Imagine yourself bundled up in the cold with a hot coffee in one hand and a warm Nutella crepe in the other. As you turn around, the Eiffel Tower greets you with its flashing lights, providing a uniquely beautiful backdrop over a quaint Christmas market that smells of cinnamon.
This is Paris in December.
Paris is unlike anywhere else in the world. The food, the culture, the history, and some might even say the romance, are unmatched. This means Paris receives a lot of visitors, especially in the summer months from June to August.
However, these crowds and extreme heat (temperatures reached 108 degrees Fahrenheit last summer) can make it a challenging visit. The lines are longer, the prices are higher, and the sites are overcrowded.
Enter December, a perfect alternate time to visit Paris, and beautiful in its own right.
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What To Do in Paris in December
In addition to the Paris classics, there are plenty of winter specials that will make your experience in “The City of Lights” even more memorable.
Related: Paris City Guide for Budget-Minded Travelers
Ice skating is a wintertime tradition unlike any other. It doesn’t get any more winter than lacing up a pair of skates and hopping onto the ice for a few laps, and what better place to do that than Paris! A number of temporary rinks are set up around the city for the winter season.
Take your pick:
- Skate next to the Champs-Élysées at Grand Palais.
- If you are a fan of heights, you can skate, play curling, eat and drink 689 feet above Paris on top of the famous Montparnasse Tower, the highest skating rink in the city.
- If you’re afraid of heights like I am, you can also try skating on top of the arch at La Défense, at 360 feet high.
- Try the rink next to the Eiffel Tower at Champs de Mars.
- Skate in a rink close to Notre Dame Cathedral at Hôtel de Ville.
Tis’ The Season for Christmas Markets
If you love the Christmas season and everything that comes with it, you’ll find it all in Paris. At Galeries Lafayette (the famous shopping mall in the heart of Paris) you’ll find a giant, beautifully decorated Christmas tree. It’s also a great place to explore beautiful window displays and score amazing deals at all the sales (or “les soldes”) you’ll come across.
You can also go to the gallery’s rooftop for a free view of the city and enjoy a hot drink in their heated outdoor pop-up igloo cafe.
The Champs-Élysées, the most famous street in the world, is dressed in lights at Christmas time and is a definite must-see.
There are also several Christmas markets throughout the city for you to find that hot crepe or coffee, including Place De La Concorde, Jardin des Tuileries, and Champs de Mars beside the Eiffel Tower.
Travel Planning Tip: Order a prepaid SIM card before you travel!
Pop into one of Paris’ 130 museums while walking around. Here are a few to choose from:
- Victor Hugo’s house on Place des Vosges
- Musée de la Vie Romantique
- Musée Rodin
- Musée de l’Armée
- Musée de l’Orangerie
- Musée d’Orsay
- Musée du Louvre
If you happen to be an EU Citizen and under 26 years old, most museums are free to enter. Plus, museums are free to everyone on the first Sunday of each month.
If neither of these exceptions covers your circumstances, consider purchasing a 2-day Paris Museum Pass or a 4-day Paris Museum Pass.
Take a walk through the galleries, which house many quirky shops, cafes, and restaurants. Here are a few favorites to try:
- Galerie Vivienne: 5 rue de la Banque, open 8:30 am to 8:30 pm
- Passage Verdeau: 6 rue de la Grande Batelière, open 7:30 am to 8:30 pm
- Passage Jouffroy: 10-12 Boulevard Montmartre, open 7:00 am to 9:30 pm
- Passage des Panoramas: 11 Boulevard Montmartre, open 6 am to midnight
- Passage Choiseul: 40 rue des Petits Champs, open 8 am to 8 pm (except Sundays)
Day Trip to the Palace of Versailles
The majestic Palace of Versailles is a top sight to see while in France. Get out of the cold and roam the famous Hall of Mirrors and Grand Apartments.
The palace is not far from Paris and is easily accessible by public transportation. Ride the French National Railway, or the SNCF (not the Metro), to the Versailles Château Rive Gauche stop. Then it’s just a short walk from there.
Related: Southern France on a Budget: Nice, Aix-en-Provence, Avignon
Explore the Catacombs Underground
Visiting the famed catacombs is also an amazing experience and a great way to get out of the cold. The catacomb’s crisscrossing tunnels are 20 meters below the city with temperatures consistently in the 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit range.
Pre-purchase your skip-the-line ticket now!
How To Get Around Paris in December
The most popular and convenient way to get around Paris is by subway. It is great for getting out of the cold and getting to all the attractions fast. However, take note that it can be crowded at times, especially during rush hour (and pay attention to pickpockets, as in any big city).
A one-way ticket costs about $2, or you can buy a bundle of ten for about $16. Paris public transportation also offers weekend passes, day passes and more. You can find more information on their website.
Another way to see the city but stay out of the colder temperatures is by taking a city bus. Bus #42 and bus #69 are basically cheap sightseeing buses! You can also download a number of podcasts about the sites you can listen to while riding to get an even more personalized tour.
Ride a Bike – if it’s not too cold!
Yet another way to get around, and my personal favorite, is with Paris’ bike-share program Velib. Just get a subscription and you are free to undock a bike anywhere in the city, ride to your next destination, and re-dock the bike.
Velib offers one and seven day passes that allow you to use up to five bikes at a time, so it’s great for you and your friends to share. In my opinion, it is the best way to see the city if it isn’t too cold.
What To Wear in Paris in December
It is December, so don’t forget to bring your winter clothes! Long pants, a warm coat, gloves, a scarf, and a hat will keep you warm enough to visit the city. Strategically layer your clothes and you’ll still be able to travel carry on only!
It doesn’t get as cold as you might think. The average high hovers around 45 degrees Fahrenheit while the average low is only 40 degrees, perfect for taking a stroll along the Seine or doing a walking tour.
Rain and snow are possible, though, so consider bringing some good waterproof boots. We have a list of the best travel shoes you can check out for suggestions of favorites from our community.
Have We Convinced You to Visit Paris in December Yet?
Beat the crowds, avoid the heat, experience the magic of winter in Paris. The City of Lights shines brightest in the dark! No matter the season, Paris has a lot to offer for all travelers. Whether it’s your first or fifth time, traveling solo or with friends, there’s always something to do or see.
Bon voyage! For more information, visit the Paris tourism website.
By Chris Corbaz
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