Paris is of course the city of love. Romance and joie de vivre are unmistakably linked to the city of the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower. But what to do when your romantic weekend in Paris is a rainy one? Read my travel story below. Or: click here to go straight to my tips for a rainy an romantic weekend in Paris.
Our exploration of Paris starts in the evening. In Montmartre, we stroll the cobble stone streets of the artist neighbourhood. The streets swirl around the hill leading up to the Sacré-Cœur.
The area bursts with tourists and tourists shops and a lot of street artists. They are not all cartoonist but no Van Gogh’s either. The paintings all look alike. But still, I still would have bought one of the colourful canvasses showing Paris street scenes. Would have, if it weren’t for our travel picture crowded walls at home.
Musicians add just the perfect background sound to the cosy atmosphere of the neighbourhood. A woman playing accordion next to the Sacré-Cœur reminds me of a painting by my great-uncle. That painting depicts a Parisian man playing the accordion. A different time, a different gender. But the same Paris ambiance. The grey/brownish colours of the cathedral walls are just perfect for an image that captures the imagination of picturesque Paris.
The famous stairs in front of the Sacré-Cœur are crowded. The sun is about to set, and many locals and tourists have gathered on the stairs. It is the perfect spot to see the sun drop behind the city. Night falls over Paris and one by one lights are turned on.
We join the bunch on this incredibly relaxed hangout. Street sellers walk up and down the stairs to sell beers by the bottle. Street musicians provide the perfect evening soundtrack. The lookout platform is their stage and the stairs are the grandstand for their concert.
Looking over my shoulder, I see the now yellow lit Sacré-Cœur standing out gracefully in the deep blue skies. If this view would be sold on canvas, I would definitely find a spot on the wall to fit it in.
A rainy morning in Paris
The next morning we wake up to moody grey skies and a cold shower. I am not referring to rain. Yet. The shower in our hotel room cannot generate enough pressure for more than one warm drop of water in our six-story hotel. But “we’ll always have Paris” so we make our way to what my friend described as “the best breakfast ever”.
From underneath our umbrella we see a line of locals standing outside on the pavement. As we come closer our noses catch the trail of a perfect morning smell. It’s a smell that you would want to tickle your nostrils every morning.
We are lucky to savour it today. Upstairs in the crowded bakery, we manage to find a table for two. The café oozes comfort with yellow walls and cosy decoration. Tables are crammed together to fit as many morning birds as possible. The waitress is incredibly cheerful and kind, and the menu she hands over looks promising.
Breakfast heaven in Paris
Sight speaks louder than words though, so I make my way downstairs again to peer at the showcase from between the queuing locals waiting for their fresh weekend petit déjeuner. Obviously, I have to go for a true French croissant and my mouth just start watering at the sight of the cinnamon brioche and sacristain. My partner goes all-in with a breakfast basket including a slice of grandmother’s brioche, croissant with confiture, baguette, a glass of jus d’orange and a bowl of cappuccino.
This is breakfast heaven. While we indulge ourselves in the sweet, slightly crispy buns, more and more people walk up to see if there is still a seat available for them. It is clear that this is a much-loved spot and not being able to sit down can break a heart on a weekend morning. Those who have just had their last bite of heavenly pastry kindly get up to make space for the next couple in line.
The Louvre experience
After a satisfying but heavy breakfast – our eyes were bigger than our stomach – we take the subway to the Louvre. Although it is my third time visiting Paris, I have never been in the world’s biggest indoor museum before. I have explored Musée d’Orsay and Centre Pompidou, but just never felt like spending so much time on a sunny day waiting in line and staying indoors to get a glimpse of the entire collection. But so you see: rain can come as a gift.
We walk up the museum through the Jardin des Tuileries. Every few steps we hop to a side to evade puddles. In front of us, we see busloads of tourists forming a tent with hundreds of umbrellas as they queu on the square. Luckily, we bought our tickets in advance, and now all we have to do is show our mobile phone to the employee standing in front of the marked path for pre-booked tickets. And within minutes, we walk right into the famous glass pyramid that marks the entrance of the museum.
Meeting Mona Lisa
Undoubtedly the most famous piece of art in the Louvre is La Gioconda. La what? The Mona Lisa, know to the French as La Jaconde. The Leonardi daVinci painting is famous for the gaze of the woman that seems to follow as you walk past. Unfortunately, you will not be able to try this out for yourself. It is crazy crowded here and you are lucky to even find a spot to take a good look at the painting. A painting which many people by the way, find smaller than expected. To give you an idea:
Then there are other famous highlights such as the Venus of Milo, a gigantic granite Sphinx, Hammurabi’s Code and more. For me, the most impressive of all was the amount of masterpieces this old palace holds. No matter which room you are in, the impressive collection will dazzle you. Until you reach a point where you no longer want to do anything else but sit down and have something to drink and eat.
As you will expect by now, finding a place to sit down in the Louvre is not an easy task. I would recommend you to walk up to Le Palais Royal. After just a couple of minutes of walking, you will find yourself away from the crowd. Stroll through the garden lined with red horse chestnuts and lime trees. And find yourself a perfect spot for people watching at one of the bistro terraces right next to the colonnade.
Evening stroll along the Seine
From one perfect stroll to the next: those evening walks are my favourite. A leisurely stroll along the Seine, will give you the city feel outside of the tourist route. We watch young locals hang out on the river banks with music and drinks. Couples walk by hand in hand. In the background the laser light on the Eiffel Tower continuously flashes in circles.
We sit down for a drink at a pop-up terrace built up from wooden tables and chairs we recognise from our own balcony. (Let’s say they are Swedish design). While sipping a glass of Burgundy wine we enjoy watching locals pass by – friends dressed for a night out, skaters, cyclists. At midnight the background view suddenly changes. The silhouette of the Eiffel Tower that we could still make out from the dark blue evening skies has turned into a bright column of light. We enjoy the flickering light show as we take the last gulps of our wine.
Sacré-Cœur in the early hours of the morning
Skipping the shower completely on the rainy Sunday we wake up to, we’re quick on our feet for a walk up to Sacré-Cœur. In the morning drizzle, the basilisk looks more mystique than majestic, especially now all the stairs are deserted. We pay a visit to the church before we head for breakfast, and enter as one of the nuns making her morning round. She is emptying the coin souvenir machines. The sound of tinkling coins rolling into the basket she has placed on a trolley, echo in the basilic.
Sunday brunch in Paris
As we enjoy a hearty breakfast The Hardware Société Paris fills up quickly. This Australian breakfast bar is obviously popular for a Sunday brunch. We see three taxi’s pull up in front of the entrance, dropping off French couples for a culinary start of the day.
Ile de la cite
When the rain has turned into a drizzle, we go for a stroll on the Ile de la cite. There, we visit the small market where we feel pity for the beautiful birds locked up in cages. We realize now that the little bird we had seen just twenty minutes before on the pavement in Montmartre, has probably escaped from here. Hopefully, it is able to make its way to freedom. More likely, it will have a tough time in a city dominated by pigeons.
Boat ride over the Seine
We close off our weekend in Paris with something I try to do in every city that has a river or canal flowing though its heart. We enjoy a boat ride to take in the city architecture from another perspective.
As I already had the opportunity to visit the famous highlights in previous Paris visits, we now just enjoy the two-hour round trip with the boat. We get off for a couple of easy strolls and that get back on the boat again. We disembark to walk up and down the Champs-Élysées, admire la Tour Eiffel from up close and enjoy a coffee near the Musée d’Orsay.
With the end of the boat trip, our exploration of Paris comes to an end. It has been an incredibly rainy weekend, but it was yet again a romantic one in the city of love.
Tips for rainy days in Paris
Which Seine boat trip should I book?
We chose the Batobus – a hop on hop off boat stopping at eight touristic highlights located near the Seine. When it rains, you can sit inside. And when the sun breaks through the clouds, you can go outside to take in the city views from the deck. Good to know: the Batobus is more a means of transport with nice views than a actual tourist vessel. If you prefer an audio tour on the water, you are better off booking a boat with live commentary such as Bateaux Parisiens.
Food is the answer
What is a better solution to a rainy day than finding a cosy café and indulge in comfort food? These are some of my favourite foodie addresses:
- Breakfast heaven @ Coquelicot
- Australia meets Paris for brunch @ The Hardware Societe
- Chique dining in a cosy bistro serving French classics @ Invictus
How to find your way in the Louvre?
Going to a museum is probably the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of ways to spent a rainy day in Paris. Rightly so.
Like I said, the Louvre is the biggest indoor art museum in the world. So besides a strategy for skipping the waiting line to get in you might want one for your visit itself as well. At the entrance hall you can grab a map of the museum (available in many languages). But I have to say it is not the most detailed one and can still get you lost. You might want to try the free ‘My visit to the Louvre’ app. Otherwise, a good starting point is to make yourself a list of the highlights you definitely want to see and then enjoy everything that meets your eyes on your way there. Including the building itself.
Combine Paris with a trip to the Champagne region
Read my travel story on a perfect romantic getaway to Champagne. Reims is just a 1hr40m drive away from Paris with a (rental) car. Alternatively, the train will take you from Paris to Reims in less than 50 minutes.