Now that January has hit New York City, I’m having pangs of Paris envy: my mom and I took advantage of cheap airline tickets and spent 10 days in Paris on my long winter break when I was in college a few times. They were my favorite mother-daughter trips: we ate well and shopped well, exploring the bustling bistros and beautiful boutiques of our favorite city.
I loved the crisp blue skies above the Seine on a chilly day, curling up in a cozy bistro for a salad with warm goat’s cheese, escaping inside the Orsay or Picasso museum when the skies turned gray. In New York City, I’m embracing much of the same “winter city culture”–but the croissants just don’t quite compare.
Yes, this is my number one reason to visit Paris in January. Twice a year, everything in Paris goes on sale. It’s a frenzied bout of retail chaos: old season on, new season in with… The winter soldes are in mid-January: a clearance of coats and cashmere to make room for sundresses and sandals. While the first couple of days can be a bit insane, it’s a prime opportunity to pick up French fashion at a great price–or to be ahead of the curve with the new season’s styles. If possible, avoid the area of les grands magasins and the major chains on the weekends and after 5 p.m. during the week. The earlier, the better: in the week, there will be more options and in the day, the store will still be somewhat organized. Bon chance!
Avoid the crowds
When I spent the summer studying in Paris after two January visits in a row, I was shocked by just how many tourists there are in the summer. I was used to strolling into the museums, casually wandering the Avenue des Champs-Élysées: suddenly, I was waiting in lines that went out the door and dodging tour groups on the sidewalk. After the holiday rush, Paris is much quieter and easier to manage. Bonus: the flights are cheaper and if you’re looking for hotels in Paris, they’re much easier to find.
Paris is an indoor city
I adore a picnic under the Eiffel Tower or sunset champagne on the Seine, but most of what I love about Paris is inside: the museums, the boutiques, the cafés. My mom and I would dart from shops to galleries to an afternoon chocolat chaud in a busy bistro and spend the evenings in movie theatres or sipping red wine and nibbling on a crispy baguette and creamy cheese.
It’s easy to get around
Paris is surprisingly walkable: when the weather is good, I tend to spend all day above ground. But Paris also has an excellent underground metro; when the weather is bad, it’s still easy to crisscross all over the city without getting too chilly or wet.
The winter charm
The ice skating rink and carousel outside Hôtel de Ville, A hot chocolate at Angelina. Roasted chestnuts and mulled wine on the rues. I’ve never spent a Christmas in Paris, but I think the after-holiday glow is still pretty magical.