Paris in the Springtime
"When spring comes to Paris the humblest mortal alive must feel that he dwells in paradise."
- Henry Miller from the novel Tropic of Cancer
Paris in the spring - poets, writers and musicians have all tried to capture this magical season when the gray skies and stark scenery of winter give way to lush, landscapes of color. To experience the sublime beauty of a Parisian spring, read our seven travel tips listed below.
Wander Among the Cherry Blossoms
Cherry trees, the harbingers of Spring, bloom around Parisian monuments, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame Cathedral.
You'll find cherry trees in the Tuileries Gardens outside of the Louvre Museum...
...and lining Parisian streets.
Break up a hectic day of sightseeing with a relaxing break off the tourist track among the cherry blossoms in the Japanese gardens at the Jardin Albert Kahn. (Métro: Boulogne – Pont de Saint-Cloud - Line 10 terminus).
Picnic in a Park
Celebrate spring like the Parisians do - by experiencing the beauty of Paris in a park.
Left Bank - Picnic on the chic Left Bank among the manicured lawns and palm trees in the Luxembourg Gardens (see two photos below). You can purchase the fixings for a delectable meal in the small shops surrounding the Luxembourg Gardens or for one-stop shopping, try the gourmet grocery store, La Grand Epicerie de Paris in Le Bon Marché department store (Address: 38, rue des Sevres, Metro: Sevres - Babylon).
The Louvre - The Tuileries Gardens adjacent to the Louvre Museum is also a popular spot to people-watch and grab a snack. Relax in one of the reclining, green lounge chairs next to the fountains, or eat in one of the many open-air cafes nestled in the garden's tree-lined paths.
Notre Dame Cathedral - Undiscovered by most tourists, many Paris tourist attractions contain small, pocket parks with benches for relaxing, and playground equipment for small children to run off some energy before visiting another church or museum.
For example, on the Seine river side of the Notre Dame Cathedral is a small playground and sandbox. Behind the Notre Dame is the Square de l'Ile de France, a shaded park with a fountain and numerous gardens - a perfect place to rest your legs and have a snack.
Eiffel Tower - The Champ du Mars, adjacent to the Eiffel Tower, contains numerous, secluded benches for an impromptu picnic.
And, a carousel with a snack bar for the kiddies.
Explore an Outdoor Museum
If you just can't bring yourself to wander through a museum on a sunny, spring day, get your "art fix" by visiting an outdoor museum instead. The Rodin Museum displays many of Rodin's famous sculptures, such as The Thinker, in a stunning garden behind Rodin's Left Bank mansion (see photo below). (Address: 79 Rue de Varenne 75007).
Rodin's famous statue, The Thinker, with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
Near the Eiffel Tower, the Musée du Quai Branly displays cultural artifacts from Asia, Africa, South and Central America. Besides the exhibits, the Quai Branly museum is famous for its large (18,000 square meters) glass walled garden. The museum was constructed so that the gardens are an integral, organic part of the building. For example, the main building was built on stilts so the plants could grown unobstructed underneath the museum. The museum's walls also use materials that do not degrade under plant growth resulting in one-of-a-kind "living walls" of foliage rising over four stories towards the sun.
A living wall of plants at the Musée du Quai Branly.
If you visit in the spring, make sure to explore the paths on the museum's south side to walk through groves of blossoming magnolia and cherry trees. (Address: 55 quai Branly, 75007).
Attend a Festival or Event
May 1st is the Fete du Travail or Labor Day, a national holiday to celebrate worker's rights. Besides the parades and marches, workers give each other Lily of the Valley flowers (Muguet in French), to symbolize good luck.
Workers exchange Lily of the Valley flowers on the Fete du Travail (May 1st).
If you are vacationing in Paris on May 1st, plan ahead. Many museums and attractions are closed.
In May, attend the Art Saint-Germain des Pres, a block party of 50 art galleries showcasing their most famous works, complete with a walk on the red carpet. Dress up for this free event - you'll be expected to walk up the red carpet before entering each gallery and sipping champagne with the artists.
In mid-may, on La Nuit des Musées, Paris museums are open until midnight for special exhibitions, concerts and theater/dance performances. Entrance is free.
For music lovers, attend the Festival Jazz a Saint-Germain des Pres in mid-May to hear jazz and blues in the famous Left Bank clubs where jazz was born.
See Versailles' Grand Fountains
Spring is the perfect season to visit Versailles, the palatial estate created by the Sun King, Louis XIV, located a quick 30-40 minute train ride from Paris. In the spring months, the gardens are in bloom and the crowds are manageable giving you the space to explore.
While visiting Versailles, time your visit when dozens of fountains spray in rhythm with classical music playing in the background. This spectacle is called the Grandes Eaux and occurs in April and May on weekend afternoons from 11:00am to noon and from 3:30 to 5:30pm.
Apollo Fountain depicting Apollo, the sun god, on his chariot at dawn. Most Versailles fountains depict scenes from Roman mythology. Louis IV called himself the "Sun King."
Louis XIV used water-works to distinguish Versailles from other European royal palaces. To achieve Louis XIV's version in the 17th century, engineers pushed the technological limits of the time by developing new types of hydraulic pumps and pipe works to move water from the Seine river to the Versailles' intricate network of fountains, canals and reflecting pools.
The Enceladus Fountain. Enceladus, a titan, is punished by Jupiter for trying to climb Mt. Olympus. This fountain depicts his drowning in lava and represents Louis XIV, like Jupiter's, absolute authority and serves as a warning not to cross the King.
Eat a Macaron
You can find French macarons in Paris patisseries year round, but these delicate, pastel-colored cookies, seem like the perfect treat on a Spring day. Two Parisian establishments vie for the best macaron in Paris. Ladurée, famous for its macarons for over 150 years and Pierre Hermé, known for its inventive flavors, such as olive oil and vanilla, yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit, and rose petal.
Spring themed macarons at Pierre Hermé.
If the lines at Ladurée or Pierre Hermé are too long, you can quickly purchase macarons at McDonald's McCafes. Surprisingly, McCafe macarons are made by the same parent company that owns Ladurée, but the recipe is slightly different.
Good news - macarons are gluten-free.
If you long to eat Parisian pastries, but are allergic to wheat, macarons are made with almond flour and are gluten-free.
Stroll by the Seine River during Sunset
No words are needed, just look at the photo below. A stroll along the Seine is a sublime experience during spring in Paris.
Author: Cheryl Montgomery
Author: Cheryl Montgomery