Wintertime in Paris has a special appeal that can’t be ignored. Spending Christmas in Paris is an experience of a lifetime, not just for the amazing shopping opportunities in the city during this time of year. Winter is an ideal time to explore the city’s many famous museums, since you’ll probably be looking for some indoor activities on those day when the idea of strolling through the parks of Versailles isn’t welcoming. While the temperatures can be a bit on the cold side, its easy to stay warm by dressing in layers that you can easily remove when you enter warm cafes and restaurants. Paris also hosts a number of winter festivals, adding items to your itinerary that wouldn’t be possible any other time of the year. You’ll be able to enjoy a more personal relationship with wait staff at many restaurants and cafes frequented by locals, as there are fewer tourists in the city during the winter months. This also means that airfare and accommodation are much more affordable than during the warmer months of the year. You’ll have your pick of rooms at the hotels that remain open during the winter season, and haggling for a good price is possible since owners are looking to keep revenue coming in.
Parisians go all out to make the city shine, strategically placing over 1,000 decorated fir trees all around the city and decorating the streets, shops and buildings with twinkling displays of Christmas lights. Paris is truly a winter wonderland, and the lavishly decorated shop windows remind you at every turn that Christmas is right around the corner. One way to truly feel like a Parisian is indulging in their favorite winter pastime, window shopping or fere du leche-vitrines, which translates rather comically to “window licking”. Paris’ grand department stores such as Galeries LaFayette and Printemps don’t disappoint, and you’ll be sorely tempted to go inside and make a few purchases together with Parisians getting their holiday shopping done. Shops in the Marais neighborhood and other areas put up more intimate window displays than their luxury counterparts, so you can also shop there if you’re not a fan of the major chain stores. Indoor malls called passages can be found all around Paris, so if you’re predicting a gloomy, rainy day you can still go shopping and stop for a bite to eat. You’ll spend your time browsing through the used books and other trinkets, as well as interesting French snacks that you probably haven’t seen before. Finding English language books to read on days when you don’t feel like braving the Paris winter weather is easy and enjoyable in stores such as Red Wheelbarrow Bookstore in the Marais neighborhood, and Shakespeare and Company, conveniently located across from the Notre Dame.
Even in the cold Paris weather during the winter time, its possible to work up a sweat and an appetite at one of the ice-skating rinks set up in festive locations around the city. At the base of the Montparnasse skyscraper, you’ll find one such rink, as well as in front of the Hotel de Ville. If you’re lucky, you’ll be in the city when the most spectacular ice-skating rink is opened on the first level of the Eiffel Tower. For the tower’s entrance fee, you’ll be able to say you ice-skated 200 feet above the ground, and you can visit the viewing room of the Eiffel Tower to see Paris in all its wintery glory as well. If the idea of combining swimming and wintertime sounds crazy to you, a visit to the heated pool and waterslide complex called Aquaboulevard located on rue Louis Armand will change your mind. Children ages 3 and up can visit the park, and while its a bit pricey a visit there can be a welcome reprieve from the cold outside and a reminder that swimming is not just for summertime.
Satisfying the appetite you’ll surely work up after a few hours at Aquaboulevard is extremely easy, since Paris in the wintertime offers many choices of hot drinks and delicate warm pastries. If you’re open to trying new things and are looking to warm up even more, you can relax on one of the heated terraces with a glass of vin chaud, warm wine that will surely help you beat the cold. Hunting season means you’ll find restaurant menus filled with scrumptious descriptions of wild meat such as venison and game birds. Since all of the city’s restaurants and cafes now prohibit smoking, you can relax in comfort while you sample sweet treats such as galette des rois, flakey baked goods aptly named Epiphany cakes. A hot chocolate is sure to hit the spot, so ask for a chocolat, or a cafe creme if you need a caffeine buzz. When you visit one of the many cafes in the city, you’ll be among the throngs of Parisians looking to enjoy a warm treat and a chat with the staff. As you walk along the streets, you’ll encounter vendors selling Parisian classics such as roasted chestnuts. You’ll be tempted to visit one of La Maison du Chocolat’s five stores conveniently located around the city to pick up some exquisitely made chocolates in traditional and exotic flavors.
There’s no shortage of concerts and plays to attend in Paris during the wintertime, so follow the example of the locals and take full advantage of the arts season. You can check out what’s showing at the Theatre du Chatelet on rue Edouard Colonne which features some of the most anticipated shows of the year. The Notre Dame Christmas Concert is definitely a must-see, and is one of the most popular among Paris’ locals, so head to the nearest tourist office and find out how you can be a part of this spectacular tradition. If you’re a fan of short films and a good time, free screenings at Le Jour Le Plus Court, or the Shortest Day Film Festival are offered each year, all based on a different theme. You’ll need to do a little research to figure out the venues of this film festival, but the reward will be worth it.
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