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Paris at Christmas: Worth the trip?

My husband and I spent a (too short) week in Paris in September and are dying to go back as soon as possible (not enough time for all the art, food, shopping, chocolate and wine we wanted to cram in).

Because of our work schedules, December may be the only time we can go. We've heard that Paris at Christmastime is wonderful (skating rinks, store decorations, chocolat chaud, etc.) and are wondering if it's worth braving the cold to experience Paris around Noël. A question for our Parisians (Souphie!) and expats (John Talbott!), or anyone who's visited around the holidays, should we come, or is the weather too oppressive to have a good time? And are shops and restaurants on abbreviated holiday schedules, or is everything typically open? We want to just eat, visit hotels, shop, and fill up on our share of coq au vin, boeuf bourguinonne, and other hearty fall fare, perhaps with less competition from other *touristes Americanes*. Thank you in advance!

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  1. Oh, and delucacheesemonger as well! Look forward to your thoughts.

    1. Been here twice for Xmas, was great; Many restaurants are closed for Christmas as well as Christmas eve, but there is so much going on with concerts in churches and Christmas fairs everywhere , it is a great time to be here, but then again when is it not? ok August. Both times the weather was fine, but some years back there was a 'northeaster' on New Year's Eve that leveled the gardens at Versailles so weather can play a part, but l oved that time of year here. Many stores are open longer hours befroe but closed a lot more after, January are is the store sale month as well;

      1. I go every year for 2 or 3 weeks at Christmas / New Year. It can get cold some days but usually not oppressively cold, that seems to come in Jan / Feb for some reason even though Paris is about 48 degrees N latitude.

        Some restros do choose to close for the holidays but there are PLENTY that remain open. You will have no problem at all finding great places to eat at all price points that are open. Shops and stores are absolutely open. Traiteurs especially seem to offer exceptionally nice holiday foods for take away in case you want to have a stay at home dinner in your apartment (I gave up on hotels a long time ago when visitng Paris).

        1 Reply
        1. re: f2dat06

          Chowhound has a very narrow mission--where to find deliciousness. General travel planning questions, like where to stay or what else to do while visiting a town, are off topic for our boards. Please keep your replies focused on helping the poster find great chow, as off topic replies will continue to be removed.

          Thank you.

        2. Go! It is chilly but soo cheery in December. To atone for the restaurant closures, don't miss the fabulous food at the Christmas market at La defense.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jamiei

            Jamiei, What do you like about the food at the Christmas market at La defense?

          2. It is really worthwhile. Paris is wonderful at Christmas. My advice is to spend a week before Christmas there and thus be part of the build up with all the hustle and bustle of people shopping and the food shops groaning under the weight of festive treats.

            It may even be better to head out before New Year as Paris on NYE isn't that great and the period between Christmas and New Year is when a of of locals head out of the city. Catch the train south and you may get some sun, or up to the Alps for some very classy ski resorts.

            1. Markets:
              Markets in France are a great visit. I always tell visiting friends that if they don't have time, then choose markets over museum… In November and December in Paris, there are a lot of weekend markets of regional terror specialties, selling many goodies that are are hard to find in normal times, like aiguillettes de canard and farm-fresh foie gras. Also in regular markts in the winter, you can find at least a dozen types of mushrooms at any time. My fave is the trompettes de la mort. A b*tch to clean, but soooo worth it.
              Many restos - including our fave L'Ami jean - have a special game menu for winter.

              1. The markets are really special in Paris at Christmastime. Lots of unique seasonal items. I would recommend renting an apartment rather than a hotel, so you can cook, and really enjoy the bounty of the markets. The lights in the city (and also in Lyon) are amazing at this time of year.

                1. This is all great guys -- thank you so much -- when we were there in September it was too warm to really dive into some of the heartier cold-weather fare (chocolat chaud, civet, sanglier, biche, coq au vin, even cassoulet, other game meats etc.) and generally, many restaurants weren't serving those at that time. Also excited to do the traditional French oyster/champagne holiday celebration -- we were told many restaurants will prepare plateaus to take away, so that could be great. And of course, marrons glacees, buches de noel, etc.! We also weren't able to do any markets properly last time (hotels don't take kindly to you dumping the minibar on the floor in favor of your giant hunk of weeping Epoisses) so renting an apt so we can cook (and do the suggested foie and hopefully... truffles!) seems like a fantastic idea. Really love the opp to do try some special game meats and preparations we don't see much over here. Thanks again!

                  1. Hot chestnuts from a street vendor while window shopping restaurant menus...I love Paris a Noel!

                    1. Oh yes, and don't miss La Grande Épicérie at La Bonne Marché! It's all dressed up for the holidays with TONS of goodies that are not to be missed.

                      1. "A question for our Parisians (Souphie!) and expats (John Talbott!), or anyone who's visited around the holidays, should we come, or is the weather too oppressive to have a good time?"
                        I think I dropped the ball here, sorry, and in 2009,
                        Christmas-New Years here is very chancy; it can be wonderful and mild, it can be bitter cold and raining. But it's always Paris, Non?

                        1. Question to Francoise:

                          >> We want to just eat, visit hotels, shop, and fill up on our share of coq au vin, boeuf bourguinonne, and other hearty fall fare,

                          What do you mean by "visit hotels"? (i.e., to see new bars and restaurants?)

                          Which are your favorite hotels to visit?

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: sweet100s

                            Not sure that Francoise will reply since this thread is 4 years old, but by hotel, perhaps she meant hôtel as in Hôtel de Ville or Hôtel des Invalides. A hôtel isn't a hotel with rooms, restos and bars. Just my guess. On the other hand, there are some good hotels that have a nice bar/resto. So who knows?

                            1. re: sweet100s

                              To follow-up on Bkeats post, neither francoise nor jamiei have posted on CH for 4 years, so I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for a response.

                              1. re: carolinadawg

                                Do people like that hate all the recommendations ? Did we steer them to unadulterated crap ?
                                Wait, am sure none of us would have recommended the La Défense market or La Défense anything, not even barring moments of temporary insanity.