Winter is a great time to visit Paris, the crowds are thin (except at Christmas), the cobbled streets on the hill of Montmartre glisten with frost and the city of light is as vibrant and bustling as ever.
Any time of the year, this is a city you should wander. But in winter in Paris, it’s the perfect season to stroll wrapped up well and warming up with plenty of hot chocolate breaks! In fact it’s one of the best things to do!
The best places to enjoy hot chocolate in winter in Paris
One of the most popular places to stop and sip a sweet hot chocolate after a walk in the Tuileries gardens – Angelina Tea Room (226 Rue de Rivoli). They’re famous for their thick, sweet chocolat chaud – a favourite with former regular, Coco Chanel. If you’re in the Saint Germaine area and want to take a break from window-licking as the French call window-shopping, head to the Legendary Café de Flore and sit with a book savouring the sweet drink in the footsteps of many great artists who’ve been here before you from Picasso to Jean-Paul Sartre. In the Sorbonne district, I love Odette in Rue Galande, for its friendly vibe, delicious cakes and fab views from the first floor tearoom.
Museums for a cold day in Paris
When the temperature drops, pop into a museum for a culture hit and to warm up. Despite its enormous size, the Louvre, the world’s most popular museum, is warm in winter and – the queues are short.
There are 130 museums in Paris so you’ve got plenty of choice. Fashionistas will love the Yves Saint Laurent Museum and Fragonard perfume museum. The Musée d’Orsay is perfect for lovers of impressionism, there’s the Museum of Romantic Life, Medical History, Architecture… pretty much every type of interest is covered. Just nip into the tourist office and you’ll find loads of details about museums and temporary exhibitions which update constantly.
Join the parade
Paris is home to the largest Chinatown in Europe. So, if you’re in the city when it’s Chinese New Year – you’re in for a treat. Celebrations take place in several parts of Paris with parades, fireworks and fun, including in the 13th Arr., where the biggest and most popular events take place. Check the Paris Info tourist office website for details.
Curl up with a book
There are loads of English language bookstores in Paris so if you’re a book worm – you’re going to be very happy. A lot of them hold events, readings and concerts and some of them have cafés and the Belle Hortense which is a French bookstore even has a wine bar that’s open to 2.00 am – perfect for learning French.
Shop til you drop
Paris is home to some of the most famous stores in the world. Galeries Lafayette, Bon Marché, Louis Vuitton, Hermès – if you’ve got money to spend, you’ll not have a problem finding somewhere to take it here. But it’s not all expensive. The Winter sales take place each year. They’re regulated by government and generally start at the beginning of January and end at the beginning of February. With up to 80% off designer names – grab a bargain and take home a souvenir of Paris to enjoy over and over.
On a cold, wet day, stroll the historic covered shopping passages. Full of wonderful architecture, these ancient buildings now house tea rooms, restaurants and shops. There are 20 covered of these shopping galleries in Paris.
Take a boat ride
Cruise the Seine on a crisp cold day – the boats are heated in winter.
Take in a concert
Take in a concert – there are loads of wonderful venues featuring top class artistes, ballets and more. But one of my favourites is the Sainte Chapelle, a beautiful chapel that’s near to, but older, than Notre-Dame and where there are almost nightly classical musical concerts in the most extraordinary setting with breath-taking stained glass windows.
Have fun at the fair
Normally open to the public only by reservation and for guided tours (groups and individuals, some tours are in English and booking must be made in advance), the Musée des Arts Forains opens its doors to the public from the last week in December to the first week in January every year. A museum dedicated to funfair attractions and curiosities means a whole load of fun. There are also dancers, musicians, magicians, street performers and storytellers.
Keep warm with the fish
Nip to the Paris Aquarium by the Eiffel Tower to enjoy the fish by day. But, Saturday nights, the venue transforms into a restaurant (booking is required) and nightclub l’Aquarium. www.facebook.com/LaQuarium/
Embrace the cold – go ice skating
One of the best things to do in Paris in winter is to get your skates on and enjoy some of the most fabulous ice rinks in Europe. There’s the world’s biggest ice rink at the Grand Palais usually every two years (even numbers). In the Défense business district, the Grande Arche rink is 110m above ground and you’ll have fantastic views over Paris. Meanwhile, the elegant Hôtel Plaza Athénée Paris has a cute ice rink for kids from end of November to beginning of February. It’s open to guests as well as those who book “La Galerie” for a “Goûter by Angelo Musa”(which gives access for two children). Details: www.dorchestercollection.com/en/paris/hotel-plaza-athenee
More on Paris
6 of the most historic and delicious restaurants in Paris
Butte Bergeyre – a secret village in the heart of Paris
5 off the beaten track things to see in Paris including the house of a sorcerer in a Harry Potter story!