We have now visited Paris in winter several times, and we have to say–as if returning voluntarily for more than one helping wasn’t hint enough–we adore it.
Sure, the weather is generally gray, cold, and wet, there are no cherry blossoms or colorful gardens to speak of, and I’m wearing the same coat in like 90% of photos from those visits… but Paris in the winter is a magical experience.
The streets get quiet, the gobs of tourists melt away until only a reasonable crowd remains, the Christmas decor is beautiful, and the whole city has a subtle atmosphere that is a combination relaxed and mysterious (Venice in November is the only other place we’ve experienced this specific vibe).
Suffice it to say, we won’t stop returning to Paris in winter anytime soon. Whether you’re aiming for a festive trip to Paris in December, a romantic Valentine’s day trip to Paris in February, or something in between, we recommend everyone who wants to visit Paris consider staying open to bundling up and exploring the City of Lights in winter.
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Table of Contents
31 Reasons to Visit Paris in Winter
The Christmas markets are magical.
Christmas markets are a treat throughout Europe, but the ones that pop up all over Paris in winter have a little something extra: great views of Paris!
Consider picking up Christmas gifts for your loved ones (and plenty of mulled wine and sweets for yourself, of course) within sight of classic Parisian sites like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and Sacre Coeur.
Want to mix it up? Head out to La Defense, Paris’ normally-quite-dull business center, to experience the biggest Christmas market in Paris!
Ice skating in Paris is a dream.
Ice skating is a classic Parisian winter tradition, and courts are set up all over Paris–including at the Eiffel Tower!
There’s no better city for museums than Paris.
When visiting Paris in the winter, there’s no reason to feel guilty about missing out on sunshine and cherry blossoms by ducking into some of Paris’ truly spectacular museums.
The Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay are the best known (and they are truly wonderful), but you can also consider checking out the Centre Pompidou, Musee Jacquemart-Andre, Le Grand Palais and Le Petit Palais, the Musee Rodin, and more!
Cozying up at a cafe with hot chocolate is a wonderful Paris experience.
People-watching is an iconic Parisian tradition, and there’s no cozier time to do it than during winter in Paris!
Pick an adorable cafe (preferably with a large window), grab a steaming cup of hot chocolate and a macaron, and enjoy watching the city go by.
It’s the perfect time to learn to bake macarons.
Winter in Paris is the perfect time to duck inside for a cooking class!
There is plenty of variety on offer, from croissants to full meals, but for people with a sweet tooth, you can’t go wrong with a macaron baking class.
We spent an afternoon learning how to make beautiful, delicate, and delicious macarons with Le Foodist, and we can’t recommend the class (or the resulting leftovers) enough.
Book your macaron baking class with Le Foodist!
You can see an opera.
The winter is the height of Paris’ opera season, so there’s no better time to book a ticket, get dressed up, and head out for a very classy night on the town.
Sainte-Chapelle glistens in the winter sunlight.
Sainte-Chapelle is always stunning… but if you have the opportunity to admire the stained glass interior during a sunny day, you’re in for a real treat.
Even in January, the long line in front of Sainte-Chapelle made us glad we had planned ahead.
Book your skip-the-line tickets now and avoid waiting in the cold!
You can check out the Christmas decor inside Notre Dame.
As one of the most famous cathedrals in the world, it should come as no surprise that Notre Dame is well decorated for Christmas!
Their intricate nativity scene is well worth a visit when you’re in Paris in winter (and of course the church is a must-see on all Paris visits anyway).
Update 2019: Unfortunately, after the April 2019 fire at Notre Dame, this Christmas decor is unlikely to be around for awhile.
There’s still plenty of decor to enjoy during December in Paris, though!
… And the Christmas tree out front.
Paris’ best-known Christmas tree towers over the crowd in front of Notre Dame, giving an unmistakably festive feel to the courtyard–you absolutely can’t miss it while visiting Paris in winter!
Paris has excellent perfume workshops.
Parisian perfumes are world-famous… and what better way to warm up during winter in Paris than to learn all about them?
Consider taking a perfume workshop to learn all about the science behind those lovely scents (and maybe take a perfume or two home yourself, too).
Learn all about perfume making (and even take home your own bottle!) with this Parisian perfume workshop!
Stepping into the catacombs in winter is spooky and incredible.
Visiting the catacombs of Paris in winter is like stepping into another world–and perhaps that is always the case in the catacombs, but the need to bundle up in a coat and scarf paired with the lessened crowds makes for an altogether epic experience!
Even when we visited in January, the line for the catacombs was still more than 2 hours long!
Save time & book a skip-the-line ticket before you go!
There’s no reason to feel guilty about curling up with a book at Shakespeare & Company.
Shakespeare & Company may be (rightly) famous, but fewer people know that the second floor of the bookshop is actually a reading room and library: curl up with any of the books there for a cozy, literary afternoon in Paris.
If you’re lucky, you may even snag the seat by the window that boasts a stunning view of Notre Dame!
Paris’ legendary winter sales!
France’s history as a world fashion capital has resulted in the government closely protecting the industry: among other things, sales (in French, “les soldes”) are regulated and happen only twice a year!
January sees the first sale of the year, so if you’re hoping to stock up on some designer fashions, schedule your winter trip to Paris in January… and bring an extra suitcase!
Paris’ department stores have epic Christmas decor.
Paris’ department stores may not be the first place that you think of when considering sightseeing, but the Christmas decor is impeccable!
If you only go one place, be sure to stop by Galeries Lafayette–they put up stunning Christmas decorations in their already-beautiful stained glass dome each year!
Two words: Disneyland Paris.
Disneyland Paris is always magical, but Disneyland Paris in winter inherently comes with one of two major benefits: Christmas decor for the early-winter visitors, and shorter lines for those who come later in winter!
Plus, since the bulk of Disneyland Paris’ rides and attractions are located indoors, the cold weather won’t be nearly as much of a factor as in most amusement parks!
Book your tickets to Disneyland Paris now!
A long walk through the streets of Paris is incredibly magical.
This may be true at any time of year, but there’s just something extra special about the streets of Paris in winter: the streets are a little emptier, the city a little quieter, and the air a little thinner.
It’s peaceful, it’s magical, it’s romantic, and it’s the quintessential Paris experience–don’t leave Paris without at least one hour-long walk through the streets!
You can shop ‘til you drop.
Paris’ shopping is famous worldwide, and from upscale boutiques to classic department stores, from the thrift stores of Montmartre to the dignified shops of the Champs-Elysees, shopping during winter in Paris can keep you enthralled and out of the cold for hours!
There are great travel deals during winter in Paris.
After Christmas, you’ll be able to find some of the best Paris travel deals of the year during winter–especially on lodging and airfare.
Paris’ covered passages are begging to be explored.
If it’s too cold (or rainy) to stroll outside, consider taking to the covered passages!
Paris’ covered passages date primarily to the 19th century, and they are both beautiful and delightful to explore.
Each passage has a different style, so you definitely won’t get bored exploring them all–for example, Passage Verdeau is home to several antique dealers and Passage Brady is home to lots of South Asian shops!
A multi-course Parisian meal tastes even better when it’s cold outside.
Half a dozen courses, several glasses of wine, relaxed conversation, and a meal that ends up taking hours because you aren’t in the least bit of a hurry to move on: every trip to Paris deserves at least one epic meal like that, and a winter Paris trip is no exception (and might even taste a little bit better, since you’re avoiding battling the chill outside).
There’s no reason to avoid a Seine River Cruise.
An enclosed river cruise, perhaps even with dinner–what better way to experience the magic of the Seine without braving Paris’ winter weather?
This well-reviewed Seine River Cruise is on an enclosed boat and includes dinner!
Paris’ spas are happy to pamper you.
Paris is a city of luxury, and what’s more luxurious than a spa?
Pick a couple of treatments and a day to splurge, and you can have a true Parisian experience without ever stepping a foot outside.
An indoor wine tasting tour will warm you up in a heartbeat.
Sure, maybe winter isn’t the best season to set off on a day trip from Paris in search of vineyards… but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some delicious French wines!
Try an indoor wine tasting at a wine cellar to experience some wonderful wines while staying warm.
Wine, cheese, and lunch: this wine class will quickly make you forget the cold weather outside!
You can eat your heart out in crepes.
Crepes are the unofficial street food of Paris and stands doling out crepes with delicious toppings like Nutella, strawberries, bananas, and more dot dozens of street corners around the city.
Crepes are cooked to order, and there’s nothing like a hot, fresh crepe to keep your hands (and belly) warm when visiting Paris in winter.
There’s no better time to see a movie in Paris.
Paris is dotted with classic movie theatres dating back to the first third of the 20th century, complete with stunning interiors and opulent decor–and several of them are still open for business!
As a bonus, many of the theatres show classic movies in their original language–so even if you don’t speak French, there’s a chance to enjoy a little bit of old Hollywood-style glamour during your visit to Paris in the winter.
The show must go on: Paris in winter is a great time for a cabaret show.
Whether it’s the famous Moulin Rouge in Montmartre or simply another cabaret show, winter in Paris is the perfect time of year to spend an evening at a show.
Celebrating a holiday in Paris is incredibly special.
With Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, the Chinese New Year, and Carnival de Paris–just to name a few–winter in Paris is bursting with holiday celebrations.
Join in the fun and add an extra layer of excitement to your winter Paris trip by planning it around a special holiday!
Our first trip to Paris was over New Year’s, and while we were too exhausted and jetlagged to do much, we were still overjoyed with the opportunity to kick off a whole new year of our lives in the City of Lights.
Visiting La Tête dans les Nuages is tons of fun.
How often can you come to Paris and visit something as silly as a game room without feeling like you’re blowing off something more “Parisian”?
Well, on a bad winter weather day in Paris, you may just decide that exploring the biggest game room in Europe, complete with everything from classic arcade games to bowling, is well worth the time spent!
Paris has a chocolate museum.
Yes, Paris, the land of delicious chocolate, has an entire museum dedicated to sugary goodness–what better way to treat yourself to something sweet after a cold day of sightseeing in Paris during the winter?
Paris tip: depending on how many highlights you want to see on your winter trip to Paris, you may want to purchase the Paris Museum Pass to save money!
Check out inclusions & prices for the Paris Museum Pass here!
Tips for Visiting Paris in the Winter
Embrace the gray skies.
Sure, maybe gray skies aren’t exactly what you’d like to see in the background of your pictures–but when you’re visiting Paris in winter (and a surprising amount of days in other seasons, too), it’s probably going to be what you get.
Luckily, people and architecture can both come out lovely in photos with gray skies, so just roll with it–it is classic Parisian weather, after all–and have fun!
Dress the part.
And by “dress the part”, I mean layers… lots of layers.
Between warm cafes and chilly streets, you’re going to want fashionable layers from the inside out: think classic cuts and dark or neutral colors, and did I mention the layers?
Jeremy and I grew up in a very warm climate, so we worried when we were packing for our first trip to Paris years ago that all of that might be overkill–but as anyone who grew up in a place with actual winter will tell you, it’s really not–especially when you’re planning on spending lots of time outside.
Bring a pretty coat.
When visiting Paris in the winter, your coat is likely to show up in the vast majority of photos of you in Paris… so make it a pretty one!
While I do sometimes opt for brightly colored coats, you’ll definitely blend in better in Paris if you bring a black one!
… And a pretty umbrella.
… All the better to embrace the inevitable Parisian rainstorms with. This travel umbrella is a great option.
Most things will run normally during winter in Paris, but double check.
While winter in Paris is definitely the offseason for tourism, saying that tourism ever really shuts down in Paris is a wild overstatement–there are always people visiting, and typically speaking, businesses are always going to be around to serve them.
If you have your heart set on a specific experience, though, be sure to check with the company in advance–especially if you’re planning your winter Paris trip near Christmas, when some small business owners might be more focused on family than tourists.
The Christmas decor doesn’t come down right after Christmas.
Our first trip to Paris spanned from a few days before New Year’s through the first week of January, and most of the Christmas decor, including the Notre Dame Christmas tree, was still up by the time we left town.
The Christmas market near the Eiffel Tower was still open, too!
Any trip to Paris involves lots of walking, but Paris in winter means lots of walking in the cold.
Personally, I absolutely despise being cold… and I also didn’t mind walking around Paris in winter.
Sure, the beautiful surroundings helped (why hide myself down in the metro when I can enjoy the view up above?), but it’s also true that winter temperatures tend to be mild enough in Paris that if you dress well and keep moving, it’s not much of a chore to walk outside.
Keep your feet toasty warm with broken-in shoes that have room to be worn with cozy socks.
Cold, sore feet with kill the vibes of your winter Paris trip faster than just about anything else, so take care of your feet!
Bring comfortable, broken-in shoes (we recommend classic brown or black boots) that are versatile, neutral, can be worn with warm socks (or even a pair of tights with socks layered over them), and that match most or all of your Paris wardrobe.
Don’t expect a typical Paris trip.
Paris is insanely beautiful at any time of the year, but don’t give yourself the wrong expectations for a trip to Paris in winter by scrolling through Instagram photos of Paris in the spring or summer–this won’t be a trip to the Paris of flowers and picnics, but one to the Paris of cozy cafes, stunning museums, and ever-lovely architecture.
Expectations are most of the battle here: there’s no such thing as a bad time to visit Paris, but unrealistic expectations will dampen your trip far faster than the risk of rainy weather.
Winter Weather in Paris
Weather during winter in Paris can generally be characterized as gray, cold, and wet.
Here are a few things to know about the weather in Paris in the winter.
Temperatures aren’t extreme.
Temperatures tend to be chilly, but rather mild with the right clothes–think highs in the low 40’s Fahrenheit (or around 5-6 degrees Celsius).
The days will be short.
During winter in Paris, daylight doesn’t stick around very long, with an average of 8-9 hours of daylight each day (as opposed to around double that in the summer).
Don’t expect snow.
It doesn’t snow often in Paris, and when it does, it’s typically later in the season–think late January or February.
If it happens to snow during your visit to Paris in the winter, count yourself very lucky and immediately start taking All The Pictures!
Where To Stay in Paris in Winter
Hotel Bellevue Montmartre — We chose to base ourselves in Montmartre during one visit to Paris, and were completely satisfied with our choice! Set on a quiet street just a 5-minute walk from Sacre Coeur and a 10-minute walk from a metro to whisk us away to anywhere we needed to go in Paris, we couldn’t have found a better location in Montmartre for the price.
The room itself was clean and unremarkable, which was all we were looking for in a place to lay our head at night.
Hotel Abbatial Saint Germain — We loved, loved, loved this cute boutique hotel in Paris, mostly because of its truly unbeatable location less than a 10-minute walk from Notre Dame and therefore an easy walk away from much of the attractions of Il de la Cite (and a metro stop, of course).
Despite the super central location, the streets outside were still quiet at night, a huge benefit, and the views during the day lovely.
The customer service was excellent, the bed cozy, and the room, while still very small by global standards, a bit roomy compared to what we’ve gotten used to in Paris.
We’d be happy to stay again!
Le Clos Medicis — This mid-range hotel is one of our favorites in Paris so far!
Located on a beautiful, quiet street just a 5-minute walk from the Pantheon and Luxembourg Gardens (plus a metro stop that connects directly to the RER B line), Le Clos Medicis is an excellent option in the perfect Paris location.
While the rooms are small (typical of Paris), the hotel was extremely comfortable, the customer service lovely, and did I mention the location? Being so well-located in Paris has spoiled us for future trips.
One small quirk? They don’t allow any food in the rooms. It wasn’t a big deal for us, but if you’re planning on buying any groceries or takeout, this might not be the hotel for you.
Relais Christine — For opulent luxury in the heart of the city, consider a stay at Relais Christine for your weekend trip to Paris!
Located in a 17th-century mansion just a short walk away from Notre Dame and boasting beautiful decor, you couldn’t ask for a better location to be pampered like Parisian royalty.
What to Pack for Paris in Winter
Travel Insurance — We don’t ever suggest traveling without travel insurance–anything can happen, and a trip to Paris in winter is definitely a case of better safe than sorry. We use and recommend World Nomads for trips to Paris.
Travel Adaptors for France — If you’re coming from outside of Europe, you’ll definitely want to make sure you can plug in your electronics once you arrive!
Nalgene — Don’t waste money or plastic on plastic water bottle after plastic water bottle at the Christmas markets in Paris–come prepared with a reusable one instead! You’ll be so glad to have it after devouring your first salty snack of the trip.
Umbrella — Traveling to Paris always means dealing with the risk of rain, but that’s especially true in winter!
Lotion — Winter in France can be rough on the skin–be sure to pack a moisturizing lotion.
Lip Balm — You know what’s not fun? Eating crepes with chapped lips.
Portable USB Charger — Avoid having your phone die when you’re out exploring, and throw a portable USD charger in your day bag! They also come in particularly handy on long flights.
Travel Journal — We can testify that travel memories that aren’t written down quickly can often fade–especially the small details that may not seem special now, but will mean a lot more five or ten years down the road. If you don’t want to commit a lot of time to writing each night, I’m a big fan of this One Line a Day Journal that allows you to easily track your experiences over five years. I’m more than two years into mine now and adore it!
Money Belt — This is up to you: we no longer use a money belt, but if you’re more comfortable having your passport with you at all times in France, you can consider bringing one. We used to use this one and had no complaints.
Many thanks to Le Foodist for hosting us for their macaron baking class in Paris! All opinions and excessive macaron binges are our own.