Believe it or not, winter in Paris is pretty delightful. I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous when we booked a winter trip to Paris in lieu of our September anniversary. I read a blog post that rated February as the worst month to visit because it would be dreary, dismal, and altogether pretty miserable. I’m extremely pleased to say that wasn’t the case at all. Maybe we lucked out with beautiful weather. Perhaps we were just SO excited to be in Paris. Or, maybe we’re just optimistic people when we travel. Either way, if you find a good deal on a flight to Paris, don’t let the winter months keep you from going.
Our winter itinerary for Paris focused on a couple of different things. One, we wanted to do the more of things we missed on our honeymoon. Two, we knew we needed indoor activities to keep warm. Three, we want to see more of the city. (I truly believe that you could spend a lifetime in Paris and only scratch the surface.) For purposes of this post, I’ve put together a list of the things we enjoyed most to help you put together your ultimate Paris bucket list while also allowing you see that traveling in the off-season doesn’t require you to compromise on the best parts of Paris.
If this will be your first trip to Paris, make sure to check out this perfect 2 days in Paris itinerary. It will allow you to pack your schedule with many of the “big” sites while providing some great tips for maximizing your time in Paris, too!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for tours and products I love at no additional cost to you. You can read my full disclosure policy here.
Best Things to Do in Winter in Paris
Take a Cooking Class
I’ve never taken a cooking class abroad that I didn’t feel was worth the money. This is true in Paris as well. I decided to sign us up for something that was classically French: a baguette and croissant cooking class at a Paris bakery. Master Chef Didier led us through a typical morning in his 11th arrondissement (working) bakery where we learned more about the laminated dough that creates delicious, flaky pastries. Believe it or not, this dough takes (at least) 3 days to make. We tried our hand at making croissants, pain et chocolat, and various baguettes. This class is taught entirely in French but uses a translator. Chef Didier is warm, welcoming, and delightfully funny. Feel free to practice your French skills (both listening and speaking). A little practice never hurts anyone.
Fun fact: Chef Didier is unable to eat his delicious concoctions because of a gluten allergy. That said, he wins awards for his pastries. Proof that you don’t have to eat something to make it delicious.
Why Book This: You’ll take fresh baguettes home with you – both in terms of baguettes to go AND the recipes to reproduce at home!
Paris Food Tours
Visiting Paris in winter shouldn’t keep you from taking advantage of all the delicious Parisian food tours. When our Ste. Germain food tour was canceled, we opted for a Sunday morning Marais food tour. This tour includes a number of sweet and savory stops throughout this popular arrondissement. The tour starts in a hidden market and continues by winding through bakeries, gourmet shops, a Corsican restaurant, a falafel stand, and concludes with macarons and chocolates. Not only did we try a number of things that we wouldn’t have known to explore, but we also brought home gifts to share with friends and family. (Mango balsamic and truffle beads, anyone?) What I learned from this tour is that are a number of Parisian arrondissements to explore and a food tour is probably the best way to do so.
On our next trip to Paris, we opted to take a Montmartre food tour allowed us to enjoy a number of cafes and restaurants, which is a delicious way to explore Montmartre. I truly felt that we were able to avoid the touristic places and try some unique local businesses, including one of the most famous patisseries in Montmartre. The tour covers the entire Montmartre scene, from Moulin Rouge, to Sacré-Cœur, to Place du Tertre. My favorite pastry I tried was the choupette with Chantilly cream, which I’ve since learned how to make through my pastry classes at the Ritz Escoffier!
BOOK THIS: Marais Food Tour in Paris
BOOK THIS: Montmartre Food Tour
Paris Wine and Cheese Tasting Experiences
It took more than a few trips to Paris for us to schedule a cheese tasting. (Alex serves wine with it, but wine is secondary to his love of helping you experience French cheeses.) Housed in a small restaurant in the Latin Quarter, Alex teaches you everything about the creation of cheese – starting with a very young cheese tasting and guiding you through the aging process. He will teach you how different thing affect the flavor and the tastes and encourage you to use all your senses to experience French cheese. With Alex, I had the opportunity to try Normandy butter, and butter is no longer butter. Butter in the United States is not butter in Normandy, full stop.
Alex is passionate about sharing wine and cheese with his guests that it’s hard not to enjoy everything. His enthusiasm for improving your culinary palate is palpable and you will leave with a lot of knowledge. (You can also purchase his cheese and wine.) This is a great tour for anyone who loves cheese or wants to learn more about it.
If you really want to learn more about French wine, complemented by cheese, I encourage you to book this French wine and cheese tasting. We have learned so much about French wine regions and enjoyed a lot of cheese with Erwan. (We book this tour every time we go to Paris because the offerings change.) Prior to this experience, I had no idea how to navigate a French wine list or choose a bottle from the grocery store. I would default to a recommendation from a waiter or not buy wine at all. Erwan taught us how to read the wine list and has exposed us to wines from many different regions of France (beyond the Alsace!). We’ve learned a lot from this wine tasting and are excited to keep getting recommendations and learning more from Erwan!
BOOK THIS: French wine and cheese tasting
BOOK THIS: Cheese Tasting in Paris
Walking Tour of Secret Paris Passageways
If this isn’t your first trip to Paris, you might want to see more than the “big” sites and the Champs Elysees. (This night walking tour of Paris is a great introduction.) Even if it is your first trip to Paris, this tour stretches from the Madeline church, Vendome, and ends at the Pompidou Centre is a great way to experience more of the beautiful architecture, the secret passageways, and enjoy a few more Paris treats. Our walking tour of the Secret Paris passageways included a cheese tasting, more macarons, and a wine tasting.
BOOK THIS: Secret Paris Walking Tour
Visit the Palace of Versailles
Okay, so the gardens of Versailles aren’t quite as verdant and the fountains aren’t on in winter, but it’s still worth a trip to Versailles. Versailles is still crowded in the winter, but I can’t imagine how much worse it would be during the more popular times of the year. We booked a skip the line tour of Versailles, which provided us a glimpse into Louis’s apartments, the Hall of Mirrors, and ended in the gardens.
We booked our tour without transportation, which I throughly recommend. It is really easy to navigate using the Google maps and/or Moovit apps. We took the RER (3.60 euro per person each way), which provides more flexibility in planning your day. We didn’t feel rushed to leave the Palace and could have spent even more time exploring the park and the gardens. (There is a lot more of Versailles to see beyond the Palace tour but this tour is perfect for winter.) The estate of Trianon and its gardens isn’t talked about enough, in my opinion.
See the Eiffel Tower Sparkle
Even outside of winter in Paris, there are so many great ways to see the Eiffel Tower that don’t involve long queues. One of my favorite evenings was the night that we went to the rooftop bar and viewing deck at Galeries Lafayette. In February, this is completely free and not crowded. We were able to watch the sunset and enjoy a particularly beautiful view of the other side of the Opera Garnier. When we were ready to warm up, we headed inside to the viewing platform that allows you see the beauty of the ceiling ceiling in the Galeries Lafayette. The department stores in Paris are on a whole different level of beauty and luxury! (If your visit coincides with the winter sales, take advantage of it!)
If you want to see another Paris monument while enjoying the Eiffel Tower, grab your Paris museum pass and head to the Arc du Triomphe. You can skip the line, walk off all those almond croissants from Eric Kayser, and enjoy the Eiffel Tower from another perspective. (It also gives you a great perspective why the Metro stop is called Etoile.) The sheer size of the Arc du Triomphe is incredible up close. It’s also beautifully lit at night.
To appreciate the sheer size of the Eiffel Tower, head to Trocadero, make your way through the Trocadero gardens, cross the Pont d’lena, and stare up in awe at the beauty of the Iron Lady. You can certainly go up the tower, but the views of the Tower from other vantage points are more my thing. One of my favorite study abroad memories, however, was ice skating on the first level of the Eiffel Tower. (This experience is only available during the winter!)
Visit the Churches of Paris
We were in Paris six weeks before the fire at Notre Dame. It is impossible to imagine when it will be available to visit again. That said, there are so many beautiful churches in Paris that you should consider visiting. At the top of my list is Ste. Chappelle. Our hotel staff recommended that we visit on a sunny day in the mid-afternoon to truly appreciate the beauty of Saint Chappelle. They weren’t wrong. It is perhaps one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen. I don’t think my photos do it justice at all. Sainte Chappelle is covered by the Paris museum pass, so you will be able to skip the line and the entrance fee.
Saint-Sulpice is one of Tom’s favorite churches in Paris. We happened to end up there during vespers, which was a neat experience because it allows you to see that it’s still a “working church”. Its glass is not nearly as ostentatious as Notre Dame or Sainte Chappelle, but it’s still worth visiting. The organ itself is a sight to see. They regularly hold mass and concerts in Saint-Sulpice, so you might check their calendar and see if you can fit a visit into your calendar. Entry is free!
The Madeline Church looks like it belongs in Rome more than Paris. Modeled after a Roman template, it’s actually a neoclassical structure with beautiful art housed within it. (It’s also a vanity project to Napoleon, so you can get your art with a little bit of history.) Like Saint-Sulpice, it is still a working church so you’ll catch glimpses of Parisian life if you make a visit to this church. Entry is free!
For another Romanesque experience, head to the Pantheon. The Paris pass will cover your entry fee. Unlike it’s Roman counterpart, the Paris Pantheon includes some recent modifications and period art. While a lot of the Pantheon was being restored during our first trip to Paris, it’s still a beautiful structure that shouldn’t be missed. We found it to be very quiet. I would visit on a sunny day to enjoy the natural light that makes the building particularly beautiful.
Skip the Lines at the Paris Museums
We book a lot of guided tours of the Paris museums during winter, but we also purchase a Paris museum pass to cover the duration of our trip, which allows us to skip the lines everywhere we went. Despite the fact that the line are much shorter in the off season, it is still nice to be able to walk right into the museum. The Paris Pass allows us to maximize our time and see more on our trip.
Night Tour of the Louvre
If this is your first trip to Paris, I highly recommend booking a tour of the Louvre. It is so daunting in terms of size. We opted for an evening tour, which felt more intimate and less crowded (though the Mona Lisa was still crowded). We were able to see many of the big works, including paintings and sculptures, but we were also able to see some of the crown jewels. The Louvre collection is extensive. Anything you can do to make it manageable will enhance your appreciation for it.
Tour of the Musee d’Orsay
The Musee d’Orsay is still one of my favorite museums in Paris (and the world). We headed over there approximately an hour before they closed on Sunday. The Paris Pass allowed us to walk right in and I headed straight for the Impressionists rooms. Degas feels like an old friend, and it is beyond my comprehension to go to Paris and not say hello to his works. On our next trip, I may opt for a guided tour to learn more about the museum, but if you’re short on time, the Paris pass is the most efficient way to visit. (We waited in the ticket line for 45 minutes on our honeymoon. I know the line gets longer than that.)
If you want to learn more about the Impressionists, I highly recommend this two-hour tour of the Musee d’Orsay. Our guide, Jessica, taught us more about the environment that sparked the impressionist period and inspired their work. There is a lot quite a bit of scandal associated with the impressionist painters, which I was not aware of! I think the tour is a great introduction to art for non-artists, but it is also a great tour for people who love the impressionists. Though I don’t think a trip to Paris is complete without stopping by to visit Degas’ perfect ballerinas, but Jessica provided a little more insight into the world behind the ballerinas. (If you want to take it to the next level, book this free tour of Montmartre and see where the Impressionists debuted their works!)
Similar to our last minute visit to the Musee d’Orsay, we headed to the L’Orangerie for a quick visit. I had never visited L’Orangerie, but it has been on my list of museums to visit for a long time. The museum pass allowed us to skip the line and be one of the last groups to enter the museum. (We did see people turned away, so make sure you plan your visit accordingly.) Monet’s waterlily paintings shouldn’t be missed. Put this museum on your Paris bucket list, even if you aren’t an art person. It is a truly beautiful.
Musee de l’Armée
If your husband is into history (and you’ve taken him to see all the art), the Paris pass also includes the Hotel des Invalides, which includes the Musee de l’Armee and Napoleon’s tomb. Pay attention to their special exhibitions and buy supplement tickets if the topic interests you. We didn’t realize that a World War II exhibit that we were interested in was a special exhibition. That said, if you have any interest in France’s military history, the museum is really well done. They have an incredible collection of uniforms on display, too.
Best Place to Stay in Paris during Winter
Park Hyatt Paris
We’ve stayed at the Park Hyatt Paris multiple times in winter. Ultimately, we choose this hotel because of our Hyatt points and its proximity to a metro stop, and I love it for the spa and for a romantic weekend in Paris. We like to be centrally located while also being able to utilize public transportation. The Park Hyatt is nothing short of luxurious. Most everything about our multiples stays have been perfect. (You can read my full review of the Park Hyatt Paris rooms.)
Rooms are on the larger side for Paris (smaller side for US), but they are impeccably designed for efficiency and comfort. The bathrooms are huge with a separate shower and the tub. Our first room offered a small balcony that overlooked an interior courtyard, so it was incredibly quiet. In December, our room was on the 6th floor and offered a small window overlooking the quiet courtyard. The blackout shades are perfectly designed to maximize sleep. (Can someone install these in my home??) To add to the experience, a bottle of champagne and macarons were delivered to our room upon arrival. In February 2020, our room was on the second floor and overlooked an interior courtyard. We’ve also had a junior suite, but it is not much different from the standard rooms. Overall, the rooms are solid and consistent. The bathrooms are extraordinary and one of my favorite parts of staying here.
Bonus: The La Mer Spa is everything I hoped it would be and more. I will generally schedule a Le Mer facial and/or body treatment during our stay. I am never disappointed. Le Spa is fabulous.
Hotel du Louvre Paris
After staying 20 nights at the Park Hyatt Paris, we decided to book a new hotel in November 2021 and went back again in February 2022. We opted for the Hotel du Louvre. We had passed it numerous times on previous trips and thought the location would be ideal for sightseeing. It’s right outside of the Palais Royale metro stop and, of course, it’s within walking distance of the most incredible museums and gardens in Paris. We found it ideal for walking to St. Germain, the Latin Quartier, the Ile-Saint-Louis, the Marais, and everywhere else. (We walk SO much in Paris, regardless of season. It’s just so beautiful.) The staff was absolutely lovely, and the doorman went above and beyond to get us a cab to CDG on our last morning.
As Hyatt Globalists, we have been upgraded to junior suite on the 5th floor, as well as an executive room on the 4th floor at the Hotel du Louvre. The junior suite wasn’t large, but it was very well designed with the Haussmann architecture. It’s more of a long narrow room, rather than a large traditional hotel room. I loved the character of it and the finishes felt very luxurious and high end. One of the reasons we chose the HDL is because it offered a king bed, which was pretty comfortable. Our room had two built-in closets, which weren’t ideal for long dresses, but it worked. There were also drawers built into one of the closets. We had a really lovely sitting area with a large desk, tea service and minibar.
The bathroom was on the smaller side, but the walk-in shower was quite large with an overhead shower and a hand shower. I loved the warm bathrobes, which of course, were perfectly branded. Slippers are also provided. One of the only drawbacks of the hotel was that the water pressure. It was good but not great. The Hotel du Louvre bath amenities were from Fragonard, which isn’t a brand I’m familiar with. They reminded me of the bath products at Palazzo Veneziano though.
Our room overlooked an interior courtyard, which was very quiet. (I almost always request a quiet room in Paris.) One of the things I really loved about this room was how well they used light to make the room feel larger. Its interior location and small size could have made this room feel very small. The use of bright walls, clean lines, and minimalist decor made it feel very elegant. The high ceilings helped as well. When we closed the black-out shades, I didn’t hear much noise at all. When we had the windows open, which was lovely, even in November, we could enjoy the musical performances happening on the courtyard on the Palais Royale.
On our first evening, the hotel delivered madeleines and a bottle of lemonade to our room. I thought this was a really lovely touch. Other small luxurious touches included a small branded notebook for taking notes and stationary to write letters from the hotel. I find the Hotel du Louvre to be perfect for a romantic getaway, your honeymoon, or even an anniversary trip to Paris. It offers a luxurious stay at a more reasonable price point for Paris. Most Paris luxury hotels are over $1,000/night. The Hotel du Louvre is also perfect for a stay during winter in Paris, especially if you want to enjoy the Tuileries Garden Christmas Market!
We had complimentary breakfast as Globalists, but we didn’t end up taking advantage of it. Maybe next time. It only took me five stays over three years at the Park Hyatt to try breakfast, lol.
Hotel Dress Code
Less than 3 blocks from the Park Hyatt Paris at a much lower price point is the incredible Hotel Dress Code. We spent a week here and really enjoyed the location. It is in a quieter location easy access to the metro (Madeleine and Opera). It’s about equidistant to the Tuileries and the Louvre from Hotel Dress Code and the Park Hyatt.
The rooms at Hotel Dress Code are much smaller than the rooms at the Park Hyatt and Hotel du Louvre, but they are FUN and beautifully designed. I love the touches from Paris fashion week and the pops of color throughout the hotel. Our room was decorated in a stunning soft pink and gray color combination, and I loved it. The white bathroom was absolutely gorgeous with beautiful pink tile in the shower. Our room faced the interior of the building, so it was very quiet. We booked a superior room, which included a queen bed. It was well-designed and had enough storage space, but the square footage is tight.
The staff at the Hotel Dress Code are so warm and welcoming. Everything about our stay was really lovely. We didn’t take advantage of hotel breakfast or the on-site spa, but it does offer both.
Other Hotels in Paris
We stayed at the Renaissance Arc du Triomphe on our honeymoon, and it was a fine stay. It’s a more chic and modern vibe than the Park Hyatt. We had a prestige wave room, which faced the front of the hotel. Rooms were quiet-ish, but it was hard to keep it dark in the evenings. I don’t think we took advantage of the neighborhood in the same way we would now. The Etoile metro station is pretty close, so it is extremely easy to get around Paris from this hotel. It just wasn’t one of my favorite honeymoon hotels.
Other hotels that are on our Paris hotel list: Relais Christine, the Rosewood Hotel de Crillon, the Grand Powers, and of course, the Ritz Paris. We’ve been to the Bar Vendome at the Ritz Paris multiple times and the staff is absolutely incredible. I can’t imagine how lovely it would be to stay at the hotel.
Paris Winter Weather
What to Pack for Winter in Paris
I did not find Paris to be impossibly cold in the winter. Temperatures ranged in the 30s-50s in both February and December. We’ve spent a couple of Christmases in Europe, and it does get cold in some places. Paris felt more temperate than Vienna, Budapest, or even Salzburg. The sun would come out during the day, and I didn’t feel like I needed my Cuddledud base layers during the day. I did take my heavy Peuterey coat (because that’s the only winter coat I own), but I feel like I could have gotten by with a nice wool coat. I left my coat unzipped during the day without a problem. In the evenings, I would add a Cuddledud under a cashmere sweater, bundle up with a scarf and gloves, particularly when we walked along the Seine or climbed up to Sacre Couer. We were out and about a lot, and I didn’t have any issues with the weather. I’m not one for posting a packing list, but let me know if it would be helpful.
Experiencing December in Paris
I put this under a separate subheading because I think winter in Paris is different than Paris in December. I’ll be honest. Spending Christmas in Paris is incredible. It ended up on our bucket list because our first Paris winter trip was such a success. In addition to the beautiful Christmas decor throughout the city, there are (at least) 16 Christmas markets spread throughout the city and, in particular, the Place de la Vendome is absolutely magical.
Strolling the city to see the window displays and Christmas lights is breathtaking. Obviously, you should head the the Galleries Lafayette for their iconic displays in the rotunda, the Champs Elysees for the beautiful Christmas lights, but there’s a lot of magic to be found around St. Germain des Pres, Opera, and Rue Cler. The City of Light never disappoints, and Paris in December adds an extra bit of magic to the trip.
They say the best time to try french onion soup in Paris is during the winter. (We did. It is delightfully cozy. I especially love Sacree Fleur and Bistro Richelieu.) That said, I found that heading to Bar Vendome at the Ritz and ordering cocktails and the buche de noel to be my favorite dessert in Paris. We’ve been back for dinner, as well as dessert and drinks, multiple times. It’s always worth the splurge. You can check out all my Paris restaurant recommendations. I try to update after each of our trips.
New Year’s Eve in Paris
For what it’s worth, one of my friends rang in the new year in Paris and said it was equally magical. She learned to make macarons, explored the Paris cafe scene, and enjoyed the fireworks. Nothing about that doesn’t appeal to me. 😉
If you need me, I’ll be strolling through a Christmas market and sipping vin chaud to keep warm. (Some of them don’t close until after New Year’s Day in Paris!)
Listen, Learn & Read More
If you want to skip the formal tours, Rick Steves offers audio tours of Versailles, historical Paris, the Louvre, and the Musee d’Orsay. My husband listens to these before our trips. It helps him better understand the things we see. In some cases, we’ll use a splitter and listen to the tours together, rather than booking a guide. If you download the Rick Steves app, you can listen to snippets of his radio show. One of the most interesting episodes (to me) was Eat Like a Parisian. I think this is what convinced Tom that we need to seek out the independent shops rather than relying on Monoprix. (Get the cheese bread at Eric Kayser. You won’t be disappointed.)
I don’t think there is a singular complete guide to Paris. That said, my favorite books for travel planning are Paris Day by Day and Top 10 Paris. These pocket-sized guides fit easily into a carry-on or day bag. Tom likes the Rick Steves Paris book for its walking tours. (I find it to be skint on restaurant recommendations though.)
To be quite honest, I mostly quit reading blogs after I read that winter in Paris was a miserable time to visit. I wanted to focus on the positive. I, however, did pull together my list of restaurants and hotels from a few sources. Mackenize not only offers some great hotel and restaurant recommendations, but she also alleviated my concerns about safety. Gail has a delicious list of the top 10 foods to try in Paris (and includes some Christmas market treats)! Brooke has a delicious post on all the pastry classes you can take in Paris.