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Paris in 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!
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 sunny long 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 of this, some people think that winter is the best time to go to Paris.
There are lots of things to do in Paris when it rains or when it’s too cold outside and visiting Paris at Christmas time is particularly amazing.
During the winter months, the weather is overall cold but there is a big difference between December and the end of February in Paris, plus not all the days are cold and rainy during winter in Paris.
Follow our Winter in Paris quick guide with what to wear, what to see, and our best tips, and get the most out of Paris in the winter.
Winter in Paris corresponds to the months of December, January, and February. Check out our specific quick guides for these three months.
1. CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS ARE HIGH SEASON IN PARIS
Even if the low season in Paris technically starts on 1st November, things change again during the Christmas holidays.
When the lights are hung and the enormous Christmas trees set upward, Paris becomes even more magical and people like to enjoy the general festive atmosphere and visit the Christmas markets and seasonal events.
For 3 weeks until the Epiphany (6 January), expect the usual 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 Paris main attractions you will need advance tickets for and have added links to my favorite trusty providers for your convenience.
The good news is that Christmas starts setting in Paris from mid-November so if you come during the second half of November you can get a taste of Christmas and winter in Paris without the crowds.
2. 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, winter school holidays start from Saturday 13 February to Monday 1st March. It is common that 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.
Also, family attractions like Disneyland Paris tend to be more crowded during these days of winter.
Out of these periods, it is still a good idea to make hotel reservations early to score the best deals. Paris in winter is definitely more affordable than during the rest of the year but hotel prices tend to rise if you book at the last minute.
3. PAY LESS FOR AIRFARE, TRAIN TICKETS, AND HOTELS.
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of coming to Paris in the low season 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
4. CHOOSE MORE WIDELY: In summer, choices of restaurants, hotels, and museums are often made depending on price and availability. In winter, since prices are lower and the crowds are diminished, you usually have a wider choice of accommodation for your budget and for what you want to see or do.
5. 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, this 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 here below to find your bearings in Paris and our suggestions on where to stay.
6. 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 depending on where you are coming from you might find it even mild.
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 I definitely 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.
7. EAT COMFORT FOOD
Every culture has it’s comfort food that it turns to when the weather gets cool, 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 for the best rum in Paris and a beautiful 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.
8. 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 about. 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, there are a couple of guinguettes (food stalls) selling hot drinks and sometimes crêpes on the go. So just grab your hot drink and enjoy the winter vibes!
9. GO ICE SKATING
Parisians love ice skating in Paris during Christmas and spending an afternoon skating at an ice rink (patinoires in French) is something you simply cannot miss when visiting Paris at Christmas.
Our favorite skate rinks in Paris are the ones under the glass cupola of Grand Palais and on the first floor of top of the Eiffel Tower. Prices usually range between 10€ and 15€, and skate rinks normally remain open from late November until early January.
10. 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.
11. TAKE IN SOME SNOW
Snow fell in Paris 4-5 times in the last three years, and it does not last long. But if it lasts, Paris breaths magic and beauty blanketed in white with unique photo opportunities. And despite the cold, it’s impossible not to linger and play in it!
12. MUSE ON MASTERPIECES
Warm your hands in front of some canvases! Some of the best exhibitions in Paris are organized during the winter 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.
13. PERFECT YOUR WINE-PAIRING SKILLS
Wine tasting is one 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
14. SMOOCH YOUR SWEETHEART
Paris is the City of Love, one of the most romantic cities in the world, 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 lesser crowds, lower prices, wider choice, and more quality time. Sure, the weather in Paris in winter won’t be perfect but Paris doesn’t lose any of its charm when it’s chilly. Paris’ low season comes with plenty of fun, interesting 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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