Come rain or shine, it’s easy to fall head over heels for Paris. Its magnetic charm, magnificent architecture and must-see sights sparkle in any season. That said, cruising along the Seine during a hailstorm isn’t much fun. And gale-force winds rather take the romance out of the Eiffel Tower. So here are five indoor (but still outstanding) things to see and do on a city break in Paris on rainy days.
1. go underground in the captivating catacombs
While tourists throng on the streets above, only 200 visitors at a time are allowed into this underground maze of the macabre: Les Catacombes.
In the ossuary, the resting place of 18th-century Parisians has become a gallery of sorts. Look out for the poetic and prophetic lines marking its entrance. Then run your eyes along the walls stacked with thousands of bones and skulls, including those of local luminaries and Revolution-era figures.
Top Tip: Even if it’s a warm rainy day outside, it can feel chilly in the catacombs. So wrap up before you begin walking down the spiral staircase.
2. GET HANDS ON AT SCIENCE MUSEUMS
Many visitors duck into a museum when it rains in Paris. But not everyone likes the atmosphere of The Louvre or Musée d’Orsay, especially those travelling with children.
Instead, try Palais de la découverte. Its interactive science exhibits are geared towards kids – whether they’re budding astronomers or big Jurassic Park fans (recent exhibitions included dinosaurs). Outside the centre but just as hands-on, Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie has heaps of space-age experiments and a scientific adventure playground.
Top Tip: Neither museum is open on Mondays, so check the weather forecast and plan ahead.
3. STROLL ALONG PRETTY COVERED PASSAGES
The city’s beautiful covered passages are perfect for staying dry while you shop, with ornate architecture to match the haute couture.
Many are listed historical monuments, such as elegant Galerie Vivienne in the 2nd arrondissement. If you can draw yourself away from the Jean Paul Gaultier window displays, admire the preserved mosaic floor underfoot and glass dome above you.
Also in the 2nd arrondissement is Passage Choiseul. As the longest covered shopping arcade in Paris, it’s perfect when the rain won’t let up. Although, it’s also a little rough around the edges. For something grander, try Passage du Grand Cerf – high glass ceilings fill it with light on the dreariest of days.
4. CATCH A MOVIE – PARISIAN STYLE
For a city wrapped up in the silver screen, it’s little wonder the golden age of movie-going is alive and well in Paris. Forget mega multiplexes and soulless popcorn-filled lobbies. Here, you can see films in turn-of-the-century buildings and atmospheric art deco screening rooms.
The oldest picture house in Paris – and a real treasure – is Cinéma du Panthéon. Just as magnificent is theatre-like Grand Rex. Think plush velveteen seats, a dramatic curtained screen and towering façade from the 1930s. You can also catch concerts here and shop in the film-themed boutique.
Top Tip: Grab a bite to eat and cocktail in the ‘Living Room’ at Cinéma du Panthéon. It was co-created by screen siren Catherine Deneuve.
5. SEE WHERE LEGENDS WERE BORN
Paris has been a hub for artists and writers for centuries. And today, you can still visit their old haunts. Take Places des Vosges, which Les Misérables author Victor Hugo rented in the 1800s. It’s brimming with unusual objets d’arts, striking wallpapers and eye-catching furnishings. In the Chinese Lounge, take a moment to admire the desk where Hugo wrote The Legend of the Ages and see if you can spot the dedication on the tabletop.
If you’re more of an art aficionado, try Musée Gustave Moreau. Once the artist’s studio and living quarters, it now has a bursting-at-the-seams gallery (built by the man himself) with paintings covering almost every inch of wall space.