Planning your own first Noël in Paris? Or maybe just looking for an affordable winter vacation? Either way, Paris in winter is not a vacation destination to be ignored.
Table of contents:
- Paris In Winter: Reasons To Visit
- Paris In Winter: Weather
- Paris In Winter: Where To Stay
- Paris In Winter: What to Pack
- Paris In Winter: Things to Know Before You Go
- 25 Things To Do And Places To Visit In Paris In Winter 2023
- How crowded is Paris in winter?
Paris In Winter: Reasons To Visit
While the high season for tourism in Paris runs from April through September, the French capital is a gorgeous travel destination at any time of year. Summertime crowds give way in winter to a quieter, more local atmosphere in the low season, with hotel prices at an all-year low and restaurant reservations easy to get. And around December, the city turns into a winter wonderland full of Christmas markets, elaborate window displays, and sumptuous holiday feasts. So we’ve put together a list of some of the best things to do in Paris in winter for the off-season traveler.
Paris In Winter: Weather
Paris has a relatively mild four season climate, with temperatures rarely falling below freezing in the winter season. You’re likely to have more gray skies in the winter months, and perhaps some rain, but it almost never snows. You’ll want to dress warmly, bring a stylish but practical pair of boots, and carry an umbrella on you. Temperatures will usually fall between 35 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Days are shorter, with the sun rising around 8:30am and setting around 5pm for most of the winter, so don’t count too much on the winter sunlight.
Paris In Winter: Where To Stay
Whether you’re looking for a boutique hotel or something more luxurious, there are incredible places to stay in Paris in winter no matter your budget. In winter, Paris hotel prices are at an all-year low, particularly during January and February, but they do spike around Christmas. That being said, splurging on a stunning Paris hotel with Eiffel Tower views or all-out Christmas decorations is sure to guarantee a magical holiday. You can find our top Paris hotel recommendations here, but a few of our top selections include the boutique hotel L’Hôtel (which has a long history of housing famous and infamous guests), Hôtel Caron de Beaumarchais (an incredible budget hotel in Paris), and the Eden Lodge Hotel (for eco-conscious travelers). Wherever you choose to stay this winter, Paris will not disappoint.
Paris In Winter: What to Pack
When visiting Paris in winter, you want to pack practical but stylish clothes to stay warm in the cold weather. Trousers or dark wash jeans, a pair of warm boots, a turtleneck or sweater, and a long wool coat with a scarf is the typical Parisian’s winter attire. Don’t forget an umbrella on your winter trip! Hats and gloves are also recommended, though I’d recommend steering clear of berets.
Paris In Winter: Things to Know Before You Go
It’s important to consider that if you visit Paris around the holidays, you may encounter widespread business closures. The French take their holidays very seriously, and Christmas is a big deal in France. Particularly during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, many shops, restaurants, and other local businesses will be closed, so you should call ahead if there are any places you’re committed to visiting.
In addition, while concerns over COVID-19 have largely diminished, you still may want to wear a face mask on public transit in the winter when the flu and the cold are running around.
25 Things To Do And Places To Visit In Paris In Winter 2023
1. Shop the Christmas Markets
Though it’s no Strasbourg, the Parisian holiday markets are impressive, and should definitely be on your list if you visit Paris in winter. They traditionally open at the start of the Christian season of Advent, in late November, and last until just after Christmas. In the Tuileries, along the esplanade of La Défense, outside the Notre Dame Cathedral (at Square René-Vivani), in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, at the Quai Branly by the Eiffel Tower, at les Halles, at the Féeries d’Auteuil, and more, each Christmas market abounds with craft and food stalls where you can grab a bite of delicious French food, enjoy a cup of chocolat chaud, or shop for gifts. Of course, if you want to get off the beaten path, there are other holiday markets to check out, like the three put on by Le Hasard Ludique (a vegan market, an African market, and one focused on crafts made in the 18th arrondissement), the Alsatian market at Gare de l’Est, the Anglophone market at St. George’s Anglican Church, or the Swedish market at the Église Suédoise. Obviously, some will be more crowded than others, but avoid peak hours and you’re sure to delight in the tradition.
2. Listen to classical music at Sainte Chapelle
Many people in France are at churches and cathedrals for religious reasons around the holidays, but you can certainly be there to appreciate a little classical music in a beautiful setting on your winter visit. The breathtaking Saint-Chapelle has a series of one-hour concerts (a perfect length for kids) from December 21-31. Enjoy performances of popular musical works like Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Waltzes from Strauss, popular Christmas carols, and “Ave Maria,” while gazing at the stained glass windows of Sainte Chapelle. Make sure to buy your tickets on the website ahead of visiting Paris. (You can even select a ticket that comes with a glass of champagne to upgrade your experience.) If your trip to Paris comes earlier in the month, there are plenty of classical music concerts around the city.
3. Sip on some mulled wine
Vin chaud, chocolat chaud, cidre, thé, Vert Chaud… the Paris weather outside is frightful but a hot drink is so delightful. Vin chaud (mulled wine, as we say in English) is available at every Christmas market, but if you want to warm up inside, here are five places to find vin chaud in Paris. Of course, for hot chocolate you should head to Angelina or Jacques Genin. For tea, here are five places to treat yourself to tea in the capital.
4. See the Christmas lights
The holidays are when the City of Lights proves itself worthy of its moniker, lit up from the end of November through early January. Your first stop should be the Champs-Elysées, lit up with its usual multi-colored twinkling lights starting in late November. Other spots to see the city lit up for the winter holiday season include Avenue Montaigne (which can easily be visited after your stroll down the Champs-Elysées), rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Bercy Village (walk through the Cour Saint-Emilion for the best view), and Place Vendôme, which is decorated with Christmas trees. On the east side of the city, the Viaduc des Arts has stunning illuminated, decorated archways.
5. Go Ice Skating
Strap on your skates and embrace the cold weather! There are a number of places to go ice skating in Paris in winter, from the Hôtel de Ville to the Eiffel Tower. To enjoy the tallest ice skating rink in Paris, visit the Tour de Montparnasse. For €23, you’ll get access to the panoramic observatory and the ice rink, where you can borrow skates if needed. La Grande Arche de La Défense has a rink installed at the top, too, 110 meters up in the air, where you can skate for 15€ (7€ for children). Finally, head over to the Grand Palais to enjoy the largest temporary indoor ice rink in France. It’s 17€ in the morning and 25€ in the afternoon (cost of skate rental is included). For something truly special, go between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. for a nightclub-style skate.
6. See “The Nutcracker” at the Opéra Bastille
Would it be Paris in winter without a trip to the ballet? Tchaikovsky’s famous Christmastime ballet, “The Nutcracker,”will come to the Opéra Bastille from December 8 through January 1. This is one of the can’t-miss romantic things to do when visiting Paris in winter, an opportunity to dress to the nines and escape the blustery winter weather while enjoying some of the best dancers in the world, accompanied by a timeless musical score.
7. Admire the Christmas Decor at Paris Department Stores
The first stop on your Paris winter itinerary should be to explore the Christmas decorations and elaborate window displays at the grand department stores of Paris. For the best window displays, the first stop should be the Galeries Lafayette. Outside the department store you’ll find their better-than-Saks-Fifth-Avenue animatronic windows, and inside there’s the massive Christmas tree under the coupole. Then head to Printemps, which is walking distance away, through Place Vendôme where you’ll see all the elegant jewelry displays, toward the Seine for BHV Marais along the Rue de Rivoli across from the Hôtel de Ville, and finally to the Rive Gauche for Le Bon Marché’s holiday displays on the ground floor of the store.
8. Enjoy Lower Prices at Stores During Les Soldes
While much of the year might find you window shopping at the grand Paris department stores like the Galeries Lafayette, there are two times a year when all of Paris offers a discount: Les Soldes. These structured sales periods happen in July and January, and last for between four to six weeks. Visiting Paris in winter and taking advantage of the winter sales is one of the best ways to save money while shopping for fabulous souvenirs. The lower prices make even the most bougie of stores surprisingly affordable starting in early January.
9. Visit Paris Museums
Visiting Paris in winter is the perfect opportunity to explore every major Paris landmark without the crowds. Pop into the world famous Louvre Museum on a cold day, and spend an entire afternoon admiring famous works of art like the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa.
Other places to find world class art in Paris include the Musée d’Orsay, Musée Rodin, and Palais de Tokyo, but you can find our complete museum guide here. If you want to visit a number of museums, getting a museum pass might be a good idea. (Find more details here.)
10. Explore Paris’s Covered Passages
When the cold temperatures overtake Paris in winter, there are some clever ways to get around without ever having to go outside. Paris’ famous covered passages, which are beautiful hidden shopping arcades covered by glass ceilings, are filled with restaurants and shops where you can peruse used books, art posters, and antiques. Built in the early 19th century to provide aristocrats with cover from the elements, some of the most famous include the Passage du Grand-Cerf, Galerie Vivienne, Passage des Panoramas, and Passage Jouffroy. Just make sure to take your eyes off the window displays and look around, the detail in the wooden arches, the glass ceilings, the tiled floors and passage entryways are worth a look.
11. Go for a Wine Tasting
Attending a wine tasting is a great way to explore the entirety of France from the comfort of your glass. Several wine and cheese tasting workshops are offered around Paris, like at Paroles de Fromagers (the cheese school of Paris), or at Ô Chateau wine bar. Women should check out the champagne tastings and workshops offered by the women-only champagne club Delectabulles (men may attend events if accompanied by a woman). You can specify your tastings by region, food pairings, or style, so see what’s out there and make sure to sample as many different French wines as you can. (Within reason, of course.)
12. Eat pastries
No holidays in Paris would be complete without a gastronomic pastry tour to see all the beautiful holiday sweets. Macaron maven Pierre Hermé, World’s Best Pastry Chef Cedric Grolet, the city’s best chocolatiers, Odette for choux à la crème, and Pâtisserie Cyril Lignac and Sebastien Gaudard for just about anything — these are the places you should put on your list of must-visits during the holiday season.
13. Stop and Smell the Roses at the Grandes Serres du Jardin des Plantes
Though Paris in winter is hardly the time for flowers in bloom, there is one place where Parisian gardens grow all year long: the Jardin des Plantes. This botanical garden in Paris’ 5th arrondissement is home to several greenhouses, or Grandes Serres, where you can appreciate stunning flora even in the heart of January.
14. Eat raclette and fondue
Paris in winter means hot cheese dishes. Raclette is a type of cheese, but it’s also the general term for a meal during which you melt raclette cheese over a flame then scrape it onto potatoes, charcuterie and cornichons. With fondue, instead of topping your food with the cheese, you dip pieces of meat and bread in a pot of hot melted cheese. Il Cottage, themed like a ski chalet, has raclette and fondue. Pain Vin Fromage has been serving both to rave reviews for years now. Chalet Savoyard offers both these dishes and other mountain fare in the 11th arrondissement. And of course, Le Refuge des fondus in Montmartre offers the most unique fondue experience, serving their pots of hot cheese fondue with baby bottles full of wine.
15. Le Salon Do It Yourself
The Salon Créations et savoir faire is Paris’ holiday craft fair, and it takes place from November 29 through December 3. From close to 300 vendors you’ll be able to buy craft supplies and products made by French artisans. There will also be workshops and crafting sessions held throughout the day. This is a great idea for families, or anyone into DIY crafts.
16. Enjoy a Galette des Rois
January 6, the Christian holiday Epiphany, is a big day of celebration in France, and is most well known for its favorite treat, the Galette des Rois, or King Cake. This tart filled with almond paste makes a perfect comfort food to enjoy with coffee, hot chocolate or even champagne. It’s meant to be shared with a group of friends, and what better way to warm up your winter evening than gathering around cake? Each one contains a fève, a small trinket that designates whoever gets it as the King (or Queen) of the day.
17. Paris Fashion Week
No matter the time of year, there’s some kind of Paris Fashion Week going on, and Paris in winter is no exception. The menswear Fall/Winter 2024-2025 fashion collections will be shown from January 16 to January 21, 2024. Later in the winter, the womenswear Fall/Winter 2024-2025 fashion collections will be shown from February 26 to March 5, 2024. Dress to the nines (warmly) and hang outside your favorite fashion shows for a peek of the latest winter Paris street style.
18. Enjoy a Christmas or NYE Boat Tour on the River Seine
When visiting Paris, a stroll by the Seine is always advised. But for a very special occasion, a Seine river cruise on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve can turn your holiday into something truly magical. Companies like Bateaux Mouches, Bateaux Parisiens, and Paris Seine – La Marina offer lunch and dinner cruises on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve, so you can admire the lights and fireworks along the river as you glide by the Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and other Paris landmarks.
19. Have Some Family Fun at Disneyland Paris
If you’re traveling with kids and they aren’t impressed by the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, or Luxembourg Gardens, Disneyland Paris is a foolproof way to keep your entire family entertained. Located just an hour from Paris’s city center (Notre Dame), Disneyland Paris offers seasonal activities that are fun for kids and parents alike. (Or even Disney Adults looking for a little lighthearted fun!) Get tickets for the Disney Enchanted Christmas experience, which runs from November 11 through January 7, and includes parades and musical shows from your favorite Disney characters, along with a special tree lighting ceremony and other magical surprises.
20. Take in the Fireworks on New Year’s Eve
Anyone who’s visited Paris around New Year’s Eve knows that the celebrations are nearly impossible to miss. A yearly fireworks display at the Arc de Triomphe rings in the New Year, with hordes of revelers coming together along the Champs Élysées to celebrate. (Think of it as the Parisian equivalent of the ball drop in Times Square.) While many assume there will be fireworks at the Eiffel Tower, this is actually not the case — but if you do decide to climb the Eiffel Tower on New Year’s Eve, you’ll have an excellent view of fireworks throughout the city. The metro is also free on New Year’s Eve and many lines run all night, so it’s easy to get around as long as you don’t mind the crowds.
21. Take a Perfume Making Workshop
France is known for its iconic perfumes, from Chanel No. 5 to J’adore Dior. But if you want a unique scent that’s all your own, you’re in luck — there are plenty of perfumeries throughout Paris where you can sign up for a workshop to make your own signature scent. Parfums sur Mesure, Le Studio des Parfums Paris, Fragonard, and Candora Paris all offer custom perfume making classes. You can learn more about these workshops with our Paris perfume workshop guide.
22. Take a Cooking Class
What better way to shake off the winter blues than with a French cooking class? Learn how to cook classic French dishes or enjoy a wine and cheese tasting with Cook’n With Class, or enjoy a holiday-specific cooking class or trip to a French market with cult favorite culinary workshops a La Cuisine Paris. If you’re planning on going out to Versailles for a day, extend your trip and sign up for a French pastry class with Molly J. Wilk, an American pastry chef whose online and in-person baking classes in Versailles are to die for.
23. Attend a Cabaret at the Moulin Rouge
Paris’s most famous cabaret, the Moulin Rouge, is the ideal place to get glitzed up for a night on the town in the historic Parisian neighborhood of Montmartre. This iconic Parisian establishment has been putting on glitzy cancan shows since 1889, and still puts on two shows a night. There is one at 9PM and one at 11PM, with prices ranging from €128 to €193 depending on the time and day of the week. You can even splurge on the dinner-and-a-show combo, which starts at 7PM and costs between €235 and €250.
24. Dinner and a Movie in the French capital
Paris is a film town, which is proven by the fact that it has more movie theaters than any other city in the world. You can find old films, new blockbusters, independent French flicks, or even a weekly Rocky Horror showing with a live shadow cast. Why not take in a movie paired with one of Paris’ best restaurants for a romantic date, a fun group night out, or even a solo adventure? Check out our guide to where to get dinner and a movie in Paris, with recommendations for historic French cinemas like Le Champo, Le Cinéma du Panthéon, and Studio Galande.
25. Enjoy a Night Out on the Town
Paris has some of the most vibrant nightlife in Europe, ranging from natural wine bars to upscale cocktail lounges to lively techno clubs. Check out our list of the best bars in Paris for some recommendations, including Little Red Door, Le Barav, and Le Syndicat. (And remember that you can always take the metro or a taxi in between bars if it’s cold out!) For those looking to dance up a sweat, consider clubs like Nouveau Casino or Club Silence for a proper night out on the town.
How crowded is Paris in winter?
In the winter season, you’ll find Paris at its least crowded. Hotels and flights are usually cheaper for this reason, and you won’t have to wait in long lines to visit the main Paris attractions like the Louvre or Versailles. But the end of December is usually marked by tourists visiting for the Christmas holidays, so this period will be more crowded than the rest of the winter (though still not as bad as the high season in the summer).
Paris In Winter: Conclusion
There are so many things to do in Paris in winter, it’s definitely worth a trip if you want to see the city free from tourists. A Paris winter trip is a great time for indoor activities like visiting museums or cultural landmarks, or to enjoy the bright lights and delicious food of the winter holidays.