The holidays in Paris are magical, but it shouldn’t be the only time you visit Paris in the winter. Once the New Year is over, hotels and flight prices fall. Without the crowds, you can enjoy some of the most famous sights and museums without fighting for that perfect view. However, the weather can be a downer.
That makes what you pack and figuring out what to wear in Paris in the winter a bit more complicated.
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What’s the weather like in Paris in winter?
Although the temperatures do not drop to the extent of some other continental destinations, Paris in the winter tends to be cold. And gray. And mostly wet. Expect temperatures in the 30s and 40s, little sunshine, and a lot of wind, especially along the river.
Snow isn't unheard of, but it rarely sticks for more than a day, so there is no need to bring your ski gear. (If you want to ski in France, consider Val Thorens or one of the great French ski resorts for beginners!)
Besides, there is no better time to experience some of the seasonal specialties (hello Chandeleur crêpes and Galette des Rois!) The key to enjoying Paris in the winter is to pack accordingly.
Remember that you will likely spend a good amount of time exploring the outdoors. Even with numerous coffee and wine breaks in cozy cafes, you would be missing out if you were not taking in some of the main sights of the city despite the rain and the wind. Besides, although the days are short and dark, the City of Light rarely deserves its name more than when the glow from the windows and illuminated streets reflect on the wet pavement…
Here is everything you should leave room for in your suitcase when traveling to Paris during the winter months!
5 Tips for Packing for Paris in Winter
Before we get down to the exact Paris packing list for winter, I wanted to share a few overall tips to help you plan your trip to Paris in the winter season.
In winter, as through the rest of the year, French women tend to have a very sophisticated style. You won’t find puffy ski jackets or brightly colored snow boots on the streets of Paris as you may in the United States.
Parisian winter style is more about layers, long coats, elegant accessories, and neutral colors. You’ll often see Parisian women in dark skinny jeans, ankle-length boots (or knee-high leather boots), and a black coat, with colors popping through to accent and chase away the winter blues.
1. Pick the right shoes
I have said this before in my fall packing list, but I will say it again: the right pair of shoes can make or break your trip to the French capital. During this time of year, it's hard to avoid packing winter boots. They should be waterproof, warm, and stylish – this is Paris, after all.
Knee-high leather boots
Knee-high leather boots in classic black or brown are an excellent choice since they check all the criteria. They are versatile enough to be dressed up or down, and you can wear them with jeans during the day and a dress at night if you go out.
Since you will be living out of a suitcase during your trip to Paris, you want to make the most out of each item you bring, especially one as cumbersome as boots. Wear them on the plane to save some space in your bags.
Make sure they are well broken in and have enough traction since wet cobblestones can be very treacherous. You will be walking a lot, so stick to small to moderate heels. Also, ensure that they fit well with thick socks – something you’re definitely going to want to wear!
Waterproof ankle boots
Waterproof brown or black ankle boots are a good alternative, but they won't protect your calves from the cold Parisian rain. Avoid mesh or fabric sneakers at all costs: there is no faster way to be miserable in Paris than to be cold, with wet feet, and miles away from your hotel.
If you know that you will be going out for a fancy meal or event, don’t forget to bring a pair of dressier shoes. I avoid high heels at all costs during a winter trip to Paris.
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2. Bring a good winter coat
Much like your shoes, the kind of outerwear you bring will play a significant role in whether your winter stay in Paris is magical or dreadful. It should be able to stand up to the wet and cold weather you are sure to encounter this time of year in the City of Light.
Besides, since it is probably all you will see in most of your pictures, you may as well put some thought into it or splurge on a new one!
As tempting as it might be to pull out the technical gear, leave your favorite ski jacket at home. Instead, go with a classic wool coat like a peacoat or a belted trench.
Unsurprisingly, Parisians tend to gravitate towards black, gray, or navy as their colors of choice. In recent years, I have seen more and more slim-cut puff coats on Parisian streets. Again, stay clear of bright colors or sporty cuts if you want to blend in.
While you may see some locals wearing a leather jacket, I personally don’t think it’s a good option for winter as it doesn’t stay warm enough. (Though it’s great for spring!)
It is one of those bulky items that will occupy a good share of the limited real estate in your suitcase, so wear it on the plane. Bring a coat versatile enough to take you from day to night and reasonably waterproof. If your coat doesn't come with a hood attached (and even if it does), don't forget to pack a travel umbrella as well.
3. Don’t forget cold-weather accessories
If the right coat is essential, so are winter accessories. They are your first line of defense for a long cold day strolling through Parisian streets.
Wool hats, gloves, and scarves are a must-have when traveling to Paris in the winter. Unlike a coat, they won’t take much room in your suitcase (roll them into your boots to save space) so don’t be shy about bringing more than one set.
They can change up your entire look and add a touch of color if all those shades of grey and black are a bit too much for you. Remember all those pictures you will be taking? Besides, who wants to wear wet gloves two days in a row?
My love for scarves needs no introduction, but they are indispensable in the winter. Blanket scarves will keep you warm during the day, and they conveniently double up as a blanket or substitute pillow on the plane.
Hats come in all shapes and sizes so you can pick accordingly to your style. A classic wool beanie will do, but you can switch it up with a felt wide-brim hat that will also keep the rain away.
Berets may be a French stereotype, but if sporting them in Paris, you may as well carry a giant “tourist” neon sign on your back.
Leather gloves are very chic and reasonably weatherproof (unlike wool ones), but be sure that they are warm enough for the winter weather in Paris.
4. Warm clothes are a must
Bringing the right clothes when traveling is always an ordeal, so check my five tips for how to pack for Paris before closing your suitcase.
In the winter, stock up on clothes that will keep you warm. Flowy dresses may look cute in pictures, but you will quickly regret your choice after a long day in the rain.
Instead, go for a warm sweater dress which will also travel very well – who has time to iron clothes while on winter holiday?
Chunky knit sweaters and cardigans are everywhere in Paris right now. They tend to be bulky, so bring items you can wear with several outfits. A well-cut dark blazer will also dress up a pair of jeans for a meal out.
Match them up with long-sleeve tees and blouses, which allow for a little bit more fantasy. Since museums can get warm, make sure you can layer up if you will be spending most of the day indoors. Leave hoodies, university sweaters, and anything too sporty at home.
For bottoms, stick with dark-colored slim-cut pants and jeans you can tuck in your boots. This way, you will avoid soaking the bottom of your pants in the Parisian puddles. You can also dress it up with a knee-length skirt.
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5. Appropriate underlayers will save the day
As is often the case when dealing with cold and wet weather, undergarments are almost as important as the clothes themselves. I often bring dark leggings to wear under dresses. They can also come in handy under your pants on a particularly cold day or if you know that you will be spending most of the day outdoors.
Wool socks are great as well to keep the cold out. If it is raining hard, it doesn’t hurt to pack an extra pair in your handbag just in case! Discreet long-sleeve undershirts will add an extra layer without the bulk under a sweater (especially a potentially scratchy wool one) or even a nice blouse or button-down shirt.
Merino wool makes a great base layer during the colder months as it helps keep heat in.
What kind of bag should you pack for a trip to Paris in the Winter?
I'm adding this note because it is always something I struggle with. But after many, many trips to Paris in the winter, I have a few things for you to consider when it comes to selecting a bag (or bags) for your trip. If you take my recommendations above you will be wearing layers.
That means when you do some sort of indoor activity you will be peeling layers and you will need someplace to put them. I recommend that you bring the minimum amount of stuff that you can get by with for your day bag because you will need space to accommodate the aforementioned layers!
This is especially the case in cafes and restaurants where you will have very little personal space (something I wrote about in my Paris dining guide). What I usually end up doing is bringing multiple tote bags that collapse into each other.
I should mention that your bag should also be waterproof. Whether it is rain or snow, it seems like my bag always gets the worst of it so I make sure that it can handle water and closes to protect the items inside.
Something I've written about before as well (French market etiquette) bringing your own reusable bags because any shopping bag will disintegrate when it gets wet. Or worse, one time my Galeries Lafayette shopping bag with black handles got wet and stained the arms of my red Patagonia jacket, 3 years later, I still have these black marks on my jacket!
I have written an entire blog post on the best bags for Paris.
Paris Winter Packing List:
- Knee-high boots (preferably leather)
- Wool winter coat
- Gloves, hat, and scarf
- Long-sleeve sweater dress
- Wool cardigans and sweaters
- Wool blazer
- Long sleeve blouses and shirts
- Slim-cut pants and jeans
- Black leggings
- Wool socks
- Long-sleeve undershirts
Packing for Paris by Season
What to do in Paris in the Winter
How about you? What are the things you cannot travel without when visiting Paris in winter?
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I am married to a French man, lived in France for 3 years, and have been to Paris more than 50 times. I am always a tourist so the information, tip, and tricks I share are created to help you!
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- Look for fares using sites like Skyscanner or Expedia.com.
- For France (Paris) coming from the West Coast, I typically fly Air France or United. From the East Coast, I typically fly Air France or Delta.
- If you travel frequently, consider investing in a Priority Pass for airport lounge access. Not only will you have a spot to relax before your flight and charge your devices, but you can eat and drink for free (without paying crazy airport prices!)
- I use Expedia.com, Booking.com, and Hotels.com to find lodging. Always check the reviews on TripAdvisor before booking!
- For rental car agencies, try Rentalcars.com. When traveling in Europe, I use AutoEurope to make reservations. They find the best rates and allow you to compare different car rental agencies. I typically book with Sixt.
- For transportation from the CDG airport to anywhere within Paris, consider pre-booking with Get Transfer. It is one way to be stress-free and you can request an English-speaking driver.
- Tours + Atractions
- I book tours with companies like Viator and GetYourGuide. Both have a wide variety of activities for every travel style. Other companies to look at include Tours by Locals and Withlocals.
- If you’re visiting a city with multiple attractions, be sure to check out a discount pass, such as CityPASS or Go City.
- Context Travel is another option and they offer more educational-based activities.
- If you are looking to buy tickets to attractions, check out Tiquet.
- Don't Forget Travel Photos
- One of my favorite things to do is to get photos taken of me while on vacation. Flytographer is a great option with photographers all over the world.
- Peace of Mind
- It’s important to have some type of travel insurance to cover any unforeseen accidents, illnesses, threats, or cancellations. I always travel with insurance and would recommend SafetyWing, SquareMouth or Travelex Insurance are good options.
- Should you have any trouble with flight delays to the extent you feel you deserve compensation, I encourage you to check out and use AirHelp. I used them and for 1 claim I got compensated (transparency: a 2nd claim did not, but I was still glad I tried!).