Paris in the winter

Paris in the winter

A French native and former Paris resident, I often get asked: When is the best time to go to Paris? Spring, summer and fall all offer perks. The Holiday season is a special time. Yet, after each of my visits, I am reminded of a valuable lesson: Paris is a great city year round.

Paris in the winter
Maison Fournaise. La Seine. Seen from Rueil Malmaison.

Look at this photo. This is Paris in the winter as many people describe her: Slate gray skies. Short days. Perpetually rainy weather. Chilly temperatures. Now look closer. Notice the light, the sky, low and soft, the peaceful surroundings. Notice the beautiful reflections in the Seine river. History is still there, all around you. Do you see it now? This is the mythical Maison Fournaise restaurant, and its famed terrace, immortalized by Auguste Renoir and his friends. For several years, as an adopted Parisienne, I was lucky to enjoy this view from my office window.

Do not discount Paris in the winter. Even after she has shed her spectacular Holiday lights, January and February offer many surprises to those who take the time to slow down and look. Of course, you will follow locals’ example and spend more time indoors. After hours of walking, you will welcome the chance to warm up with hot chocolate, or a cup of tea at a local café or tea room.

Paris in the winter
Le Loir dans la Théière, rue des Rosiers.

You will visit museums, and exhibits.

Marmottan-Monet museum, 16th arrondissement
Marmottan-Monet museum, 16th arrondissement.

Keep in mind that Paris awaits outside, as beautiful and mesmerizing in the winter as she is in the summer months – minus the crowds.

Paris in the winter
An empty [heated] café terrace.
EmptyRuedesRosiers
An unusually quiet rue des Rosiers (Le Marais.)

It is easy to forget that Paris has great bones when she is wrapped in summer foliage. The temptation, then, in the shadow of the trees, is to look around, more than to look up. In the winter, your eyes focus more easily on the elegant façades, the architectural feats, and the details.

Paris in the winter
Peeking through the trees in the Haut Marais, 3rd arrondissement.
Paris in the winter
Square du Temple, Haut Marais.
Paris in the winter
Mouzaïa neighborhood, 19th arrondissement.

How fun to return to summertime favorites and discover them dressed in their winter attire!

Paris in the winter
Reflections at Parc de Bercy, 12th arrondissement. 
Paris in the winter
Parc de Bercy: Maison du Jardinage, Vineyard.
Place des Vosges
Place des Vosges.
Paris in the winter
Parc des Buttes Chaumont.

In the summer, Parisians take the sun and heat for granted. In the winter, they live for those precious moments when the clouds part; and the sunlight wraps them up, bringing some warmth, revealing colors and shadows.

Sun and shadows at le Palais Royal, 1st arrondissement
Sun and shadows at le Palais Royal, 1st arrondissement
Paris in the winter
A bench with a view. Parc des Buttes Chaumont
Sun break. Place de la Bourse, 2nd arrondissement
Sun break. Place de la Bourse, 2nd arrondissement

Then there is the rain, the ubiquitous rain. Like most Parisians, I used to hate it, as I commuted to work. I would overhear tourists rhapsodize about it. I did not get it, but I do now. Paris in the rain glistens. Paris in the winter shines. Forget pollution and filth: The rain magically washes it all away, revealing those great bones, that once immaculate complexion.

Paris in the winter
Fontaine Wallace. Parc de Belleville. 20th arrondissement.
Paris in the winter
Rainy day. Belleville (20th arrondissement.)

Let’s give credit to Paris: The city makes even the rain feel special (if not downright romantic, according to some.) And so rainy Paris continues to inspire visitors and artists, old and new.

Paris street; Rainy day. (Gustave Caillebotte)
Paris street; Rainy day. (Gustave Caillebotte)

To quote Gabrielle (Léa Seydoux,) in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris: “Actually, Paris is the most beautiful in the rain.” 

A bientôt.

 

22 Responses to Paris in the winter

  1. Although I have not seen Paris in winter, I have seen “Paris Street; Rainy Day” in Chicago, at the Art Institute. It is huge, easy to admire for a long time.

  2. So long as the wind is not blowing fast and hard along les boulevards, Paris in winter is indeed a study of architecture and fine proportion. Hate rain all you want, a fine pair of sabots Bretange can get you thru all the streets above the puddles.

    • Ah, the dreaded windy and rainy weather on the Boulevards. Brrrr… As for les sabots de Bretagne, Anne (I think that is what you meant,) they may be handy, but am not sure they’d be the perfect fashion statement 😉

  3. I can’t believe it has been already 5 weeks since you came back! Paris definitively has its charms in winter. Gustave Caillebotte is one of my favorite painter. How well he captured the mood on that rainy day.

    • Bonjour Nadège. I learned more about Caillebotte several years ago, as I was researching a story I wrote about la Maison Fournaise in Rueil-Malmaison. I was impressed with the fact that on top of being an accomplished artist, he also shared his family’s wealth with many struggling friends of his, and acted as an art patron. Bonne semaine en Californie !

  4. I love your photos. I haven’t been to Paris in winter, but many times in the summer rain, and the rain does something magical to the city. It’s something about the change of color, the wet streets with puddles, the swish of traffic through the water… The details you notice when you duck out of the rain through a cafe window.. The shadows are different. The rain pouring through the mouths of gargoyles at Notre Dame, the quiet sound of rain on the gardens in the park…

    • Merci Angela. You write about rainy Paris beautifully. I must confess I am not ok with rainy Paris in the summer months. When you endure 9 months of grey skies and blah weather, as most Parisians (and Seattleites) do, you should be able to count on dry, sunny summers!

  5. Wonderful photos of Paris. Winter just gives Paris that quaint charm that makes you want to walk through its streets endlessly. Agree with Angela, shadows seem to be different in winter, probably because of the way the sun is being sheltered behind snow clouds. Thanks for sharing your photos!

  6. You are such a wonderful ambassador to Paris, and yes, it is beautiful any time of year. I have very fond memories of being there at Christmas time 2003. There was snow on Christmas Eve, so special. We went to Notre Dame for Christmas Eve mass, amazing and unforgettable. I think I need to watch Midnight in Paris again, smile.

  7. You do show some great shots of Paris in winter. For years I went back to Paris on Christmas Day. At work we had the week from Christmas to New Year off, so with a couple more days of vacation time I could fly to Paris to be with mother. Not many people flew on Christmas Day – it was a lot cheaper and very quiet. Some years the weather was cold and wet, some years it snowed, but as you say Paris is lovely under many skies. Nice post.

    • Thank you for stopping by, Vagabonde. Like you, I have traveled before on Christmas day or New Years’. It makes a lot of sense, and it always feels special. I have experienced Paris with snow only a few times, as this is not too common, but have fond memories of those visits, in spite of the total mayhem snow caused on the transportation system! I hope things are going well for you in Georgia. Take care, Vagabonde.

  8. Comment puis-je rentrer en contact avec vous?
    Avez-vous une adresse ou vous écrire hors ce blog?
    Vous devez sans doute connaître Jeanne, Ma tante par alliance

  9. I’ve been following your Facebook page for several months, but I guess I missed the fact that you have a blog, too. Very nice. I always enjoy your posts and photos. They make me feel like I am in Paris and remind me of places I’ve already seen as well as those to put on my list of must-sees. Merci beaucoup!

    • Merci Susan. I believe many people who follow my Facebook page have the same problem. That is why I always highlight my new posts on the page (“NEW BLOGPOST ALERT!”) I see them both as a team, the blog and the community, and have met many wonderful, supportive, people thanks to them. I am lucky most are francophiles. 🙂 You are welcome to stop by anytime, here or there. Bonne semaine !

  10. well I simply adore every single one of these pictures! One of my best trips to your lovely city was in November and I loved the cold weather the grey sky and the occasional wet day-all the better for museum viewing which is exactly what I did-the Christmas lights were up in the department stores- early by American standards-like I said Paris anytime is PERFECTION!!-in my humble opinion-I really do need a facebook acct so I could see the daily posts -V as USUAL EXCELLENT POST!! THANK YOU for taking the time to share.

  11. Thank you for these beautiful photos. I too, love Paris in winter; perusing the museums, exploring new neighborhoods, and ducking into a café for a drink to warm up. Loved seeing Les Philosophes, one of my favorite places. Another bonus of Paris in winter? Not as many tourists, which this tourist really enjoys.

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