Visiting Paris in January: Weather, What to Pack, What to See

  • 01 of 02

    Longer Days and Laid-Back Evenings

    Paris in the late winter: quietly magical.
    ••• Paris in the late winter: quietly magical and poetic. Berthold Trenkel/Getty Images

    Describing late winter in Paris, the American novelist and one-time resident Ernest Hemingway wrote:

    When we came back to Paris it was clear and cold and lovely. The city had accommodated itself to winter (...) there were braziers outside of many of the good cafes so that you could keep warm on the terraces (...) on the streets the winter light was beautiful. Now you were accustomed to see the bare trees against the sky and you walked on the fresh-washed gravel paths through the Luxembourg gardens in the clear sharp wind.

    Hemingway's portrait of his favorite adopted city is an apt description for Paris in January. The early-winter drowsiness has passed, the holiday hoopla has died down, and the New Year announces itself nicely with gradually longer days and the crisp, clean winter ambiance that comes with a drop in temperatures and (generally) clearer skies.

    Read related feature: Most Inspiring Quotations About Paris 

    Recovering from their holiday excess, Parisians flood the streets and...MORE well-heated terraces to reunite with friends-- and, of course, to hit the winter soldes (sales), a Parisian ritual that borders on religious. For shopping aficionados, January is definitely a great time to be in the city of light.

    Some More Pros to Consider:

    Since this is low season in Paris, you should be able to get a good deal on flights in January, especially if you reserve one to two months ahead of your trip. 

    Because tourism is in low-tide mode compared to the spring or summer, visiting January in Paris also provides great opportunities for really lingering in some of the city's best spots for art and culture, such as the Musee d'Orsay or the Centre Pompidou. You'll finally be able to take as much time as you want contemplating your favorite paintings or monuments.

    Finally, January is a great time to spend time in the warmth and charm of Paris' many cafes, so be sure to pack plenty of books and magazines for your trip. For those interested in Paris intellectual history, cafe-hopping in the city's historical Latin Quarter or in Saint-Germain-des-Prés would be a great way to spend part of a day.

    Outdoor activities aren't out of the question either: from ice skating in the open air to day trips just outside the city (a wintery and contemplative walk in Versailles' garden can, for example, be lovely in January)

    And Now the Cons...

    January certainly isn't to everyone's liking. If you dislike cold and wet weather, enjoy lots of sunny outdoor activities like picnics and boating, and prefer to visit a city when it's at it's most open, Paris at this time of year is perhaps not for you. 

    SEE NEXT PAGE: January Weather Forecast, and How to Pack 

    Ready to Book Your Trip Now?

    If so, lock in a good deal on flights and hotels early by consulting travel sites like TripAdvisor (book direct). You can also book train tickets and passes direct at Rail Europe.  Finally, to find a hotel that's right for you, I recommend browsing reader reviews at Trip Advisor (book direct). 

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  • 02 of 02

    The January Thermometer, and How to Pack Your Bags

    Paris in winter on the Champs-Elysees
    ••• Paris in winter on the Champs-Elysees. Picavet/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

    As mentioned on the previous page, the first month of the year in the French capital tends to be cold, with occasional icy rain. Snow's not generally in the picture, but when it does come, it tends to melt fairly quickly, leaving a slushy mess. This is why being well-prepared will ensure you stay warm, high and dry. Here's more on how. 

    The Average January Thermometer:

    • Minimum temperature: 2 degrees C (35.6 degrees F)
    • Maximum temperature: 6 degrees C (42.8 degrees F)
    • Average temperature: 3 degrees C (37.4 degrees F)
    • Average rainfall: 46 millimeters (1.8 inches)

    How to Pack Your Suitcases for a January Trip?

    January in Paris is generally pretty cold, and it's not uncommon to see the mercury dip below zero. Clearer skies than in November or December and wind chill can make the cold seem more biting. So make sure you line your suitcase with lots of warm sweaters, coats, scarves, warm socks, and a hat that will protect your ears.

    Although heavy rains are less common in January, Paris is...MORE well-known for its erratic and sudden downpours. So packing an umbrella that can withstand a wet, gusty day is definitely a must.

    Make sure to pack a good pair (or two) of waterproof shoes. Shoes with good tread and grip are important, because the streets can be slick and icy in January. Especially when exploring hilly areas like Montmartre, wearing proper footwear will ensure you don't take a slide (or worse, a fall). When there is snow, it tends to melt when it hits the ground, creating  potentially treacherous icy and slushy terrain. This is why, in my humble opinion, high heels and dress shoes are not ideal for walking around the city in January-- at least not for any length of time. 

    Bring a pair of high-quality gloves to make sure you don't let cold hands distract you from the sights. They may not be necessary in the end, but they're good to have on hand.

    Think about packing a few books and magazines you've been dying to read in case you decide to spend a cozy morning or afternoon reading in a cafe.

    If you're planning to hit the Paris sales, keep your cash safe with a money belt: Compare Prices

    Compare Travel Packages and Book Your January Trip:

    January is low season, which generally means that there are good deals to be had on lodging and flights. Find a package that fits your budget and needs by browsing deals at TripAdvisor (book direct). Taking the train? You can book tickets and passes now at Rail Europe.  

    Finally, to find the perfect hotel or other accommodations, whether you're traveling solo, as a couple or with the kids in tow, make sure to get the opinions of everyday travelers by reading reviews at Trip Advisor