Visit Paris in win­ter for Christ­mas lights, block­buster art ex­hi­bi­tions and smaller crowds

Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - DESTINATION FRANCE - EL­IZA COMP­TON

Like Cole Porter, the world loves Paris ev­ery mo­ment of the year. But win­ter is spe­cial: soft light in­spires a mil­lion moody shots of the Seine, flotil­las of um­brel­las turn any scene into an im­pres­sion­ist paint­ing and wrap­ping chilled fin­gers around a mug of hot choco­late is heaven. The city feels like your own – plus there are shorter queues at the Lou­vre, Chateau de Ver­sailles, the Eif­fel Tower and Musée d’Or­say.

Here are the coolest things to do in the French cap­i­tal when it’s cold.


The 19th-cen­tury cov­ered pas­sages and gal­leries of the se­cond and ninth ar­rondisse­ments are hid­den trea­sures. Topped with glass and iron roofs to let the light stream in, these charm­ing (and typ­i­cally Parisian) ar­cades make a per­fect shop­ping prom­e­nade when it’s chilly out.

With 20-odd pas­sages to ex­plore around the Grands Boule­vards area, you’ll find an­tique stores, restau­rants, theatres, archives and ir­re­sistible bou­tiques. Each one has its own al­lure. Pas­sage du Grand-Cerf, in the Mon­torgueil mar­ket quar­ter, is among the most beau­ti­ful with a 12m-high roof and ev­ery­thing from hand­made jew­ellery to graphic art.

Near the Palais-Royal, Ga­lerie Vivi­enne stuns with its mo­saic floor. One of the old­est, Pas­sage des Panora­mas, was built in 1799 and houses a di­verse range of restau­rants (in­clud­ing Ital­ian favourite Racines and gluten-free Noglu), phi­lat­e­lists and Theatre des Va­ri­etes.


Pull on a pair of ice skates and glide into a win­ter won­der­land un­der the glass roof of the Grand Palais. From De­cem­ber 9 to Jan­uary 8, the fin-de­siè­cle mon­u­ment just two steps from the Champs-Elysées trans­forms into the big­gest un­der­cover ice rink in the world (legrand­palais­des­glaces.com), with 2700sq me­tres of glis­ten­ing ice. There’s a child-only space for the youngest skaters and tobog­gan-like seats for lit­tlies who don’t want to skate. It’s open ev­ery day, with light­shows, DJ and a dance floor in the evening.


Yes, brave the chill and wan­der the streets – there’s some­thing po­etic about the hazy light and bare trees, es­pe­cially if the scene is pow­dered with snow. It makes a warm­ing hot choco­late so much more wel­come.

Well-loved spots in­clude pastel­pretty tea­room An­gelina (an­geli­na­paris.fr), op­po­site Jardin des Tui­leries, where the choco­late is thick enough to count as dessert (those are fab­u­lous, too), and Choco­latier Jac­ques Genin (jacques­genin.fr) in the Marais.

If some­thing stronger is called for, Paris has a thriv­ing craft cock­tail scene, with a nook for ev­ery mood, from the leg­endary op­u­lence of Bar Hem­ing­way at The Ritz (ritz­paris.com) to plush bolt­holes such as Lit­tle Red Door (lrd­paris.com), voted among the world’s best bars, near République, and Lulu White (lu­luwhite.bar) in hip­ster hotspot South Pi­galle.

Or set­tle in for a tast­ing. Try a cham­pagne de­gus­ta­tion in the vaulted 17th-cen­tury cel­lar at Dilet­tantes (dilet­tantes.fr) or dis­cover a grand cru at Le­grand Filles et Fils (caves-le­grand.com).


Warm up and chill out at a yoga class at one of Paris’s stylish stu­dios. Friendly, cen­tral and bi­jou, Wize Mon­key Yoga Shala (wiz­e­mon­keyyo­gashala.com) of­fers classes for all lev­els, in­clud­ing Foun­da­tion and Open Level, with bilin­gual teach­ers, so even to­tal be­gin­ners can stretch out in be­tween sight­see­ing sor­ties. Other stu­dios


rec­om­mended by ex­pert site Yo­gateau (yo­gateau.com) in­clude Le Ti­gre, Paris Yoga Shala and KShanti.


Paris truly be­comes the City of Light over the fes­tive pe­riod. From Novem­ber to Jan­uary, the Champ­sElysées (sparkling from the Arc de Tri­om­phe all the way to place de la Con­corde), de­signer mecca Av­enue Mon­taigne, ritzy place Ven­dome and the slopes of Mont­martre glow like, well, a Christ­mas tree. Not to be out­shone, the Lou­vre, Eif­fel Tower, Les In­valides and other sites also bask in beau­ti­ful il­lu­mi­na­tions on those crisp win­ter nights.

For a tan­gi­ble sou­venir of Euro­pean yule­tide, visit one of the pic­turesque Christ­mas mar­kets that dot the city through­out De­cem­ber. In vil­lages in Saint-Ger­main-des-Prés, Les Halles and around Notre Dame Cathe­dral, chalet-style stalls tempt with ar­ti­san crafts and dec­o­ra­tions as well as warm­ing snacks such as roasted chest­nuts, and vin chaud (mulled wine). See en.paris­info.com for sites and dates.


Art lovers, pre­pare to be spoilt with block­buster ex­hi­bi­tions across the cap­i­tal. The ma­jor ret­ro­spec­tive of Joan Miró at the Grand Palais (un­til Fe­bru­ary 4, grand­palais.fr) traces the stylis­tic evo­lu­tion of the Span­ish mas­ter through al­most 150 works cre­ated over 70 years. Le Cu­bisme at the Pom­pi­dou Cen­tre (Oc­to­ber 17 to Fe­bru­ary 25, cen­tre­pom­pi­dou.fr) fea­tures tow­er­ing fig­ures such as Ge­orges Braque and Pablo Pi­casso as well as con­tem­po­raries like So­nia De­lau­nay and Mar­cel Duchamps.

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