Last Updated on November 6, 2023 by April Verge
Would you go to Paris at winter? Obviously, YES! Even if Paris has unfavorable winter weather and early nightfall, you may still have a good time in the City of Lights.
One of the most popular European cities for city breaks is Paris, a magical cityscape. It is fantastic, particularly in the shoulder seasons, and long, bright days are a given in the summer. However, winter in Paris offers an entirely different experience, one that is more tranquil and free from the hordes of visitors that descend on the city every year. For all of this, some believe that traveling to Paris at wintertime is the ideal option.
When it’s raining or too cold outside, there are plenty of things to do in Paris winter, and going during the holidays is especially wonderful.
Paris experiences cold weather throughout the winter, but there are significant variations in temperature between December and the end of February, and not every day is gloomy and wet.
If you are considering a winter trip to Paris, make the most of your time there by following this brief guide on Winter in Paris.
Psst! This blog post contains affiliate links in it which sends me a bit of extra money if you use them… at no extra cost to you. Merci!
If you are in a hurry, here’s a summary of what to do in Paris at winter:
Paris at Winter Temperature
If you’re still debating whether or not to go to Paris in the winter, I hope you’ve come to the conclusion that you should! Reduced prices and virtually nonexistent lines — how can you refuse?
Winter brings chills, but there are also lots of beautiful clear, sunny days to look forward to. This is the time of year when you could encounter snow and rain, so make sure to check the forecast before you leave! In terms of precipitation, late January or early February are the most likely times for snow to fall in Paris. Remember that I warned you!
Paris at Winter Weather
- Paris in December: December in Paris, the temperature in Paris is about 8°C (46°F), with about 11 days of precipitation and snowfall.
- Paris in January: In January, the average temperature in Paris is about 11°C (52°F), with about 10 days of precipitation and snowfall.
- Paris in February: February has an average temperature of about 7°C (45°F), nine days of precipitation, and snowfall.
In general, winter brings with it dreary skies, rain, and there is occasionally snow in Paris, but it also brings with it some sunshine, but probably not as much as we’d like.
Best Things to Do in Paris at Winter
Go Ice Skating
What to do when the weather is too gloomy in Paris during the winter? Locals enjoy ice skating, especially during the holidays, and going for an afternoon skate at a patinoire is one of the best winter activities in Paris.
My preferred skating rinks in Paris include the Patinoire Pailleron (Paris 19), which is open year-round, and at the Tuileries Garden Christmas Market (Paris 1) as well as the top floor of the Montparnasse Tower (both accessible exclusively during the Christmas season).
Skate rinks typically have prices between 10€ and 15€ and are open from late November to early January.
Explore Real Parisian Restaurants
Entering a stunning Belle Epoque restaurant with its magnificent Art Nouveau design and vintage atmosphere is one thing that always makes me feel warm and welcome.
The smell of French comfort food wafts across the room, as it has for decades, and I can’t help but notice it as I pass the zinc bar with its antique coffee maker.
Where are these located?
With the influx of workers from the countryside into the capital throughout the later part of the 19th century, traditional bouillon restaurants provided affordable yet filling lunches. Many of them closed in the 20th century, but all of a sudden they are reopening because they are in style. There just isn’t a better way to enjoy food in the cold!
Admire Paris’s Dazzling Christmas Lights
The Christmas lights in Paris are breathtaking. The Champs-Elysées are always a pleasure to view, and their light designs are changed annually.
Not only that, but department stores and some of the main boulevards also feature lighting. Take a Christmas walking tour to enjoy the lights and much more…
The lights normally come on in early December and remain on until early January, after which they will disappear.
Visit All of the Christmas Markets
France is well-known for its Christmas markets, particularly those in the east of the country, but Paris also has its share of charming places. There are a handful to choose from, ranging from large and organized to the more intimate neighborhood markets that open in the winter.
With rides, an ice rink, and an abundance of mulled wine, the Jardin des Tuileries Christmas market is perhaps the largest. In addition, foodies will enjoy the quaint tiny Montmartre market at the Place des Abbesses. For a change of pace, venture beyond the city center to the market at La Défense, which has over 150 chalets.
Take a Seine River Cruise
Even if it may be chilly in Paris during the winter, you shouldn’t skip one of the most romantic activities in the city: cruising along the Seine, one of Europe’s most famous rivers.
Christmastime in Paris means lots of lights, and taking a nighttime ride down the Seine will showcase these decorations in all their beauty. For an extra romantic experience, reserve a dinner cruise for the evening and savor delectable French fare while cruising past many of the most well-known Paris landmarks.
Visit Less Frequented Museums
When visiting the city, most people head straight for the classical venues. However, after seeing these landmarks, there are a plethora of smaller or unusual museums in Paris where you may extend your cultural horizons and stay warm throughout the winter months in Paris.
The Cristal Room Baccarat, the restaurant at the opulent Baccarat Museum (built by none other than Philippe Starck) features the finest in pure crystal and is surprisingly reasonably priced considering the menu and décor (those chandeliers!).
Some amazing museums that are well worth visiting and ideal for a winter visit are listed below:
- Maison Victor Hugo on the Place des Vosges: This was the author’s home from 1832 until 1848, during which time he composed a portion of Les Misérables.
- 59 rue de Rivoli, a former squat converted to a gallery of modern art, where you can view and purchase works-in-progress from resident artists.
- Have you ever visited the Fragonard plant in Grasse, which is close to the French Riviera? Visit the Fragonard Perfume Museum in Paris to refresh the assault on your senses.
Enjoy a Paris Winter Wonderland
In the previous three years, there have been four or five brief snowfalls in Paris. However, if it stays, Paris exudes a magical, beautiful, white-blanked aura that offers exceptional photo opportunity. It’s also impossible not to stay and play in it despite the cold!
Enjoy Some Comfort Food
Comfort food is a staple of any culture, and Paris is no exception when it comes to winter cuisine. In Paris, two popular French dishes that are only served in the winter are fondue and soupe à l’oignon, or onion soup. The galette des Rois, available only in the boulangeries in the days leading up to Epiphany, is a must-try treat for sweet tooths.
Do you feel like warming up? Try the mulled wine while meandering through Paris’s Christmas markets, or visit La Rhumerie in Saint-Germain-des-Près for the greatest rum in the city and a wonderful atmosphere. You should definitely enjoy a cup of hot chocolate in Paris, at your preferred café during the winter.
Enjoy a Winter Walk
See one of Paris’ well-known parks or gardens for a stroll after spending the day in a quaint café.
It may not seem like much fun to stroll around on a blustery, foggy winter day, but you can almost certainly count on the absence of other people. Even in the absence of leaves, these expansive areas retain their grandeur. Even with unfavorable weather, Paris has a beautiful ambiance during the winter!
There are plenty to pick from, but the most central ones are the Luxembourg Gardens and the Tuileries Garden. A few guinguettes, or food kiosks, are located inside and serve hot beverages and occasionally quick-to-eat crepes. So get a hot beverage and bask in the cozy winter atmosphere!
Check Out a Bookshop
I might be biased, but is there anything more enjoyable than pouring over shelf after shelf of intriguing literature?
There are several of charming bookshops in Paris; you’ve certainly seen some of them in movies.
You are undoubtedly familiar with Shakespeare & Co., whose literary achievement was the release of James Joyce’s Ulysses at a time when publishers refused to touch it because it was too pornographic. Over the years, many famous writers who traveled to Paris used the bookstore as their living room (and sometimes even as their bedroom). Notable writers like Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Ernest Hemingway are just a few examples.
Admire Department Stores Around the Holidays
With their Christmas displays and décor, department stores in Paris such as Galeries Lafayette and Printemps compete with one another. Their success has led to the possibility that you could mistake them for a Belle Epoque museum instead of a business.
Christmas in Paris will wow you, from the Art Deco escalators of the Bon Marché to the massive tree beneath the Galeries Lafayette’s dome to the exquisite Art Deco hues of the recently refurbished Samaritaine.
Discover the Passages of Paris
If you really want to take a stroll around some of Paris’s streets but the weather isn’t being cooperative, now’s your chance to explore the city’s numerous covered passageways. (If you’d rather find them yourself, here’s a quick list of some of the most notable ones.)
The majority of them are ornately designed with glass roofs, arching columns, and intricate floors, and they were built in the early 19th century. There are booksellers, eateries, galleries, boutiques, and businesses lining these gorgeous passageways.
Visit Disneyland Paris at Winter
If you’re fortunate enough to witness snowflakes falling all over the Magic Kingdom, wintertime at Disneyland it can truly be magical. Disneyland Paris is a lot of fun in the winter, even without the flurries. To be honest, I didn’t really notice the cold during my February visit.
Every time the temperature dropped, I huddled inside one of the several indoor amusement parks, arcades, or restaurants. Visit Walt Disney Studios Park for some timeless entertainment, which might feature characters like Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse, to truly warm up.
Shop Until You Drop at the Sales
France, in contrast to many other countries, only has two official sales periods annually: January and June. There are substantial discounts, often reaching 70% or 80%, throughout each of these four-week periods, and many of them are real bargains. Stated differently, stores do not place large orders for subpar goods with the intention of drawing customers in (although, that does happen sometimes, but not often).
If you are visiting Paris before the sales begin, say in December, make sure you scout the items you might like to buy so you can quickly get to your favorite department store or shop when the deals begin.
The official dates of Paris winter sales 2023 can be found by searching for “dates soldes [year]”.
Enjoy Unique Events During the Season
Many activities are limited to the winter, so if you visit at this time, you may be able to attend some of them:
- The celebrations for the New Year Eve are fantastic in Paris. Instead of celebrating on the Champs-Élysées, how about watching the fireworks from the Eiffel Tower from a boat on the Seine.
- Make sure to get a galette des rois, a cake-like pastry that is consumed on January 6th throughout France, if you happen to be here.
- The city of lights hosts its own Paris Carnival every February, complete with parades, disguises, and other festivities.
- Celebrate La Chandeleur (Candlemas), a pagan custom converted to Christianity, on February 2 by indulging in a crêpe.
- France is not an exception to the global celebration of Valentine’s Day on February 14. Take in a champagne tasting, visit a regal château, or go out to that special dinner.
- If fortune favors you, you may be able to observe Chinese New Year in Paris, where there will be parades, dragons, lions, and lots of lights and noise.
Travel Tips for Visiting Paris at Winter
How to Pack for Paris at Winter
Now that you’re organizing your holiday to Paris, it’s critical to be organized! Layers, umbrellas, and other items are necessary to stay dry and warm! Additionally, if you intend to go on any day trips from Paris during the winter, be sure to bring everything you’ll need, including walking boots and specialized gear. I suggest packing as much of this as possible inside your case:
- Layers are key when it comes to Paris winter fashion. There will always be temperature changes, so you’ll need to continuously adapt your clothing when visiting stores and museums.
- You must wear a heavy coat or jacket. While a waterproof jacket can keep you dry and warm, a long wool coat will give you a more refined appearance.
- Wintertime does not mean that lines for attractions disappear—though they do get shorter. If you plan to wait outside, bring a hat, a scarf, and some gloves. Leggings or warm silk or merino thermal underwear may be helpful if you anticipate spending a lot of time outside.
- Make sure your purse is water- and lightweight-resistant. Pickpocketing is less likely in the winter because it’s not high season, but it’s still there. Use a theft-proof bag to keep pickpockets away.
Where to Stay in Paris at Winter
My preference is Trivago.com because it offers a broader selection and a simple cancellation policy, plus it includes both hotels and vacation rentals like VRBO or Airbnb.
- If you’re visiting Paris for the first time, I advise staying in Le Marais neighborhood or the 7th Arrondissement. Choose between staying in the more reasonably priced ordinary rooms at Hôtel Duquesne Eiffel or treating yourself to a room with a view of the Eiffel Tower in the 7th Arrondissement. Stay at the (relatively) cheap Hôtel National Des Arts et Métiers in Le Marais.
- The 2nd Arrondissement is a great neighborhood with tons of food and drink options; it has become my new personal favorite. Stay at these apartments, where I spent a portion of my first trip to Paris, or the Hoxton, a wonderful boutique hotel in a great location with a range of room sizes to pick from.
- Stay in the 9th Arrondissement if you’re on a tight budget and want to be in a central location with a vibrant nightlife. I’ve stayed in the 9th, which was a terrific home base for seeing the city, first at the extremely affordable Hôtel Joyce and subsequently at the lovely Maison Mère.
Final Thoughts on Paris in Winter Time
Paris in winter time offers more quality time, more options, less crowds, and less costs. Even though the winter months in Paris aren’t always ideal, the city still has plenty to offer in the cold. There are a ton of thrilling and entertaining things to do in Paris during the low season that are not available during the hot and muggy summer months.
Have you spent the winter in Paris? Let me know in the comments!