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Paris in January: Winter is the best time to visit the City of Light

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Did you know that one of the best times to visit Paris is in January? People think that the summer season is the most ideal time to go to Paris (and it does have its perks) but I would argue that it is winter. I feel it is one of the best months to experience the city. Mists of cold engulf the City of Light, and it can rain or snow a bit, but for the most part, the sky is clear and bright, the air is crisper too. The perfect weather for all that creamy luscious chocolat chaud!

January in Paris is mid-winter, so there is less holiday hustle-and-bustle, and a bit of romance in the air (French people use their mistletoe on New Year’s Eve and day rather than Christmas!). Romance that will simmer until it reaches St. Valentine’s Day and then blooms with the spring flowers that come April and picnic season starts.

Paris in Winter Eiffel Tower
Wintertime sunrises and sunsets are gorgeous!

But I digress (as usual!)

Why is January the best time to visit Paris? Well, if you prefer fewer tourists, private-romantic strolls, big Paris winter sales, lower prices, and artsy things, this is the month for you.

Ask any traveler which city in the world they would like to visit the most, and I know Paris is going to be in the top three choices. There’s just so much to love about the City of Light and City of Romance – gorgeous architecture, awesome culture, the art scene, the world-class cuisine. The city embodies the best that travel has to offer. And January is the perfect month to go.

Why should you visit Paris in January?

The Louvre in January

There are a few reasons why I think January is the best time to visit Paris. With the tourists gone, you can explore the real Paris, meet Parisians, learn their culture, and live like a local, plus it’s cheaper. The truth is, the holiday season (from Christmas until the end of the year) has a big influx of tourists. You notice them everywhere. Somewhere in this crowd, Paris’s essence is lost, but that’s not the case with January; Paris in January is entirely yours to taste and explore!

I have been to Paris during this month several times. Mainly because my birthday is in early January and Mr. Misadventures and I often spend the holidays in our favorite city in the world and then extend into January. As long as you have packed the appropriate clothing for the winter, and are bundled up correctly, the city is wonderful at this time of year!

You avoid the tourist crowd

Paris is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. During summer, the city is inundated by tourists from all over the world (although with a lot of the Parisians making an exit for their annual vacances, it is not as crowded as it could be!). Every single popular site, café, museum, and building is filled with people. You’ll have to contend with long lines and crowds. You’re often so stressed you don’t get to totally experience what Paris is all about.

But in January, which is considered the off-season, there are significantly fewer tourists. As the holidays come to an end, tourists start to go back to their homes; companies are busy, schools reopen, etc. Paris in January is pleasingly quiet and Paris-ish. You’ll get to enjoy the city and truly immerse yourself.

Good weather to experience the city

January may still be winter in Paris, but the weather generally starts to let up. It isn’t always as cold but there’s a good variance in temperatures that you will experience. Some days offer all the winter feels and others it’s just nippy. Winters in Paris still have that cold-breezy aura, not too cold but just enough to let you enjoy ice-skating, dinners by candlelight, picture-perfect snow sceneries, etc. It is also perfect for leisurely walks along Paris’ city streets. The weather is usually nice enough for you to sit outside on cafe terraces and watch Paris street life.

Do remember that the variance in temperatures can get a little extreme sometimes. While the average temperature is 41 degrees Fahrenheit/5 degrees Celsius, it can go as low as below zero or be warm enough that you can remove your scarf or your heavy jacket, so do pack the right clothes. And it isn’t only blue skies. January’s rain may have you hiding under an umbrella but will give you plenty of opportunities to wear the typically Parisian long trench coat and to try some indoor activities!

Paris weather In January

  • The temperatures in January in Paris: It can get as low as 37-degrees F (3 C) and as high as 45-degrees F (7 C).
  • Sunrise and Sunset: You can expect sunrise at around 8 AM- 8:30 AM and sunset at 5 PM-5:15 PM.
  • Rain: Expect rain 10-15 days.
  • Snow: It happens! (It snowed in Paris this past weekend [Jan 15, 2021]) but the snow melts faster at this time of year.

It’s cheaper and flights will be less pricey

If you want to maximize your travel budget, January is the best time to visit Paris because airline fares are at their lowest during the off-season. With the holiday season over, prices drop. Besides airfare, just about everything will be cheaper, travel expenses, tour guide, hotels, and warm clothes. The off-season has its own merits. You can funnel what you save on more visits to restaurants or shopping. That’s a win-win situation right there.

I think the only things that aren’t cheaper are restaurants as I don’t see much fluctuation from month to month when it comes to eating out. VAT adds a lot to your restaurant check, so be cautious (one of my tips for your first visit to Paris)! Mr. Misadventures and I try to make lunch our main meal and then gather picnic supplies for dinner. 

What can you do in Paris in January?

Paris is virtually your playground when you visit at this time of year. As I’ve mentioned, the lack of tourists means you can go just about anywhere and not have to worry about crowds. Here are my recommendations.

Visit Museums

Empty Orsay Museum
I love the Musée d’Orsay in January!

Paris is known all over the world for being the global center for art. The city is filled with museums, and it is home to the world-famous Louvre, the Orsay, and hundreds more.

During the touristy season, it’s so hard to totally enjoy a visit to the museums because of the crowds outside AND inside. You won’t get the time to linger around a favorite art piece because you’ll be pushed by the constant influx of people. January is the perfect time to really soak in the exhibits in museums. You can take more time admiring the works of the masters without worrying that you’re hogging the space.

You can even spend a whole day in a single museum (especially if the weather is bad), if you want to, and be able to cover more ground because there are just fewer people inside.

Visit the Passages of Paris

Paris-Empty-Passage
Most Paris passages are empty in the early morning!

A number of districts in Paris boast beautiful covered passageways that are also called “passage,” “galeries,” or “arcades”. These passages were built during the 18th and 19th centuries and are home to many quaint boutiques, tearooms, bookshops, restaurants, and other specialty shops like poster shops and antique toy stores. These galleries have been painstakingly restored to their old-world glory – it’s like being transported back in time to the Paris of a bygone era. These places have lovely mosaic floors, marble pillars, and glass rooftops that constantly let the sunlight in.

Some of the most popular galleries that you should definitely visit are the Galerie Colbert, Galerie Vivienne, Passage Jouffroy, and Passage des Panoramas. I have written an entire post on the passages in Paris which includes every single one so you can locate them for your visit.

If you are most interested in the passage than the stores inside, a really good time to visit is before they are open, early in the morning, however, be aware some of them are locked until the stores open. Also, while they may be a respite from the rain, most of the arcades are still cold as they are generally not heated, depending on the passage itself!

Enjoy the cafes

Paris Cafe in Winter

A core part of the Parisian culture is lounging around in cafes. It is practically part of the soul of Paris. With fewer crowds to contend with, you can just spend the whole day hopping from one café to another and taking your sweet time to just admire Paris and watch its inhabitants go about their lives.

The weather may even become agreeable enough for you to be able to sit outside to get that real Paris experience.

Stroll around the city

January is a great time to just walk around Paris to admire its architecture and its culture without being distracted by an endless throng of people. You’ll be able to see the subtle nuances of the city.

January also means that a lot of the Christmas decorations and lights are still on in many buildings and shops, it’s like extending the Christmas spirit past December 25, and that can be a treat in and of itself. The neighborhood Christmas markets are still open as well so you can still get some of the holiday treats and bring home last-minute gifts to friends and family.

Go shopping for bargains

Paris in Winter Eiffel Tower

Since Paris is not yet in its tourist season and it’s just after the Christmas holidays, it is the best time to shop. Why? Because shops and department stores will be offering their usual post-holiday discounts.

Plus, the winter sales in Paris start on January 8th and continue through February 4th. The official sale season (les soldes) happens twice in France, once in summer and once in winter (January) and they can be quite tempting! Every shop has the ‘soldes‘ sign with a 30-40% discount, and most of the things are on sale including clothes, pottery, furniture, etc. If you are a fashionista, do visit Paris In January because you can get the best Parisian pieces (along with other items) at a huge discount.

Shopping is also nice when it is yucky weather outside. You can spend hours in the large department stores in the Boulevard Haussmann area (9th arrondissement near Palais Garnier) like Galerie Lafayette and Printemps. There is also an indoor mall in this area across from Printemps in the Haussmann St-Lazare RER station. And if you are on the other side of town closer to the Eiffel Tower, but in the 15th arrondissement, try the Centre Commercial Beaugrenelle (if the weather improves head to one of my favorite parks close by, Parc Citroën. I went on the tethered Ballon Generali in the winter. It was cold but awesome!

Ballon Generali in Parc Citroen in Paris

Go ice skating

During the winter season, temporary ice-skating rinks are set up all over the city. Visiting in January means you’ll still get to see them before they’re dismantled. What could be more romantic or more fun than ice skating at the Eiffel Tower?

Here are some spots:

  • Grand Palais des Glaces: The biggest rink in Paris continues to operate until January 9th.
  • Champ De Mars is a small “village” near the Eiffel Tower. You can skate there until the end of January.
  • La Defence: It opens in winter and stays up until January 14th.
  • Hôtel de Ville: skating in front of Paris’ City Hall is a lot of fun and usually opened until March!

[Men’s] Fashion Week

The fashion week that most people are familiar with is the women’s version that takes place in February, but there is also a men’s version in January. Tickets are not easy to come by but it sure is fun to people-watch during this week in the area around the Palais de Tokyo.

Maison & Objet Show

This interior design event that takes place at the Paris Nord Villepinte is dreamy. If you are a design lover this is the show for you! It’s a show for household goods, furnishing, and decorations. The 2022 show is set to take place January 21-25.

Chinese New Year

Depending on the year and when Chinese New Year actually falls, the celebrations can take place at the end of January. There are parades, entertainment, and food feasts across Paris, and in particular in the 13th arrondissement.

Traversée de Paris

Mr. Misadventures and I really love this one because we cannot get enough of vintage cars especially Citroens! As the name suggests the cars cross (traverse) the city and end up in the parking area of Château de Vincennes. We prefer to see it at the chateau as we can see more cars are once. (We also love the Peking to Paris car event in October)

Culinary Delights of January in Paris

A trip to Paris is never complete without experiencing the culinary traditions of the city. Paris is foodie heaven – try the awesome pastries produced by the city’s bakeshops, book a reservation in one of the many quaint French restaurants and experience some haute cuisine, have a bottle of wine, and gorge yourself on delicious cheeses at the wine bars.

There are just so many options you can choose from, there is something for every taste and in the last decade every food category including vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, you name it and it isn’t as tough to get in Paris as it once was.

What to eat in Paris in January

Paris Marche in Winter
The marchés are open all year round.

Food in Paris is always expensive (way higher than the rest of France) but is it worth the price? Yes and No. If you choose a restaurant, think about the time of day you go – fancier restaurants often have really great, and more affordable, lunch versions of their menu. I absolutely love a picnic, but it is a little bit harder to do in the winter.

Many restaurants offer season menus so it is always good to know what is actually in season! Paris has many tastes to experience, but during the winter there are some seasonal specialties. If you visit the marchés (farmer’s market) you will see many of these items listed below.

  • Fruits in season: apples and pears are still widely available.  In restaurants look for desserts featuring apples (pommes) and pears (poires). Oranges and clementines are a holiday treat that is still available in January.
  • Vegetables in season: cabbages, carrots, potatoes, leeks, fennel, and endive. In restaurants look for starters with leeks (poireau) and endive. From my beloved Brittany, cauliflower (choux fleur) is in abundance in January. Our favorite lettuce in the Misadventures household is called mâche, a winter lettuce widely available in January also.
  • Pumpkins (potiron) are used to make winter soups that you will often see as a starter. Truffles are in season and sometimes you will get a slice or two on the soup, but you will most definitely see truffles in the traditional omelet and pasta dishes.
  • Seafood is wonderful in January! This is what is in season: (look for these dishes in restaurants) are cod (artic variety) (cabillauds Artiques); yellow Pollack or (lieu jaune),  anchovies (the only winter month you can get them fresh), oysters, calamari, scallops, sea bass, sole, mullet (Rouget-Barbet), bream (dorade) and skate (raie). 
  • The French don’t eat turkey at the holidays but rather a smaller, gamier bird called a pintade, poularde, or capon (or chapon).
  • You will see slow-cooked meats turned into stews (pot au feu or daube) on many bistro menus.
  • Did you know that there are seasonal cheeses (fromages)? It’s true! Look for Mont d’Or” (vacherin), Abondance, Salers and Laguiole (spring and summer cheeses that have aged by winter), Munster (very creamy in winter); Ossau-Iraty (Basque); all the cheeses used for fondue: Comté, Emmenthal, and Beaufort (here are my recommendations for the best fondue in Paris); and the blues: Bleu du Gex (Mr. Misadventures and I used to live not too far from this town!) and Fourme de Montbrison.”
  • Hot Chocolate: Of course, you can get chocolat chaud any time of year, but I think it tastes best in the winter! La Chocolaterie de Jacques Genin and Angelina are world-famous for their exceptional hot chocolate during the cold weather. 

Epiphany

Epiphany-Customs-in-France

One thing is for sure in January you should NOT miss tasting the Galette des Rois, a traditional cake made to celebrate Epiphany.

The day is celebrated as a memoir of the 3 Wise Men bringing gifts to Baby Jesus. Parisians and the whole of France commemorate this day with a bottle of champagne and a King’s cake (Galette des Rois). This cake has a small porcelain figurine called “la feve” hidden inside. When the cake is cut, whosoever finds the figurine is given a golden crown (and is supposed to have good luck for that year) and they then wear the crown for a day.

Although Epiphany is officially on January 6th, you can still taste the King’s cake throughout the month if you want to.

Paris Cocktail Week

Like a restaurant week but for dazzling drinks! Loads of Parisian bars take part in this week where we celebrate all things cocktail: special concoctions, mixology classes, competitions, and pairings!

Fête de la Coquille de St. Jacques (Scallop Festival)

Mr. Misadventures and I attended a scallop festival in Brittany at the end of April, but in Paris, it is held in January and takes place in Montmartre (18th arrondissement). I love scallops in all their forms! My favorite sashimi is sliced scallop (Hotate) and my all-time favorite dimsum is scallop dumpling from Yank Sing in San Francisco. You probably won’t find those 2 items in Paris but lots of great and original scallop delicious nonetheless.

Important tips to remember

Andi-in-Paris-in-Winter

Before you do book that flight to Paris during the month of January, there are a few more things you need to be aware of. Take it from me, these tips can make your stay in Paris more enjoyable.

Pack the right clothes

As I’ve previously mentioned, the weather in Paris in January can be a bit unpredictable so pack the right clothes to cover any contingencies. Since it can get rainy, make sure to pack a raincoat so you won’t get wet. Dressing in layers is a must.

You should also account for the cold weather by bringing a couple of thick sweaters, scarves, thick socks, a pair of gloves, a hat, and a good pair of shoes that are comfortable enough for those long walks in the city. Packing an umbrella is also a good thing to remember, although some hotels do provide one if you ask for it.

For a full list of what to pack for Paris in the winter, check out this post.

Prepare an itinerary

Make your trip to Paris efficient. Prepare an itinerary before your trip so you can maximize your time in the city. List the places and attractions that you want to see and group them by location/arrondissement. This way you can cover more ground on any given day. Nothing is as frustrating and expensive as crisscrossing the city going from one location to another because you didn’t plan your trip well enough.

Here is my Paris Arrondissement Guide to help you figure out where you want to spend your time. Remember, your itinerary should be a guide. The weather changes, heck your mood may change as well, so have options.

But ALWAYS, always leave time just to wander!

Transportation through Paris in January

There are many public transportation methods to rely on in Paris throughout the day and night. These include RER trains, metros, tramways, regional trains (Transilien), buses, Noctilien (Night buses), taxis, etc.

  • Metro: There’s nothing faster and more convenient than the metro. You can get anywhere in Paris by metro. Metros start to operate at around 6 AM and stop at 12:45 AM. Unless it’s the weekend (Friday-Saturday), the metro runs an hour longer until 1:45 AM on weekends.
  • Buses start at 7 in the morning and continue to provide services until 8:30 PM. Some are also available from 8:30 PM to 12:00 AM. Although keep in mind, buses can be time-consuming, they wait around 5 minutes at every stop for passengers.
  • Night Buses: (Noctilien) Yes, you can travel at night as well with these buses! They start at around 12:30 AM and operate until 5:30 AM.

You can find maps in the metro stations and near ticket counters, along with line directions at the platform’s entrances and exits.

Is January the best time to visit Paris?

Mais oui! Even if you have visited Paris many times in the summer, revisit Paris in January, It is a whole different experience. Whether you travel solo, with your family, friends, or your partner, you will appreciate Paris during this month where the chilly weather can be appreciated by sipping gallons of hot chocolate! 

Have you ever visited Paris in January? What was your experience? Did you enjoy small crowds, frosty trees, and the lights of the city? Do share!

PARIS IN:  Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | June | July | Aug | Sept | Oct | Nov | Dec

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