Visiting Paris in the Winter: A Complete Guide

Why the Capital Becomes the "City of Lights"—Squared

Snow in Paris
Picavet/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

The winter months in Paris have a bad reputation for being gloomy, dark, perpetually rainy and low-key. But with cheerful holiday festivities taking the city by storm for a good part of the season, Paris literally lights up more than at any other time of the year. What's more, if you enjoy indoor activities such as visiting museums and cathedrals or spending a few hours reading peacefully in a traditional Parisian cafe while nursing a good cafe creme or chocolat chaud, or perhaps ice-skating in the open air, a winter sojourn in Paris may in fact be ideal for you.

Why to Love It: The Pros

  • Winter festivities and decorations bring a surreal magic to the city, making for especially picturesque evenings out with the whole family. They can also serve as a romantic backdrop for couples taking an end-of-year break together, too.  See details on popular holiday events by scrolling down.
  • It's low season in Paris, meaning you'll have more of the city to yourself and won't likely have to compete with hordes of tourists for entry to exhibits, monuments or when making restaurant reservations. Not to mention the fact that air and train fares are lower than in peak season.

And Now The Cons:

  • The cold, often rainy conditions and short days can admittedly be a bit discouraging (Read related: Paris weather averages, month by month). You may find yourself spending more time indoors than you'd prefer when traveling.
  • Certain attractions and monuments are closed during low season. I recommend checking opening dates and annual closures ahead of time to avoid disappointment. However, this is often overstated: in reality, the summer tends to be the time when you see the most businesses close, as Parisians go off on vacation.

    Month-by-Month Guides to Peruse:

    What to See and Do During the Winter?

    Despite appearances, there's plenty to do during your winter trip to the elegant capital.

    As mentioned above, many of these activities will be indoors, but provided that you pack correctly and bundle up, and it's not too wet out, a wintery walk through a gorgeous Parisian park or an evening stroll around the brilliantly lit streets can be mesmerizing and peaceful. These in-depth guides will all help you pinpoint other seasonally appropriate and cozy things to do, whether you're traveling solo, as a couple, or with the whole family. Striking for a good balance between indoor and outdoor activities will ensure your winter sojourn in the French capital is adventurous and warming in the same right. 

    • Winter holiday lights and decorations in Paris: Each year, the city is illuminated with cheerful holiday decorations and lights in several districts across the capital, and department store windows are a special treat for the whole family. 
    • Celebrating Christmas in Paris: Why not spend this festive occasion in the French capital? There's plenty to see and do to keep the spirit of the holiday season alive and kicking throughout your stay. 
    • Traditional French Christmas Markets: Each year, Alsatian-style wooden lodges pop up in several locations around the city. Sip mulled wine; browse stands selling traditional food, crafts, and toys, and find some authentic holiday gifts for friends and family. 
    • 15 Most Fascinating Paris Monuments and Cathedrals: Irrespective of your spiritual beliefs, the end of the year is a time of peace and contemplation-- and these awe-inspiring places can offer both. 
    • Celebrate the New Year in Paris: From fireworks to champagne and parades on the Champs-Elysées, there's good reason why so many people choose Paris to bring in a brand new year. Find out whether it might be the perfect year-end destination for you. 
    • Celebrating Valentine's Day in Paris: Come February, Paris is generally cold and quiet-- but can still offer a subtly romantic backdrop for couples on this special occasion. 
    • Take Part in Chinese New Year Celebrations in Paris: In January and February every year, festive, colourful celebrations for the Chinese New Year take several districts by storm in the French capital. Learn how to best enjoy this interesting cultural tradition, from attending parades to sampling some excellent local Chinese cuisine.