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Paris in the Winter
Should you visit Paris in Winter? Of course, YES! The weather in Paris in winter is not ideal, and the darkness sets in early, but this does not mean you cannot have fun in the City of Light!
Paris is a magical city, one of the people’s favorite city break destinations in Europe. It is great, especially during the shoulder seasons, and long sunny days are guaranteed during the summer months. But actually, winter in Paris allows for a completely different experience – a more peaceful one without battling with huge hoards of tourists. For all this, some people think winter is the best time to visit Paris.
There are many things to do in Paris when it rains or when it’s too cold outside and visiting Paris at Christmas is particularly amazing.
During the winter season in Paris, the weather is overall cold, but there is a big difference between December and the end of February, plus not all the days are cold and rainy.
If you are planning a Paris winter trip, follow this quick guide to Winter in Paris to make the most of your stay in Paris in the winter.
Tips for Visiting Paris in Winter
1. WINTER SEASON IN PARIS
Winter in Paris corresponds to December, January, and February. Check out our specific quick guides for these three months.
2. CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS ARE HIGH SEASON IN PARIS
Even if the low season in Paris technically starts on 1 November, things change again during Christmas in Paris.
When the lights are hung and the enormous Christmas trees set upward, the city becomes even more magical. People like to visit Paris to enjoy the festive atmosphere and seasonal events.
For three weeks until the Epiphany (6 January), expect the usual high-season crowds, and you should book accommodation and tickets to the main Paris attractions well in advance.
Check out our specific guides for the Christmas holidays in Paris.
Below we list the main Paris attractions you will need advance tickets for and have added links to our favorite trusty providers for your convenience.
The good news is that Christmas starts setting in Paris in mid-November, so if you come during the second half of November, you can get a taste of Christmas and the Paris winter atmosphere without the crowds.
3. LEARN ABOUT THE WINTER HOLIDAYS IN FRANCE
After the Epiphany, on 6 January, things get a bit sleepy in Paris. The long lines disappear, and people are more relaxed. However, there are other winter holidays in France where it is still necessary to book things in advance.
In Paris, the winter school holidays start from Saturday 18 February to Monday 6 March. Commonly, families take at least one week off for a cultural trip or a ski trip in France, so if you are traveling to Paris during these dates, book flight and train tickets well in advance.
Out of these periods, it is still a good idea to make hotel reservations early to score the best deals. In winter, Paris is definitely more affordable than during the rest of the year, but hotel prices tend to rise if you book at the last minute.
4. PAY LESS FOR AIRFARE, TRAIN TICKETS, AND HOTELS
One of the biggest benefits of a Paris winter itinerary is that flights and hotels are often cheaper— especially during the weekdays.
According to Skyscanner, the best month to fly to Paris is in January, when tickets are 29% cheaper than the yearly average price, and there’s a similar situation for train tickets. Buy a month ahead or two for a real bargain!
- Check out the flight ticket prices for a Paris winter holiday
- Check out the train ticket prices for a Paris winter holiday
5. CHOOSE MORE WIDELY
In summer, choices of restaurants, hotels, and museums are often made depending on price and availability. Since prices are lower and the crowds are diminished during the winter season in Paris, you usually have a wider choice of accommodation for your budget and for what you want to see or do.
6. STAY IN AN AREA THAT’S CLOSE TO EVERYTHING
If you are always thinking about “How can I be cold for the shortest amount of time possible?” while traveling in winter, then stay central for short or no metro rides.
By strategically planning where you stay, you will limit the amount of time you spend walking around in poor weather.
There are so many sights to see in Paris; most places in central Paris will be close enough to at least a couple of things you have on your itinerary.
If you are visiting Paris for the first time, have a look at our Districts of Paris Guide below to find your bearings in Paris and our suggestions on where to stay.
7. PACK ACCORDINGLY FOR WINTER IN PARIS
What to wear in Paris in the winter? Winter in Paris is cold, but it barely goes below zero, so you might find it even mild, depending on where you are coming from.
We do have sunny days, and sometimes they are the coldest.
So pack for the cold weather as well as for heated indoors. In other words: pack plenty of layers that you can easily shed and add on.
It also rains quite a bit, so we suggest warm clothes and carrying an umbrella always in your purse/backpack.
Have a look at our winter in Paris packing lists for men and women, with some tips for a more local look.
8. EAT COMFORT FOOD
Every culture has comfort food that it turns to when the weather gets cold, and Paris is no exception. Soupe à l’oignon (onion soup) and fondue are two popular food in Paris, only served when it’s cold out. If you like sweets, try the galette des Rois, which you can only find in the boulangeries during the days around Epiphany.
Need to warm your heart? Head to La Rhumerie in Saint-Germain-des-Près for the best rum in Paris and a great atmosphere, or try the mulled wine while strolling through the Christmas markets of Paris. Winter is also the best time for a cup of hot chocolate in your favorite Parisian café.
9. GO ON A WINTER WALK
To compensate for point #7! Before you settle in for a cozy afternoon at a Parisian café, take a walk in one of Paris’ famous parks and gardens.
Walking around on a chilly, misty winter day may not sound like your idea of fun, but you’ll be pretty much guaranteed there won’t be many people around. Though the leaves have dropped, you can still appreciate the grandeur of these open spaces. The atmosphere of Paris in winter is always magical, even if the weather is not the greatest!
You have plenty of options to choose from, but the Tuileries Garden and the Luxembourg Gardens are the most central. Inside, a couple of guinguettes (food stalls) sell hot drinks and sometimes crêpes on the go. So grab your hot drink and enjoy the winter vibes!
10. GO ICE SKATING
What to do in Paris in winter when it’s too ugly outside? Locals love ice skating, especially during the holidays, and spending an afternoon skating at an ice rink (patinoires in French) is one of the best things to do in Paris in winter.
Our favorite skate rinks in Paris are under the glass cupola of the Grand Palais (Paris 8) and on the first floor on top of the Eiffel Tower (both only available at Christmas time), while the Patinoire Pailleron (Paris 19) is open all year round.
Prices usually range between 10€ and 15€, and skate rinks normally remain open from late November until early January.
11. SOAK UP SOME SUN
Even though rain is common in winter in Paris, there are still days when the sun shines. Its low angle means that it’s not hot, but it can still warm. And when it’s out, everyone seems more cheerful, and it is one of our favorite things to do in Paris in winter.
12. TAKE IN SOME SNOW
Snow fell in Paris 4-5 times in the last three years and did not last long. But if it lasts, Paris breathes magic and beauty blanketed in white with unique photo opportunities. And despite the cold, it’s impossible not to linger and play in it!
13. MUSE ON MASTERPIECES
Warm your hands in front of some canvases! A good exhibition is one of the best things to do in Paris in the winter, and some of the most interesting ones are organized during the coldest months, starting with the Christmas holidays. And the Louvre is always a good idea, especially in Paris in the winter!
Check out our quick guides to December, January, and February in Paris to see what’s going on during your trip to Paris in winter.
14. PERFECT YOUR WINE-PAIRING SKILLS
Wine tasting is another of the best things to do in Paris in winter. From the comfort of a nice and warm wine bar, let a French master sommelier take you through the finer points of French wines and learn how to pair them with the local food.
TIP: Want to ensure your wine makes it home? Check our wine tote bags and wine suitcases quick guide
We love the proposal at the Caves du Louvre because of its unique setting. But there’s more! Here’s the list of the best-rated wine tours in Paris:
- Parisian deluxe wine tasting experience
- Introductory French cheese and wine tasting
- Wine Tasting with a professional sommelier
15. SMOOCH YOUR SWEETHEART
Paris is the City of Love, one of the world’s most romantic cities, making it a perfect place to spend Valentine’s Day. Check out our list of romantic things to do in Paris (far from the clichés) for a memorable Paris getaway with the one you love.
Winter in Paris: Conclusion
Winter in Paris means fewer crowds, lower prices, wider choices, and more quality time. Sure, the weather in Paris in winter won’t be perfect, but Paris doesn’t lose any of its charms when it’s chilly. Paris’ low season comes with plenty of fun, exciting things to do that are impossible when the city is (busy) hot and sultry.
Have you spent the winter in Paris? What are your favorite things to do in Paris in winter?
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