A toddler enjoys a snow shower in Paris in January
Ian Packham

What to do in Paris in January

January is a month many of us like to forget. The Christmas festivities have come to an end, yet the warm days of spring still seem a lifetime away. Paris in January is different. Whilst spurned by spoiled Parisians, if you come prepared, there’s no reason you can’t start the new year with a bang.

Other advantages include smaller crowds at big name attractions and the chance to update your wardrobe with the winter sales. Wondering what’s on in Paris in January? You’ve come to the right place.

What’s the weather like in Paris in January?

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The Parisian penchant for fluffy scarves is actually the result of an icy wind that can whip through the boulevards from the River Seine in the first months of the year.

With temperatures ranging between 3 – 8°C and averaging 5°C much off the day, decent winter clothing is a must for visiting Paris in January. Skies can be a little overcast throughout the month, although the lack of rain means you can probably do without the waterproofs. Average levels for January are just 18 mm.

It may also snow. However, it’s very unusual for snow to settle, so if you see flakes begin to drift across the city be sure to take a selfie!

What to expect from Paris in January

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First off, it’s wrong to say that the Christmas period is all done and dusted. The first week to 10 days of January continues to spread much of the cheer of the season. Ice rinks and marché de Noël – that’s Christmas markets to you and me – often don’t shut up shop until after the new year begins.

It varies by market – there are up to 20 each year – but the biggest in Paris at the Tuileries Garden is generally a reliable friend right into January.

The Festival of Lights at the Jardin des Plantes botanic garden goes one step further, lighting up the 70 acre site until the end of the month. No ordinary light show, the festival is made up of large-scale lanterns in the form of various animals and other designs.

At the same time, most of those taking advantage of these events after Christmas week will be Parisians rather than travelers. Visit Paris in January and you therefore don’t face the same crowds you will at other times of year. Now’s the time to experience Paris at its most authentic.

Check out the Paris stores

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Paris is known as one of the finest shopping destinations in the world. Those keen to add a touch of Gallic elegance to their apparel are in luck. Not only do department stores including Galeries Lafayette host regular fashion shows, but January is the time of the winter soldes (sales) too.

Nor do any passing rain showers have to put you off. Covered shopping arcades are hidden across the city. Often bathed with natural light on even the gloomiest of days, their history dates back several centuries. Passage de Panoramas has some excellent dining options, whilst Galerie Vivienne is lined with luxury boutiques.

You might even find a patisserie selling galette de rois. Made from layers of puff pastry and almond paste, ‘king cake’ is a specialty of epiphany on January 6. Look out for the fève or figurine placed in each one. It grants the finder good luck for the following year, but has also been responsible for its fair share of broken teeth!

Join the café culture

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Another way to fight off the January chill in Paris is in its cafés. A key part of French culture, each has its own ambience and clientele, be that the out of work artists of Montmartre or the bankers of the La Défense business district. Stop by for a freshly-brewed café, and you’re sure to be tempted into also buying a pastry. The only real question is which do you choose – croissant, madeleine or éclair?

To feel at one with your adopted home, you might instead decide on a traditional Parisian breakfast at Café Louise. But that doesn’t have to stop you checking out the cake counter here or in any of the hundreds of independent coffee shops lining the streets of Paris.

For drinks with a little more potency, the heritage of Harry’s New York Bar is hard to beat. Shipped across the Atlantic from the Big Apple in the first part of the 20th Century, it became a favorite watering hole of Nobel prize for literature winner Ernest Hemingway. Order a bloody Mary, sidecar or Paris 75 cocktail – the bar claims to have invented all three.

Don’t miss Paris’s January events

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By far January’s biggest event is the New Year celebration. It is centered on the Arc de Triomphe rather than the Eiffel Tower. Hundreds of thousands of people gather at the monument to enjoy a spectacle that includes fireworks and live music.

The cabaret clubs of Montmartre and the Paris Opera ballet company put on special new year’s shows too. Other places to spend the day include the city’s churches, who put on a host of concerts. Don’t expect much else to happen on January 1 though. A national holiday, many stores and restaurants give their staff the day off to be with family.

Gear heads should also keep an ear to the ground for the Traversée de Paris winter vintage car and motorbike rally. Roughly 700 vehicles make the departure from Vincennes chateau in the southeast of the city before following a route that takes them to Les Invalides and the Place de la Concorde amongst other attractions.

Save on Paris January attraction admission

January is a great time of year for anyone who loves a bargain to visit Paris. There are the winter sales, some fantastic deals to be had on hotels and the ability to explore with Go City.

Our passes give you reduced admission at many of the top museums and attractions in Paris. Our flexibility allows you to choose as you save. If the weather brightens up, you don’t have to find yourself trapped indoors all day, and vice versa.

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