Three Southern gals go to Paris in the winter… what could go wrong?
Wintertime in Paris may not be everyone’s first choice, but can I be honest? We loved it! Here’s our whole guide from what to wear, where to stay, and the best things to do!
When we found flights to Europe for a steal, we decided to forget about blooming flowers and manicured parks filled with greenery in favor of a good bargain. That’s what you do in your twenties, right? Yes, spring and summer in Europe are super popular times to visit. Ten years ago when Angie and I visited Paris, we visited the summer and had the best time. We took naps in parks, ate crepes in front of Notre Dame and pranced around in dresses. This trip however, was completely different. Well, we still pranced around in dresses… but we had fleece leggings, too! Flights are always cheaper in the chillier, off-season winter months. AirBnBs are wide open. Crowds are slim. And surprisingly, we had just as good a time in the cold weather as Angie and I did in the balmy summer.
Winter Weather in Paris
Although it rarely snows in Paris, there’s no napping outdoors in green parks or frolicking lazily along the Seine in the winter. Y’all… it is COLD. Especially for girl born and raised in the Sunshine State. You don’t just need a jacket. You need layers and layers and LAYERS.
(Please don’t underestimate how hard it is to pack for a cold climate for a Floridian. I had to buy pants without holes in them, you guys. HA!)
It is very important to keep warm because you’ll be spending the majority of your trip outside. The temperature during our trip in January was in the 30’s, but felt much colder with the wind whipping us in the face.
Paris in the winter is pretty cold with December averaging in the mid-40s, January in the high 30s, low 40s, and February in the 40s.
To help you stay warm and stylish, I’ve created a list of what to wear in Paris in winter, enjoy!
What to Wear in Paris in Winter: Our Outfits + Cold Weather Tips
We spent 10 days in Paris and London, so that’s no small amount of clothing! But I fit more than half of these items in my carry on. Humble brag.
Scarves & Hats
Layers are important because you never know how the weather is going to be, but cute scarves and colorful hats are the cherry on top! Yes, they’re a smart way to block the dreaded wind during those cold months and to lock in body heat, but also! Accessories are the best way to work within the confines of a capsule wardrobe. You can focus on jazzing up basics in muted or neutral colors with hats and scarves that pop. It’s the easiest way to travel carry-on only. (Something my friends would’ve really benefitted from after Delta lost their luggage for almost the entire time we were in Paris.)
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Keeping your feet WARM is crucial to comfort if you’re traveling in Europe in the winter. If your feet are cold, it’s all over, and you did not come all this way to hide out indoors.
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I’m glad I finally bought pants without holes in them. And I’m sure my mom is, too.
I alternated between cute skirts (DO IT FOR THE GRAM) and cozy sweater and jeans combos.
Do yourself a favorite and bring along fleece-lined leggings. We wore them under EVERYTHING and they made it easy to look cute in winter, but also keep warm.
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In the past I’ve made the mistake of bringing a not-so-warm jacket to a cold destination. This is a serious issue for Floridians who think every unlined peacoat at Old Navy counts as a winter jacket. Make sure whatever you pack will keep you warm is not just a ‘Florida jacket.”
If you’re wondering what to wear in Paris in winter, both of these options are cold-weather approved by all of us.
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Sweaters and layers are very important, especially if you’re going to be outside all day exploring gardens, parks and the banks of the Seine. Amazon has tons of cute sweater options. Just be sure to pack a soft, long-sleeved undershirt (I used this one) in case any of them are unexpectedly itchy.
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What you can leave at home for winter in Paris:
This is one of those common sense things that isn’t so common. You’ll be doing tons of walking, thousands of steps a day, and if your feet start hurting half way through the day, you’ll be too miserable to enjoy the sights. You didn’t come all the way to Paris to limp around while nursing blisters, right? Pack cute, comfy shoes with arch support. (Angie swears by The Walking Company!) Low wedged boots are warm, cute and functional.
Jewelry or Valuables
Don’t bring anything you’d be devastated to lose. Yes, you want to look cute on your Parisian adventure, but you don’t want to spend your trip sad if something comes up missing.
Paris is famous for a lot of things, and sadly tourist scams are one of them. Keep a vigilant eye on cameras, bags and your friends. You can look away for one second and the next thing you know, there are scammers all around your unsuspecting buddies!
Don’t let the word “jacket” fool you. Leather isn’t warm enough to protect you from the wind on a cold Paris night!
Now that you’re bundled up and ready to head out, you’ve got to plan your day. There isn’t much daylight during winter in Paris, so be sure you wake up early enough to get out and see everything before the sun goes down. Fortunately the sun rises rather late in January (in the 8 a.m. hour), so it’s not too early a start. But you only have until around 5 p.m. to see everything in the daylight.
I’ve created a list of things to see in Paris, and they’re great for photos!
The BEST Things to Do in Paris in Winter
Visit the Eiffel Tower
The icon of Paris, the Eiffel Tower! It’s on everyone’s bucket list, right? At more than 1,000 feet high, the tower was constructed for the 1889 World Exposition and was meant to only stay standing for 20 years. Now, it’s one of the world’s most photographed tourist attractions. It’s great for photos at all hours of the day. I suggest visiting early in the morning and at night. And you should definitely get tickets to skip the line for spectacular 360 views of Paris.
If you’re feeling really fancy, you can book a gourmet dinner!
Explore the Louvre Museum
Once a royal palace, the Louvre Museum has been immortalized
playing part in Beyonce and Jay-Z music video since it houses more than 1 million objects like Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” Michelangelo’s “Dying Slave” and the Venus de Milo statue. Plan to spend the entire day (or two) at the Louvre because it’s impossible to see everything in just one day. You’ll want to get your tickets ahead of time to avoid the crowds and spend as much time inside as possible.
Climb up the Arc de Triomphe
Constructed to memorialize the battles of Napoleon Bonaparte and to honor those who fought for France, the Arc de Triomphe is another can’t-miss iconic landmark in Paris. If you’re up for it, climb to the top — it’s only 280 steps! Avoid the lines and get tickets to the top here.
Visit Sacré Coeur
Sitting at the top of Paris is Sacré Coeur, a world famous basilica drawing tons of visitors to its marble architecture, breathtaking views of the city. It is the second most visited church in France, after Notre-Dame Cathedral. It’s free to visit, but I recommend taking a tour of the basilica and neighborhood of Montmartre to get the full experience. It is a bit of a hike climbing up the hill, so be ready for a little exercise.
Do what we did: grab a few pastries and burn the calories as you walk up the hill. You don’t feel as bad.
Enjoy a Local Cafè
One of my favorite things to do when traveling is finding a small cafe to grab breakfast every morning and get to know the locals. It’s one of the best ways to feel like you belong. We started every morning at L’Etincelle and got to know the sweetest family in Paris. We spent every morning with our new friend Hamid Hammar drinking coffee and communicating through Google translate. He’d laugh when we tried to speak French, but was super helpful at showing us the best ways to get around the city. If you’re in Paris, stop in and say hello for us (we’re Facebook friends now).
Catacombs of Paris
Looking to check out an enormous collection of bones? You can at the Catacombs of Paris. This ossuary can be found a mile under the city of Paris with tunnels lined with 6 million bodies. YIKES. Today you can walk the tunnels lined with skulls and femurs and whatnot, but don’t touch anything! Get tickets before time runs out…
Cruise on the Seine
See the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Musée d’Orsay, Jardin des Tuileries and the Louvre from the Seine River. These hour longboat rides are very romantic and tickets are inexpensive. Not only are you cruising down the river, you’re taking a journey through Paris’s historic past. You can also book a fun brunch cruise or a champagne tasting one!
Have only a short time in Paris but need to see a lot? Viator has a tour that includes a Seine River cruise, Moulin Rouge show AND a trip up the Eiffel Tower, plus a really cool dinner option you can to pick. Check it out here.
Stop into the Notre-Dame Cathedral
NOTE: Due to a devastating fire in 2019, Notre Dame Cathedral is currently closed to the public as it undergoes renovations and repairs. Expect to be able to visit again in 2021.
Marvel at the French Gothic architecture at the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Or do what I do and sing songs from Disney’s Hunchback of Notre-Dame. You can take a guided tour of the cathedrals, walk through it on your own or attend Mass. Mass happens frequently during the day and attendance is free.
Where to Stay in Paris
There are so many lovely neighborhoods to stay in Paris. The most central for tourists, is the 1st Arrondissement, which is close to the big landmarks like the Louvre or Notre Dame. However, it’s easy to get around via the metro or on foot, so you can stay in any of Paris’s many neighborhoods. We stayed in the 15th Arrondissement at Edgar Suite’s Porte de Versailles location. It’s more of an apartment than a typical hotel, so we had a kitchen and dining area.
You’re almost ready to go, but before you do, grab a guide book.