Guide to Visiting Paris in November
This year I decided to switch things up and do Thanksgiving differently by celebrating in Paris with one of my closest friends, Jessica. Five years ago, Jess and I went on our first trip to Europe together where we explored Paris, Barcelona, and Rome. While in Barcelona we met Vivien and we have all been inseparable ever since. This trip was our long overdue reunion in Europe! By visiting Paris during early off-peak season we got to experience the city differently— with Parisian holiday season activities and with less crowds. The last time we were here it was within the peak season—June to August and extremely crowded.
Here’s how we made the most of our 5 day visit to Paris in November:
We were graciously hosted by Vivien in an apartment in the La Fourche neighborhood. I loved this neighborhood because the location was central to most of the major landmarks, it was walking distance from a metro station and a bus stop, and there were tons of cafes and shops nearby.
During our stay in late November the temperatures averaged high 40s/high 30s and rained almost everyday. However, the average temperature in November is low 50s/ low 40s. One of the best parts about Fall in Paris is that the city becomes a bit more charming with the beautiful fall leaves. We were able to marvel at what was left of the Fall foliage.
Pro-tip: When traveling in the Fall, space out your inside and outside activities so you can stay comfortable. We made a lot of stops into random cafes for tea to warm up.
I managed to get by in Paris without withdrawing Euros. The majority of places accept credit cards with a minimum charge of 10 euros.
As someone who comes from a city with an annoyingly complex metro system (cough NYC cough), getting around Paris was a piece of cake.
Getting to and from the airport
There are two international airports in Paris, Charles de Gaulle Airport (the main one) and Orly Airport (the one I flew into and from). They are both easily accessible by public transport. From Orly airport, I got to and from the airport using the Direct Bus €12 ($13.71) and the metro €1.90 ( $2.17). At the airport, you can purchase your direct bus ticket from a kiosk at the bus stop.
Getting around Paris
Admittedly, because of the rainy weather and convenience we took way more Ubers than necessary. Overall, Paris is a very walkable city, so when the weather was clear we did take advantage and walked around more. When we weren’t in an uber or walking we used public transportation. Paris has an extensive train and bus system that can get you anywhere you want to go in the city and suburbs. This includes 16 metro lines serving 300 metro stations and 64 bus lines that complement the metro system. There are several ticketing options that you can choose based on your itinerary:
Single Journey. A single journey costs €2 ($2.27) when you purchase your ticket on the bus.
T + Tickets. T+ Tickets, also known as Métro tickets, are slightly cheaper than the single journey ticket and don’t require interacting with the driver. All you would have to do is validate your ticket once you are on the bus. With a T+ ticket you can transfer between buses and trams, but not between buses or trams and Métro or the Suburban Express Railway (RER) lines. For cost savings you can buy “un carnet”, which includes 10 tickets for € 14.50 ($16.48).
Mobilis. The Mobilis ticket offers unlimited travel for the day for € 7.50 ($8.52).
Pro-tip: There are several reduced cost passes for students and youth (under the age of 26) and large families. You can learn more about the different pass options here.
You can purchase tickets at automated machines or ticketing booth at any metro station.
It’s important to note that the metro and bus system do not operate 24 hours. The metro service begins at 6am and ends at 12:45am (Sunday -Thursday) or at 1:45am (Friday- Saturday). Buses operate from 7am- 8:30pm (Monday-Saturday), with some evening lines operating between 8:30pm and 12:30am. Only half of the buses run on Sundays and public holidays.
Black Friday sales
Although the French don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, they do participate in Black Friday. There were sales galore! This was perfect for me because my jacket was stolen in Newark airport on my way to Paris and I needed to get a replacement ASAP.
If you visit during late November, you’ll be lucky enough to catch a Christmas Market. There are several, but the majority open in December. We visited the Magic of Christmas at Tuileries Gardens. The market opened on November 24 and will remain open until January 6, 2019. Besides eating a ton of good food I didn’t know what to expect from the Magic of Christmas. But it was essentially a fair with a christmas theme. They had christmas bumper cars, a christmas zombie haunted house, and even a christmas fun-house. It definitely got me into the holiday spirit! Unless you’re allergic to wine like myself, don’t leave the fair without trying the Vin Chaud, it’s mulled wine and the go-to holiday drink in Paris. If you share my wine allergy struggle, the hot apple cider is a great alternative!
Check out a list of christmas markets in Paris here.
Exhibits at the Louis Vuitton Foundation
Twice a year the Louis Vuitton Foundation puts on temporary exhibits featuring modern and contemporary art. We were lucky enough to catch the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibit showcasing several of his collections. The exhibit is running until January 14th. Purchase your ticket online directly through the LV foundation website so you can go through the expedited entrance line. The LV Foundation building is truly a masterpiece and the gardens surrounding the building are beautiful and worth exploring. The foundation hosts many interesting events and concerts throughout the year.
See what events are happening during your visit here.
Obligatory Parisian Activities
Did you even do Paris if you didn’t visit the Eiffel Tower? During our first visit to Paris, we saw the Eiffel Tower at night and went up the tower. This time around we went to the Eiffel Tower during the day. A lot of people prefer the Eiffel Tower lit up at night over it during the day time. It’s definitely worth visiting both at day and night to truly feel its essence. I personally found the tower beautiful during the day when it was against the fall foliage and the fog.
Pro-tip: A common scam near the Eiffel Tower and other popular landmarks in Paris is for people to ask “ do you speak English?” and ask for you to sign a petition. Once you sign it they demand money from you and if you do give money they will demand even more from you. Just ignore them and you will be fine.
Musée du Louvre (Louvre Museum)
The Louvre is a former royal palace and the world’s largest art museum. Some of its collections span thousands of year old. It’s truly an iconic place to visit in Paris. I was happy we were actually able to make it inside this time! We decided to purchase our ticket at the museum (€15/ $17) and were only in line for about 20 minutes. If you’re traveling during peak season or just don’t like lines, purchase your ticket online (€17/ $19) for guaranteed quick entry into the museum.
It’s important to note that your ticket is only valid for your selected date and time. Once you leave the museum you will not be able to re-enter. There are free code-secured lockers to store your belongings while you explore the museum.
There’s no way you will see the entire museum in a day. We spent about four-ish hours exploring. The Modern Sculptures and the sculptures of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas were my favorite. The Louvre is also home to the famous Leonardo da Vinchi’s painting— the Mona Lisa. Valued today at $780 million, the masterpiece is definitely something you should see, but manage your expectations, the painting is surprisingly small and you have to push against a massive crowd for a peak.
Pro tip: Starting January 2019, the Louvre will offer free entry on the first Saturday of each month from 6 p.m. to 9:45 p.m.
Pigalle Basketball Court
Nestled between two apartment buildings on Rue Duperré street is the uniquely vibrant Pigalle Basketball court. The brightly painted court is a collaboration between French fashion brand Pigalle and Nike. The 90’s inspired colors are said to represent the golden era of basketball. Go as early as possible to beat the crowds. The opening hours are Sunday (2-8pm), Monday (closed), Tuesday- Saturday (12-8pm).
We had amazing African food at Babylone Bis. The wall is lined with photos of stars like Marvin Gaye and Rihanna. Although, this restaurant is frequently attended by celebrities, the prices aren’t Hollywood! The hours are from 8pm- 8am on Tuesday to Sunday, making this the best place to eat after a long night of fun.
Le Bellevilloise Café
The Le Bellevilloise Café hosts an epic Jazz Brunch on Saturday and Sunday at 11:30am and 2pm. It was a very relaxing non-touristy thing to do. For $33, you get an all you can eat buffet style brunch and drinks. The food was fresh and had a homemade taste. This is very popular among locals–make sure you RSVP to secure your spot. The cafe also puts on a lot of concerts and fun events throughout the year.
Pro tip: If you stay towards the end of the brunch you get to pack left overs.
This time around we didn’t party as much as we did during our first trip to Europe (no one warns you about the recovery time difference from early 20s to late 20s). Our one party night was a Saturday where we started at Le Pigalle to pregame. The DJ was amazing, the drinks were strong and the decor was chic.
After Pigalle we grabbed a bite to eat and then danced the night away at Jāngäl. It was a lot of fun! The music was also incredible there and the crowd had the best energy!
My quick holiday getaway to Paris was such a treat. It was nice to revisit some of my favorite places in the city and explore new sites!
Have you been to Paris in the Fall? Let me know about your experience in the comment box below.