It doesn’t feel like spring to me until the paulownia trees on the place d’Italie are in bloom. The lavender flowers come out in panicles on the tips of the branches before the leaves themselves, so for about two weeks in April the whole square is crowned with these confetti-like blossoms that smell absolutely amazing. Paulownia trees are named after the Russian princess Anna Pavlovna, the daughter of Tsar Paul I who married Crown Prince Willem Frederik of Orange-Nassau in 1816 to become queen of Holland. The “parent” tree of all the paulownias in Paris is in the Jardin des Plantes.
Everywhere the world starts to stretch and wake up, but nowhere more beautifully than in Paris. My favorite parts are the flowers that start blooming in the all the gardens, such as the Tuileries and the Palais Royal, and being able to eat out on the terraces without freezing. But one of my absolute favorite things is food, particularly spring chicken and a very special sardine, a small and delicate-tasting variety that is only available in March and April.
Spring in Paris means color. Parisians start wearing more colorful clothing, the sun comes out to play and the light dances across the city in such a wonderful way. It’s as if the city blinks into wakefulness after being cranky all winter. But my favorite part of spring is seeing the early daffodils and the trees blossoming. The park where I love to go is the one across from Notre Dame, on quai de Montebello. It’s a small, quiet park that explodes into color in early spring—there are heaps of benches, and as the days get nicer there is plenty of grass to sit on.
Top 10 Things about Paris in the Springtime
10. My EDF bill doesn’t make me scream like it does in winter.
9. Spring menus. After months of foie gras, heavy cream sauces and the same four winter vegetables over and over again, finally some more varied, lighter fare arrives in those season-obsessed French kitchens. Fresh peas, tomatoes, asparagus, peaches, plums, melons and other in-season fruits and veggies are everywhere.
8. Singles! Everyone pairs up to get through the cold of winter. But after spending countless hours together in tiny Parisian apartments, it’s spring breakup fever as couples everywhere part ways. This makes for a crowd of hot young singles out and about and ready for fun.
7. An excuse to sing, whenever applicable, “I love Paris in the springtiiiime…”
6. The Luxembourg Gardens. I LOVE running in the Luxembourg Gardens, especially because it is the one place in Paris where people don’t look at you strangely for going for a jog. The Jardin de Luxe are always filled with joggers. And students. And families. And cute little kids playing with old toy boats. (In the French childhood I never had, I’m doing that too.) There are tennis courts and even outdoor Ping-Pong tables. On the St.-Michel corner, there is a little crevice with a small pond and leafy fences—my favorite spot to sit and reflect on la vie in Paris.
5. French babies emerge from the rocks their parents have been keeping them under. All of a sudden cuteness is everywhere, and adorable babies are everywhere I turn.
4. It’s warm enough for a light sweater or jacket, but still cool enough to merit wearing a scarf.
3. The metros are a little bit less crowded as people start to walk more, making the daily commute un petit peu easier.
2. People are happier when the sun comes out. (Yes, even French people!)
1. Outdoor cafés are packed. Sure, this means inhaling an extra 10 cigarettes per hour and waiting about three hours for a spot in the sun, but come on, kids. Drinking wine with friends in the sun for an endless afternoon—isn’t that what la vie parisienne is all about?
What do I love about Paris in the springtime? Late afternoon strolls along the cobbled streets by the Seine, discoveries of blossoming gardens and hidden courtyards, picnics on the riverbank as the light fades beyond Notre Dame, a midnight Vélib’ ride beneath an illuminated sky… Is this not the most romantic place on earth?
Even I, who am often ambivalent about the City of Light, have to say that the hype is absolutely all true: Paris in the springtime is as delightful as puppies and kittens and rainbows and laughter.
My favorite place to experience spring? Paris’s parks, especially the one closest to me, the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. But even a stroll down the city sidewalks as the spring foliage is sprung is delightful.
Apart from pollen allergies, spring is a wonderful season in Paris (though my favorite is summer…). It’s time to enjoy terrasses again. My favorite outfit: a pair of Uniqlo jeans, a white T-shirt and a leather jacket, plus a pair of stilettos to show off one’s naked feet (very sexy!). A few of my favorite terrasses are Corso (delicious pasta and Sicilian white wine), all the Trocadero cafés facing the Eiffel Tower, Le Dôme de Villiers and L’Auberge Rouge.
My favorite park will always be the Parc Monceau: chic, friendly, sunny, and you can sit down on the lawn to unpack your lunchbox.
Oh, and spring is the perfect time to rediscover ice cream. Be sure to taste the seasonal flavor at Grom. They’ll probably begin to offer some strawberry soon…
My favorite place in Paris on a sunny spring day is the Parc des Buttes Chaumont in the 19th. I love picnicking with friends up near the Belvedere when the trees and flowers are beginning to bloom. Other great places for a picnic are the place des Vosges and the pont des Arts. When I lived in Paris, I also loved buying fresh bouquets of flowers for my apartment, especially on days when the stubborn gray clouds darkened the city.
Spring in Paris is what you’ve been thinking of since… let’s say November, which is probably the worst month in Paris.
It’s when you start leaving behind the heavy jacket and gloves when you go out for a run on Sunday mornings along Canal St.-Martin. Just a T-shirt now, and if you’re lucky you may get some tan out of it.
It’s when you start seeing asparagus at the markets, and then know that you don’t have to wait long to get the melons, peaches and cherries.
It’s when it’s really pleasant to be on the terrasses (which actually never stop being lively—funny to see people pretending that it’s great to have a café on the terrasse when it’s 5°C outside, just because they want to smoke). So spring is a terrasse with a glass of wine and a plate of cheese at La Palette… with a mojito at Café Bonnie… or, even better, with whatever you’ve brought, just sitting on the bank of the Canal St.-Martin with a good homemade quiche, some salad, wine and good friends.
Vivement le printemps!
Spring is not my favorite Parisian season—I’m more of a late summer/early fall girl—but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate spring in all its bad-weather-banishing glory!
When the weather gets warmer, it’s time to start hitting the terraces for a sunny (but not too hot yet!) apéro. In April the terrace of Le Diapason at the Terrass Hotel opens for the year. It’s a sweet spot for a glass of wine and a killer view. When I want a more secluded apéro, I grab a seat in the lovely little garden terrace of Hôtel Amour. Speaking of secluded, the terrace at the Hotel Particulier in Montmartre is simply gorgeous and another good apéro stop (reservations are a must!) I’ve also been meaning to check out the pretty terrace at the Hotel de l’Abbaye, which seems like the perfect place for a girly drink in the sunshine. That said, I’m pretty happy to pull up a chair at any one of Paris’s basic brasserie terraces and watch people, bikes and cars go by while sipping something cheap and cheerful and appreciating the buzz of the city.
Springtime anywhere is heaven. Springtime in Paris is a special kind of heaven because, after the long, long, loooong cold winter, there’s an explosion of people and energy and color. The fountains and gardens and café terraces come alive. The boulangeries smell especially delicious. (Why is that?!) The Frenchies actually loosen up. And suddenly you’re free! Free to have drinks outside, free to Vélib’ without your hands freezing off, free to picnic along the canal…
Spring is the perfect time to reacquaint yourself with all the pretty little pockets of Paris. I love the gardens inside the Palais Royal (I’m a sucker for symmetry), but truthfully all of the parks make me happy: the old men playing pétanque, the Technicolor flowerbeds, the statues of writers, philosophers and kings—they are magic. I also love strolling through le marché aux fleurs and ogling the lavender plants, the bouquets of ranunculus and the petite olive trees. And then listening to the bells clanging outside Notre Dame and peeping in all the windows on rue St.-Louis and busting out the rosé after a long season of Bordeaux.
I love all the things that say, “Au revoir, winter!”
I can find things to love about Paris all year round, but the city is a bit more lovable in spring. Winter isn’t exactly a tough act to follow. Spring offers the beginning of longer days and picnic weather. My favorite picnic spot is Parc Montsouris. With its puppet shows, pony rides, trains, playgrounds and name (which translates to Mice Mountain), I like to think this park was an early inspiration for Disneyland. The large lake in the center—which attracts birds other than city pigeons—and the hidden wooded trails will make you feel like you’re on Tom Sawyer Island. And if you don’t feel like packing a picnic basket, Parc Montsouris has concession stands offering up cotton candy, ice cream and crêpes. There’s even a proper restaurant in the park with a view of the lake, the Pavillon Montsouris.
Like any city that is gray all winter, Paris is magical in the spring as the clouds give way to sunshine and brown grass turns green. Sit outside at the Café de Flore and gaze at the magnificent window boxes of the Hotel au Manoir across the street for a quick pick-me-up as you switch from winter’s chocolat chaud to spring’s white wine. Walk up the steps of Sacré-Coeur and notice how the once-leafless trees are now full of green buds. It’s free, this glimpse of the skyline of the city now awake from winter’s sleep!
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10, ave Trudaine, in the 9th Arrondissement.
Le Dôme de Villiers
4, ave Villiers, in the 17th.
15, rue Terrasse, in the 17th.
81, rue de Seine, in the 6th.
43, rue de Seine, in the 6th. 01 43 26 68 15.
9, rue Récollets, in the 10th.