When it's cold, rainy or dark out in Paris, and particularly during the late autumn and winter months, finding cozy and relaxing things to do is always in order. Luckily, there are plenty of appealing and comforting ways to experience "hygge"— that now-familiar Danish concept of coziness, warmth and contentment — in the French capital. Don't stay out in that cold rain or endure the darkness too long, and risk feeling blue: reach for the light, play with or cuddle a resident cat, warm up with a delicious and soothing hot drink, or duck into someplace warm for shopping and slow ambling. True, Paris doesn't especially have a reputation as a hygge-friendly city, but it can be one if you know where to look. It may be a luxury capital, but it doesn't have to be cold or impersonal.
One of the more obvious, but delicious, ways to bring some hygge to your Parisian stay is to duck into one of the city's excellent tearooms for a cuppa and perhaps some mouth-watering French pastries. When it's forbidding and dark out, especially in November and early December, setting aside some time for a good afternoon tea after exploring the city is an all-but-guaranteed way to inject some hygge into the darkness.
Some favorite places for afternoon tea in the city include Laduree (pictured here), famous for its macarons and Mariages Freres, serving some of the city's best gourmet teas. For a truly elegant outing, you can try tea at the prestigious Ritz or the Hotel Meurice, but we'd argue that the starchier and fancier you get, the less genuinely hygge the experience tends to be.
Closely related to the first item, but still deserving of its own mention, is le chocolat chaud: hot chocolate. On an icy or dark winter day, there's something incredibly soothing and nostalgic about retreating into a place like the much-loved Viennese tearoom Angelina (pictured) for a silky, creamy and rich cup of thick hot chocolate.
Whether you like yours with a dollop of whipped cream, dark and bitter or laced with spices such as ginger, pink peppercorns or chilis, there are plenty of excellent purveyors of the delicious stuff to enjoy around town. Why not duck in for a steaming treat after a brisk walk at the Jardin des Tuileries or a full morning of window shopping? See our full guide to the best hot chocolate in the city for more.
More of a coffee person? Not to worry. Spend an afternoon watching the blustery weather outside from the comfort and old-world charm of one of Paris' classic cafe-brasseries. You may even feel inspired to compose a few lines of dramatic poetry in an old notebook.
Not everyone considers the cinema as falling under the category of hygge, but we happen to disagree. Some days in the French capital are frankly miserable, with icy sleet or wind chills that seem close to Arctic, making outdoor activities far from pleasant. Particularly on these forbidding sorts of days, a matinee or evening at the cinema can be both cozy and inspiring. Whether you're more in the mood to judge the latest Hollywood blockbuster yourself or are up for a retrospective double-feature on classic directors or genres, the French capital is by far one of the world's best places for film lovers. On any given week, some 300 movies are showing on over 100 screens around the capital.
We have a particular soft spot for older, classic cinemas that have been familiar landmarks in Paris for decades. Their cozy, often endearingly vintage interiors and crackly screens probably qualify as hygge far more than a sprawling multiplex does. A few local favorites include the Reflet Medicis (pictured), the adjacent Cinema Champollion, and the Cinema Studio 28, nestled on a quaint street in the oh-so-romantic and cozy Montmartre neighborhood.
Cuddle Parisian Felines at a Cat Cafe
Arriving only a few years ago in the French capital, the concept of the cat cafe has enjoyed modest success among Parisians — although it hasn't taken off nearly as much as in cities such as Tokyo. Assuming you're neither allergic nor afraid of the feline ilk, one of the coziest ways to spend an afternoon is to make your way to the local Cafe des Chats.
The cafe and restaurant, which can be visited without reservations, houses around a dozen cats, all rescued from animal shelters and fully vaccinated. While there are numerous rules operating at the cafe, designed to protect the cats and ensure their well-being (for example, you can't attempt to cuddle them while they're sleeping), for many people their mere presence can instil a sense of coziness and relaxation.
So whether you go for tea, lunch or dinner, a couple of hours surrounded by animals best-known for their lounging and sleeping talents is sure to infuse your day with an extra dose of hygge.
Le Cafe des Chats
9, Rue Sedaine, 11th arrondissement
Metro: Bréguet-Sabin (line 5) or Bastille (lines 1, 5 or 8)
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Friday, 12:00 pm to 10:30 pm; Saturday-Sunday from 12:00 pm to 11:00 pm. Closed Mondays.
Enjoy a Drink at a Hidden Bar
Unlike the English pub which is natively cozy, the typical Parisian bar isn't so much. Most traditional French brasseries and bars offer more elegance and sophistication than they do hygge. Yet there are certain bars in the French capital that maintain a strong sense of style while also imparting something of the coziness and comfort that we all crave on certain days.
From the "library bar" at the St James Hotel (pictured here), lined with handsome old books, to speakeasy-style bars located behind restaurants or laundromats, there are numerous cozy places to enjoy a cocktail or before-dinner drink in Paris.
Enjoy a Cozy Weekend Brunch
When the weekend rolls along, a favorite pastime is a long, lazy brunch, preferably accompanied by a mimosa or Bloody Mary. In the fall and winter, try to snag a table close to the heater (blazing log fires are sadly all but nonexistent in Paris) — and never rush through the meal. Part of the cozy factor is the sheer length of the event!
Go Window Shopping in the Galleries
Built mostly during the 18th and 19th centuries, the beautiful covered galleries that grace certain parts of Paris are some of the most elegant and cozy places to retreat to in the city. Particularly on rainy or icy days, the iconic galleries, otherwise known as arcades and passages in French, offer some much-needed respite from unpleasant weather. They're also steeped in history and old-school charm, with mosaic-tiled floors, elaborate glass roofs, ceiling paintings and decorated iron columns.
A true Parisian tradition is to spend a few hours window-shopping as you slowly wend your way through the galleries, many of them closely connected to one another in the Grands Boulevards district. Browse through rare and beautiful books or maps, admire vintage jewelry, or find an old-world toy for a unique gift. At galleries such as the Vivienne (pictured), you can enjoy lunch or tea before or after your stroll.
Embrace Holiday Festivities
Last but certainly not least place, the end of the year offers myriad ways to soak up some hygge, including Christmas lights, decorations and colorful shop windows to traditional holiday markets. After all, an essential tenet of the Danish concept is to beat the winter blues associated with lack of daylight through comforting rituals such as lighting candles.
During the darkest time of the year, there's something both cheering and comforting about strolling through a market lined with warm wooden chalets, the spicy and sweet scent of mulled wine and cinnamon inviting you to warm your hands and belly. Also make sure to check out the annual holiday lights and decorations that spring up around Paris every year, and the Christmas window displays at department stores such as Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. Most years, there's also a public menorah lit for the occasion of Hanukah in the capital near the Eiffel Tower, allowing you to enjoy the warm glow of candles.