Paris in Winter – even just saying it feels magical.
My first trip to Paris a few years ago was during the first weekend of December. In my head, I’d imagined dark evenings so that the Eiffel Tower could dazzle me even more than usual, shopping at Christmas Markets, marvelling at designer shop window displays and standing in awe of a giant Christmas tree at Notre Dame.
And I have to say… Paris did not disappoint.
If any of these things also feel like the dream for you this Winter, then here’s my round-up of the best things to do in Paris at this time of year, plus useful info on what you need to know and recommendations for the best places to stay in Paris during the Winter period…
Paris in Winter: Things to Know
If you’re wondering how cold Paris is in the Winter, or how busy it gets in December (the most festive month of the year), then read on for the top things you need to know.
Winter in Paris Weather
Average temperatures during a Paris Winter are usually between 5°C – 8°C (41°F – 46°F). You should expect rain and (very occasionally) snow.
Christmas Crowds in Paris
Unlike travel destinations famed for sea, sun and cocktails, Paris doesn’t really slow down during the Winter months. In fact, Paris keeps things lively with its various Christmas Markets, eye-catching shop window displays and festive activities. This means you should expect more crowds in Paris than during the Autumn/Fall months, but it’s still much quieter than a Summer in Paris. Where you’ll notice the crowds more is when queuing for top museums and attractions (especially if you’re waiting outside in the cold), but please don’t let this put you off. Wrap up warm, drink some mulled wine and prepare yourself to be in awe of a city that totally comes to life during the festive period.
Christmas Shopping in Paris
Paris is an incredible place to start (and finish) your Christmas shopping. From various markets dotted around the city, to designer stores and traditional malls, you’re sure to find something special for every single one of your loved ones. With this in mind, expect most stores in Paris to extend their opening hours, such as staying open during the lunch period and until at least 7pm most days of the week.
Paris Transport at Christmas
With so much Christmas trade and tourism going on in the City of Lights, Paris public transport remains open (even on Christmas Day). You’ll need to check individual opening times and transport running times, but the main thing is not to panic that you’ll become stranded in Paris over Christmas. Parisians know how to do Christmas in style, and that includes how to keep public transport ticking over throughout the festive period.
Paris Museums & Attractions
Winter is also a great time to visit some of Paris’s top museums and attractions including the Louvre, Notre Dame and Musée d’Orsay, with some of them even offering free entry on certain days. For example, stay in Paris over the first Sunday of the month, and you can get free entry to Musée d’Orsay and the Pompidou Centre among others. Or… stay in Paris on a Friday night and wander into the Louvre totally free of charge! This guide is pretty good for those of you looking to visit Paris on a budget.
Paris in Winter: Cosy Things To Do
With some of the formalities out of the way, now it’s time for my personal list of some of the best things to do and attractions to see during a cosy Winter in Paris. Which one will be first on your list?
1. Marvel at the Christmas Decorations at Galeries Lafayette
The Galeries Lafayette is a large department store split across several levels and its Christmas decorations are a wonder to behold. With a different theme every year, you’ll have fun coming back here year after year after year after… (You get my drift…)
2. Wonder at Interesting Art at Palais de Tokyo
When the weather turns colder, this is the perfect time to step inside some of Paris’s best museums and art galleries. Palais de Tokyo is quirky, cool and is set to amaze you for several art-filled hours.
3. Sip Delicious Hot Chocolate at Café de Flore
Café de Flore is Paris’s equivalent to Fortnum and Mason or One Aldwych in London. It’s THE place to come to for luxury, class and the most incredible hot chocolate.
4. Get into the Festive Mood at Notre Dame
Notre Dame is always a good idea… (See what I did there Audrey Hepburn?) But none is this more the case than when visiting the Notre Dame in the run up to the Christmas period. Outside, you’ll find a giant, magical Christmas tree, whilst inside, you’ll find a dazzling nativity scene.
5. Shop for Christmas Gifts at the Champs-Élysées Christmas Market
Although Paris launches up Christmas Markets throughout the city, the Champs-Élysées Christmas Market is (in my opinion) the most special. With the Eiffel Tower glinting down at you from across the river, and the surrounding shops showing off beautiful Christmas window displays and dazzling lights, you can’t go wrong with spending several hours roaming the gift and food stalls here.
6. Watch the Eiffel Tower Light Show
Although the Eiffel Tower lights up every evening, Winter is the quickest and easiest way to see it in its magical splendour. Why? Well, that’s just because the sun sets earlier. And with the various Christmas lights around the city also lit up, this makes for a truly magical photo opp.
7. Act Like Kids on the Best Parisian Carousels
Ahh, Parisian carousels. These are in abundance across Instagram and it’s totally easy to see why. There’s something magical and child-like about them, which really is the very essence of Christmas. Some of the best Parisian carousels can be found near: Hôtel de Ville, the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur and the Trocadero side of the Pont de’lena.
8. Get Cultured at the Louvre
With its lights shining down on the water fountain right outside, the Louvre is extra special during Winter evenings. Plus, it’s warm inside so you can shelter from the cold, whilst marvelling at exquisite masterpieces including the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and the Great Sphinx of Tanis.
9. Go to a Jazz Club for Live Music
Paris + Jazz: There’s something so quintessentially Parisian about that thought, isn’t there? Although Jazz Clubs (and live music) can be found throughout Paris year-round, they’re even more cosy during the Winter months. Keep your eyes peeled for flyers and posters dictating where the happening place to be is whilst you’re in town, or for the planners among you, scout out the best jazz clubs now.
10. Dream in Chocolate at Artisan Chocolate Shop: La Cure Gourmande
The closer it gets to Christmas-time, the more and more I dream in creamy chocolate. From advent chocolates every day throughout December, to sharing chocolates under the Christmas tree, it’s almost like chocolate was made for this time of year. And when in Paris, your chocolate dreams will be fulfilled by La Cure Gourmande (a magical artisan chocolate shop).
11. Shop for Christmas Gifts in Parisian Covered Passages
Within Europe, you’ll find a scattering of passages (often hidden), which are basically just shops under a covered walkway. And when in Paris, these are the best places to come for your Christmas shopping. Some of my favourites include: Passage du Grand-Cerf, Galerie Vivienne and Passage du Caire.
12. Flick Through Books at the Shakespeare & Company Book Shop
Aside from travel, one of my other great loves is books. Preferably, old ones that smell dusty. And the Shakespeare & Company Book Shop have these in abundance (as well as new ones, of course)! Flicking through books is the perfect Sunday Wintertime activity.
13. Get Inspired by the ‘Fireflies on the Water’ Art Exhibit
Paris, often nicknamed the City of Lights becomes the City of Fairy Lights during the festive months, making this the perfect time to get inspired by Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Fireflies on the Water’ art exhibit at the Centre Pompidou de Metz.
14. Try Ice Skating at Hôtel de Ville
Found outside Hôtel de Ville is a magical icy playground. At just €5 for skate hire and free entry, you won’t have to spend much to get into the festive mood this year!
15. Chill Out in Your Parisian Apartment
When your feet are tired and when the cold has rosied your cheeks, this is the perfect time to chill out in your own Parisian apartment. Airbnb is full of them, and if you sign-up with this link now, you’ll get £25 off your first stay. Lovely!
Paris in Winter: Where to Stay
And speaking of Parisian apartments, now seems like the perfect time to round-up some of my recommendations on where to stay in the city…
Where old Parisian grandeur meets luxury, you’ll never forget you’re waking up in Paris when staying at the Louvre Elegant ChicSuites.
Modern and oh-so-cute, there are a couple of these different apartments to choose from for a decent price in a great location.
The Sweet Inn Les Halles apartments are where quirky meets colour and style. And with several different locations to choose from, you’re sure to find an apartment (or two) you love within this cool selection!
Where do you think you will visit first? And have I missed anything? What other things to do are best during a magical Winter in Paris? Drop me a line in the comments section below…
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