Describing late winter in Paris, American writer Ernest Hemingway wrote:
When we came back to Paris it was clear and cold and lovely. The city had accommodated itself to winter (...) there were braziers outside of many of the good cafes so that you could keep warm on the terraces (...) on the streets the winter light was beautiful. Now you were accustomed to see the bare trees against the sky and you walked on the fresh-washed gravel paths through the Luxembourg gardens in the clear sharp wind.
Hemingway's portrait fits Paris in January perfectly. The early-winter drowsiness has passed, the holiday hoopla has died down, and the New Year announces itself nicely with gradually longer days and the crisp, clean winter ambiance that comes with a drop in temperatures and clearer skies.
Recovering from their holiday excess, Parisians flood the streets and well-heated terraces to reunite with friends-- and, of course, to hit the winter soldes(sales), a Parisian ritual that borders on religious. For shopping aficionados, January is definitely a great time to be in the city of light.
Since this is low season in Paris, you should be able to get a good deal on flights in January, especially if you reserve one to two months ahead of your trip.
And because tourism is in low-tide mode compared to the spring or summer, visiting January in Paris also provides great opportunities for really lingering in some of the city's best spots for art and culture, such as the Musee d'Orsay or the Centre Pompidou. You'll finally be able to take as much time as you want contemplating your favorite paintings or monuments.
Finally, January is a great time to spend time in the warmth and charm of Paris' many cafes, so be sure to pack plenty of books and magazines for your trip. For those interested in Paris intellectual history, cafe-hopping in the city's historical Latin Quarter or in Saint-Germain-des-Prés would be a great way to spend part of a day.
The January Thermometer
- Minimum temperature: 2 degrees C (35.6 degrees F)
- Maximum temperature: 6 degrees C (42.8 degrees F)
- Average temperature: 3 degrees C (37.4 degrees F)
- Average rainfall: 46 millimeters (1.8 inches)
How to Pack for a January Trip to Paris
- January in Paris is generally very cold, and it's not uncommon to see the mercury dip below zero. Clearer skies than in November or December and wind chill can make the cold seem more biting. So make sure you line your suitcase with lots of warm sweaters, coats, scarves, warm socks, and a hat that will protect your ears.
- Although heavy rains are less common in January, Paris is well-known for its erratic and sudden downpours. So packing an umbrella that can withstand a wet, gusty day is definitely a must.
- Make sure to pack a good pair of waterproof shoes. Shoes with good tread are important because the streets can be slick and icy in January. When there is snow, it tends to melt when it hits the ground, creating an annoying slush. High heels and dress shoes are not ideal for walking around the city in January.
- Bring a pair of good gloves to make sure you don't let cold hands distract you from the sights. They may not be necessary in the end, but they're good to have on hand.
- Think about packing a few good books and magazines in case you decide to spend a cozy morning or afternoon reading in a cafe.
- If you're planning to hit the Paris sales, keep your cash safe with a money belt:
Compare Travel Packages and Book Your January Trip:Lock in a good deal on flights and hotels early by consulting well-respected travel sites like Expedia (book direct).
Readers Respond: When is your favorite time of the year to visit Paris?