‘La rentrée’ explained

September 1, 2023
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September is synonymous with la rentrée (‘the return’), a fixed point in the course of the year following the grandes vacances (‘big holidays’) when Parisians return from their summer vacations and the new school year begins. It’s also a time of social events, with special activities in politics, business and culture.

Locals are celebrating 'la rentrée' in a wine bar.

Back and buzzing

August and September are like night and day. While the former is quiet, idle and sleepy*, the latter is buzzing with energy. Everything is new and happening: the theater and opera seasons begin, restaurants, bars and other businesses (re)open, there are tons of vernissages for new exhibitions, many stores hold special sales, bookstores are filled with new publications (this phenomenon is called rentrée littéraire), some cinemas celebrate with discounted tickets, parliament resumes its political activities, and everyone goes back to work and their social lives. There’s something special in the air, something almost electrifying.

Ici independant bookstore in Paris announces the 'Rentrée Litteraire' on its shop window.

Celebrating the end of vacation

It’s no secret that we like to celebrate pretty much everything here in France, from National Grandmother’s Day (Fête des Grand-Mères) to the end of the work day (l’apéro). Still, the fact that we look forward to returning from vacation may seem strange to readers abroad. Yet, you’ll see signs in shop windows saying ‘Vive la rentrée!’ and despite what your gut tells you, they’re not there as a joke. People are genuinely excited to get back to normal life.

A child playing with balloons and Parisians enjoying drinks on the terrace of a popular neighborhood bistro.

This is because they have had a real break of several weeks, sometimes a month or more, so they have been able to recharge their batteries and are ready for the routine after all that time lazing around in the South, Normandy or Brittany. But we suspect another reason (although most of them would never admit it): For all their complaints, Parisians love their city and miss it when they’re away for too long.

*Mind you, there’s also a lot going on in August, but you have to know where to go, whereas in September it’s more a matter of choosing between the endless possibilities you find around every corner. Can’t decide? Try our personalized travel guide.