There are many ways to celebrate a new year. For example, at midnight every December 31st, billions of people around the world ring in the new year with fireworks and celebrations. There’s also Chinese New Year celebrations, which last for several days every January or February. And in Southeast Asia, many countries observe the new year in April. In France, however, new year is all about September. Sure, the city might set off a spectacular fireworks display around the Arc de Triomphe every December 31st. But everyone in France knows that the French calendar year begins in September. Personally, September is also one of my favourite times to be in Paris. Below are just a few of the reasons why.
Vive La Rentrée!
The French have a wonderful attitude towards holidays, in that they are not afraid to take a break, rest, and just relax. Most people take an entire month off in the summer, typically the month of August, during which time Paris shuts down and life moves distinctly slower. Come September, however, Paris comes alive in a way that is wholly unique to this city. The streets are bustling and storefronts are no longer shuttered. Kids go back to school and adults go back to work. In the mornings, the Metros are packed once more, and in the evenings, everyone catches up over drinks. More importantly, people are refreshed, their batteries are recharged after relaxing for a month, and life settles back into its regular rhythms.
I first moved to Paris in September, and upon arrival, I had no idea why I kept seeing the words “La Rentrée” everywhere I looked. But it quickly became one of my favourite times of the year. There is a special energy in the air, and people are excited to see each other, catch up, and start a new year fresh. If you happen to be visiting Paris in September, I hope you enjoy this special feeling of the city. It is unique to this month, and I love it.
It’s All About the Weather
Many people visit Paris in the spring expecting the weather to be gorgeous. And it can be. But it can also be very fickle, with many unexpected rain storms drowning out those spring days. September, on the other hand, is glorious. The stifling heat of the summer is gone, leaving behind pleasantly warm days with little to no rain. And by the end of the month, hints of autumn crispness start to make themselves known. It is hands down my favourite month in Paris weather-wise.
Of course, as I write this, we’re currently going through one last (very late) heat wave of the summer. But this is unusual for this time of year, and by next week, temperatures should settle into their usual September beauty. Hopefully.
European Heritage Days
European Heritage Days, known as Journées Européennes du Patrimoine in France, is an annual tradition that began in 1984. It’s when cultural institutions, monuments, and buildings all over France that are normally closed to the public open their doors and welcome visitors for free. Buildings such as the Élysée Palace, the Palais-Royal complex, and the Luxembourg Palace are all free to explore, and it is a wonderful opportunity to see these exquisite buildings from the inside. Again, for free. It’s one of my favourite events in September, and I look forward to it every year.
The Exhibition Calendar is Revealed
Did you think I was going to get through a post without mentioning museums? You could be forgiven for thinking so, because September is actually an odd month for museums. The summer exhibitions have all closed, and the fall exhibitions are still being readied. Which means entire wings of museums are often closed during this time. But the fall season is just around the corner, and next year’s spring and summer seasons just after that. And September is when most museums start to promote their upcoming slate of events for the year as a whole, not just the fall. Which means this is the time when I get out my calendar and start planning for a year’s worth of museum visits. And I love it. It’s one of my absolute favourite traditions of La Rentrée.
There’s Lots to Love in September
September has always been one of my favourite months. The fact that France marks this time as the start of a new year is one of the many reasons why I feel so at home in this country. Beautiful weather, free cultural visits, and an electricity in the air from the excitement of starting a new year fresh? Happy September indeed.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.