You know the saying…Paris is always a good idea! But you may be wondering, is visiting Paris in winter really worth it? Could winter in Paris be as magical, as wonderful, as enjoyable in December or January?
The answer, my friends, is YES. I’ve had the pleasure and good fortune to visit Paris in winter not once, but twice and I can definitively tell you that a trip to the City of Lights in the winter months is absolutely, 100% worth it.
The cold, crisp air, the twinkling lights and the festive atmosphere cast a spell over Paris in the winter months and offers a unique and enchanting way to experience the city. There’s nothing quite like Paris during the holiday season and in this blog post I’ll dive into the top reasons to visit Paris in winter and all the best things to do on a trip to Paris in the colder months.
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Top Reasons To Visit Paris In Winter
1. Many of the top cultural attractions are indoors
Paris is a mecca of arts and culture, world famous museums and galleries and arguably the best shopping in Europe (okay, we can argue Italy vs France shopping another time!) and guess what the best part of all these amazing Paris activities are? They are indoors! You could spend an entire day being toasty warm inside while wandering the halls of the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay, Versailles and more.
2. Fewer crowds means shorter lines
Winter in Paris is the off-season for tourism, which means fewer crowds and shorter lines at the world-famous attractions. Having been to Paris in the summer months, and experiencing being herded like sheep through line after line at the museums, the Eiffel tour and more, I can tell you that the winter months are the best time to avoid the crowds in Paris. You’ll be able to enjoy the sights of Paris with greater tranquility and time to really take it all in, without as many tourists jostling behind you with a selfie stick.
3. Better prices on airfare and hotels
Paris is expensive, there’s no way around it. But when visiting Paris in winter, you’re likely to get much better deals on airfare and hotels since it’s the off-season and less crowded (I wish I tell you food and designer fashion prices decrease as well, but I’d be lying!). Even still, your budget will go much further in winter with airfare and hotel savings, so you can likely book a nicer hotel at a less expensive rate, enjoy a Michelin-star restaurant or book special tours.
And to help stretch your budget even further, I rounded up the best affordable, casual restaurants in Paris.
4. The festive atmosphere
The twinkling lights strung up all around the city, the Christmas markets doling out cups of hot spiced wine, watching the Eiffel tower light up as snowflake flurries swirl around you…there truly is nothing more peaceful, and romantic. The holiday atmosphere means everything feels a little slower, a little more relaxed and, in my opinion, is the best way to experience Paris.
5. The soul-warming food
Honestly, the rich, hearty comfort food in Paris is perfectly suited to a winter trip. Imagine a brisk, crisp walk down the Champs-Elysee and then popping into a bistro to warm up with a piping hot bowl of savory French onion soup and a steaming platter of moules frites. Or popping into Angelina for a hot chocolate and a croissant on your way to or from the Louvre. Not to mention the people-watching in cafes all over Paris, you could settle in for a cozy afternoon with coffee and pastries, a good book and people-watch to your heart’s content. The winter season is one of the best times of the year to truly appreciate all the amazing food Paris has to offer.
I also wrote all about my top recommendation for a cozy and affordable meal perfect for a winter night in Paris.
Ok friends, now that I’ve convinced you to book that trip with my top reasons to visit Paris in winter, you’re probably asking…what should I do when visiting Paris during the winter months?
Well, don’t worry because I’ve got you covered!
The top things to do to make the most of a trip to Paris in winter
1. Explore all the art and culture Paris has to offer
You could spend an entire week in Paris just wandering the museums and never get bored. On a winter trip to Paris, I like to spend lots of slow time wandering through my favorite museums. The can’t miss ones are of course, the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay, but there’s a few more under-the-radar museums that are absolutely worth a visit when it’s getting a little cold outside. For example, I love to visit the Musee de L’Orangerie to see Monet’s water lilies, the Musee Rodin and one incredible (mostly) indoors cultural attraction I’m saving for my next winter visit to Paris: a day trip to Versailles.
2. Check out the Eiffel Tower…with this pro tip
Even if it’s cold out, it’s absolutely worth strolling by the Eiffel tower, and even waiting in line to go up to the top observation deck (don’t worry there are indoor cafes and bars up top too, but they’re very overpriced and not that great). However the best views of the Eiffel tower are from the plazas at Place Trocadero, also home to the Palais de Chaillot.
Here’s the pro tip: instead of hanging about outside in the cold, head inside the Palais where there is a restaurant in the Foyer de la Danse called Les Îlots de Chaillot. It’s directly opposite the Eiffel tower and has huge windows with epic views. The below photo was taken from our table inside the Palais, enjoying a mid-morning coffee and the unobstructed Eiffel tower views.
3. Wander the Christmas markets
Perhaps the most magical and wonderful Parisian winter activity, and the most popular reason to visit Paris in winter is the Christmas markets that pop up all over the city. You can hop from stall to stall tasting delicious snacks, drinking mulled wine (or in my case, Champagne!) and perusing the holiday souvenirs and gifts. Most of the Christmas markets will open in mid-November and stay open through the first week or two of January. The biggest markets are at the Tuileries Garden by the Lourvre and the Marche de Noel Notre-Dame, by the famous cathedral of the same name, but I really enjoyed the Christmas market in Montmartre that we stumbled upon, at Place des Abbesses near the Sacre-Coeur. It was smaller and more intimate, which we really enjoyed.
4. Marvel at the decor in the Galeries Lafayette
Or you know…you could shop there too, if your budget permits. Either way, the Galeries Lafayette is worth spending a few hours wandering through and soaking up all the gorgeous fashion, architecture and holiday decorations.
5. Cafe hop in the Marais and Latin Quarter
My perfect winter weekend in Paris itinerary has an entire afternoon of cafe-hopping (okay, bar and macaron-hopping) in the Marais included, and it’s a highly recommended activity for a winter afternoon in Paris. The Latin Quarter is my personal favorite neighborhood in Paris (the Marais is second!) and wandering the narrow streets while popping into any cafe or patisserie that looks appealing (or when you start to get cold) is a great way to experience the area in winter. Try a different hot beverage and snack at each stop so that you can see as much as possible, and chances are you’ll probably be full enough to skip dinner!
6. Take a river cruise on the Seine
It might seem counter-intuitive in the winter, but most of the river cruises have indoor / covered seating areas and it’s a great way to experience the city from a different vantage point. This cruise company is highly recommended and one that I planned to use when planning my winter weekend itinerary in Paris (we ended up spontaneously staying much later at a bar and missed our window for the cruise!).
Top Things To Know About Visiting Paris In Winter
- Pack lots of layers! It’s winter, it will be cold! Whether there’s snow on the ground will vary (I’ve been to Paris twice in winter and both times I got a few flurries but no snow stuck to the ground) so definitely make sure to check the weather before your trip, but plan to pack warm clothes that can be layered. It’s pretty likely the weather will range from the mid-40s to the mid-30s, which is the average for winter in Paris.
- Be mindful of holiday hours and closings – make sure to check in advance online! Some attractions may have updated hours during the holidays so always check opening and closing times online before showing up. Buy tickets online in advance – a good practice for travel, always, but especially in winter as this will likely allow you to stroll right into the top attractions without waiting in the (albeit shorter) lines.
- Best areas to stay when visiting Paris in winter: Try to stay centrally located to the sights that are most important to you. My favorite areas to stay in Paris are the Latin Quarter (5th arrondissement), St-Geramin de Pres (6th arrondissement), the Louvre (1st arrondissement) and Opera (9th arrondissement) because they’re each very centrally located to one or more of the top sights in Paris.
- Using public transportation or ride apps: Paris in winter is still best enjoyed by walking, but if you get too cold or the weather doesn’t allow for it, Paris’ metro system is really easy to navigate and is very safe. I have also found ride apps to be readily available and reasonably priced.
Well there you have it, I hope this post has convinced you that Paris is a wonderful, magical, enchanting city to visit in the winter. If you need more helping planning your Parisian winter escape, you can read this detailed itinerary for a long winter weekend in Paris.