Whether you’re in search of some hidden history or you’re simply looking for a quiet place to enjoy a romantic dinner, there’s no shortage of beautiful, quirky, and unusual things to do in Paris come the first month of the year. Here’s your complete guide to Paris in January, including insider tips to know before your visit!
Why you must visit Paris in January
If you’re pondering the question: ‘Is January a good time to visit Paris,’ then it’s worth noting that the answer is entirely dependant on what you wish to get out of you visit! After all, the weather is much colder than the rest of the city, meaning fewer crowds than at any other time of the year.
As such, whether you want to avoid the crowds that inevitably flock to the city over the Christmas period, or you’re simply looking to take a romantic weekend break somewhere in Europe, there are plenty of reasons to visit Paris in January.
Some Christmas markets remain open a few days into the New Year, while hotel and flight prices are amongst some of the lowest you’ll find in the entire year. Amongst other things, there’s also no better time to get acquainted with Paris’ coffee culture and indulge in a chocolat chaud (or two!)
Paris weather in January
There’s no getting around the fact that January is the wettest and coldest month of the year. Although the days are starting to get longer and spring will soon be on the horizon, the weather remains quite dreary and rain is common. Average temperatures range between 2 degrees and 6 degrees Celsius.
What to wear in Paris in January
The most important thing to bear in mind when packing for a winter visit to Paris is that January is often the coldest and wettest month of the year. This means that you’ll want to pack a good umbrella, warm jacket (this vegan one is warm and cosy), and several pairs of waterproof shoes (I find that even the most ‘waterproof’ of shoes never turn out to work that well!)
You’ll also want a hat, gloves, and a scarf. If you’re planning to spend a lot of time indoors (and I’m guessing you will be doing so if you don’t want to get too cold) then be sure to wear layers. This way you’ll remain toasty while wandering around outside, but not overheat in places like the metro! I particularly love the dresses from this brand.
Though most people (especially those working in the tourist industry) speak a good level of English, it’s only polite to learn a few words of the local language, which in this case is French. Bring along a French phrasebook like this one to help you get by. Next, you’ll want to bring along a travel adapter like this one to keep your electronics charged on the go.
As well as layers, you’ll want to bring along a crossbody bag like these ones. After all, backpacks leave you at risk of pickpockets and crossbody bags are ever-so-useful for carrying all the essentials. Finally, you’ll want to bring along a camera… It is Paris, after all!
What to do in Paris in January
Enjoy the winter sales
Though things have started to change in the past few years (with ‘mid-season offers’ and the like becoming the norm), January is traditionally, and legally, one of only two periods of the year when store’s offer January sales. This means some great discounts in many of the large department stores, as well as smaller boutiques. Typically, the January ‘soldes’ begin during the second week of January and last for two to three weeks.
Frequent a museum (or two)
Due to fewer crowds than the rest of the year, there’s perhaps no better time to soak up a little Parisian culture than during January, when most museums are emptier than other times of the year. And between the grand and imposing Louvre to the smallest of off the beaten path museums such as the Musée de la Vie Romantique, there’s a museum for everyone!
With this being said, I still highly recommend booking a skip-the-line ticket in advance if you’re planning to visit the Palace of Versailles or the Louvre Museum. Purchase your Louvre Museum ticket here and purchase your Palace of Versailles ticket here.
Go ice skating
While many of the ice skating rinks are set up in time for the Christmas Markets in Paris, many stay set up well into January. Notable locations include along the Champ de Mars and at the Grand Palais. If you’re looking for the perfect day trip from the city, then you may well want to book a visit to the medieval city of Provins, where you’ll also find an ice skating rink.
Paris fashion week
Held from the 20 January – 23 January 2020, PFW is a staple in many editors’, bloggers’, and writers’ calendars. While the shows are, for the most part, invite-only, parts of the city turn into a catwalk of sorts, with many people congregating in the Jardin des Tuileries and close to the Carrousel du Louvre.
Sample some local French delicacies
When it comes to visiting Paris in January, the bad weather provides the perfect opportunity to treat yourself to some typically French sweets. While many of the cafés in the city continue serving vin chaud (check out my Christmas mulled wine recipe here), you should also be sure to sample Angelina’s hot chocolate if you haven’t already. Other French traditional foods include the Galette des Rois for Epiphany.
Enjoy Paris cocktail week
Taking place from the 24th of January to the 1st of February, over fifty bars and restaurants in Paris are taking part in the annual event known as ‘Shake Cocktail’. There are alcoholic and non alcoholic options available and the event sees classes across the city, as well as special cocktail menus.
Discover the Hidden Passages of Paris
Throughout the city, there’s a network of covered shopping arcades known collectively as the Passages couverts de Paris. These passageways date back mostly to the beginning of the 19th-century and while there were once around a hundred and fifty of them, today only a handful survive. Come January in Paris, the cold and wet weather provides the perfect opportunity to duck indoors and see what these historic quirks have to offer:
Constructed in 1823 and close to the Jardin des Tuileries, this covered passage features amenities like bookshops, eateries, and even wine cellars. Nearby, an early year stroll through the Palais-Royal is always ever so magical and you’ll surely want to bring your camera along!
Passage des Panoramas
By far my favourite covered passage in Paris is that of the Panoramas. The oldest of the passages couverts is situated in the 2nd arrondissement of the city and is home to many boutiques and eateries. Head to Prins Patrick if you want to pick up some authentic vintage postcards for a great price.
If you’re looking for one of the most Instagrammable spots in Paris, then Passage du Grand Cerf is all Haussmannian style architecture and pretty shop fronts. Located in the 2nd arrondissement of the city, the passage is named for the for the wooden ‘cerf’ (stag’s head) hanging in the alleyway.
My favourite date night bistros in Paris
Le Bistrot d’Henri (16 Rue Princesse, 75006 Paris, France)
If I were to recommend just one date night location in Paris, it would be Le Bistrot d’Henri. Located in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, in the ever-so-chic Saint-Germain-des-Pres, this tiny restaurant serves authentic French food in the smallest bistro you’ve likely ever visited.
Le Refuge des Fondus (17 Rue des Trois Frères, 75018 Paris, France)
Hidden in the heart of Montmartre, this hole in the wall restaurant has just a few long tables and only two options on the menu: meat or vegetables served with fondue. And when it comes to the drinks list, the options are fairly easy to choose from: red or white wine!
HANK Burger (55 Rue des Archives, 75003 Paris, France)
If you’re a veggie or vegan and are looking to find the ultimate meat-free burger, then you need to look no further than HANK vegan burger. Located in the heart of Le Marais, not far from some of the prettiest cobbled lanes and vintage shops in the city, the chain also now has HANK pizza, a fully vegan pizzeria.
Where to stay in Paris in January
With such cold (and often rainy) weather outside, there’s perhaps no better excuse than to cosy up in a wonderful hotel with chic decor and beautiful surroundings. Here are some of my personal recommendations for where to stay in the city;
Luxury experience: The Hoxton
For those who are looking for the ultimate luxury experience when staying in Paris, The Hoxton has it all. Charm and several beautiful communal guest spaces including a stunning bar and restaurant, other highlights of the hotel include breakfast options, WiFi, and room service. Check prices and availability here.
Mid-range boutique stay: Hôtel Fabric
As you might gather from its name, Hôtel Fabric is set against the backdrop of a former textile factory and simply oozes charm. Beautiful and with friendly staff, this four-star hotel is welcoming and is located just a fifteen-minute walk away from Le Marais area of the city. Check prices and availability here.
Affordable chic: Hôtel Chopin
Located within one of the covered passages of Paris, in the 9th arrondissement, and close to all the action (the nearby Grands Boulevards are full of bars and restaurants), Hôtel Chopin is a small hotel offering affordable rooms. Amenities include a restaurant and spa on site. Check prices and availability here.