The winter months in Paris have a rather poor reputation for being gloomy, dark, perpetually rainy, and low-energy for events. But that's a rather short-sighted perspective. With cheerful holiday festivities taking the city by storm for a good part of the season, Paris literally lights up in the winter 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.
Paris Weather in Winter
Paris and most of France have what's considered a temperate climate, which is affected by warm and cool air currents coming off the Atlantic Ocean. Temperatures stay cold throughout most of the winter but rarely dip below freezing; average highs stay around 46 degrees Fahrenheit and average lows remain around 36 to 37 degrees Fahrenheit from December, January, and February, with slight variations on overcast or sunny days. Rainfall also stays consistent throughout the year, but winter sees more frequent rainfall and summer sees slightly more total accumulation.
From December through February, you can expect about 10 to 11 days of rain totaling between two and two and a half inches of accumulation per month.
Average Temperatures and Rainy Days by Month:
- December: high of 46 F, low of 37 F, 11 days of rainfall
- January: high of 45 F, low of 36 F, 10 days of rainfall
- February: high of 46 F, low of 36 F, 9 days of rainfall
What to Pack?
Since winters in Paris are traditionally chilly and wet but can have a few days of pleasant, even warm, weather, you'll want to be sure to pack plenty of layers of clothing as well as waterproof shoes and outerwear. Although winter doesn't typically see freezing weather, temperatures in the upper 40s mean that you'll need to bring a heavy winter coat in addition to several long pants and shirts. An umbrella, raincoat, and rain boots are also recommended, especially if you explore the many outdoor attractions and destinations in the city.
Winter Events in Paris
Despite appearances, there's plenty to do during your winter visit to the elegant capital and nearby day trips. 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. 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: 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: 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.
- Tour 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 a 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.
- 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.
- Chinese New Year Celebrations: In January and February every year, festive, colorful events 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.
Winter Travel Tips
- 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.
- Winter is the low season for tourism 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. Air and train fares are also lower than in peak season.
- The cold, often rainy conditions and short days can admittedly be a bit discouraging. You may find yourself spending more time indoors than you'd prefer when traveling.
- Certain attractions and monuments are closed during low season. Be sure to check 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.