There are a lot of excellent reasons to visit Paris during the winter, not the least of which is more affordable airfare and hotels.
Additionally, you also get to experience some of the festive traditions of the city and France in general!
As local walking tour guides, we not only live in Paris in the winter, but we also take visitors around the city on walks - yes, even in the cold.
We called upon our experiences to help craft this post on what to do during this time of year.
This post includes suggestions from members of our Paris Travel Tips Facebook group, so consider checking out the group.
Winter and Holiday Activities in Paris
In this section, we’ve decided to include some of our favorite things to do during the winter months in Paris.
This list was compiled with weather and other important factors in mind, and we recommend checking our section on winter weather for more details about what to wear, how cold it gets, and more.
1. Go to a Holiday Market
As with many other cities in Europe, Paris plays host to a wide variety of Christmas markets from around late November to early January.
If you need to get into the holiday spirit, these holiday markets are a great place to start.
Grab a hot chocolate or mulled wine and start shopping for unique and often handmade gifts.
In addition to the delicious drinks, you can also expect to find authentic French pastries, macarons, and even roasted chestnuts.
No matter where you’re staying in the City of Light, chances are you’ll stumble upon one of these Paris Christmas markets simply by doing a little sightseeing.
Here are some of the best Christmas Markets in Paris:
- Tuileries Garden
- Eiffel Tower
- Notre Dame
- Hotel de Ville
- La Defense
For more information about the best spots to visit, please read our post covering Paris Christmas Markets.
Don't forget to look at the window displays at the Galeries Lafayette!
2. Go Ice Skating
If you’re looking for a fun activity with kids, there will be a lot of ice skating rinks popping up all over the city during the winter months.
Some Paris Christmas Markets have their own rinks, so you can actually combine both activities at once and make a day out of it.
Most ice skating rinks in Paris offer skate rentals and even skating lessons for those who don’t quite have the knack for it.
Prices for skate rentals are usually around €5, but sometimes they can be a bit more costly.
Here are some of the better spots to enjoy some ice skating:
- Tuileries Garden
- Eiffel Tower
- Galeries Lafayette
- Montparnasse Tower
- Espace Sportif Pailleron
- Grande Arche La Defense
3. Take a Free Walking Tour
Even during the winter, there are always pay-what-you-wish walking tours operating in Paris, whether rain, shine, or snow!
One of the nice things about taking an introductory tour at this time is that you’ll visit a lot of the most famous landmarks in the city.
Many of them are either hosting their own Christmas markets or at the very least have their own Christmas decor on display.
In a way, every free Paris walking tour in the winter is almost like a Christmas lights tour as well!
While on these outings, you can expect to see a variety of noteworthy sites and important architecture including the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame Cathedral, and more.
For additional details, make sure to read our full post covering free Paris walking tours.
4. Visit a Museum
The winter in Paris can be cold and its museums are an excellent place to avoid bad weather.
Also, they tend to be a bit less crowded, as the busy season is typically in the Spring and Summer.
Keep in mind that many of these attractions are closed during major holidays.
So, although it’s a great activity during the rest of the winter, it won’t be good for either Christmas or New Year’s Eve.
Here are a few of the better museums you might want to check out in Paris:
5. Celebrate New Year’s Eve
As with most major cities around the world, Paris also hosts an excellent fireworks show every New Year’s Eve.
There are a lot of great spots to see the show, including historic landmarks such as the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, and Sacré-Coeur.
There are also New Year’s Eve cruises on the river Seine, giving you an excellent view of the water.
These services are somewhat costly, and tickets sometimes sell out months in advance, so we recommend booking well ahead of time.
Don’t forget that there is also a restaurant in the Eiffel Tower, which is a great spot to see the fireworks, and they do offer New Year’s Eve service.
Needless to say, it will also be important to make reservations for this activity.
If you’re in the mood for some music, consider heading to La Sainte-Chapelle to see their New Year’s Eve concert.
Guests can expect a variety of classical music including the works of masters such as Johan Strauss.
6. See a Cabaret Show
Moulin Rouge is one of the most famous venues in all of Paris, and they will be performing cabaret shows at this beloved location throughout the winter, including both Christmas and New Year’s Eve shows.
Although this is the spot most people think of when it comes to adult entertainment, there are actually a few other cabarets in this city that you might want to consider.
Crazy Horse is one of the more popular options, and they also have an exclusive holiday-themed New Year’s Eve show.
Here are a few other cabaret clubs that also offer shows all winter long:
- Paradis Latin
- Madame Arthur
7. Attend a Concert
As we mentioned before, La Sainte-Chapelle will be hosting a concert on New Year’s Eve, but they will actually be offering these concerts for Christmas as well.
There are actually a lot of Parisian churches and other venues that offer classical concerts throughout the winter.
The church concerts are always amazing because the acoustics in those old buildings always provide an incredible auditory experience.
And, you'll be surrounded by beautiful stained glass windows and architecture!
If you’re wondering which locations offer these performances, consider one of the following:
- Madeleine Church
- Saint Eustache
- Saint-Germain des Près
Of course, you can also expect plenty of modern musicians to have concerts in Paris during the winter.
Here are a few excellent examples from November 2023 - February 2024:
8. See the Nutcracker
This classic ballet is a holiday tradition all around the world, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that even Opera Bastille hosts a performance of this beloved tale from December 8th, 2023 - January 1st, 2024.
Tickets for this event will sell out quickly, so we recommend booking your seats well ahead of time if you don’t want to miss out.
If you’re not looking for a particularly festive night at the theatre, consider heading to L’Opera Urbain instead, as they will be hosting Molière from November 7th - December 31st, 2023.
Alternatively, the musical Notre Dame de Paris will also be playing at the Palais des Congrès from November 15th - November 30th, 2023.
Don’t forget about all the great cabaret shows that are also available during this time of year!
No matter what type of theatrical performance interests you, chances are there will be a show to attend in Paris this winter.
9. Take a Holiday Dinner Cruise
In addition to the New Year’s Eve cruises offered in Paris, there are also a lot of Christmas dinner cruises available in Paris.
Each service typically includes at least a 3-course meal or buffet, as well as festive music either performed live or by a DJ.
Most of these outings include at least a few glasses of champagne or wine at no extra cost, making the experience even more romantic.
These Seine River cruises tend to last for about 3 hours, and they make for the perfect date night leading up to the holidays.
In addition to dinner options, you can also choose a Christmas lunch cruise instead!
10. Experience the Chinese New Year Parade
While most of Paris traditionally celebrates the new year on December 31st, Chinese New Year is actually in February, closer to when spring is about to begin.
Every year, they hold at least one Chinese New Year's Parade in Paris.
These events are fun to attend just to see all of the beautiful lions, dragons, and ribbon dancers parading through the streets in festive outfits.
You can also usually expect a lot of fantastic music and Asian cuisine to be sold at nearby market stands and restaurants.
In 2024, the date for Chinese New Year is February 10th, and you can expect all the parades to take place within the 2-week period either before or after this day.
Here are the best Chinese New Year parades in Paris:
- Quartier Asiatique
- Faubourg Saint-Honoré
BONUS: Go to Disneyland Paris
Disneyland Paris holds an annual holiday event to celebrate Christmas, and it’s the perfect excuse to head to the park even during cold weather.
Disney’s Enchanted Christmas takes place from November 11th, 2023 - January 7th, 2024.
The main event is Mickey’s Dazzling Christmas Parade, and it takes place multiple times per day just to ensure everyone has a chance to see it!
They also have a Christmas-themed musical show, a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, and even Santa Claus!
For details about how to get tickets, make sure to read our full post about visiting Disneyland Paris.
Paris Winter Weather
If you're wondering what kind of weather to expect in Paris throughout the winter months, we actually have a series of posts covering that subject in great detail:
As with most cities in the northern hemisphere, Paris gets quite cold during the winter months, with February typically being the coldest month of the year.
It is recommended to wear layers while visiting Paris during the winter, and you should make sure to pack gloves, a scarf, comfortable slip-proof boots, sweaters, jeans, and other pieces of clothing that are typically good for cold weather.
While it isn’t as necessary, you might also want to get an umbrella while you’re here, as there tends to be a lot of rain.
If you’re lucky, you might even get to experience the magic of Paris on a snowy day!
Festive Food to Eat in Paris
If you’re planning to visit Paris in November or December, chances are you’ll have an opportunity to try some of the best holiday dishes in Paris.
With so many different Christmas Markets around the city, it’ll be difficult not to stumble upon one at some point, and you can expect to find some of the following festive foods for sale:
- Mulled Wine
- Hot Chocolate
- Roasted Chestnuts
You’ll also find a lot of everyday popular dishes such as escargot, various cheeses, pastries, sausages, and more.
Even if you don’t head to the holiday markets, you can usually find a lot of these treats at Parisian cafes as well.
Should You Visit Paris in Winter?
When we asked our Paris Facebook Group about their favorite time of year to visit Paris, there were plenty of people indicating that the dead of winter was actually a great time to travel here.
Even these commenters point out that there are plenty of good reasons for a trip to Paris during the winter, including relatively empty museums, outdoor heaters at local cafes, and of course the perfect excuse to wear your favorite winter outfits!
Aside from these excellent points, we should also point out that the airfare tends to be much more affordable during the winter, and hotels often provide much better rates as well.
If you’re trying to save money and you don’t mind the cold weather, Paris is actually a fantastic city to visit during the winter.