33 reasons why you should visit Paris in Winter
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Updated: November 2019
Our picnic covers are tucked away and with faint regrets, we’re bidding farewell to the mild Parisian summer nights. To chilled beers and wine in plastic cups, to pot luck dinners along the Seine and the good company of friends and strangers. Winter is coming (yeah.. I know…).
Paris is Winter – all you need to know!
Content of this post
If you wonder when it’s winter in Paris… Paris winter season is officially starting from shortly around Christmas in December to February, but November and March can also be quite chilly. Temperatures are starting to dip already in October though.
Average winter temperatures in Paris
December 4°- 8°C (39°- 46°F)
January 3°- 8°C (37°- 46°F)
February 3°- 9°C (37°- 48°F)
Keeping in mind that those are averages, you absolutely need to pack winter gear! A hat, scarf, fleece jacket, and even potentially long undergarments are a must if you plan to stay longer outside: temperatures can fall far under 0°C (32°F). However, try to dress in layers though – it’s often very warm inside.
Winter days are short in Paris! On the shortest days, the sun is not rising before 8:45 am and it can be dark well before 5 pm.
But even though Paris’ winter will be cold, and probably often grey, wet, and windy, it doesn’t mean that your city trip to Paris is doomed to failure. You’re wondering what to do in Paris in the Winter to make it an awesome trip or asking yourself the question “Should I visit Paris in the Winter”? Yes! Absolutely!
Check the following ideas on activities for all seasons. We summed up the top things to do in Paris during winter!
What are the best things to do in Paris in the winter?
≡ visit a museum – one of the best things to do in Paris in the winter to stay warm
Visiting a museum is an obvious activity when the weather isn’t great. Luckily there are quite a few great museums in Paris: The Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Picasso Museum… However, you should purchase your tickets in advance, especially for the Louvre. The ticket queues can be long! Click here for tickets and rates
Tip: don’t take the outside entrance at the glass pyramid – the waiting times are always longer. Head instead to the underground entrance at the Carrousel du Louvre. (If you wonder though if it’s cold in the Louvre during winter.. it isn’t!)
But did you hear about those ones?
- Musée des Egouts the museum of the Parisian canalization – the history of sewers from the times of Lutèce until today (closed for renovation – reopens 1st semester 2020)
- see fairgrounds, cabinets of curiosity in the Musée des Arts Forains
- Musée de la Magie an exhibition about magic, illusions, and automats that offers as well magic workshops
- Musée de Montmartre a museum about the history and the artists of Montmartre
- Musée Gourmand du Chocolat – taste your way through 4000 years of chocolate (check here to know more)
- visit the Fragonard Parfumeur and Museum
In any case, I advise also to look into the 2 day Paris Museum Pass that grants you “Skip the Line” access to more than 60 Parisian Museums and activities (Louvre and Musée d’Orsay included) – it’s paying off as soon as you visit 2 museums with priority access: it’s a really good value for money and time, especially if you are only a few days in town! Check here for rates or check out Kasey’s review on the Museums Pass.
≡ Put that skates on! – Go ice skating at the most famous locations in Paris
During the winter season, several ice skating rinks are installed all around town and it’s one of the best winter activities in Paris during winter.
The ice skating rink at the Christmas Market at the Tuileries Garden is open, and so it the little rink up the Galeries Lafayette. The latter is free of charge, however, it is not the usual ice but a kind of plastic you slide on.
The nicest ice skating rink opens on December 13rd – in the Grand Palais. It is a stunning location and the biggest ice skating rink in Europe!
≡ take some “me time” at a Spa
There is really nothing better on a cold and rainy Parisian winter day than spending a few relaxing hours in a Spa. Personally, I have been a few times to Lush Spa and I liked it a lot. You need to book quite in advance though and well, you need to like the scents of Lush. For everyone else and also for the more spontaneous traveler I can recommend Massage Concept. It’s not as fancy but good value for money.
≡ see a cabaret show
Visiting a cabaret show is one of the big 5 of Paris – a classic “must do” in Paris, especially in winter!
≡ see the parades for the Chinese new year
The Asian quarter in Paris is the largest Chinatown in Europe. So obviously there are parades for the Chinese new year. The biggest one takes place near Place d’Italie, be there early to get a good spot!
≡ take a special sightseeing tour: in a vintage Citroën 2CV!
Winter is probably not the hot season for a classic hop on hop off tour with an open roof bus (to be fair, there are closed ones though) but why not taking advantage of the weather and opt into something special?
Take a private sightseeing tour in a vintage 2CV! Click here for more info, rates and options!
≡ explore the Covered Galleries during winter in Paris
Escape the rain and the cold with a stroll from one covered passage to the next. Most of them are close by so it’s really a good-themed walk through Paris on a wet day. (I found this excellent map a while back and did not find anything better since!)
≡ enjoy Paris during Winter from the comfort of a boat: take a trip with a bateau mouche
Despite all the clichés, it is actually a very nice thing to do and probably one of the most romantic things to do in Paris during the cold season. I lived in Paris for years when I took a Bateau Mouche for the first time and the change of perspective was simply amazing. Plus, you can sit comfy inside. You could even have dinner there! (click here to know more about our own River Seine Cruise experience)
≡ attend a reading at “Shakespeare and Company” or Barkley’s
There are quite a few American book stores in Paris and most of them are hosting regular events like concerts or readings. Check out the programs of Shakespeare and Company or Berkeley Books of Paris, there is always something going on. And even if your visit is not matching one of their sessions, both stores are well worth a visit!
≡ see a concert
it can be overtaxing to find a good gig, especially in a city like Paris with an uncountable amount of venues, bars, and open mic sessions. Check out the list of Parisian Venues and find the right place for you. Also have a look at the concert calendar, fnac.fr, or Ticketmaster
≡ have fun at a Pub Quiz
Are you wondering what to do in Paris at night when picnics at the Seine are not an option? Go to the Quiz!!! That tradition is well established in Paris and you find Quiz Nights in basically all Irish, English, and Scottish pubs, but also in a hand full of “not the UK themed” Bars. For example at The Highlander on Sundays and sometimes as well at le Petit Joseph Dijon.
If you fear that a Sunday pub night might not meet your expectations when it comes to a party, join a pub crawl! Click here to secure yourself a spot
≡ put on your coat and have a walk – a classic activity when visiting Paris in the winter season
Winter time in Paris is cold but it’s not as batshit crazy freezing. Put on a winter coat, a scarf, and maybe a bonnet and you’re good to go outside to enjoy the humidity that will crawl up your legs and bones. Nah, don’t worry haha 🙂 Having a walk-in Paris along the Seine, the Bois de Boulogne, or Bois de Vincennes is always nice. Or just walk around Montmartre, the Père Lachaise cemetery, or the Marais. Just get outside, it’s worth it!
≡ go shopping
Sayin’ Paris is decent for shopping is a vast understatement. If the weather is not on your side, check out Les Halles, La Beaugrenelle, or Le 4 Temps at La Defense. Those are the big shopping malls in and around Paris. If you are at La Defense, you can also visit the Grand Arche!
≡ sign up for an Escape Game
It’s not super cheap and you have to book in advance, but it’s a great activity and you have quite some choice in Paris. From Maya Temples, Haunted Manors, Submarines, Japan, Catacombs… you name it. You escape!
(Personally, I am a huge fan of escape rooms and I loved the Assassins Creed escape room and the Japan-themed one!)
≡ take a swim at Aquaboulevard
Paris’ water park: artificial waves, 11 waterslides (some are outside though), wakeboard, and a Caribbean feeling. Aquaboulevard is a good way to spend a day in the warmth, especially if you are traveling to Paris with kids.
≡ have a hot Chocolate at Angelina
Hot chocolate is a remedy for many to counter the cold season. Enjoy it at Angelina; a classic Parisian tea room. They are running a few tea rooms in Paris, but usually, it’s quite popular. Think about reserving a table in advance.
≡ visit an Aquarium
The Aquarium of Paris, just in front of the Eiffel Tower, is the largest in Paris. Apart from fish and more fish (in 43 fish tanks) you get the full program: workshops, movies, animations, shows, you can even pair your visit with a Sunday brunch. However, If this is blowing up your budget, you can visit as well the Aquarium Tropical in the Palais de la Porte Dorée. It’s maybe not as spectacular, but it offers everything that the Aquarium of Paris does; just on a smaller scale. For a fraction of the entrance fee (11€ for 2 adults and 2 kids; kids under 4 are free). Kill two birds with one stone: the Palais de la Porte Dorée hosts as well the National Immigration Museum
≡ stay warm while enjoying a wine tasting
France is known to be THE wine country (there is no need to argue about this with any french person!) and Paris is a great place to enjoy a wine tasting. Especially if it’s all cold and grey outside!
≡ go wild on Paris’ winter sales in mid-January
No matter if you are preparing your shopping tour or just randomly checking out stores; Paris is THE city to hunt for good deals. Check your favorite stores a few days before the Sales begin. They are already prepped for the big day and you will find all items that will be on sale hanging/laying together. Just get back there early on sales day and buy it at a reduced price 🙂
≡ have some Arcade Games at “La Tête dans les Nuages”
No matter if you are 5 or 50, everyone likes to play a pinball game from time to time, right? “La Tête dans les Nuages” is with more than 100 gaming terminals one of the biggest Arcade Center in Paris and a fun way to spend a (rainy) afternoon in Paris. Not only in winter 🙂
Do you need more tips on how to entertain your children in Paris? Don’t miss my first-hand tips! Check out my top 10 activities for kids
≡ take a cooking or pastry class in Paris!
What about a new skill as a souvenir from your Paris trip? Learn how to make Macarons or Croissants, prepare a Magret de Canard, a Filet Mignon or know how to bake an authentic Baguette.
The countless Parisian cooking classes have for sure something for your taste (and to impress your friends back home!) How about a 3-course Lunch including wine and a market visit? Or maybe you are more up for learning how to bake Macarons?
≡ Play some board games at the “Dernier Bar avant la Fin du Monde”
Rainy days and board games are just a perfect match. But no worries! You don’t need to sacrifice this queen of coziness activity when visiting Paris in winter! Just head over to the Bar at the End of the Universe, have a Mario Bruschetta, a Death Star Cocktail and pick a board game from their library. Oh, and don’t forget to take a picture on the Iron Throne or a Selfie with R2D2!
≡ Go to the Movies
Yes, you could do that at home. But there is more to it than the big and modern cinemas like UGC, Cinema Gaumont or MK2. Paris has a variety of small and/or old movie theatres, that are worth experiencing. Have a look at the Cinema Luxor, Le Grand Rex or La Filmothèque du Quartier Latin. If you are not up for a french movie, check for VOST or VO to see a movie in the original language. Or what about a rather artistic approach to the cinema? Then you should not miss La Peniche Cinema.
What to do in Paris in December?
Are you visiting Paris in December or even planning to celebrate Christmas in Paris? There are of course Christmas events going on all over town, read on to know what special Christmas-related activities you can do in Paris!
Check here to know what’s open on New Year’s Day in Paris!
≡ go to a Paris Christmas Market while visiting Paris in December
Christmas Markets are rather a tradition known in the east of France, but for some years they are becoming more and more popular in Paris as well. The biggest Christmas Market in Paris is installed usually at La Défense. However, you can find smaller ones although around Montmartre, Trocadero, and Saint Germain. Check here to see a complete list of all planned Christmas Markets in Paris for 2019/2020.
Did you know that the oldest Christmas Market in Europe – and also one of the nicest – is less than 2h away? If you’re keen to get the full Christmas experience, take a day trip to Strasbourg! You can read all about it here.
≡ enjoy the Christmas events at Disneyland Paris
It’s likely you always dreamed about visiting Disneyland and maybe you have it already on your Paris must-do agenda. But know that they are running special events for Halloween and Christmas that you don’t wanna miss! For many Disney is a must when visiting Paris around those events.
≡ see the festive Christmas displays at the big department stores
A must-do for many Christmas fans in Paris is the visit to the big department stores. Not only because the facades of Gallery Lafayette, Le Bon Marche, Printemps Haussmann, and BHV illuminated! The window displays are revealing whole worlds of Christmas scenes with animated figures, wrapped gifts, and everything that goes with it. If you are already at the Galeries Lafayette, don’t miss their excellent food hall! Click here to know more about it!
≡ Go Ice skating at the Grand Palais
There are a few ice skating rinks in Paris during winter time, but the most stunning one is the ice skating rink in the Grand Palais. It’s also the world’s biggest rink with 3000 square meters! It’s installed from the13th of December until the 8th of January and a great activity if you are in Paris for Christmas!
≡ Learn how to cook a traditional French Christmas Dinner
Did you ever wish you could cook a french dish as a real French Chef would cook it? That’s your chance! Take a cooking class in Paris and learn from a professional french Chef how to cook a 3-course Christmas Dinner from scratch! Click here for more information
≡ Enjoy the Christmas decorations and illuminations all over Paris
During Christmas, many Parisian streets are decorated and beautifully illuminated. The most famous illuminations are along the Champs Elysées, but you find them within every neighborhood. For example in the Rue Montorgeuil or the Rue Daguerre. Those streets are excellent places as well to buy french specialties as they are home to many delis.
What to do in Paris on Christmas Day?
If you celebrate Christmas day in Paris, you have so many options to make this day a very memorable one. However, know that many sights and museums are closed on Christmas Day, not the Eiffel Tower though!
≡ Have a Bûche de Noel
The traditional French Christmas cake! A Bûche de Noel is a Yule log made out of sponge cake with buttercream, icing, or/and ganache.
≡ Have a Dinner on Christmas Eve at a Cabaret!
If you are celebrating Christmas Eve in Paris and are looking for a very festive and unique way of spending this special day, check out the Cabarets! Many are hosting special events on Christmas Eve with a festive dinner, Champagne, and of course the famous Cabaret show.
Tip: Those shows are insanely popular and quickly sold out, reserve your spot quick. If you want to be on the safe side, some shows are offering free cancellations up to 24h before the show
≡ attend a Christmas concert
During Christmas in Paris, many classical concerts and chorals are taking place in Paris. Click here to know what’s going on where and purchase your tickets.
≡ Have a Christmas Dinner Cruise on the Seine on Christmas Day!
A very special way of celebrating Christmas day in Paris – or Christmas eve – is on board of a ship! Take a Cruise on the Seine and enjoy a festive 5-course Christmas dinner while enjoying the beautiful view over the illuminated Paris by night.
This tour got very good reviews last year 🙂
≡ Attend a Christmas Mass in Paris
All Parisian churches are obviously celebrating Christmas and you can choose whether you want to go to one of the big churches like the Basilika Sacré Coeur or Saint Sulpice, or attend a service at a local church.
Basilique de Sacré Coeur service times
- 10 pm: Organ concert
- 11 pm: Sung Christmas vigil
- Midnight: Midnight Mass
- Mass: 7 am, 11 am, 6 pm, and 10 pm.
- Vespers: 4 pm
Tip: arrive at least 30 minutes early
Do you need more ideas for your upcoming winter trip to Paris? Or maybe ideas about how to spend those sunny, clear, and cold winter days? Check out our 80 insider tips to explore Paris as a local would. Don’t miss our seasonal Paris guides either, if you are unsure when it’s best to travel to Paris.
If you have any questions about Paris or need some advice and how to plan your trip, don’t hesitate to reach out! I created a Facebook group for this matter and I am available to help you out! Click here to join the Salut from Paris Facebook group!
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