Claire worked and wrote for Sight Seeker’s Delight for 7 years – read more here.
Don’t let the cold weather blues keep you from having a good time in Paris
Are you visiting Paris in the winter? First of all: kudos to you. You’re avoiding the huge crowds!
There are some things that are pretty important to know before you visit, though. So whether you’ve got a trip planned already or are still on the checking-flight-prices stage, take note of these 6 important tidbits…
1. The weather
So yeah, the downside is that winter is (obviously) some of the coldest times to be in Paris.
The good news though, is that it really doesn’t get very cold in Paris. The average December and January temperature is 5 degrees C (41 degrees F). February is slightly warmer with an average of 6 degrees C (42 degrees F). It rarely drops below 0 C (32 F).
Winter can be a bit rainy, true – December and January both have an average of 15 days with some rainfall. February is a bit less rainy, with an average of 13 days with some precipitation… but if you are visiting Paris in the winter, it’s a good idea to pack some solid shoes, an umbrella, and a rain jacket.
2. Versailles gardens are closed
Image: Wikipedia Commons
Many travelers (and expats, by the way) don’t realize that the garden groves at Versailles are not open year-round.
The garden groves are an extremely important part of Versailles – they were designed with great care as a green extension of the Palace itself. The groves are full of glowing white statues, incredible fountains, and some pretty juicy stories.
However in cold weather months, the groves are fenced off. Unfortunately you won’t be able to do more than peek inside each through the fence! This is definitely a bummer if you were expecting to spend half of your time at Versailles in the gardens.
Instead, visit the Palace and then spend the rest of your day at the Grand and Petit Trianons, and Marie-Antoinette’s Hamlet. If you don’t want to wait in long lines and you want to hear the stories behind this famous French palace, you’ll want to reserve this tour. Discount code WINTER will get you 5 euros off per ticket.
3. End of year closures
The idea of secularism is quite important to the French. It’s a bit of a touchy subject and has been a topic of wide discussion in past years (such as banning of religious symbols in state schools).
However, beware: most of the city closes down on 25 December.
Yes it’s strange, but in the end the French love their vacation days, so there you go!
1 January is also a huge closure day. Be sure to check on any museums or monuments you’re planning on visiting if you’ll be in town for those days.
Be aware that many restaurants, cafes, and shops will also be closed 25 December and 1 January, with many extending their closures to the 24 December and 2 January.
Psst… if you need to EAT (as you do!) or need some help finding things to do on these days, we are here just for that. Check out how we can help here.
4. Holiday markets
We’ve already written you a guide on the 2017/2018 holiday markets in Paris, so we won’t get into all the details here.
Suffice it to say, if you’ll be in Paris in December, these are a really nice experience.
There’s something so comforting and purely… holiday… about the smell of hot mulled wine and cider as you walk through the booths. Grab some food, some souvenirs, some vin chaud, and soak in the season.
My favorite market? La Defense. It’s not central, but it’s (in my opinion) the most authentic. Plus you have the biggest, best selection! For hours and locations of all the markets, see the 2017/2018 guide here.
5. Huge sales
Did you know that in France, big sales are regulated by the French government?
That’s why unless you’re in Paris in the winter or summer, you’re going to miss all those big discounts.
And this is the big secret of Parisian fashion, people… buy your designer clothing during the sales. No need to go broke to look chic!
This year the sales start on January 10, 2018 and they finish on February 20. During the first weeks you’ll typically see reductions of 20-40%, and as time goes on and the end of the sales approach, the discounts will get steeper.
But of course, the selection shrinks as the good stuff is scooped up!
6. Louvre free days
Image: Olivier Ouadah
Okay people, let’s clear something up right now. The Louvre is not free every Sunday, nor is it free the first Sunday of every month throughout the year.
A lot of travelers think this is true (since it applies for some other museums)… but unfortunately it’s not. I’m here to tell you: you’re lucky if you visit in the winter! From October until March only, the first Sunday of the month IS free.
This is only something you can take advantage of in winter (or on 14 July, the French national holiday). ‘Tis the season to be thankful!
Normal guided tours don’t happen on these days (there’s no skip the line entry)… so those days are choose-your-own-adventure days. However if you want to really discover the museum with a guide who not only knows what she’s talking about but will also make you laugh, see here.
Need another reason? Discount code WINTER will get you 5 euros off per ticket.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below if there’s more that should be on this list!