There’s no such thing as a bad time to visit Paris. (Bon, perhaps in August, when the French emigrate to the south and everything comes to a standstill.) The city maintains its alluring allure throughout the year, with winter presenting its own special allure: cafés glow with red heat lamps, Haussmannian boulevards and trees sparkle with twinkle lights, and department shops go all out with elaborate Christmas decorations. Even if the gray gloom (which the French call grisatre) might get tedious after a while, it can provide an attraction that is very seasonally suitable for a brief stay.
Here is all you need to know about how to make the most of your vacation to Paris in the winter, whether you’re seeking for festive activities to fill your holiday agenda or are wondering what to bring or where to stay.
Important Information Prior to Your Departure
The Season of Winter in Paris
During the months of December through February, the temperature in Paris ranges from a high of around 46 degrees Fahrenheit to a low of 37 degrees Farenheit on average. There is also a good chance that you may see some brilliantly bright days while you are there. Prepare yourself, though, for mostly cloudy weather with a chance of drizzle (made significantly more tolerable by easy access to spirit-lifting chocolat chaud or carafes of red wine). Even while there is a minuscule possibility that you may have a white Christmas, it snows in Paris very infrequently, and when it does, it usually only amounts to a little covering on the ground.
What to Bring for the Cold Season in Paris
Keeping in mind that the weather will be wetter and more snowy, it will be to your advantage to carry waterproof shoes and layers, in addition to a stylish and durable winter coat. In addition, you should bring an umbrella as well as some rain boots.
Holiday Closures in Paris
Be careful to call ahead to any restaurants that are on your “must try” list during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day to find out whether they will be operating during this time, as many businesses close for the winter during this period. (At the very least, many will be closed on the actual days that are celebrated as holidays.) Keep in mind that throughout the year, on Sundays and Mondays of each week, most restaurants and stores are closed, while museums are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays of each week.
Activities in Paris during Winter
Paris offers a variety of winter-specific activities, including ice skating and window browsing in festively adorned department stores.
Ice Skating in Paris
Rent a pair of skates and glide about in front of the Hôtel de Ville, one of the most gorgeous structures in Paris (City Hall). Located in the center of the Marais region, it is a short distance from the BHV, a department store with festively decorated displays.
Paris Christmas Markets
From late November until early January, the entire city is filled with Christmas markets reeking of chestnuts. Vendors in Swiss-style wooden chalets sell a variety of soul-warming items, including mulled wine and cider, raclette, and more. The most well-known — and probably the largest — is at the Tuileries Garden, which has grown into a sort of carnival. Place des Abbesses in Montmartre and the area next to Notre Dame are also popular markets (there is one in almost every district).
Shopping Windows in Paris
The initial attraction of renowned department shops such as Galeries Lafayette, Printemps Haussmann, and Le Bon Marché are extravagantly festive window displays. These windows provide a peek of miniature winter communities, with smiling Santas and gingerbread guys who are canning. When you enter the stores, you’ll be awestruck by the towering Christmas trees and twinkling lights adorning the interiors.
Winter Sales in Paris
Les soldes (the sales) occur twice a year in Paris and are a shopper’s paradise, with reduced prices on everything from luxury clothing to household items. The winter deals continue from January through February, with deepening discounts as the weeks go.
Museums in Paris
If the weather is too dreary for a stroll along the Seine, there are other wonderful museums and exhibitions to visit across the city. There is something for every type of traveler, whether they are fashionistas, impressionist enthusiasts, or in search of a little hallucinogenic immersive experience. (Note that it is usually advisable to purchase tickets in advance.)
“Claude Monet – Joan Mitchell” at the Louis Vuitton Foundation (Oct. 5, 2022-Feb. 27, 2023); “Shocking! The Surreal World of Elsa Schiaparelli” at the Decorative Arts Museum (July 6, 2022-Jan. 22, 2023); “Edvard Munch: A Poem of Life, Love, and Death” at the Musée d’Orsay (Sept. 20, 2022-Jan (Feb. 18, 2022-Jan. 2, 2023).
Consume Pastries in Paris.
The availability of bûche de Nol, a classic Christmas treat that is simply a rolled sponge cake, is one of the pleasures of winter in Paris; yet, the varieties and spectacular forms are limitless. The Ritz Paris, Hôtel Lutetia, and Pierre Hermé offer some of the finest confections.