There’s never a better time for a Parisian picnic
If you want to dine in peace under the cherry blossoms, the Square Jean-XXIII at Notre-Dame might be a bit busy so head instead to the spacious groves in the Parc de Sceaux. The Place des Vosges in the Marais, the Jardin du Luxembourg (where you can sail vintage toy boats), and the Champ de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower are also popular choices, though the latter quickly turns to a dust bowl under the heels of millions of tourists. For less manicured surroundings, head to the Canal Saint-Martin where the young, bohemian crowd classes a case of beer as a picnic.
Chocolate shops go all out for Easter
In the run-up to Easter, Paris’ chocolatiers compete to see who can produce the most astonishingly beautiful (and delicious) window displays. A walk along the Boulevard Saint-Germain will take you past the strongest contenders. Parks also organize egg hunts for children over the Easter weekend and the largest event takes place just outside of Paris at the Château Vaux-le-Vicomte. You’ll notice that fish, chocolate or otherwise, are a common feature of the season and on April 1 you’re likely to see at least one person attempting to attach a paper one to someone else’s back as part of a strange local custom.
Café and restaurant terraces come alive
Paris is famous for its café culture (though some places do a much better brew than others) and the code of conduct which underpins it. Of course, Parisians put in a decent number of hours at their local café throughout the year but it’s only with the arrival of spring that their terraces become the place spend a day or night, either chatting with friends or engaging in the national pastime: people watching. As the season progresses, more cafés, bars, and restaurants will put out tables and chairs until the whole city feels like one gigantic food hall.
Entertainers fill the streets again
Some buskers will endure the cold and drizzle of autumn and winter but more often than not they seek shelter in the metro (either on the trains or at larger stations like Concorde) where it’s hard to enjoy their performances for all the crowds and unpleasant smells. When the good weather returns, the streets are once again filled with clowns, mimes, living statues, acrobats, skaters, and musicians. Some of the surest spots to catch a show are on the Pont Saint-Louis behind Notre-Dame, the Place du Tertre and the steps of the Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre, and in front of the Centre Pompidou.
The music festival season gets into swing
It all starts in late March and early April with Les Femmes S’en Mêlent, a feminist music festival. Next up at the beginning of May is the Marvellous Island Festival, where, for two nights, the verdant suburb of Torcy is taken over by lovers of house and techno. The Saint-Germain-des-Prés Jazz Festival is a rather more civilized affair, with dozens of international stars congregating in the bars and clubs of the capital’s chicest neighborhood for a fortnight of concerts in mid-May. At the end of the month, it’s the turn of indie, rock, and electronic music fans at the Villette Sonique Festival.
You can go to a museum in the middle of the night
March and April are changeover months for Paris’ major museums: the big fall shows of the previous year are packed up and sent on to their next host city and a brand-new exhibition is rapidly constructed in its place. Having a fresh slice of culture to sink their teeth into is a big deal for most Parisians, so buy tickets in advance. However, one event you don’t need a ticket for is the Nuit des Musées. Held on a Saturday in mid-May, it sees museums waiving their entrance fees, staying open through the night, and putting on special activities.
Everyone cheers (and boos) their hearts out at Roland-Garros
Aside from the Paris Marathon, which is held on a Sunday in early April, the French Open tennis tournament, or Roland-Garros as it is more familiarly called in France, is Paris’ largest annual sporting event. The clay court Grand Slam starts in the middle of May and the champions are crowned in June. The appearance in the capital’s famous newsstands of front page photos of stressed-out players, red-faced and limbs akimbo, in front of a blurry green mass of cheering (or more likely jeering) spectators is a sure sign that summer is just around the corner.
Fountains spring back into action
After months lying sad and empty, the many fountains that dot Paris, in its main squares and tucked away in secret gardens, are refilled and allowed to gush, trickle, and drip once again. What a joy it is to hear those sounds when they haven’t been caused by a torrential downpour! For the most extraordinary displays you are ever likely to see in your life, head to the Palace of Versailles. The Grandes Eaux Musicales shows, which start in late March and run until the end of October, cast a whole new layer of magic over André Le Nôtre’s fabulous gardens.