23 reasons to visit Paris in Winter
Our picknick covers are tucked away and with faint regrets we’re bidding farewell to the mild Parisian summer nights. To chilled beers and wine in plastic cups, to pot luck dinners along the Seine and the good company of friends and strangers. Winter is coming (yeah, I know…). It will be cold in Paris during winter, and probably often grey, wet and windy. But that doesn’t mean that your city trip to Paris in winter is doomed to failure. Quite the contrary! Paris offers activities for all seasons, and we summed up the top things to do in Paris in winter:
1. visit a museum – one of the best things to do in Paris in winter to stay warm
Thats obvious and so are the famous Parisian museums like Louvre or Musée d’Orsay, but did you hear about those ones?
- Musée des Egouts the museum of the parisian canalisation – the history of sewers from the times of Lutèce until today
- see fairgrounds, cabinets of curiosity in theMusée des Arts Forains
- Musée de la Magie an exhibition about magic, illusions and automats that offers as well magic workshops
- Musée de Montmartre a museum about the history and the artists of Montmartre
Do you need more ideas for some indoor culture during your Paris vacation? Click here for a full list of museum in Paris.
2. put that skates on! – Go ice skating at the most famous locations in Paris
During winter season, several ice skating rinks are installed all around town and it’s one of the best winter activities in Paris during winter. For example at the Christmas Market at the Champs Elysée or in front of the Hôtel de Ville (!!both are closed in 2017, check here for alternatives) . If it’s too uncomfortable outside to enjoy ice-skating outside, just use the indoors rink in the Accor Arena.
3. take some “me time” at a Spa
There is really nothing better on a cold and rainy Parisian winter day than spending a few relaxing hours in a Spa. Personally, I have been a few times to the Lush Spa and I liked it a lot. You need to book quite in advance though and well, you need to like Lush. For everyone else and also for the more spontaneous traveler I can recommend Massage Concept. It’s not as fancy but good value for money.
4. explore the Covered Galleries
Escape the rain and the cold with a stroll from one covered passage to the next. Most of them are close by so it’s really a good themed walk through Paris on a wet day. (I found this excellent map, check it out)
5. enjoy Paris during Winter from the comfort of a boat: take a trip with a Bateau Mouche
Despite all the clichés, it is actually a very nice thing to do and probably one of the most romantic things you can do in Paris in the winter. I lived in Paris for years when I took a Bateau Mouche for the first time and the change of perspective was simply amazing. Plus, you can sit comfy inside. You could even have dinner there!
6. see the festive Christmas displays at the big department stores
A must-do for many Christmas fans in Paris is the visit of the big department stores. Not only are the facades of Gallery Lafayette, Le Bon Marche, Printemps Haussmann and BHV illuminated. The window displays are revealing whole worlds of Christmas scenes with animated figures, wrapped gifts and everything that goes with it.
7. attend a reading at “Shakespeare and Company” or Barkelys
There are quite a few American book stores in Paris and most of them are hosting regularly events like concerts or readings. Check out the programs of Shakespeares and Company or Berkeley Books of Paris, there is always something going on.
8. see a concert
it can be overtaxing to find the good gig, especially in a city like Paris with a uncountable venues, bars and open mic sessions. Check out the list of Parisian Venues and find the right place for you. Also have a look at the concert calendar, at fnac.fr or ticketmaster
9. have fun at a Pub Quiz
That tradition is well established in Paris and you find Quiz Nights in basically all Irish, English and Scottish pubs, but also in a hand full of “not UK themed” Bars. For example at The Highlander on Sundays and sometimes as well at le Petit Joseph Dijon
10. put on your coat and have a walk – a classic activity when visiting Paris in winter
Winter time in Paris is cold but it’s not like batshit crazy freezing. Put on a winter coat, a scarf and maybe a bonnet and you’re good to go outside to enjoy the humidity that will crawl up your legs and bones. Nah, don’t worry haha 🙂 Having a walk in Paris in winter along the Seine, the Bois de Boulogne, or Bois de Vincennes is always nice. Or just walk around Montmartre, the Père Lachaise cemetery, or the Marais. Just get outside, it’s worth it!
11. see the parades for the Chinese new year
The asian quarter in Paris is the largest Chinatown in Europe. So obviously there are parades for the Chinese new year. The biggest one takes place near Place d’Italie, be there early to get a good spot!
12. go shopping
Sayin’ Paris is decent for shopping is prior understatement. If the weather is not on your side, check out Les Halles, Le 4 Temps at La Defense or La Beaugrenelle, some of the biggest shopping malls in and around Paris.
13. sign up for an Escape Game
It’s not super cheap and you have to book in advance, but it’s a great activity and you have quite some choice in Paris. From Maya Temples, Haunted Manors, Submarines, Japan, Catacombs… you name it. you escape!
14. take a swim at Aquaboulevard
Paris’ water park – artificial waves, 11 waterslides (some are outside though), wakeboard and a Caribbean feeling. Aquaboulevard is a good way to spent a day in the warmth, especially if you are traveling to Paris with kids.
15. have a hot Chocolate at Angelina
A hot chocolate is a remedy for many to counter the cold season. Enjoy it at Angelina; a classic Parisian tea room. They are running a few tea rooms in Paris; but usually it’s quite popular. Think about reserving a table in advance.
16. visit an Aquarium
The Aquarium of Paris, just in front of the Eiffel Tower, is the largest in Paris. Apart from fish and more fish (in 43 fish tanks) you get the full program: workshops, movies, animations, shows, you can even pair your visit with a Sunday brunch.
However, If this is blowing up your budget, you can visit as well the Aquarium Tropical in the Palais de la Porte Dorée. It’s maybe not as spectacular, but it offers everything that the Aquarium of Paris does; just on a smaller scale. For a faction of the entrance fee (11€ for 2 adults and 2 kids; kids under 4 are free). Kill two birds with one stone: the Palais de la Porte Dorée hosts as well the National Immigration Museum
17. enjoy the Halloween or Christmas Event at Disneyland Paris
It’s likely you always dreamed about visiting Disneyland and maybe you have it already on your Paris must-do agenda. But know that they are running special events for Halloween and Christmas that you don’t wanna miss! For many is Disney a must when visiting Paris in winter.
18. go wild on winter sales in mid January
No matter if you are preparing for your shopping tour or just randomly checking out stores; Paris is THE city to hunt for good deals. Check your favorite stores a few days before the Sales begins. They are already prepped for the big day and you will find all items that will be on sale hanging/laying together. Just get back there early on sales day and buy it at a reduced price 🙂
19. have some Arcade Games at “La Tête dans les Nuages”
No matter if you are 5 or 50, everyone likes to play a pin-ball game from time do time, right? “La Tête dans les Nuages” is with more than 100 gaming terminals one of the biggest Arcade Center in Paris and a fun way to spent an (rainy) afternoon in Paris. Not only in winter 🙂
20. visit a Paris Christmas Market
Christmas Markets are rather a tradition known in the east of France, but since some years they are becoming more and more popular in Paris as well. The two biggest Christmas Markets in Paris are installed usually at La Défense and on the Champs Elysée (cancelled for 2017) . However, you can find smaller ones although around Montmartre, Trocadero and Saint Germain.
sign up for a special Christmas experience in Paris
21. take a cooking class
What about a new skill as a souvenir from your Paris trip? Learn how to make Macarons or Croissants, prepare a Magret de Canard, a Filet Mignon or know how to bake an authentic Baguette. The countless Parisian cooking classes have for sure something for your taste (and to impress your friends back home!)
22. Play some board games at the Dernier Bar avant la Fin du Monde
Rainy days and board games are just a perfect match. But no worries! You don’t need to sacrifice this queen of coziness activity when visiting Paris in winter! Just head over to the Bar at the End of the Universe, have a Mario Bruschetta, a Death Star Cocktail and pick a board game from their library. Oh, and don’t forget to take a picture on the Iron Throne or a Selfie with R2D2!
23. Go to the Movies – if the Paris weather in December or January is just too uncomfodtable to stay outside for long
Yes, you could do that at home. But there is more to it than the big and modern cinemas like UGC, Cinema Gaumont or MK2. Paris has a variety of small and/or old movie theatres, that are worth to experience. Have a look at the Cinema Luxor, Le Grand Rex or La Filmothèque du Quartier Latin. If you are not up for a french movie, check for VOST or VO to see a movie in the original language. Or what about a rather artistic approach to cinema? Then you should not miss La Peniche Cinema.
Do you need more ideas for your upcoming trip to Paris in winter? Or maybe ideas how to spent those sunny, clear and cold winter days? Check out our 75 insider tips to explore Paris like a local would.
What about you? Did you do any of those activities yet? What are your favorites when it’s cold and rainy outside when being abroad?
Disclosure: this page contains affiliate links. This means – at no additional cost for you – I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. I am independent and the opinions expressed here are my own.