In December, Paris bursts out of its sleepy autumn quiet and lights up-- literally and figuratively. Trees up and down the Champs-Elysées are strung with garlands of shimmering light, and many other places around the city are decorated in the same festive spirit. An ice-skating rink is set up on the plaza outside of Hôtel de Ville (Paris City Hall). Christmas markets spring up all around the city, with their warm wood-roofed booths, vin chaud (hot wine), enchanting decorations and gifts, and gourmet treats. Chanukah celebrations like menorah lightings add to Paris' holiday-season charm. There are also plenty of ways to celebrate a memorable Christmas in Paris.
With all the good cheer, Paris in December is nonetheless fairly relaxed, making the month an ideal time to take advantage of the city's many sights and attractions. Take your time exploring museums, sipping cinnamon-infused hot wine, or attending a special holiday concert. Have a real retreat from the holiday madness back home and try taking Paris in frame by frame, like a painter would.
Because of the seasonal rush and a corresponding spike in fares, travel to Paris in December can be costly-- so make sure to reserve your plane or train tickets well in advance.
The December Thermometer
- Minimum temperature: 3 degrees C (37.4 degrees F)
- Maximum temperature: 7 degrees C (44.6 degrees F)
- Average temperature: 4 degrees C (39.2 degrees F)
- Average rainfall: 49 millimeters (1.9 inches)
How to Pack
December in Paris is generally cold, and often rainy or icy. Temperatures approach or descend below zero. Snow is rare and when it does come it usually melts on hitting the ground, often turning into a sludgy slush that can be both irritating and dangerous to navigate without good traction on your shoes. Wind chill can make cold seem more biting.
- Make sure to stock your suitcase with warm cotton or wool sweaters, scarves, coats, and socks. Bring at least one or two warm turtlenecks, and line your bags with clothes that are easy to layer.
- A sturdy umbrella is a must, as flimsier ones often won't withstand sudden downpours or gusts of wind.
- Bring at least two pairs of shoes, both waterproof. One pair should provide good traction in case of snow or ice. Heels should be reserved for indoor events as the streets can be slick or icy. If your feet get cold easily, bring a pair of comfortable waterproof boots.
- A pair of light waterproof gloves and a hat can make walking around more comfortable, but you won't need anything approaching snow or ski gear. Places like New York and Chicago get much colder in the winter.
- Toting around a small thermos for hot drinks can be a good way to keep motivated in the Paris winter wonderland.
- One more word of advice on packing: since this is shopping season, you may want to think about packing as lightly as you can to reserve space in your suitcase for holiday delicacies or gifts you plan to bring back home.