Who's stayed in Paris in January? Are the museums open right after New Year's? Can you recommend a church to attend Day of Epiphany services? Is it too cold and overcast to enjoy the city's charms? Thanks!
Average January daily highs are 6.9° C. Compare that to DC's average of 6.6° C. I have not visited in January, but I have in late December. As in most of NW Europe around that time, temperatures were cold, but not uncomfortable if properly dressed. Also typical of NW Europe, the air was very damp and overcast. In general, this sort of weather is much less of a hindrance in cities than in the countryside. It might affect your views from the upper levels of the Eifel tower, but that's about all. Most museums should be open on their normal winter schedule.
I have - many times - and I love it. IMHO, it is never too cold/overcast/showery/windy/chilly/streets-filled-with-shambling-zombies to enjoy Paris! :-) Seriously, though. January is not too cold to enjoy the crazy goodness that is Paris. I personally LIKE the more atmospheric light in winter, but then that's me. Lots of cafes have outside heaters so you can still sit outside and do the people-watching thing. Or, you can go inside! (Which saves you money.) And if you get there during the Christmas markets (they close after the new year) there are these cool upright fire thingies to huddle around while you enjoy a gorgeous hot mulled wine and cone of roasted chestnuts. The museums are all pretty much open on a normal schedule - and will post to their website if they will be closed. As noted above, the Christmas decorations will still be up ('til Epiphany, normally) and make everything seem cheery and cozy. As to where to go for an Epiphany service, I am afraid I can't help you. The only thing I can tell you along those lines is that a couple of years ago my aunt laid out a lot of cash for an evening Christmas music concert at Sainte Chappelle, and found to her dismay that it was too dark outside to enjoy the gorgeous stained glass (which IMHO is sort of the only point of visiting). So there's that.
For Day of Epiphany Service I would check out the American Church in Paris. You can google for their website. It's a wonderful, beautiful church just up the street from the Musee d'Orsay, facing the Seine. I'm not Christian but I always go there at least once when I'm in Paris... I just really like it. The people (from all over the world, but predominantly American) are warm and friendly and their services are always special for me.
I was in Paris in early February 1999. It was cold, and I had to bundle up in a winter coat, but having done that, I wasn't particularly uncomfortable. One day it snowed briefly; otherwise I remember clear weather. Days are short, but Paris is full of indoor attractions, all open in January. However, it wasn't my first (or second) trip, so I already knew what the city looked like in bright light. I'm not sure what my reaction would have been if it was my first visit. There are sales in January (by law, they're limited to certain periods), if you want to pick up "a little something to ward off the chill" (at least, that can be your excuse for a shopping spree).
A few years ago I spent 10 nights in Paris, from late December into January. I was COLD! It never got above 33 degrees. But that's me. In all our time there we had some rain one day and snow a day or two. You are from a cold weather climate and I'm not. If you dress properly it should be fine. It didn't get light until around 9:00 a.m. and it was dark around 4:30 p.m. Luckily there is plenty to do indoors in Paris. It was beautifully decorated for the holidays, as opposed to the over the top decor you see in the U.S. I don't recall anything being closed, except for New Years Day. We had an apartment and I was happy to have the extra space. We spent more time there that trip than we have on other trips.
Thank you all for responding! I think we're going to make a go of it!
I have traveled to Europe a number of times in the winter and found it to be delightful. I think if you expect it to be cold, dreary, and damp and prepare to dress for that weather you will appreciate any days you get that are not that way. Gloves, hat, scarves, etc. all make it much more tolerable. I also love the light in the winter even though the days are short... gives you more time to see the lights of the city. Also, I always feel much less like a tourist because I am not among the hordes of them that are there in the summer. I really dislike crowds, so with fewer people it gives me time to enjoy the city at my own pace....plus, if that's when you are available for travel I would rather been in Europe than home.
Paris is always Paris. But remember Paris is about as far north as the Canadian border which means week sun and short days. It tends to be somewhat rainy and then damp so 30 degrees for some Californians can be very cold feeling but it you are more use to the cold than 30 is not unpleasant. It was will be overcast and gray at lot but it is still enjoyable city. Just dress for and anticipate chilly, rainy weather.
Our first trip to Paris was in the last week of December and a couple of days into the new year. The high temp every day was 32 F; and the low, 30. Fog covered the sky the entire time. Huge icicles hung from the gargoyles at Chartres. Being Californians, we had winter clothing that was marginally adequate. Did we have a good time? You bet! There's so much to do and see. I don't remember the weather actually hampering our sight-seeing at all.
I would go to Paris ANYTIME of the year!