Visiting Paris in December 2023: The complete guide for a trip to remember

Smart travelers always choose the lesser popular months to explore expensive destinations, and December is an ideal month to enjoy Paris, not only because it’s the off season, but it’s that time of the year when the French capital turns festive and magical.

So put on a cozy sweater and comfy boots and discover another side of Paris this December! As Christmas approaches, the city is as beautiful as ever and can be enjoyed so easily as all the crowds are gone.

The French capital is a fantastic destination for the month of December that will delight your senses and warm your spirit. Beat the winter chill sipping a hot café au lait in one of Paris’s hundreds of charming coffee shops or savouring a bowl of warm French onion soup in a cozy side-street restaurant. 

Browsing along the Parisian streets, admiring the exquisite store windows decorated for Christmas is a wonder-filled experience. Paris is nicknamed the City of Light and December is the best time of the year to enjoy the city’s night-time illuminations, as the city comes to life in a whole new way after the early sunset in the winter. 

How cold is Paris in December?

Paris is definitely going to be cold in December and the weather is a little unpredictable this month, with plenty of rain and the chance of a couple of days of light snowfall too.

Provided you are well wrapped up and carry an umbrella with you, exploring the city at this time of year is lovely – especially as there are a number of really good Christmas Markets. A mug of warm mulled wine is certainly is a great reason to get out and get into the holidays spirit French-style. 

Min temperature:  3.4°C (38°F)
Max temperature:  7.5°C (46°F)
Average temperature:  5°C (41°F)
Rainy days: 15 days
Daylight hours: 8.3 hours (sunrise at 08:30 am, sunset at 5:00 pm)

Is December a good time to visit Paris?

Pros

The chance to enjoy the very special festive atmosphere of Paris.
There are smaller crowds and shorter wait times in this incredibly popular city. Visiting all the well-known attractions is a real pleasure as there is so much space to move around in and in some rooms in the Louvre – for example – you may be the only visitor.
Many of the prices in Paris in December are lower as it is no longer tourist season, but they will be higher over Christmas and the New Year.

 Cons

All the beautiful trees in the city are bare and places like the Champs Elysée  look very different. The city’s beautiful gardens are not at their best either.
Many of the tourist attractions are open for shorter hours each day and certain attractions are closed for the winter months.
The weather can ruin any outdoor plans you have such as taking a boat trip or visiting an outdoor event. Poor weather can also cause travel disruptions.
Many of the famous bouquinistes (folding second-hand book stalls) that are usually found by the Seine along the stretch from the Louvre to Notre Dame are closed. 

What to wear in Paris in December

It is best to pack plenty of warm clothes for your December trip to Paris. A warm coat, hat and gloves are essential plus some comfortable shoes or boots that can be worn with warm woolly socks.

Several thin warm sweaters are easier than one thick one – if you feel the cold, put on a thermal top underneath. An umbrella or large rain jacket that fits over your coat will prove very useful this time of year. Here’s the complete list of clothes and accessories you should pack for your December visit to Paris: 

Warm and Snug Coat: Paris can get pretty chilly in December, so a toasty, well-insulated coat is your best friend. Look for one that not only keeps you warm but also adds a touch of flair to your outfit.
Layer It Up: Layering is key. Consider rocking some trendy sweaters, long-sleeved shirts, or thermal tops underneath to keep you warm and allow for easy adjustments as you transition between indoor and outdoor settings.
Wrap Up: Don’t forget your trusty scarf and gloves to shield yourself from the cold breeze. Plus, they’re the perfect accessories to showcase your personal style.
Top It Off: Stay snug and stylish with a cute hat. It’ll not only keep your noggin warm but also add a dash of charm to your look.
Bottoms Up: Invest in thermal leggings or pants to wear beneath your jeans or trousers. This extra layer will keep your legs cozy as you explore the city.
Boot Up: Opt for waterproof and insulated boots that are as comfy as they are practical. They’ll keep your feet dry and warm during your Parisian adventures.
Sock Game: Don’t forget thick, warm socks to provide extra insulation for your tootsies.
Rainy Day Prep: Be prepared for occasional rain with a compact umbrella tucked into your bag.
Layering Elegance: Layering isn’t just functional; it can also be stylish. Think about pairing a thermal shirt with a chic sweater and a fashionable coat for that effortlessly cool Parisian look.
Accessorize with Flair: While staying warm is a priority, don’t shy away from adding some stylish scarves, hats, and gloves to your outfit. They can be the perfect finishing touches to your winter ensemble.

It’s all about being comfy and confident while you explore the beautiful City of Light. So, embrace the chill, let your personal style shine and you’ll feel like Emily in Paris on a day out. 

Best events in Paris in December

1. Christmas Markets

The great news for December visitors to Paris is that there are some great Christmas Markets (Marchés de Noël) to enjoy – more than 14 in fact. Many of them display traditional Swiss style chalets containing the stalls. Besides being a great place for Christmas shopping, the Christmas Markets are ideal for foodies with mulled wine, cheeses, chocolates and bags of toasted chestnuts to enjoy.

La Magie de Noël (“The Magic of Christmas”) is the largest market and is held in the Tuileries Garden which is close to the Louvre. Every year it attracts thousands of visitors who love its carnival theme with different games to play.

Another good Christmas Market takes place near the Eiffel Tower on the Champs de Mars. The market at St Germain is great if you are searching for some top quality gift ideas and regional foods.

The Christmas Market at Montmartre is lovely and very popular with the locals, whilst the market at Hotel de Ville is certainly the most spectacular with magical decorations projected onto the building’s facade.  

2. Dinner cruises on the Seine

Imagine the fun of a candlelit dinner on a boat travelling along the Seine. If this doesn’t sound special enough, add the extra magic of seeing all the city’s Christmas light too!

3. Enjoy the Christmas lights aboard an open top bus

Embrace the holiday spirit in Paris by bundling up for a cozy adventure on the upper floor of a double-decker bus, where you can marvel at the enchanting Christmas lights. As you climb aboard, you’ll find yourself perched high above the bustling streets, offering a unique perspective on the City of Light’s holiday decorations. It’s a magical way to immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere of Paris during the Christmas season.

4. Take a stroll along Champs Elysees

Embark on a quintessential Parisian experience by taking a leisurely evening stroll along the iconic Champs-Élysees. This enchanting promenade is adorned with a mesmerizing spectacle of one million Christmas lights, casting a warm and festive glow upon the city’s most renowned boulevard.

As you wander beneath the illuminated arches of trees, you’ll find yourself immersed in the magical ambiance of the holiday season.

Best indoor places to visit in Paris in December

1. Admire the Christmas displays at Galeries Lafayette

This famous shopping mall on Boulevard Haussmann is completely transformed every December with a huge Christmas tree that is decorated with a different theme. If the weather outside is not at its best, this is a great place to spend time and do some Christmas shopping. 

2. Discover the art treasures of the Louvre

Nothing beats a visit to the Louvre which is the world’s largest – and usually busiest art gallery. A great way to see the museum at its best is to book on a small guided tour. It is a great way to see all the greatest and most famous paintings as your guide will be able to take you to all the great masterpieces and will give great information about each masterpiece and its artist.

3. Explore the Paris catacombs

The Paris catacombs is one of the most unique things to do in Paris. Discover a whole new world underground and learn all about the history of the catacombs and why in some places they are littered with skeletal remains of more than six million Parisians.  With your experienced guide you will learn all the stories and mysteries about these mysterious tunnels.

4. Have fun in the world of illusions

If you have visited all the classic sites of the city and are looking for a fun indoor place to visit, the Museum of Illusions will certainly test your mind and get you and your family puzzling! This museum is great fun for all ages. 

Best winter activities in Paris in December

1. Create your own perfume for Christmas

Immerse yourself in the wonderful world of Parisian parfum and join a perfume workshop. You will learn all about the different families of perfumes and how they are created and you will then have the opportunity to create three different scents of your own.

The perfume you like best our of the ones you have created will then be made into a 50ml bottle for you to take away – what a wonderful  Christmas  gift for someone special.

2. Ice skate in Paris

Galeries Lafayette is opening a big new attraction this winter at the end of November. There is going to be an ice rink on the rooftop which will offer skaters great views across to the Eiffel Tower. The ice rink will be open daily from 09.30-20.00 and there will be free entrance.

The ice rink on top of La Grande Arche de la Defense with its spectacular views of the whole of Paris will be re-opening this December (about 20th).  Le Grand Palais des Glaces ice-rink is the city is the largest indoor skating rink in the world and will open in mid-December. 

3. Admire an amazing digital exhibition

When: October 20 – December 25, 2023

Where: Ateliers des Lumières 38 rue Saint-Maur 75011 Paris

If you are an art lover, you will enjoy visiting the Ateliers des Lumières which is a digital art exhibition. Enlarged versions of famous paintings are projected onto the exhibition walls and some are choreographed to music which is impressive.

Originally established as a steel foundry back in 1835, this historical space underwent a transformation in 2018, emerging as the Atelier des Lumières, a cutting-edge digital art center. Here, the focus is on showcasing digital, immersive, and contemporary exhibitions that captivate visitors of all ages.

It’s a place where you can embark on a one-of-a-kind journey, delving into boundless artistic realms and allowing themselves to be swept away to the very essence of art itself.

4. Discovery the city’s world-famous cuisine

No trip to Paris is complete without discovering some of the city’s world-famous specialities for yourself! You can choose between Montmartre or the Notre Dame neighborhood for this walking tour that stops at up to six locations for tastings of such classics as macarons, cheese, wine, crepes, viennoiseries, and oysters – each of these tours has a slightly different itinerary.

5. Learn to bake French pastry

If the weather isn’t looking too great, why not opt to learn how to bake your own croissants and pain au chocolat? The hands-on lessons are held in a professional kitchen with a pastry chef. The best part comes at the end when you sit down with a lovely cup of French coffee to enjoy the pastries you have made. 

Insider tips for visiting Paris in December

Paris in December is full of Christmas magic that appeals to all ages. There is plenty to see or do even though the weather may not be at its best. It is well worth checking the weather forecast online to help you plan your days so that you can choose an indoor activity on rainy days.

The great news is that your evenings in Paris cannot be impacted by the weather unless you chose a river cruise. Whether you are planning a comfortable, cosy restaurant or a night at the Moulin Rouge, with the city’s great food and a glass of France’s excellent wine or Champagne you will definitely have a memorable time. 

Stay safe and make the best of your December visit in Paris by following these useful tips from the locals: 

Indoor Activities Are Your Best Bet: Paris offers a wealth of indoor attractions, including world-class museums like the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay. On rainy days, plan to visit these cultural treasures.
Watch Out for Holiday Closures: Some attractions, shops, and restaurants may have altered hours or closures during the Christmas and New Year holidays. Check in advance and make reservations when possible.
Savor Paris’s Seasonal Treats: Enjoy seasonal delights like mulled wine (vin chaud) and roasted chestnuts from street vendors. Indulge in traditional French pastries, such as yule logs (bûche de Noël), which are popular during the holiday season.
Evenings Are Even Better than Days: Paris comes alive in the evenings during December, with beautifully illuminated landmarks. Consider taking a nighttime stroll to enjoy the festive atmosphere.
Try Speaking the Language: While many Parisians speak English, it’s polite to learn a few basic French phrases. Locals appreciate the effort, and it can enhance your experience.
Check the Bus and Trains Schedules: Public transportation is efficient, but be aware of any changes to schedules during the holiday season. The Paris Metro can be crowded during peak travel times.
Be Alert for Your Safety: Paris is generally safe, but be mindful of pickpockets, especially in crowded tourist areas. Keep your belongings secure.
Advance Plan for Busy Days: Popular attractions like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum can have long lines. Consider purchasing skip-the-line tickets in advance to save time.
Join in the Fun for New Year’s Eve: If you plan to be in Paris for New Year’s Eve, expect large crowds and fireworks displays at popular landmarks like the Eiffel Tower.

The post Visiting Paris in December 2023: The complete guide for a trip to remember appeared first on Moving, living, retiring abroad.

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