Les Misérables.
Drink local beer at Paname Brewing Co.
When you need a break from French wine (if that is even a thing), local craft beer is a fun alternative. Located in the trendy 19th arrondissement with great water views and a floating patio along the banks of the Bassin de la Villette, Paname Brewing Company is a Parisian leader in crafting artisanal beer. They keep their five flagship brews plus a rotating seasonal selection on tap, in addition to their take on street food and a fully stocked gourmet coffee bar. This isn’t just a brewery, it’s a neighborhood gathering space.
See a film in the oldest theatre in Paris, Cinéma du Panthéon.
First opened in 1907 in the heart of the Latin quarter, this cinema is the oldest functioning movie theatre that continues to host screenings, meetings and debates among French students and artists in addition to selling regular movie tickets. “Le Salon,” designed by the French actress Catherine Deneuve, remains open before and after screenings for food and drink. While the inside feels much more akin to someone’s living room, the outside heated terrace feels like a secret escape from the city. Don’t just come for the movie, come for the history.
Eat your bodyweight in warm cheese at Le Plomb du Cantal.
If you are cold and wet and in need to French comfort food, don’t walk, run to this restaurant in the Montparnasse neighborhood, order the truffade, and wait for a copper pot of steaming cheese to arrive. Truffade is a traditional dish from Auvergne region of central France comprised of thinly sliced potatoes fried in goose fat and folded into melted, gooey tome fraîche cheese; it is probably the most comfortingly indulgent dish I’ve ever tried. While the chef at Plomb du Cantal may make the dish, it is the servers that turn it into an experience, pouring long spirals of gooey cheese over your plate with dramatic flair.
Dabble in a day of tastings in a wine cave with O Chateau.
Tasting deep, robust French wines in a Parisian wine “cave” on a rainy afternoon? Even you could have come up with this one! And while this activity doesn’t really require much planning- Paris wine shops are filled with knowledgeable staff willing to offer up a tasting of two- O Chateau is the place to go when you are looking for 2+ hours of extensive Tour de France wine tastings from a Masterclass sommelier. I recommend fitting this in towards the beginning of your visit, as you will walk away with much greater confidence in what wine you want to order while in France and how you are supposed to do it!
Eat a 6 course meal in a double decker BustroNome.
BustroNome defines its services as “Gourmet Travel,” where you spend 2.5 hours taking in all of the major sites of Paris from the panoramic glass roof of a high end double decker bus while enjoying a gourmet meal based on seasonal French gastronomie. This is an opportunity to say you dined along the Champs-Élysées, Palais Garnier, Louvre, and Eiffel Tower all in one night (and didn’t feel a single raindrop in the transfers)! BustroNome offers flexibility in price and timing- you can buy a base ticket or pay to add wine pairings with every course, or opt for a slightly shorter and cheaper 4 course lunch of Sunday brunch experience.
Pay your respects to famous Parisians buried below the Panthéon.
Inspired by the Roman Pantheon, this historic building in the 5th remains associated with the artists, academics and philosophers who have inhabited Paris’s Latin Quarter for centuries, and some of whom are buried in its basement (crypt): Voltaire, Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Alexander Dumas to name a few. More recently in 2021, 46 years after her death, the black American entertainer and French Resistance fighter Josephine Baker once again made history posthumously and was moved to the Pantheon crypt. You can also explore the permanent exhibition on the main floor as a refresher on these men and women’s contributions to France and modern society, then stop and watch Foucault’s pendulum swing in demonstration of the Earth’s rotation.
Treat yourself to the decadent hot chocolate of Angelina Paris.
Today, there are Angelina tea rooms throughout Paris and around the world, but when you enter 226 Rue de Rivoli, you are stepping into the original Belle Epoque gourmet confectionery institution that was the place to take your tea while rubbing shoulders with the Paris elite in the early 1900s, like Coco Chanel. Locals and tourists alike are obsessed with their world famous African hot chocolate, and I am one of them. It is divine. Seriously, you will feel like you are drinking rich, liquid heaven and it pairs perfectly with one of their signature Mont-Blanc pastries- or you can opt for the full afternoon tea assortment if you can find the room.
Rainy day tip: There might be a line to sit down in Angelina’s tea room, especially if its high tourist season, so your best best is to come at the start or end of the day. Either way, a little wait is worth it! You will be protected from the elements and have wifi access as the line moves fairly quickly.
Scour the bookshelves of Librairie Galignani.
Just next door to Angelina’s along the famous Rue de Rivoli lies a beautiful bookstore where high wooden bookshelves running along the walls are filled with colorful displays of old and new reads, some of which may require you to climb a wooden library ladder to access them (oh darn!). Walk straight to the back of the bookstore to enter a reading cave of sorts, and suddenly the lineup of these magnificent bookshelves grow from one story to two- a truly breathtaking sight for any bibliophile. The back is also where you will find a very good English selection, including a wall of beautiful pocket anthologies that are perfectly portable travel reads. This is one my five favorite English-friendly bookstores in Paris.
Shop til you drop in the Parisian department stores.
Galeries Lafayette is a one stop shop for the best brands in Paris- plus any purchase over €175 made by non-European Union members are entitled to a tax refund. Make sure to go all the way to the 7th story, then climb the steps to the open air viewing deck that includes close-up views of the Palais Garnier Opera House backed by distant Sacré-Coeur and Eiffel Tower views. Other famous department stores recommended to help fill your rainy day include: Le Bon Marché, BHV, and Printemps.
Rainy day tip: If it’s too rainy to go to the viewing deck, you can still score some breathtaking Eiffel Tower views from the windows of the 7th floor cafeteria or 5th floor children’s section (even the women’s bathroom in this section).
Strike a bargain at Les Puces, the world’s largest antique market.
Located just outside the Périphérique (outer ring road) that circles the City of Paris, Marché aux Puces at Saint-Ouen is not your regular flea market- it’s an institution. Comprised of 1,700 merchants spanning 750,000 this is a great place to search for vintage Chanel, art deco end tables, or just take a Sunday afternoon stroll. Make sure to bring cash and an appetite- the food vendor selection is almost as diverse as the antiques!
Visit Maison Deyrolle, the unofficial taxidermy museum of Paris.
Founded in 1831, this taxidermy shop has a cult following of locals, tourists, scientists and artists who come to wander the first floor displays of lifelike mammals, birds and butterflies. This old mansion known as a Noah’s Ark of curiosities has collaborated with many researchers, decorators, and filmmakers over the years- perhaps you saw it in Midnight in Paris?
Visit Napoleon’s Tomb at Hôtel des Invalides.
It’s true! Napoleon himself is buried within the ornate Dôme of Le Musée de l’Armée Invalides, along with his predecessor (Napoleon II), Joseph and Jérôme Bonaparte, and Generals Bertrand and Duroc. Le Dôme Invalides was first built to be Louis XIV’s royal chapel, and remained the tallest structure in Paris until the construction of the Eiffel Tower. Just don’t tell Napoleon any secrets- the room’s curved, open architectural design makes it one massive echo chamber- so have your party spread out and witness your voices carry up and over Napoleon’s Tomb.
Take a break from stuffing your face with French pastries and learn to bake your own.
La Cuisine Paris offers a wide array of French pastry and baking classes, all taught in English and most last for 3 hours and will cost you €99. A small price to pay for a lifetime of macaroons and perfectly chewy baguettes!
Fondue like a true Frenchie in the basement of Pain Vin Fromages.
On a sidestreet hidden in Le Marais just down from the Pompidou lies a charming little restaurant that you will smell before you see; even the rain can’t drown out the mingling scents of melted cheese, cured meats, herbs, and freshly baked bread. Goat? Camembert? Roquefort? All three. Order a bottle from their great (and affordable!) wine list- then take your time perfecting that perfect cheese to bread ratio.