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“I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles,” sang Cole Porter and I would have to concur. Parisian winters can be grey and drizzly and Parisians are often planning a sunny getaway. But, there are fewer people, bare trees unveiling secrets of buildings hidden in the summer, and the perfect cup of hot chocolate to warm you up.
People say, “Parisian winters are grey.” Why not see the rooftops as a silvery hue and the Seine as silver-plated? Ah, that changes everything. For lovers of Paris, the charm of the City of Light never wavers.
Here is how to plan for and enjoy Paris in the winter. (Bundle up!)
Paris In Winter: The Practicalities
Winter In Paris: The Weather
Here are the cold, hard facts. Paris in the winter is wintery. It can be blustery and grey. But it’s not as cold as Canada and the sidewalks are rarely icy. I love seeing elderly people out walking to their fromagerie or the market in the middle of the winter, couples at cafés under the heat lamps, musicians in the brisk air entertaining passersby and in December, Christmas trees balanced on bicycles.
It’s easy to bundle up and thoroughly enjoy Paris in the winter.
|Month||Average Min. Temp||Average Max. Temp||Wet Days|
|December||3°C |37°F||8°C | 45°F||9.0|
|January||3°C |37°F||7°C | 44°F||8.3|
|February||3°C |37°F||8°C | 46°F||6.6|
|March||5°C |41°F||12°C | 53°F||7.3|
Parisian Winter: What To Wear
At any time in a Parisian winter, when the wind blows, it’s cold. Bring a winter coat, warm gloves, a hat and a cashmere or wool scarf.
Bring an umbrella for if it snows, the snow is very wet.
Bring a crossbody bag, like this, fashionable and safe. There are multiple advantages of a crossbody bag: Put your hands in your pockets, hold a warm cup of hot chocolate, sip on mulled wine, pull it under your arm for safekeeping on the metro.
Paris In The Winter Months: Holidays & Celebrations
- December 25 – Christmas Day
- December 26 – St. Stephen’s Day (a public holiday in France’s Alsace-Moselle region only)
- January 1 – New Year’s Day
- January 6 – Epiphany
- February 14 – Valentine’s Day
- February 20 – March 6, 2022 – School Holidays Paris
Things To Do In Paris In The Winter
1. Embrace The Magical Christmas Season In Paris
Paris is under a magical spell during the Christmas season. Marvellous light displays sparkle in the city, the creativity of stores window displays are a marvel to enjoy, and fresh oysters and roasted chestnuts are for sale on street corners. This is one of the best times during winter in Paris.
The last two weeks of November are still quite quiet but as Christmas approaches, Paris gets busy. Shops, Christmas markets and light displays are festive and crowded. It’s definitely not low season at Christmas time so book your accommodation well in advance.
After Epiphany when all the Galettes des Rois have been enjoyed, things get quieter in Paris. This is truly low season and flights are a great price.
2. Winter In Paris: Savour Seasonal Gastronomy
The minute a cold wind blows in, Parisians start talking about raclette, tartiflette, fondue and French onion soup. These hearty dishes that warm you up right down to your toes are essential when partaking in Paris in the winter. Another gastronomic delight during the winter is the oyster bars set up outside cafés. Order a dozen, or why not take a whole box …
Raclette For A Parisian Winter
Two years ago, I had never even heard of raclette. Since then, I have had the good fortune to share many raclette meals with my friends. Plug in the raclette grill, melt a portion of Reblochon cheese and pour over boiled potatoes, pickles, onions, and charcuterie. Pair with white wine and enjoy with friends. This is the ultimate in Paris in the winter.
There are several types of raclette grills such as this one and this one. At the outdoor Christmas markets when selling raclette sandwiches, the vendors pour the melted Reblochon cheese into the baguette using this kind of cheese melter.
Paris In The Winter: Best Oyster Season
If you read my article on oysters, you’ll know that the French believe the best months for eating oysters have an “r” in them. Thus, September sees the beginning of the oyster season. But it’s in November that cafés set up oyster bars on the sidewalk and offer oysters and wine. It’s a delightful tradition.
Oysters are a huge part of the Christmas and New Year’s feasts. You’ll see them front and center at the Poissonneries (fish markets). Don’t be surprised by how many people walk away with a box or two of oysters and platters of seafood for the feast on December 24. If you’re not sure how to open oysters, ask your Poissonnier to do so for you!
3. Paris In Winter: Flâner
The best way to enjoy Paris is to walk. Morning. Noon. & Night! Embrace the Parisian way to flâner, which is really to amble, saunter and observe your surroundings. Here are some tips on how best to flâner in Paris.
Toss on your woollen scarf (in the chicest of ways) and head out to one of the best neighbourhoods for walking. Here are a few suggestions:
- le Marais – Place des Vosges, gorgeous mansions, shopping…
- Ile Saint-Louis – oldest village in Paris…
- Montmartre – Sacré Coeur, staircases and oozing charm…
- the 7th arrondissement – Eiffel Tower & views, La Grande Epicierie…
- Canal Saint-Martin – iron bridges, boutiques, wine by the canal
- the 14th arrondissement – the Tower, iconic cafés…
- les Buttes aux Cailles – plenty of street art, the village feel…
- the 16th arrondissement – on the trail of art nouveau…
When sauntering in the Parisian winter, plan for more frequent stops to warm up.
4. Sip A Hot Chocolate
Stopping at a Parisian café is always a good idea! Hot chocolate is a delight in Paris. Known simply as “chocolat,” head over to Angelina’s (3 locations), Jacques Genin in le Marais or Carrette at Place des Vosges. Sipping deluxe hot chocolate, especially when it is poured from an elegant silver teapot, is an unforgettable experience in Paris. It’s perfect on a winter day in Paris.
5. Winter In Paris: Walk The Passageways
Sometimes winter in Paris requires exploration away from the elements. The passageways in Paris are a perfect place to live your best Parisian life. A throwback to another era, Parisian passageways are lined with boutiques. You’ll find gift shops, book stores, chic jewellery and clothing, antique stores, vintage shops, and children’s shops. The passageways are perfect for browsing. Here are a few of my favourites to get you started:
- Galerie Vivienne – 2nd arrondissement, historical monument
- Galerie Véro-Dodat – 1st arrondissement, close to the Louvre
- Passage du Grand Cerf – 2nd arrondissement, historical monument
- Passage des Panoramas – 9th arrondissement, the oldest
6. Parisian Winter: Enjoy The Snow
Keep an eye on your weather app. Often the snow in the forecast turns to rain but, when the snowflakes fly in Paris, it is truly magical. Read my post (coming very soon) to see where to enjoy the snow in a Parisian winter and where to get the best photos.
7. Paris In The Winter Months: Shop The Sales
Let the winter sales (les soldes) begin! By law, sales are allowed twice yearly in January and July. In my experience, there are pre-sales before the real sales begin. But look out! Once the real sales begin, the reductions are significant and the shoppers are out! Ohhh…it’s fun to look for great deals.
Les Soldes in France in 2023: Wednesday, January 11 – Tuesday, February 7
8. Parisian Winter: Go Skating
The most fabulous place to go skating in Paris is under the glass dome of the Grand Palais. But the Grand Palais is under renovation so tuck this experience away for a different winter in Paris.
Since 2014, the Eiffel Tower has had a skating rink on its first floor. What a highlight of Paris in the winter – skating at the Eiffel Tower. I’ve looked high and low and am quite sure this is not happening in the 2021-2002 winter season in Paris. I will keep you posted. Unfortunately, this might be another skating experience to save for another year.
So where to go skating in Paris this winter? Some years, there is skating on the terrace of Galeries Lafayette. This year there is roller skating on the 4th floor from December 1- 23. That will be very cool. Imagine roller skating past their magnificent Christmas tree and lights.
I can attest that there is DEFINITELY outdoor ice skating at the Christmas market in the Jardin des Tuileries. So rent a pair of orange skates, lace-up and glide under the Paris winter skies!
9. Winter In Paris: Head To The Museums
Winter in Paris is a great time to visit museums and see some of the special exhibitions that are on. Pick up your copy of L’Officiel des Spectacles which comes out every Wednesday and see what appeals to you.
Visits to the Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre are always a good idea. But don’t forget that Paris has around 130 museums. There is literally something for everyone. Here is my guide to 18 Paris museums that are well worth visiting.
10. Feel The Love On Valentine’s Day
Yes, Paris is the most romantic city in the world. With a partner or solo, Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to take a Sunset Cruise on the Seine or partake in a dinner show at the Moulin Rouge. Definitely indulge in some chocolate. Paris has so many artisan chocolate shops. A few of my favourites are Chocolat Foucher, Alain Ducasse, Jaques Genin, and Maison du Chocolat.
Here’s how I spent my first Valentine’s Day in Paris, solo and vraiment sassy!
11. Drop Everything And Sit In The Sun
The lineup of iconic green chairs in the Luxembourg Gardens against the wall of the Orangerie tell all. On a sunny winter day in Paris, Parisians are soaking up a bit of sun, chatting to a friend or reading le Monde. I walked daily in the Jardin du Luxembourg during the Parisian winter of 2020 (confinement) and when the sun shone, the locals filled the chairs and soaked up every ray of sunshine.
Other classic places to soak up some winter sunshine in Paris: Le Jardin des Tuileries and the Jardin du Palais Royal.
12. Browse The Bookshops During A Parisian Winter Holiday
Slow right down and browse. Investigate the bouquinistes along the banks of the Seine, who knows what treasure you may find? Or on a winter day in Paris, head over to Shakespeare and Company. It’s not hard to while away a few hours here. Be sure to climb the tiny staircase up to the second level. I have listed all my favourite English language bookstores in Paris. Any bibliophile would be thrilled to spend a day bookstore hopping in Paris. Of course, interspersed with hot chocolate or vin chaud. Heaven!
I hope you enjoy Paris in the winter as much I do!
Until next time,
More Paris Info…
Gastronomy In Paris:
There are also plenty of café suggestions for the Marais area in this post: Tips from a Local.
Travelling to Paris alone? This article on navigating Paris alone is full of tips and tricks for the solo traveller.
This page has all my articles on Paris that will help you plan out your trip, including day trips from Paris. I hope you subscribed to my newsletter to get my free download – An Amazing 2-day Itinerary in Paris.
If you are going further afield in France, make sure to check out my page on France.