Despite the colder temperatures and grey skies, visiting Paris in the winter is still a very good idea. There are so many benefits to a winter trip to Paris including less crowds at the cafes and tourists sights.
Here are some of my favorite things to do in Paris in the winter! Most of the following activities can also be enjoyed easily if visiting Paris in the summer.
Top Things to Do in Paris in the Winter
1. Go Ice Skating
There are pop-up skating rinks all over Paris in the winter, but the most grand is at Le Grand Palais des Glaces that turns into an ice skating rink every winter. What is extra special about this spot is that they have late night session, where the ice skating rink is turned into a dance floor with lights and a live DJ.
2. See a Cabaret Show at Moulin Rogue
Warm up at an evening show at the Moulin Rouge and a bottle of champagne. The magic of the Moulin Rouge resides in the atmosphere that is reminiscent of the Paris of the 19th century. The Moulin Rouge opened in 1889 and has been in operation since then. There was a brief period when the building burnt down in 1915 and rebuilt by 1921.
The Moulin Rouge got its named from a the red windmill (‘moulin rouge’ in French), which was established as a symbol of Paris back in 1889, the year Moulin Rouge opened.
3. Explore the Underground Paris Catacombs
Back in the 18th century, cemeteries around Paris were experiencing overcrowded, so bones were removed and placed underground. Today, beneath the streets of Paris you will find a labyrinth of tunnels lined with human bones and skulls.
Creepy right? Even creepier is that you are able to tour these labyrinths to see for yourself.
If you don’t buy a ticket in advance, your wait time could be many hours, because why wouldn’t these catacombs be a popular and creepy tourist spot. Here are some tips to ensure you don’t waste time on your vacation waiting in line.
- Purchasing your tickets online is the best way to avoid the long lines. Online tickets cost 29 EUR.
- If you have checked online and all times are sold out, consider joining am organized tour which will ensure you skip the lines. Here are some highly rated catacombs tours.
- If the above two options don’t work, your best bet is to arrive early (about an hour before opening) to start waiting in line or an hour before closing. The catacombs open at 10AM and close at 8:30PM when most people have left for dinner.
4. Visit the Museums in Paris
Visiting the museums around Paris is a must do activity in the winter. It is the perfect activity for those grey, rainy or cold winter days! You won’t feel bad about spending the time these museums deserve with the bad weather outside. It is the perfect time to slowly stroll through the museum you have always wanted to visit.
If you are planning to visit multiple museums, check out the Paris Museums Pass: 2, 4 or 6 days with access to more than 60 Paris museums.
The Louvre Museum
I definitely would not show up to the Louvre without buying your ticket in advance. The museum also offers guided tours if that is something you would be interested in. Get your ticket for the earliest time slot available to reduce the time you spend standing in the security lines.
If you want to see the Mona Lisa without a crowd, head straight towards the Denon wing museum entrance after passing through security. Then follow the posted signs pointing toward the Mona Lisa. After you have spent enough time with the Mona Lisa, it is easily the most crowded exhibit, you can make your way through the rest of the museum.
Gustave Moreau Museum in Montmartre
We discovered the Gustave Moreau Museum on our last trip to Paris while wandering around the Montmartre area. I highly recommend it to those that prefer a smaller more intimate feel.
This museum is housed in the beautiful Parisian house of the former Gustave Moreau, who himself turned the second and third stories of his home into a gallery to display his works. If the finished paintings from floor to ceiling don’t leave you with enough to explore, hidden behind protective curtains along the walls, you will find endless drawings and sketches that create the base of some of his finished pieces.
This is one of my favorite museums because it is located in an old train station. There is a huge clock on the fifth floor that looks out over the city. You can even spot the Sacré-Cœur if you look close!
The fifth floor is also my favorite gallery with the impressionist works and many Monet paintings. Check out the interactive map here to see the location of the clock (it’s the one in the far right corner) and a detailed list of all the different paintings.
If you plan to also visit the L’Orangerie museum in the same trip, you can buy a combined ticket here!
The L’Orangerie is a very small museum where the famous Monet Water Lilies paintings are housed. While the museum is small, the rooms are enormous. In each room you are completely surrounded 360 degrees by the lily paintings. You could spend anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour here depending on your typical museum approach!
The Rodin Museum
The Rodin Museum is another great museum to visit if you enjoy sculptures as this museum is dedicated to the work of the famous French sculptor Auguste Rodin. You can purchase tickets here, and there is an option for a combined d’Orsay and Rodin ticket.
Palais de Tokyo Museum
The Palais de Tokyo is a modern and contemporary art museum near the Trocadéro. The eastern wing of the building belongs to the City of Paris, and houses the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris. The western wing belongs to the French state and since 2002 has hosted the Palais de Tokyo, the largest museum in France dedicated to temporary exhibitions of contemporary art. You can purchase your tickets in advance here.
Other Less Known Museums
- Musée des Egouts – at this museum you can learn about the history of sewers from the times of Lutèce (the city in present day Paris before the Romans came). Tickets are free to this museum!
- Musée de Montmartre – a museum about the history and the artists of Montmartre. Tickets are 13 EUR and can be purchased in advance here.
- Musée Gourmand du Chocolat – if you like chocolate, head to this museum for a general tour or you can participate in a 45 minute workshop to make your own chocolates. Book tickets and workshops in advance here.
- Fragonard Parfum Musée – did you know that the Egyptians were responsible for the origin of perfume over 2000 years ago? This is just one of the many facts you can learn about perfume at this museum for free!
5. Explore the Indoor Passage Ways
There are many covered passage ways in Paris which are dating back to the 1800’s and make you feel instantly like you are stepping back in time. I like to think of the movie “Midnight in Paris” and pretend like I am being transported back to the 19th century in Paris. My favorites are Galerie Vivienne (4 Rue des Petits Champs) and Passage Jouffroy (10-12 Boulevard Montmartre) as they are the most beautiful and have the most authentic Parisian goodies for shopping.
Others Parisian Passage ways to explore
- Passage Brady – 43 rue du Faubourg-Saint-Martin, 10th, metro Chateau-d’Eau
- Galerie Véro-Dodat – 19 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau1
- Passage Molière – 161 rue Saint-Martin, 3rd, metro Rambuteau
- Passage du Caire – 2 place du Caire, 2nd, metro Sentier
- Passage de Choiseul – 2nd arrondissement, metro Quatre-Septembre
- Passage des Panoramas – 10 Rue Saint-Marc
- Passage du Prado – 10th arrondissement, metro Strasbourg Saint-Denis
6. Enjoy the Indoor Restaurants in Paris
On our last trip to Paris we decided to try the much raved about Pink Mamma Italian restaurant in the trendy Montmartre area. I have previously thought that while in Paris I could not cheat on French cuisine by having anything other than French onion soup, croissants and pastries the whole trip. Well this place changed my whole outlook. The food was absolutely phenomenal and the atmosphere was so vibrant yet cozy on a chilly winter day.
Pro Tip: Pink Mamma gets extremely crowded, so reservations are recommended. If you aren’t able to secure a reservation, either show up right when they open for lunch, or forgo the table for a seat at the kitchen bar for a unique experience.
Other Restaurants for Winter in Paris
Rivié at The Hoxton, 30-32 Rue du Sentier – The Hoxton hotel opened in Paris in 2017 with a super chic vibe. It is a cozy place to enjoy a meal at the Rivié restaurant eve if you aren’t staying at the hotel. They also have a wine bar and a cocktail bar on the top level.
Le Soufflé – 36 Rue du Mont Thabor – Le Soufflé is a fun spot to warm up over a traditional soufflé, a baked egg-based dish originating in France in the early eighteenth century. They have a lunch menu that is fixed at 29 EUR for a soufflé, dessert, drink, and coffee.
Les Fondus de la Raclette,107 Ave Parmentier – Raclette is a dish originally from Switzerland that heats an entire wheel of cheese and scrapes off the melted part onto bread or meats. The inside of this restaurant is decorated like a swiss ski chalet, and the warm cheese is guaranteed to warm you up.
Le Refuge des Fondus, 17 Rue des Trois Frères – this is a quirky spot in Montmartre that serves red and white wine out of baby bottles and there are two things on the menu: cheese fondue or meat fondue. Come here early as there are only two long tables inside the tiny restaurant.
Les Pipos, 2 Rue de l’École Polytechnique – Located in the Latin Quarter of Paris, this is a fun area to spend a night people watching from a patio. Les Pipos has been on of our favorite French restaurant finds, with a no frills approach to French food which is very much appreciated. It is technically a wine bar, but the food is just simply amazing.
7. Also Enjoy the Outdoor Cafes in Paris
A true Parisian isn’t phased by the winter weather. You will see many people still enjoying their coffees on outside patios in the winter in Paris. However, there will be certain hotels with rooftop patios that will be closed during the winter months and reopen in April or May with the warmer temperatures.
Some of my favorite cafés for a winter in Paris
Saint-Germain des Prés Neighborhood
Angelina, many locations around Paris – visit here to warm up in the afternoon with the best hot chocolate in the city and pair it with a delicious pastry
Café de Flore, 172 Boulevard Saint-Germain – one of the oldest and most famous brasseries in Paris. Locals and tourists alike come here to enjoy the patio and be seen all year round.
Les Deux Magots, 6 Place Saint-Germain des Prés – another famous Parisian cafe, and right across the street from Cafe de Flore. Order some mussels and warm fries.
Le Bonaparte, 42 Rue Bonaparte – not as famous as the top two recommendations, but the outdoor seating is still abundant and the prices are better than its famous counterparts.
Brasserie Lipp, 151 Boulevard Saint-Germain – there is an enclosed outdoor patio for those really chilly winter days.
Le Café Marly, 93 Rue de Rivoli – there is a beautiful covered terrace overlooking the Louvre.
Le Nemours, Galerie de Nemours, 2 Place Colette – right at the entrance to the Palais Royal you will find people sitting out here all year round. The monochromatic Parisian cafe chairs outside make for a great picture too!
Really you can’t go wrong with any café that is close by when you are ready for an afternoon coffee or some lunch.
8. Enjoy the Rooftop Bars Even in the Winter
Most rooftop bars are closed during the winter, but there are a handful that operate year round.
- Café de l’Homme, 17 Place du Trocadéro – $$$$
- L’Oiseau Blanc & The Rooftop, 19 Avenue Kléber – $$$$
- Terrass” Restaurant & Bar, 12 Rue Joseph de Maistre – $$
- Le Georges, 6th Floor du Centre Georges Pompidou Place Georges Pompidou – $$$
9. Take a Cooking Class or a Pastry Making Class
Winter in Paris is the perfect time to sign up for a French cooking class or a pastry making class. Some of the best experiences I have had while traveling are on cooking and local market tours. They are a really good way to immerse yourself into local culture as food is at the heart of every society. Once you can see how the locals shop, what types of foods they would typically buy from the market, and make traditional dishes yourself, you will feel a new connection to the city and the culture.
Here are some highly rated cooking classes in Paris:
If you are more into desserts, you can sign up to learn how to make those perfect fluffy macarons.
If you have ever wondered how to make the perfect croissant, there is no better place to learn than taking a Parisian bread making class in Paris.
Fun Fact: Most people think that croissants are originally French, however the origins date back to the “Kipferl” from Austria, which means crescent in the Austrian German language. When they were introduced in France, the name was changed to the French meaning of crescent, “croissant”.
10. Attend an Opera or Ballet at the Palace Garnier
The Palace Garnier is an ornate opera house located in the Place de l’Opéra in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, France. It was built under the instructions of Emperor Napoleon III. The Palace Garnier is a symbol of Paris right along side the Notre Dam and the Eiffel Tower. You will be able to spot the gold details of the Opera House for miles away. Be sure to check out the opulence of the inside as well.
If you are just interested in touring the space, you can book a highly rated tour of the Palace Garnier. If you want to attend a ballet performance or Opera, you can check out the upcoming schedule and purchase tickets directly from Palace Garnier here.
11. Browse for a Good Book at Shakespeare & Co
Shakespeare & Co is a little bookstore that has made quite a name for itself in Paris. Shakespeare & Co is an English language bookstore founded by Sylvia Beach, and American expat, in 1919. This is the very bookstore where Beach went on to publish James Joyce’s “Ulysses.”
During the 1920s, Beach’s bookstore and library was a gathering place for many then-aspiring writers and poets as Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and Ford Madox Ford.
The original Shakespeare & Co. was forced to close in 1941 during the German occupation of Paris. Beach was arrested and imprisoned for six months by Nazi authorities. At the end of the war, Beach was released from prison but was too sick to reopen Shakespeare & Co. In 1951, the bookstore was re-opened again by American George Whitman, originally calling it “Le Mistral,” until he renamed the bookstore to “Shakespeare and Company” as a tribute to Beach.
Today, you are able to visit and walk around this piece of history which still serves as a bookstore and a free library that is open to the public. On a cold winter day in Paris, you can’t feel bad about stopping by this spot and cozying up with a good book!
12. Cruise Down the Seine River in a Bateaux Mouche
One of the best ways to get a tour of Paris is by boat. The bateaux mouche that cruise down the Seine offer a wide range of guided tours, to brunch, lunch or romantic dinner cruise options.
13. Explore the Christmas Markets in Paris in December
By mid-December, you can find Christmas markets in about every neighborhood of Paris. Some of the most notable Christmas markets are: Marché de Noël at Notre Dame, Le Village de Noël at Les Halles, Abbesses Christmas Market at Montmartre, Marché de Noel at Saint Germain des Prés, and Village de Noël at the Eiffel Tower. Christmas markets in Europe usually stay open until the first week of January.
14. Admire the Christmas Decorations around Paris
Elaborate Christmas decorations pop up all around Europe starting the first of December. And elaborate Christmas décor in Paris is no different.
Check out the decorations at the Notre Dame and the Christmas tree outside the front entrance.
Note: there was a fire in 2019 at the Notre Dame and currently the church is undergoing renovations. This may affect your ability to visit.
Even Paris department stores are decked out to the nines for Christmas. One of the best places to see elaborate décor is at the Galeries Lafayette department store.
15. Visit the Christmas Events at Disneyland Paris
If you are visiting over Christmas time, it is a magical experience to visit the Christmas events at Disneyland Paris.
Weather in Paris in the Winter
The winter days in Paris are shorter and darker. The weather can be gloomy and wet. There is a higher chance of rain, and even snow, in January and February in Paris. However, the temperatures are not drastically colder than anywhere else in Europe.
Average Temperatures in Paris in the winter
December 4°- 8°C (39°- 47°F)
January 3°- 8°C (37°- 46°F)
February 3°- 9°C (37°- 48°F)
These temperatures are chilly December through February, but with the right clothing and accessories, it shouldn’t stop you from being outside and exploring all day. Rain or even snow in Paris during the winter is a possibility, but don’t let that stop you from planning a trip during this time. You can build your itinerary with my suggestions below that will make even a snowy winter trip to Paris magical!
What to Wear in Paris in the Winter
Grab your most fashionable coat, a warm scarf, and some weather-proof boots and you will be perfectly happy exploring the streets of Paris in the winter all day long! Here are some of my favorite options that will keep you warm and blend in with Parisian street style.
Weather-proof boots – I wore this pair of water-proof booties all around Europe in the winter. Living in Germany meant that water-proof winter gear was necessary, and these lasted me 2 years of constant wear. I highly recommend the Blondo brand as well for their weather-proof line that is equally as stylish.
Warm Scarf – Make sure to grab a warm scarf that you have laying around at home to pack in your suitcase. This is a great way to keep your neck and ears warm on those windy days.
Fashionable Coat – Look for a warm coat with clean lines in a dark color. I like to call this Parisian chic.
Leather Gloves – a nice pair of cashmere lined leather gloves will keep your hands warm while you explore.
Getting Around Paris in the Winter
The metro is Paris will run in any type of weather. Therefore, if you are comfortable dragging your luggage through the rain or snow, up and down stairs, then taking the metro will be the cheapest option. A one-way metro ticket will be 1.90 EUR or you can buy a book of ten tickets, or even a weekly pass.
If it is too rainy or snowy, grab an Uber or a taxi. We have taken a handful of taxis in Paris before when it was early in the morning and we just wanted to fastest option.
On traveling days, or days spent walking outside, it is good to have a pair of waterproof boots to keep your feet dry all day.
Tips to Visiting Paris in the Winter
Embrace the Winter Weather in Paris
If you set your expectations that it will be rainy and grey during your trip, then any sunshine will be a great surprise. Paris in the rain is actually quite nice. It rarely rains too hard, and walking the streets of Paris with an umbrella in the rain is a Parisian experience of its own.
Christmas Time is Actual High Season in Paris
Yes, technically the winter in Paris is low season for travel. Starting November 1st, you will be able to enjoy cheaper hotel rates, and shorter lines around the city. However, beginning a few weeks before Christmas and lasting till the first week on January, are usually higher volume weeks. This is because most people around the world have vacation time around these weeks, and use them to visit Christmas lights and Christmas markets.
Hopefully now you have a full itinerary for a winter in Paris! Let me know in the comments what are your favorite things to do in Paris in the wintertime!
You may also enjoy:
- The Complete Guide to the Best of Paris
- Spring in Paris: The Best Spots for Blossoms
- The Prettiest Streets in Paris & the History
- Where to Stay in Paris: Best Arrondissement for Every Traveler
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