That’s right. You heard me. I’ll never visit Paris in the winter ever again.
I mean, I guess I wouldn’t turn down a trip to my favorite city in the world regardless of the season, but the point of this blog post is to give you a rundown on why winter is definitely my last choice for a visit.
I’ve been to Paris six times. One spring (April), three fall-ish (late August/September), one late fall/early winter (November) and one winter (December). Hands down the BEST time to visit Paris is September but that’s another post for another day.
A lot of factors went into our choosing to go to Paris in December, including having to cancel our trip to Asia because of covid restrictions. So we traded the beaches of Thailand for the Eiffel Tower at Christmastime and I went into the trip exceptionally excited to experience the magical feeling of the City of Lights literally full of lights for the Christmas season. Don’t get me wrong, it WAS magical in a lot of ways and if you already have a Christmas in Paris trip on the books don’t let this blog post scare you. If anything I hope it helps with expectations.
When you visit Paris in nice weather, there is a very slow, leisurely aspect to it. Wake up, throw open the doors or windows, have coffee and breakfast out on the terrace of your airbnb or hotel, roam around the neighborhood, pop into the Monoprix for sandwiches, snacks, a baguette, and wine and go find a park to lay around in for an hour or two, stroll around some more until you find a cute cafe to have a coffee, then later have some drinks on a rooftop overlooking the Eiffel Tower before wandering off to a nice al fresco dinner. Then do it all over again the next day.
IT’S NOT LIKE THIS IN THE WINTER. That slow, peaceful leisure felt nearly non-existent. The airy morning coffees on the terrace are replaced with closed-window ones. After piling on layer after layer to stay warm, the slow roaming around is replaced with brisk walking to get from indoor place to indoor place. Rooftops are closed. What I was happy to discover, however, was that the al fresco dining situation did not change even in cold weather. People still had their coffees and meals outdoors at the cafes, and it’s surprisingly toasty under most of those canopies. It’s just not as fun having dinner all bundled up and while mostly comfortable, still slightly chilly. We had plenty of glasses of wine and hot chocolates and meals on cafe terraces under the heaters, but once we were finished, it was back out into the frigid rain and blustery air to move to our next destination.
We always felt like we had to have a plan. Always needed to have the next place to GO. And hopefully that place is an indoor place. Being that Paris is one of the most easily walkable cities I’ve ever been to, you do walk A LOT. I think we walked 7 miles just in one of our days and the same or more most of the others. When you are always trying to get to the next place, it kind of takes the fun out of what should be a lovely simple stroll.
We also went in December, which I feel like out of all the cold months would be the best one because there’s at least additional things to do (outside) that are Christmasy. There are Christmas markets everywhere (European style Christmas markets are amazing! I’d never experienced anything like that!) so I feel like after the holidays, it’s just…cold. With just museum hopping and ducking under the heated bistro canopies or inside a restaurant for a coffee or a meal.
When I visit Paris, I like everything being very idyllic. So when it came to meals either in warm weather or cold weather, the cold weather took much more planning. Nearly every bistro or cafe’s terrace is charming and cute, so wandering around when it’s warm and you get hungry you can just sit down at the first cute place you see and voila, perfect Parisian setting. In the cold, I knew we would be eating a lot of our meals indoors and so I didn’t want some ugly/boring/simple interior decor, so I had to do a lot of research and planning in advance for lots of options to have our meals that have beautiful Parisian designs or had decor that reflected the history of the building. I’m not going all the way to Paris to eat inside a restaurant that looks like something I can find in here in Nashville, so that also took some of the spontaneity out of things.
After five days of all that, we were EXHAUSTED. I’ve never been so drained. We never really felt like we could go back to the airbnb and just relax. In warm weather, if we were tired or just wanted to chill, we’d go back to the apartment, turn on some jazz, open all the doors and sit out on the terrace and just unwind and not really feel bad that we weren’t out doing something. But if it’s cold, that can’t really happen. Being shut indoors is being shut indoors whether in Paris or in Nashville.
Does all that sound like whining? Probably. But after going to Paris six times and in nearly all seasons (all weather at least, I’ve not been in a summer month per se but I’ve experienced some dang hot days in September), I have a little wiggle room to complain about something I didn’t find enjoyable. And Paris in the winter isn’t all that enjoyable.