In North America, it’s “back to school.” That time of the year when classrooms fill up and families slip into familiar routines, or start new ones as the youngest step into kindergartens and the oldest fly the nest for college. In France, it’s la rentrée, and is not just about families and their children. Each September, almost the entire population faces their regular routines after a long holiday season.

Since many businesses close for the month of August and three-week holidays are taken for granted, September means Parisians are frantically mourning their fading tans as they get back into the swing of things. Stock that has been arriving slowly over the previous weeks has shop owners scrambling to get their newest collections out on the floor. Figs and wild mushrooms also begin to perfume the air at local markets, inspiring chefs to rewrite their menus to reflect on fall’s bounty. And, like Canada or the US, it is also back to school for the young ones. 

Left: figs in a storage box; right: wild mushrooms on a jute plate.
Top: Nico Knaack
Left: Alicia Christin; right: Yuval Zukerman

Back to school is a unique shopping adventure in Paris. Monoprix stores are clogged with moms trying to decipher the lists of school supplies. Teachers are very specific with their demands. Even an elementary school teacher may ask children to bring simple lined paper, perforated, no hole for one subject, and intricately lined paper, folded with holes for another. They’ll be equally as specific about wanting ringed binders or binders with plastic sleeves, of course.

Starting in the second grade, children are expected to use a fountain pen. So naturally some teachers request blue ink, while others prefer black. Children beg for the smoother, more expensive Clairefontaine paper and dependable Lamy pens. Tantrums are thrown as pandemonium reigns the stationary supply aisles for an exhausting six days, purchasing all supplies before stores close the Saturday after the first day of school.

Left: a young girl with her back facing the camera showing off her pastel backpack; center: a woman with jeans, a white shirt and cardigan over her shoulders walks a small boy to school; right: a girl in a red sweatshirt playful covers her face with her hands.
Emma Stencil

But la rentrée is not just about getting back to class. It is also about the beginning of “the season,” the time of year when everyone’s social calendars start to fill. For some that means rushing to sign up for a hobby class at the local City Hall. For others it’s booking season tickets for their favorite theaters. While still others receive a flood of invitations for Paris Fashion Week. And for everyone, it is already time to start making plans for the two-week Toussaints (All Saints) holidays. It is just six weeks away, because we never wait long for our vacations in Paris.

  • Read one family’s experience with finding a nanny in Paris.
  • Yvonne Hazleton has a poetic take on La Rentrée. Experience what it’s like to see Paris re-awaken through her eyes.
  • While the warm weather continues, head to Créatures for outstanding views, cocktails and healthy food on the rooftop of Galeries Lafayette, Paris Haussmann. Read our interview with star chef Julien Sebbag and find out more.

Written by Sylvia Sabes for HIP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Plum Guide and our Marketplace for fabulous vacation rentals in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long or short term, or buy in France? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person? Check out our marketplace shop and experiences.


Sylvia Sabes

Sylvia tells stories through images and words. She has worked as a Creative Director for international ad campaigns like Cartier and LOreal, and as a National Award winning Polaroid photographer. She writes and shoots all things Paris and beyond… She lives in Paris and the French Basque Region.

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