Why I love Paris in January

Why I love Paris in January

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.

The Seine in Paris on a crisp January day

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.

Studios Christine in Paris, France

Les soldes

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!

Gray Paris skyline

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.

Centre Pompidou museum in Paris, France

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.

Carousel at Hotel de Ville in Paris, France

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.

What’s your favorite month to visit Paris?

  • Vegetarian Girl

    This is so beautiful! I really want to go to Paris some day!

  • All of this is so true, I try as much as possible to travel during off peak times (unless it’s dictated by the weather!) as it is normally just as good (if not better) an experience and less stressful! I’m also bracing myself for the sales on Wednesday as I failed to get any sales shopping when I was in England over the holidays. Hoping to find a good bargain or two!

  • camorose

    One of the best cities in the world!

  • Paris is a good idea any time of the year but I do love it in winter too – something about wrapping up warm and walking along the Seine, then ducking into a cafe for a hot chocolate when it gets too cold. Haven’t seen it in the snow yet but I’m sure it’d be magical.

  • Cat of Sunshine and Siestas

    Spain has their annual rebajas, which started today. I walked near a store not even close to the city center and it was so overturned, I balked!

  • Wintertime always makes me pine for Paris. You should definitely experience a Christmas there sometime – the markets, the decorations at the Grands Magasins. But my favorite January moment was when I discovered the ice skating rink on the Eiffel Tower. My friend and I ended up there on a Monday night. Not only was there no line to go up the tower (that never happens!) but we had the entire rink to ourselves. It felt like we owned the city! Truly magical.

  • I love it Jan too, I went last year during January and had a blast.

  • The one and only time I’ve visited Paris was in April, and it was perfect. Mild, sunny days, and few tourists. I’d love to take my Mum to Paris one day, and might just do it in January like you did. Les soldes are what sold me 🙂

  • I’ve been twice – once in November 2010 when the weather was crap and once last year in March when the weather was glorious. I don’t recall there being anything special in terms of events on either trip, but I was in freaking Paris so it didn’t matter! 🙂

    I did get to hit up Angelina for a hot chocolate on the last trip. Everyone needs to put that on their list of things to do. OHMYGODITWASSOGOOD.

  • Brenna

    I was in Paris the weekend before Christmas and I was actually disappointed at the lack of Christmas spirit! it was my first trip and I absolutely loved it, but I think I was expecting it to have the same atmosphere like the German and Austrian Christmas markets. BUT the lack of tourists was amazing though… only 20 minute wait for the Louvre at opening, nothing at Orsay, 10 minutes for the Arc de Triomphe… lots of wine and pain au chocolate… Paris was everything I wanted!

  • My first and only time in Paris was in July which was nice because of the Les Soldes but the crowds were horrific. I felt like I was in a huge amusement park the entire trip. I’ve never felt that way in New York… I was really disappointed but after looking at your experience maybe I need to give it another chance and head there during the off season.

  • camorose

    I haven’t seen it in the snow either–definitely something I’d love to experience!

  • camorose

    Haha yes you have to get there early early early! When they were going on when I lived in Nice, I totally avoided the city center–just too many people.

  • camorose

    How incredible! I didn’t realize there was an ice skating rink at the Eiffel Tower–I’d only seen the one at Hotel de Ville. And yes, a Christmas in Paris is certainly on my list 🙂

  • camorose

    My favorite time! Would love to go back again 🙂

  • camorose

    Right!? Perfect mother-daughter shopping trip! Would love to go back in April or May, though, such lovely weather!

  • camorose

    Haha ONLY go to Angelina if it’s chilly out! The first time I tried it was in June after everyone raved about it, and it was far too rich for such a hot day–I felt ill the rest of the day.

  • camorose

    Right? Red wine is best in the winter and Paris is so much lovelier with no lines 🙂

  • camorose

    Seriously, go during the off season! Paris in the summer is a bit miserable.

  • oh it is magical!! :)) and it`s the soldes now so everyone`s gone crazy, including my wallet!! the only thing that I don`t like about Paris at this time of the year is the weather… it`s been reall awful ever since I come, I daresay… lookig forward to some real sunny days au bord de la mer really soon!!!! :))

  • camorose

    So true! Paris can just be so GRAY in the winter–so depressing. That’s why I hide out in the cozy bistros and glittery shops whenever I’m there in the winter 🙂

  • You’ll definitely have to spend a Christmas in Paris… the markets and the atmosphere in general are amazing! 🙂

  • camorose

    Definitely on my list–needs to happen 🙂

  • 🙂 I’ve just realized how many mistakes I made in that comment! seems like my ‘keyboard’ also went mad! 😛 sorry about that!

  • Hannah

    My mom and I are going to Paris this January during my college winter break to celebrate my 21st! As soon as I read the first paragraph, I texted a link to her and said “This is just like us!!” So happy to stumble across this post – thanks for the recommendations 🙂

  • camorose

    I’m actually going back with my mom this January too! Have the best time!

  • Michelle Machado-Alonso

    I know this is an old post, but where do you recommend going shopping for the January sales? We’re spending NYE there and some days in January.

  • camorose

    Honestly all of the shops will likely have some soldes going on–good luck finding some deals! 🙂