Et al........we are planning a trip to Paris (4 days) and then London (4 days) in the last 2-weeks of December. We have never been to Paris/London in the winter. Does anyone has tips? Thanks Paul
It won't be as cold as Chicago but it will be cold and wet, maybe with snow. Bring layers of clothing, including rainwear. Both cities will be beautiful and fun at Christmas, but the days will be short and nights long.
Ummmm... wear a warm coat? :-) Seriously, we go to Paris and London every year either in November or over Christmas/New Year's, and have a blast. The weather can be COLD, but is more often just sort of chilly. Overcast skies are frequent, but honestly, who cares? Both cities are ablaze with holiday lights and brimming with cheer and good spirits. Everything is wonderfully decorated, and the shops are crammed with gifty sorts of things. Paris has AMAZING Christmas markets, selling all manner of wonderful things, delicious food, and cheap hot mulled wine. The people watching is excellent - so many happy families out enjoying it. And there are skating rinks at Trocadero and l'Hotel de Ville! And rides! And London is where our modern conception of Christmas originated, so you can imagine the city does it with FLAIR. I just adore Christmas in London. Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, it's hard not to be swept up in the holiday excitement. There are plenty of tourists, but it's not at the level of the MASS of folks at tourist attractions in summer. And frankly, I like not being hot and sweaty. Make sure you check the weather forecast before you go and adjust up or down the heaviness of your outer wear. If you really can't take cold or don't like winter, make really sure you've got enough socks and long underwear. And then have a blast!
Wow...thanks to our replies! Paul
I agree with Kira about the weather in late December. We were in Paris last year in December from the 27th to January 5. The temperatures were in the 40s (F) each day and we had no rain or now ....much nicer than in my city (Montreal) at that time of year. The city is very pretty at Christmas time, there is a skating rink at Hotel de Ville and the Champs Elysees is one long Christmas Market, with vendors of hot wine to cheer you on.
We were there a couple years ago. We carried an extra back pack that was used to hold our layers as we would shed them. We would also put in our gloves and hats. Also, make sure you each have umbrellas for rain. There was not rain storms just a few drizzles. It really was not as cold as we were expecting.
You didn't mention the specific dates, but London virtually shuts down on Christmas day (including the tube). The 24th and 26th have transit (reduced frequency), but again you will find many sights closed. Make sure your four days in London don't fall in the period 24 - 26.
Either bring the umbrellas with you or get cheap ones at Primark in London. You'll see broken ones abandoned all over London. Other than that, you'll have a great time; crowds are smaller and public transport gets you out of the weather. Being from Chicago already makes you a pro at winter.
If you are planning to travel by Eurostar between the two cities, then book as soon as you know your dates & tickets become available. That is generally good advice (to save money), but is especially true at that time of year when a lot of ex-pats and others are travelling (if you want to fly instead, you will note, for example, that BA has already put its London-Paris fare up by 50% for the days either side of Christmas!). If you are still in London at New Year, there is a big firework display by the Thames and later a parade.
I agree with Chani that it's easier to take off one warm layer when you go indoors than to peel off several layers. What do you do with all those layers? During a winter trip to Paris I dressed in layers as many recommend. There were times on the metro I thought I would pass out from being too hot. Many museums have lockers or coat checks, but how many layers can you store? If I travel in winter again it will be one warm coat for me!!
I was in London in December 1985. A bigger problem than the cold (which wasn't bad, and which I was prepared for) was the darkness. It never got very light out, and by 4 PM was pitch black every day. Not only are the winter days shorter in Paris and London than in Chicago, but at least in London, the light levels, even at midday, were lower than I was used to (coming from Philadelphia).
If you are going to be outside for most of the day, a layer or 2 of thermals will keep you nice and warm, but if you are going to be in/out a lot, thermals are a bad choice, you'll roast indoors. Then it's better to have a really warm outer layer that's easy to get on and off. Rain ponchos are good in winter too. They'll fit over all your bulky clothing and backpack/shoulder bag and keep you dry in snow as well as rain. I always take disposable hand warmers with me on winter trips. If you like to take a lot of photos on your trips, make sure your gloves allow you to use the camera easily. You will get really cold really fast if you have to keep taking gloves off for photos. Or you'll miss some great photos. Have a flexible itinerary. When the weather's fine do the outdoor stuff. Be prepared to spend much time indoors if the weather's wet.