While many consider summer the perfect time to travel, it can be the most crowded and the most expensive time to visit. Those who want to save a few pennies should venture out in the middle of winter and receive a real treat!
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in the lovely city of Paris during the chilly winter months, try to time your visit to coincide with the Paris Christmas Markets and consider some of these other fun activities to your days.
- Pailleron (32 rue Edouard Pailleron) – The days of skating around to traditional holiday songs is over, at least at this rink! Jean-Baptiste Guillot, founder of the indie rock label Born Bad Records, helped to revamp Parisian skating by adding a little rock and roll. Now skaters can zip and glide to the stylings of live bands or DJs from 8 pm until midnight. So if you’re looking to jam out while you skate, this is the place to be.
- Hôtel de Ville (Dec 17 – Feb 17) – For a more traditional afternoon, head over to this rink. Whether you’re a skating pro or blading up for the first time, gliding past this gorgeous landmark is the perfect way to spend a Parisian afternoon. Also, bring the kids along! Paris’s city hall not only holds the ice skating rink, but a double-decker merry-go-round with traditional wooden horses.
- Eiffel Tower (Dec 18 – Feb 9) – That’s right, you can now test out your skating ability on the first floor of the famous tower. Nearly 60 feet in the air, guests have been enjoying the rink since 2004. While this spot certainly attracts more tourists, it certainly is a great story to tell your friends back home and an experience you won’t soon forget.
A Spin on the Millennium Wheel
Originally built in 2000 and appropriately called the Millennium Wheel, this ferris wheel has been rebuilt every winter season since 2007. At the foot of the prestigious Champs-Elysées avenue, it provides the perfect end to a day of shopping. For the price of 9 euros, you can take a ride up and around the wheel – basking in the beauty of the city from 200 feet in the air.
If your winter visit happens to be early enough, it will likely coincide with game season. Things like rabbit, pheasant and deer will grace menus alongside earthy soups and sauces featuring wild mushrooms, truffles and mountain cheeses. Other traditional winter foods in Paris include oysters, crayfish and lobster. Seafood lovers will easily find a variety of options at their fingertips as they go from bistro to brasserie.
Those with a sweet tooth will find the popular Bûches de Noël (yule logs) and Galettes des Rois (flaky, almond flavored tarts) showcased at pâtisseries all over the city! When you need a little something to warm you from the bone-chilling temps – head to a cozy café for a bowl of French onion soup or a pot full of decadent French hot chocolate. Don’t forget to explore far beyond the five-star joints to the more local haunts.
Quieter Museum Visits
One of the best parts about an off-season trip is that you won’t be standing in lines for very long at all. At the Musée de Louvre, you’ll have the chance to gaze upon the Mona Lisa without peering over heads or being elbowed by onlookers. It’s ideal for families with children, the physically handicapped or simply those who would enjoy a bit of peace and quiet with their art.
The Chateau de Versailles is also blissfully relaxed at this time. The weather runs the potential of ruining your time in the magnificent gardens, so just make sure you bring an umbrella and dress appropriately. As a reminder – check individual museum times because many might have reduced hours in the off-season.
Soldes are the semi-annual, state-regulated sales in France where department stores, boutiques, designer outlets and everything in between clear out the merchandise from the previous season and make room for the fresh and new. Winter soldes will run from mid January through mid February. Exact dates vary from year to year
For stores, it’s a glorified spring cleaning and for shoppers, it’s a bargain-shopper’s paradise. The best advice to make the most? Be early, go during off hours, dress simply (to save precious dressing room time) and be careful about when you splurge and when you save. The further into the sales period you get, the larger the discounts.
Another valuable tip: pick up the Paris Shopping Book which contains a list of more than 300 shops, restaurants, hotels and cultural venues. All places are divided by themes and can help you find exactly what you’re looking for. Participating shops or hotels will have a copy for you as well as the welcome and information points of the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau. You can also download or print a free copy.
Oh Those Gray Paris Skies
While many visitors might delight in the thought of crystal-clear blue skies, there is no denying how moody gray and cloudy skies will make for a magical backdrop for those monument, landmark, architecture and café photos you long to capture. There is no better or cheaper Paris souvenir than shots of the city in winter!
Leaves that once clung to trees and obstructed views, have since fallen and now unveil glimpses of Paris that were previously hidden from the summer’s eye. And if you are lucky enough to be there during even the lightest snowfall, you’ll have a field day capturing the most beautiful and romantic shots of the city’s rooftops, bridges, balconies and park benches covered in a dusting of fluffy white flakes.
If you’re searching for that natural view of Paris, the one with the same warmth but less tourists milling about – head over in the middle of winter and take in all that this amazing city has to offer.
Have you been to Paris in the winter? What’s your favorite thing about the winter season?