Visiting Paris in December: What to See and Do?

  • 01 of 02

    When the City of Light Truly Lives Up To Its Name

    Christmas Village Trocadéro
    ••• Christmas Village at the Trocadéro. Atlantide Phototravel / Getty Images

    In December, Paris bursts out of its sleepy autumn quiet and lights up-- literally and figuratively. It's known year-round as the city of light, but in the final monh, one could say that it really lives up to the name. Trees up and down the Champs-Elysées are strung with garlands of shimmering light, and many other places around the city are decorated in the same festive, and decidedly elegant, way.

    If you have kids in tow, they're in for a real treat: An ice-skating rink is set up on the plaza outside of Hôtel de Ville (Paris City Hall), and other rinks also take over squares in neighborhoods across town. "Santa's villages" complete with toboggans and snow are sometimes on the menu, and every year without fail Christmas markets spring up all around the city, with their warm wood-roofed booths, vin chaud (hot wine), enchanting decorations and gifts and gourmet treats. Chanukah celebrations like menorah lightings add to Paris' holiday-season charm. There are also...MORE plenty of ways to celebrate a memorable Christmas in Paris.

    With all the good cheer, Paris in December is nonetheless fairly relaxed, making the month an ideal time to take advantage of the city's many sights and attractions. Take your time exploring museums, sipping cinnamon-infused hot wine, warming your hands and insides with some thick, gooey hot chocolate, or attending a special holiday concert. Have a real retreat from the holiday madness back home and try taking Paris in frame by frame, like a painter would.

    Because of the seasonal rush and a corresponding spike in fares, travel to Paris in December can be costly-- so make sure to reserve your plane or train tickets well in advance.

    Ready to Book Your End-of-Year Trip Now?

    If so, search for deals on hotels and flights several months in advance by browsing trusted sites such as TripAdvisor (book direct). Prefer to travel by train? Book high-speed rail and discounts passes at Rail Europe. 

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  • 02 of 02

    Average Weather in December, and How to Pack Your Suitcase

    Paris Snow
    ••• Snow isn't very common in Paris-- but when it does fall, it's usually slushy. Martial Colomb/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

    December in the French capital is generally cold, and often rainy or icy. Temperatures often approach zero-- and sometimes descend below freezing.

    Snow is rare, however, and when it does come it usually melts on hitting the ground, often turning into a sludgy slush that can be both irritating and dangerous to navigate without good traction on your shoes. Wind chill can make cold seem more biting.

    The December Thermometer:

    • Minimum temperature: 3 degrees C (37.4 degrees F)
    • Maximum temperature: 7 degrees C (44.6 degrees F)
    • Average temperature: 4 degrees C (39.2 degrees F)
    • Average monthly rainfall: 49 millimeters (1.9 inches)

    How to Pack Your Suitcase?

    • Make sure to stock your suitcase with warm cotton or wool sweaters, scarves, coats, and socks. Bring at least one or two warm turtlenecks, and line your bags with clothes that are easy to layer.
       
    • A sturdy umbrella is a must, as flimsier ones often won't withstand sudden downpours or gusts of wind.
       
    • Bring at least two pairs of shoes, both...MORE waterproof. One pair should provide good traction in case of snow or ice. Heels should be reserved for indoor events as the streets can be slick or icy. If your feet get cold easily, bring a pair of comfortable waterproof boots.
       
    • A pair of light waterproof gloves and a hat can make walking around more comfortable, but you won't need anything approaching snow or ski gear. Places like New York and Chicago get much colder in the winter.
       
    • Toting around a small thermos for hot drinks can be a good way to keep motivated in the Paris winter wonderland.
       
    • One more word of advice on packing: since this is shopping season, you may want to think about packing as lightly as you can to reserve space in your suitcase for holiday delicacies or gifts you plan to bring back home.

     Book Your December Trip:

    Lock in a good deal on flights and hotels early by consulting sites like TripAdvisor (book direct). Taking the train? Book high-speed rail and discounts passes at Rail Europe. 

    Finally, if you're seeking the perfect accommodations but don't know where to start, you can browse thousands of reader reviews and book hotels direct at TripAdvisor