The Complete Guide to Paris in Winter

Off-Season in the City of Light
Snow in Montmartre Paris. Snow in Montmartre Paris.
November 1, 2022
Thinking about an off-season adventure? If you’re not sure whether Paris should be your destination, read on to find out what it’s like in the city in winter.
Portrait of Urbansider Paris author Alesa
by alesa

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It may not be the most popular time to visit Paris, but winter in the French capital definitely has its advantages including smaller crowds and special seasonal activities.

If you’re wondering whether it’s the right time for you to check out the City of Light, here are the answers to all your questions about planning a trip to Paris in the winter.

When should I go to Paris in winter?

January and February are a good months to go to Paris if you want to avoid the crowds, however the weather is admittedly less than ideal. While it may be cold and grey, a trip in early January is a great time to visit as you’ll  get to enjoy some of the holiday decorations without the crowds you’ll find in December.

Keep in mind, though, that the twinkling lights and festive displays generally disappear by the second week in January. Late February can also be a great time to go to Paris as there tends to be some unseasonably warm and sunshiney days. It’s also drier than January or December. You’re also more likely to get to experience Paris in the snow if you go in February.

In the French capital for the holidays? Let us deliver a beautiful Christmas tree to your Paris apartment.

Paris Christmas Tree Service Orders

How crowded is Paris in winter?

Out of the whole year, January and February are the months with the fewest tourists in Paris. Tourism of course sees an uptick in December for the holidays.  

Paris sky in winter

What’s winter weather like in Paris?

We’ll be honest. The weather in Paris in winter isn’t the best. It’s very grey and December is actually the rainiest month of the year. January is the month with the last amount of sunshine – the sun usually rises around 9am and sets around 5pm. Temperatures are fairly mild in Paris in winter though, with the average low slightly above freezing (37F or 2.7C)  and the average high in the mid 40sF (7.5C).

Snow at Sacré Coeur

What should I pack for winter in Paris?

You should definitely pack a winter coat and gloves if you come to Paris in winter, as well as a scarf to stay warm when the cold wind blows. Aside from those obvious items, you’ll also want to bring an umbrella and some warm, ideally waterproof shoes. Proper snow or rain boots aren’t common though; Parisians usually opt for more stylish footwear.

Paris in winter

What things are there to do in Paris in the winter?

There are a lot of fun winter activities in Paris, including ice rinks, holiday window displays, Paris Fashion week, the winter sales season, and a particularly delicious French tradition.

Late December – mid January: Galette des rois

Around Christmastime, you’ll start to see King Cakes in all the Paris bakeries and supermarkets. A tasty tradition for Epiphany, which arrives on January 6th, enjoying a Galette des rois with friends and family has become a month-long affair. Be sure to buy a bottle (or two) of cider to drink with this delicious treat! Learn more about the French tradition of the Galette des rois.

French tradition of the Galette des Rois, King Cake with a crown.

Early January – early February: Winter sales season

The end of the holidays marks the beginning of the winter sales season, four weeks during which all stores in Paris – and throughout the rest of France – offer special discounts on their wares. From designer brands to artisan boutiques, you’ll find great deals on anything and everything. Discover our suggestions for where to shop the sales in Paris.

Shopping the sales in Paris

Mid-Late January and late February – early March: Paris Fashion Week

Chase away the chills with the hottest fashion. For two weeks in January (Menswear and Haute Couture) and a week at the end of February (Womenswear), the crème de la crème of the fashion world descend on the City of Light to unveil the latest styles.. While the fashion shows are generally reserved to VIPs only – here’s where you’re likely to run into them -,  it’s still electric to be in Paris during Fashion Week.

Models walking down the runway at a fashion show.

Late January: Paris Cocktail Week

Whether you’re an aspiring mixologist or simply a lover of a good mixed drink, Paris Cocktail Week will certainly quench your thirst. During one week in late January, dozens of bars around the city take part in this annual event to bring you the best drinks (both alcoholic and spirit-free) at reduced prices.

Along with offering special happy hours and original craft cocktails, Paris Cocktail Week also proposes mixology workshops so you can learn to make yourself delicious libations. Find all the fizzy festivities here (in French).

Paris cocktail week

Early February: Lunar New Year celebrations

Paris has two neighborhoods which are commonly referred to as “Chinatown”: the 13th Arrondissement and Belleville. Both have big Lunar New Year celebrations and you’ll even find the city streets decorated with lanterns for the holiday. These two districts, as well as a few others, hold annual Lunar New Year parades, with the one in the 13th Arrondissement being the biggest.

Chinese New Year celebrations in Paris

Where can I see Christmas lights in Paris?

Paris does it up for the holidays, with streets like the Champs Elysées and Avenue de Montaigne lighting up every year. Christmas markets pop up all around town and offer charming stands with local products – everything from Made in France teddy bears to chocolates – and are always fun for shopping. Speaking of shopping, Paris’s department stores also get in on the holiday cheer. The Galeries Lafayette Haussmann has an enormous, eye-popping tree suspended beneath its beautiful dome ceiling while Le Bon Marché decks its halls with a veritable forest of tastefully decorated Christmas trees hanging in mid-air. You can find all of our favorite Christmas decorations in Paris here.

Galeries Lafayette Christmas tree 2021. Photo by Galeries Lafayette.
The 2021 Galeries Lafayette Christmas tree. Photo via Instagram @galerieslafayette
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