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Discovering Paris in Winter

You’ve probably already got some preconceived notions floating about in your head when it comes to a winter visit in Paris. The mere mention of it brings to mind shivering as you traverse the Seine, using up packs upon packs of Kleenex, and trying to figure out how to say “Nyquil” in French. But cast these ideas from your mind!

For those who know how to dress warmly – an unfortunate necessity in a city whose December temperatures hover around 45 degrees –, the city offers quite a few charming surprises, the least of which is most certainly not the utter absence of tourists, who have fallen for the same stories of a miserable Paris winter you’ve been told! So take advantage of the privilege of visiting Paris in winter!

Winter Enchantment in Paris

So there’s a dearth of tourists in the city (Careful! This doesn’t hold true during the Christmas festivals!), which means benefits for you, dear traveler: the prices of hotel stays and airfare are much more conducive to visiting, and the diminished lines at museums and monuments means that you can get far more done. Make occasional stops for hot grogg spiced with cinnamon, steamy cocoa, or just a few roasted chestnuts from a street vendor to keep yourself warm along the way.

Take advantage of Paris’s sparkle in the glow of its Christmas décor. Stop at Concorde and take a stroll up the Champs-Elysées, illuminated by a thousand lights up until the Arc de Triomphe. It’s a magical sight, made all the more stunning on the rare occasion that snow graces Paris. No one can resist its charm, even the most blasé of Parisians!

Take a walk on the boulevard Haussmann, and peer into the windows of the department stores. You’ll find the child within you, looking at the decorations, as seasonal wonder fills your soul. This area being particularly popular with tourists, consider visiting on the weekend to avoid having your toes stepped on by other passers by!

Continue the walk through your Parisian holiday wonderland with the Christmas markets that pop up all over the city: from the Champs-Elysées to Trocadéro, from Saint-Germain to Saint-Sulpice… Don’t be disappointed, though, if they seem rather commercial. Take a look around, and then continue onwards, towards less touristic ventures.

In front of the Hotel de Ville – Paris’s beautiful city hall – you can take a turn on the skating rink, which is installed every winter. This outdoor rink is a wonderful way to experience the season!

But truly, the best way to take advantage of the atmosphere of all the end-of-year festivals and festivities is in wandering the city. Take a look at some of the pretty nativities, which you’ll find set up in and around all of Paris’ churches. If you have time for just one, make it Notre Dame’s; you can take advantage of your visit to gaze up at the huge Christmas tree standing majestically in front of the cathedral.

In winter, ‘tis the season to travel to Paris and get a true taste of the Parisian way of life… including a taste of its infamous cuisine. Make a stop at a restaurant whose menu is full of winter specialties, like raclette, cheese fondue, French onion soup, osso bucco… (nothing too heavy… right?). Follow it up with a hot chocolate at Angelina, macarons at Ladurée, a little grogg at every corner, and you’ll be heading home happy! (And sporting a few extra pounds, perhaps…)

What to Do in Paris in Winter

In January, there are two dates to mark in your calendars, if you’re a fashion buff: the winter soldes and Fashion Week. The soldes or sales occur twice a year and are nearly as scary as Black Friday, especially for the gentlemen accompanying their lady friends. But while they may drag their feet a bit when it comes to being pulled in and out of the variety of boutiques and shops, but they can have their revenge during the 7 Nations Tournament (rugby… for those who don’t know) at the Stade de France in February and March.

Chinese New Year (which usually falls mid-January) offers numerous festivals and parades in Paris’s Chinese neighborhoods (Belleville and the 13th arrondissement). Dragon dances and celebrations can be found, and a huge costumed parade goes through the center of the city, starting just in front of Hôtel de Ville. Another costumed parade, the Carnaval de Paris, takes place on the first Sunday of February.

One event that will please everyone is the Salon de l’Agriculture or agricultural salon, at Porte de Versailles. This professional salon takes place at the end of February or the beginning of March and allows France’s farmers and producers – it is, after all, an agricultural country! – to bring their wares to the city for sale. This grants the city folk the chance to pet cows and sheep and see some of the largest bulls this side of farmland. You can also taste and try free samples of delicacies from all over France, and maybe even make a few purchases, so you can bring your favorites home with you!

Exploring Paris's world-renowned art museums is the perfect way to avoid the inclement weather and cultivate the art historian in you. Some of the best art exhibitions at Paris's top cultural institutions take place during the winter months. Localers organises daily private tours of the Louvre and Musée D'Orsay led by officially accredited art historians.

Localers proposes a selection of excellent indoor activities such as an enticing wine tasting with a sommelier in his private Parisian apartment, and a macaroon cooking class in the authentic home of a French chef in the Quartier des Peupliers neighbourhood in Paris.

Take shelter from the rain just like 19th century Parisians did during a tour of the hidden Covered Passages and the Opéra Garnier.

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