What to Wear in Paris: Tips for Packing for Paris in the Winter (+ Packing List!)

Packing for Paris in Winter

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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.

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!)

It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t enjoy yourself. Although naps in the parks and ice cream by the Seine may not be part of the equation, Paris has plenty to offer even on the rainiest of days. 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!

  1. Pick the right shoes

I have said 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. In the winter, you won’t get around packing winter boots. They should be waterproof, warm, and stylish – this is Paris, after all.

Knee-high leather boots in a 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.

Waterproof 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.

  1. 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 a good match for the wet and cold weather you are sure to encounter that time of year in the City of Lights. 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, the 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.

It is one of those bulky items that will occupy a good share of the limited real estate in your suitcase, so wear it in 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.

  1. 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 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 in 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 in 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.

  1. 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 with a warm sweater dress which will also travel very well – who has time to iron clothes while on holidays?

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.

  1. Appropriate underlayers will save the day

As it 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.

What kind of bag should you pack for a trip to Paris in the Winter?

I’m adding in 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). 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!

Packing for Paris in Winter

My packing list for Paris in the winter:

  • Knee-high leather boots
  • 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

How about you? What are the things you cannot travel without when visiting Paris in winter?

Illustration commissioned from Linden Eller.

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36 Comments

  1. Dee
    December 11, 2019

    I’ve read a few of your Paris packing guides for different seasons and they’re pretty cool. I love the illustrations. You hit all the main points on my packing list and then some!

    Reply
  2. Shafinah
    December 11, 2019

    oooh i just love your articles and those beautiful beautiful illustrations so much! 🥰🥰🥰

    Reply
  3. Eileen M Loya
    December 12, 2019

    It would be a dream come true for me to be able to spend Christmas in lovely Paris! Thank you for these tips on what to pack when going on a winter holiday in Paris! Hopefully next year we can be there!

    Reply
  4. Sarah
    December 12, 2019

    Love the illustrations! And this guide is going to be pretty helpful when I am packing for Paris 🙂

    Reply
  5. Yukti Agrawal
    December 12, 2019

    Love your detailed posts on Paris as it really tempts us to visit again and again. Thanks for sharing a very detailed post on what to pack for winter clothing in Paris. I would love to keep more underlayers to keep myself warm and can be adjusted too during day times.

    Reply
  6. Juliann
    December 12, 2019

    Shoes. Always my biggest conundrum. I want comfortable shoes and boots, but don’t want to use a lot of room in my suitcase. Especially in Europe, comfortable walking shoes are a must. I don’t care if I’m cold, I can buy more hats and gloves, but I need to remind myself frequently that the shoes I pack can make all the difference.

    Reply
  7. Tara Pittman
    December 12, 2019

    You are prepared for the cold. This is a good packing list for a winter vacation

    Reply
  8. Marcie W.
    December 12, 2019

    My Paris trip is still a few years away, but it will take place in February. I plan to bookmark this post so I can refer back to it when the time comes.

    Reply
  9. Amy Desrosiers
    December 12, 2019

    I had no idea that Paris got so cold! I know the weather could be rainy, but I didn’t realize they got super chilly weather like here.

    Reply
  10. Rachael
    December 12, 2019

    Thanks for the recommendations Andi! I’ve been to Paris in the winter and it was substantially colder than London! I was not prepared

    Reply
  11. Brianne Tursi Manz
    December 12, 2019

    My girls and I were in Paris recently. We were there before it began to get cold. These are great tips if we ever go back in the winter.

    Reply
  12. Kathy
    December 12, 2019

    Paris is one of the top places on my list of place I want to visit. I think it would be so beautiful to be able to go. You have some great lists here too. I love it.

    Reply
  13. Shannon Graham
    December 12, 2019

    Paris sounds so nice right now. I’ve never been but have always wanted to go. I definitely feel more prepared after reading this!

    Reply
  14. Jenn and Ed Coleman
    December 12, 2019

    I just read an article on how the outdoor urinals in Paris helped defeat the Nazis. I was seriously inspired to go back and see the last remaining urinal, now I know what to pack. Seriously though, shoes are always so tough for Paris, because you want to be fashionable, but functional. Paris is such a beautiful walking city.

    Reply
  15. Celebrate Woman Today
    December 12, 2019

    Would be really practical when we travel there. But I just really enjoyed the post for the fact that I am curious what weather it is in Paris during cold time of the year, and what people wear.

    Reply
  16. Monica
    December 12, 2019

    I always want to visit some place warm but I will take Paris in the winter! Even if it’s rainy. Still seems like it’s incredibly beautiful and romantic. Thanks for the packing tips!

    Reply
  17. katrina Kroeplin
    December 13, 2019

    great tips. the outfits sounds like they would really work. i would love to go to paris whenever really. i’m not picky on that trip lol.

    Reply
  18. sarah
    December 14, 2019

    yes, that pretty much sums up what I would take too. I live in Belgium, so the weather is quite similar to Paris weather.
    Great post for people who are traveling or celebrating the holidays in Paris right now!

    Reply
  19. Leslie
    December 14, 2019

    I always forget a hat! Awesome guide! I love the rec for slim cut pants. Merci.

    Reply
  20. Lynne Nieman
    December 14, 2019

    I’m heading to Paris in late January and these tips are great. My only issue is that I have had bouts of plantar fasciitis and have to be über careful of shoes. So I may have to be the “tourist” and wear my waterproof trail runners as they are the only shoe for winter I trust to walk a lot in. I’m looking for a stylish ankle boot, but not having any luck. But I agree with the rest of your recommendations. Thanks, Andi!

    Reply
  21. Emma
    December 14, 2019

    I always forget how cool it can get in Paris so this is really helpful. I remember the first time I went I wore boots with heels because I wanted to by stylish like the French. My feet hated me by a long day of sightseeing. Never again!

    Reply
  22. Josy A
    December 14, 2019

    I am totally with you that the right pair of shoes can make or break a trip! This is extra true in Paris as I always find we walk so much there! Very useful post!

    p.s. I love your illustrations!

    Reply
  23. Mary Blatchford
    December 14, 2019

    Literally loved this packing list! Everything you could possibly need!

    Reply
  24. Emma
    December 14, 2019

    I’m a big fan of traveling off peak, but yes sometimes the weather can be less than ideal. Great tips on what to wear for winter in Paris!

    Reply
  25. Jen
    December 14, 2019

    Do you do these illustrations yourself? They’re gorgeous!

    Reply
  26. Patti
    December 15, 2019

    This is really handy. I’m a California girl so it rarely gets that cold. But this lost is perfect not just for Paris. I would love to visit some cold places, just need to find right gear. Thank you.

    Reply
  27. Kelsey
    December 15, 2019

    I always struggle with packing in winter! I end up bringing too many random shirts haha. Will be saving this 🙂

    Reply
  28. Ashley Hubbard
    December 15, 2019

    The right shoes and winter accessories can make or break a winter visit I think! These are great tips for packing for Paris 🙂 Also, I love the sketch drawing!

    Reply
  29. Marina
    December 15, 2019

    As a Parisian I can only say that I TOTALLY AGREE with this list! I’m gonna share it with my friends and relatives who’s visiting me for Christmas haha

    Reply
  30. Michele Duncan
    December 15, 2019

    That’s a great list! Knowing what to wear while visiting a new place is always hard. Getting tips from an experienced traveler takes off a lot of stress from packing.

    Reply
  31. Pansy
    December 15, 2019

    I’ve visited Paris in December before and some days were very cold even with a big down coat, so I totally agree with all warm weather clothing recommendations! I wish I had brought more warm underlayers as you suggest! I love the illustrations btw!!

    Reply
  32. May
    December 15, 2019

    What a great list of items for packing. It made me want to go back to Paris
    Also, loved your website.

    Reply
  33. Elsa
    December 15, 2019

    So cold and cool article. Thanks for the list! Nice post.

    Reply
  34. Megan
    December 16, 2019

    Great list and I LOVE the illustration! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  35. […] Paris? I’ve got you covered! I’ve got a basic packing plan, plus a specific list for autumn and winter travel (spring and summer coming soon!). Go with the classics, add a few focus points (shoes, […]

    Reply
  36. Alix @A Hedgehog in the Kitchen
    December 28, 2019

    What a cute illustration and great tips for packing for Paris in the Winter! It’s a beautiful time of year to visit but also freezing so these tips are so useful!

    Reply

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