Winter travel in France is a wonderful way to experience the country in the off season, but for us, there’s no place more magical then Paris. France is one of our top travel destinations and full of incredible places to explore and experience, but why not take it slow and spend a week in the “City of Light” over the winter holidays?
Paris is a city that needs no introduction. Even those who have just visited once will always remember with a happy sigh their first time in this magical metropolis- but as it glitters over Christmas, it has an even greater charm. Visitors coming over December are rewarded with wonderful window displays in some of the city’s most famous boutiques along the Champs-Elysées. It’s amazing to see in pictures, but even more special to experience for yourself.
If designer window shopping isn’t for you, Paris also hosts several Christmas markets. The open air market at Saint-Germain-des-Prés hosts over 40 vendors selling anything from cured meats to artisanal ceramics – great gifts for family at home! Afterwards, try another one of our favorite winter Parisian treats, vin chaud (hot mulled wine). Nothing takes the chill out of the winter air better than sipping one walking the streets of this special city.
If you love shopping but are coming after the holidays, look out for the January sales. People come to the city just to take advantage of the national sale “season” that starts in early January and has most golds (including designer items) 30% to in some cases 60% off.
Crowds are also a fraction of what they are in the Parisian summers, meaning that your experience will be much more relaxed and you’ll have a much easier time seeing some of its most famous sites. Renowned throughout the world for its incredible selection of museums, the winter time brings less crowds, less lines, and more space to explore and experience some of the most famous works of art in the world.
With a week in Paris, you can also take advantage of its great public transport and proximity to other areas of the country that make wonderful side trips. The Loire Valley and its majestic chateaux are especially beautiful when you have them to yourselves and decorated for the holidays. The Châteaux of Blois, Chambord, Chaumont-sur-Loire and Cheverny open their doors to celebrate the magic of Christmas with lovely displays both inside and in the outdoor gardens, from early December through the first week of January. Just note that in the off season, many sites will have shorter or reduced winter hours, so check beforehand! You might find some more activity here on weekends as the Christmas season approaches, as French families take weekend trips to enjoy the scenery and the Christmas markets as well as gastro-markets that focus on the different foods, wine and products of the region.
Another great side trip from Paris is a visit to the Champagne region, a short 45-minute ride from the city. In the winter time, it can be quite cold, but the vines never seem to rest. It’s a period where pruning, maintenance and burning of dried old vines takes place, and there are still many cellars both big and small (and many wonderful restaurants) open in the winter. Reims is a beautiful city in the area and a great base for exploring the region if you wish to extend your day trip into a few extra days. It’s famous for its architecture and picturesque cathedrals, great restaurants and tasting rooms to sample all the champagne you can dream of.
If your week in Paris can be turned into a longer vacation, a stop along the French Riviera is another excellent idea. The mild Mediterranean winters mean that there is usually more sun than rain, and moderate temperatures mean a glass of wine along the seaside or an aperò outside in the historical center of Vieux Nice is still a wonderful idea even in the winter months. There are a wealth of cozy restaurants nestled in the alleys of this seaside city, tons of wonderful boutiques, and even an opera house that hosts some spectacular winter shows. If you have the time, the French Riviera in the winter might not be the place to go for sunbathing, but the glamor and charm of the area still shine as brightly as in the summer. France is one of our most requested destinations, and a place that we never get tired of visiting and exploring. Paris, however, has a certain je ne sais quoi in the winter all its own, and it’s a great stop for your vacation.
If you are still dreaming about a French holiday this winter, you’re not too late to start planning. Contact us for more information on how to turn your holiday dreams of France into reality!