Why Paris in Winter Is Always a Good Idea — and What to Do While You're There – Travel + Leisure

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There’s no such thing as a bad time to visit Paris. (Bon, maybe in August, when the French flock south and everything shuts down.) The city retains its romantic charm all year long, with winter offering its own unique appeal: Trees and Haussmannian boulevards gleam with twinkle lights, cafes glow with red heat lamps, and department stores go all out with lavish holiday displays. While the gray gloom (the French have a special word for it: grisâtre) gets old after a while, it lends a rather seasonally appropriate appeal for a shorter séjour.
Whether you’re looking for festive activities to fill up your holiday itinerary, or are wondering what to pack or where to stay, here’s everything to know about how to make the most of your trip to Paris in winter.
While COVID-19 travel regulations are shifting with less whiplash-inducing frequency these days, it’s still a good idea to confirm the latest requirements on the France Diplomacy site as your trip approaches. As of Aug. 1, 2022, there are no longer any barriers to entry for travelers coming from the U.S. Masks are recommended indoors, but no longer required.
The weather in Paris averages a high of around 46 degrees Fahrenheit and a low of 37 degrees Farenheit from December through February — and you're bound to get some dazzlingly sunny days thrown into the mix. For the most part, though, prepare yourself for a grayish drizzle (made significantly more tolerable by easy access to spirit-lifting chocolat chaud or carafes of red wine). While there's a small chance you'll luck out with a white Christmas, in general, it rarely snows in Paris, and it's typically only a dusting when it does.
Keeping the wetter, wintry weather in mind, it’ll serve you well to bring waterproof shoes and layers, as well as a chic and sturdy winter coat. An umbrella and rain boots will come in handy as well.
If there are any particular restaurants on your must-try list, be sure to check that they’ll be open the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, as many take their winter break at that time. (At the very least, many will close on the actual holidays themselves.) Also keep in mind that, throughout the year, many restaurants and shops close on Sundays and Mondays each week, while museums close on Mondays and Tuesdays.
From ice skating to window shopping at festively decorated department stores, there are a range of winter-specific activities to enjoy in Paris.
Rent a pair of skates and glide around against the backdrop of one of Paris's most beautiful buildings, the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall). Located in the heart of the Marais neighborhood, it's a stone's throw from the BHV, a department store that gussies up its windows in true festive fashion.
Stroll through the chestnut-scented Christmas markets that spring up all around the city from late November until early January. Vendors in Swiss-style wooden chalets serve up every soul-warming thing you can think of: hot mulled wine and cider, wheels of raclette, and more. The most famous — and certainly most sprawling — is by the Tuileries Garden, which has expanded into something of a carnival. Other beloved markets (there’s one in nearly every neighborhood) can be found next to Notre Dame and in Montmartre at Place des Abbesses.
Extravagantly festive window displays are the initial draw at beloved department stores like Galeries Lafayette, Printemps Haussmann and Le Bon Marché. From smiling Santas to can-canning gingerbread men, these windows are a glimpse into mini winter villages. Step inside the stores and you’ll be dazzled by the stories-high Christmas trees glittering overhead and twinkle lights decking the halls.
Les soldes (the sales) take place twice a year in Paris and are a shopper's dream, with prices slashed on everything from designer clothes to home goods. The winter sales run from January to February, with markdowns majorly increasing as the weeks go by.
If the weather gets too gloomy for a stroll along the Seine, there’s no shortage of excellent museums and exhibits to pop into all around the city. Whether you’re a fashion fanatic, impressionist lover, or in the market for a vaguely trippy immersive experience, there’s something for every sort of traveler. (Just note that it’s always best to book tickets in advance.)
Some eye-catching expos that are on this winter include the “Claude Monet – Joan Mitchell” exhibit at the Louis Vuitton Foundation (Oct. 5, 2022-Feb. 27, 2023), “Shocking! The Surreal World of Elsa Schiaparelli” at the Decorative Arts Museum (July 6, 2022-Jan. 22, 2023), “Edvard Munch: A Poem of Life, Love, and Death” at the Musée d’Orsay (Sept. 20, 2022-Jan. 22, 2023), Ukrainian photographer Boris Mikhailov’s “At Dusk” at the Bourse de Commerce’s Pinault Collection (Oct. 14, 2022-Jan. 3, 2023), and the immersive digital shows “Cezanne, the Lights of Provence” and “Kandinsky, the Odyssey of Abstraction” at the Atelier des Lumières (Feb. 18, 2022-Jan. 2, 2023).
One of the highlights of winter in Paris is the abundance of bûche de Noël, a traditional Christmas dessert that's essentially a rolled-up sponge cake — but the variations and extravagant formations are endless. Some of the best are found at the Ritz Paris, Hôtel Lutetia and Pierre Hermé.
Whether you’re looking to splurge on the ultimate luxury experience or keep things more budget-friendly, there’s a wide range of hotels to choose from.
For higher-end options, there are few places more synonymous with classic French luxury than the Ritz Paris, in the 1st arrondissement (neighborhood). You’ll get to check out their elegant holiday decor and the newly redesigned Ritz Bar, where you can sip on astrology-themed cocktails.
For a more design-oriented getaway, Philippe Starck’s Brach Paris hotel in the 16th arrondissement oozes new-world cool, with warm wooden paneling, geometric throw pillows, and a jaw-dropping view of the Eiffel Tower from the rooftop garden (complete with a Norwegian bath). Best of all, the sprawling indoor pool and hot tub are open 24 hours.
For more budget-friendly options, you can’t go wrong with the quaint Hôtel Caron de Beaumarchais, a boutique hotel smack in the middle of the Marais, with rooms that run on the smaller side but come equipped with all the charms of old-school Paris, from exposed wooden beams to a delightful breakfast in bed.
Finally, for a more modern getaway, the ’80s-themed Remix Hotel is located in the 19th arrondissement and features neon accents, marble bathrooms, velvet headboards, and checkerboard hallways.
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