#1  
Old 09-14-2019, 06:23 PM
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Paris in...December?


My wife and I were planning a week vacation to a warm location (Caribbean) in December but could not quite put together the right location at the right time with a good non-stop flight that didn't cost an arm and a leg. (Side note: non-stop flights to the Caribbean from Boston have more than doubled in price over the past few years ). In the course of several weeks of research, I noticed that flights to Paris were SUPER cheap, and I can't pass up a good bargain, so we thought "what the hell, let's go to Paris in the winter." Oui oui!

This is where you come in. We've been to Paris once before, so we've got all major highlights taken care of. I'm looking for recommendations of more "off the beaten path" locations/sights as well as those things that are particular to winter/December. Some examples of things I'm looking for:
  • Your favorite place(s) to get hot chocolate or french onion soup or any other amazing french food (bonus points for places that are good about food allergies)
  • Winter or holiday markets that are only around in December
  • Locations that you'd normally avoid in the summer but are great in winter (possibly due to hordes of tourists)
  • Any other advice that's particular to Paris in winter/cold weather

Some examples of things I'm NOT looking for:
  • Museum recommendations (unless it's really unusual - my wife works in museums, she's got it covered)
  • Advice about the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and other obvious things
  • Good flight deals to the Caribbean - we're not going now

Thanks in advance, francophiles!
  #2  
Old 09-14-2019, 08:25 PM
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Let me get this straight. You were thinking of going to the Caribbean and decided on Paris instead? Rethink your decision.

Paris is either very cold or unimaginably cold that time of year. I went to Paris in December on my honeymoon and my wife never fails to remind me how cold it was. I could deal with really cold weather for a week or two, she couldn't. Perhaps you guys like walking around in freezing cold weather with lots of wind and sleet. Personally, I would prefer warm tropical beaches regardless of the cost.

If you are dead set on going to France head to the coast where it should be at least a little bit warmer... or to the south of France. Stay out of Paris if you can.
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Old 09-14-2019, 08:40 PM
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Do you want to spend your entire time in Paris, or are you up for a day trip? Strasbourg is about two hours away by train and if it's Christmas markets you want, they got it. And the German influence means good beer as well as good wine, and lots of wonderful food. We may end up in France in December as well, and Alsace is one of the areas we are looking at. We'll likely stay in Paris and do several day trips to different areas.
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Old 09-14-2019, 09:28 PM
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Originally Posted by dolphinboy View Post
Let me get this straight. You were thinking of going to the Caribbean and decided on Paris instead? Rethink your decision.

Paris is either very cold or unimaginably cold that time of year. I went to Paris in December on my honeymoon and my wife never fails to remind me how cold it was. I could deal with really cold weather for a week or two, she couldn't. Perhaps you guys like walking around in freezing cold weather with lots of wind and sleet. Personally, I would prefer warm tropical beaches regardless of the cost.

If you are dead set on going to France head to the coast where it should be at least a little bit warmer... or to the south of France. Stay out of Paris if you can.
I'm from New England, I can handle a little cold.

Quote:
Originally Posted by romansperson View Post
Do you want to spend your entire time in Paris, or are you up for a day trip? Strasbourg is about two hours away by train and if it's Christmas markets you want, they got it. And the German influence means good beer as well as good wine, and lots of wonderful food. We may end up in France in December as well, and Alsace is one of the areas we are looking at. We'll likely stay in Paris and do several day trips to different areas.
A train ride is definitely not out of the question - thanks for the rec!
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Old 09-14-2019, 09:53 PM
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Since you are willing to spring for a return train ticket, there is a Christmas market in Lyon as well! Near Strasbourg there are some towns like Colmar worth seeing. Paris itself has no shortage of christmas vendors.

Last edited by DPRK; 09-14-2019 at 09:58 PM.
  #6  
Old 09-14-2019, 10:11 PM
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When I was in Paris in 1964, La Sainte Chapelle was very impressive--and free--and my wife and I were alone in it. The last time I was in Paris in 1991, there were lines around the block to get it and it was far from free. I don''t think there will be lines in December. With the Notre Dame shot it might be the best church in Paris to see.

My favorite museum is Musee de Cluny. But then I am a sucker for unicorn tapestries. I was also quite impressed by a goldsmiths' bench (banc des orfevres) but it wasn't there in 1991. But I preferred that museum to the Louvre. I also liked the Jeu de Paume, I think it was called, that had a load of Monets.
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Old 09-14-2019, 10:20 PM
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Have you considered southern France instead... all the way from the Atlantic coast, across to Provence, then along the Riviera to the Italian coast. I did that in 2.5 weeks, and had such a great time, I did the same thing the following year, visiting different towns. The weather should still be tolerable in December. And if you want, you can go up to Paris for a few days before heading home. Both of your airfares will be to/from Paris, with train travel within France.
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Old 09-15-2019, 01:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Hari Seldon View Post
My favorite museum is Musee de Cluny. But then I am a sucker for unicorn tapestries. I was also quite impressed by a goldsmiths' bench (banc des orfevres) but it wasn't there in 1991.
The 'banc d'orfèvre' wasn't there because it's in the half of the collection from the Musée de Cluny that's now the Musée de la Renaissance at Ecouen. Which is even better than the Musée de Cluny, but which no one ever visits. (It's actually easy to get to by public transport, although the walk through the woods, which is fine in good weather, might not be ideal in December.)
  #9  
Old 09-15-2019, 02:26 AM
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I've been in Paris during the Christmas season twice and found it pleasantly mild. With a good overcoat, warm shoes and gloves, it was just fine. Maybe Dolphinboy hit a harsh winter?

The first time, pre-Charlie Hebdo attack, there was a lot of outdoor activity. Christmas markets seemed to be every where, with vin chaud readily available to keep you warm. There was a nice one in the St Germaine de Près area, but the biggest one was out at the Grande Arche de La Défense, at the western terminus of the yellow line of the Métro. The entire Plaza of the Grande Arche was a huge market.

Unfortunately, post-Charlie Hebdo, things have been scaled back, because that sort of outdoor activity is a prime soft target for terror attacks. So the big Christmas market and kids' rides, that used to occupy the whole plaza in front of the Palais de Ville, had been drastically reduced to only about a third of the plaza. Dunno if there's still the big market at the Grande Arche.

Heartily agree with Hari Seldon's recommendation of Cluny and the tapestries. They are just beautiful. I sat there for the longest time, just looking at them.

We took a day trip (well, extended morning-afternoon) to the Père LaChaise cemetery. Saw Oscar's lipstick covered tomb and left a little rose there. Wandered about and found the tomb of Abelard and Héloïse and many others. And of course the execution wall, where the Nazis would line up prisoners to be shot.

It was a grey, misty day, and we ended sitting on the rise looking out over the cemetery, watching the sun burn off the mist. A very peaceful, contemplative day.

One other thing about Paris at Christmas is the music. It seemed like every church puts on terrific choral and instrumental works. The high point was the Midnight Mass at Notre Dame, but that won't be on this year.

Another fun event was New Years Eve on the Champs Élysées. They shut down on all vehicular traffic and pedestrians can walk anywhere. We got a little bottle of champagne and popped it at midnight near De Gaulle's statue.

Have fun!
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  #10  
Old 09-15-2019, 03:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Northern Piper View Post
I've been in Paris during the Christmas season twice and found it pleasantly mild. With a good overcoat, warm shoes and gloves, it was just fine. Maybe Dolphinboy hit a harsh winter?
Wanted to chime in that, feel free to bring a scarf, but Paris is not that cold in the winter.
Not even freezing. Who said it was? A lot more comfortable to walk around there in December than it was in Paris and Rome this past summer.
  #11  
Old 09-15-2019, 05:20 AM
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Dd. We may end up in France in December as well, and Alsace is one of the areas we are looking at. We'll likely stay in Paris and do several day trips to different areas.
DOPEFEST!!

Since you've done most of the Paris stuff, and I assume that included Versailles, then consider day trips to Chambord, Chenocau, and Villandry. They're beautiful. Aldo, the crowds at Mon St Michel are too dense during the summer, but it would be a wonderful place to stop in the winter! Also, Giverny is nice if you're an art fan.
  #12  
Old 09-15-2019, 10:20 AM
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I have nothing to add about Paris, but our vacation got changed for the same kinda reason. We wanted to go to Northern Italy and Switzerland in October; instead we're going to London and the Cotswolds because the flights to Italy/Switzerland involved a ridiculous amount of money (over $2K!) and insane layovers (we had a choice of 40 minutes between flights or 8+ hours. WTH?). When we saw London was ~$800 and a very easy flight it was a no-brainer to do that.

WTH is with airfare these days? I never thought it'd be THAT hard to get to Europe.
  #13  
Old 09-16-2019, 12:37 AM
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I don;t have any Paris advice for you, but I do have an"off season travel" anecdote.

A number of years ago (about 17, actually) Rhiannon8404 and I were thinking about going to Disney World: we'd been to Disneyland a number of times, so we thought we'd see how they did things at the "other park". January worked out best with her job, and it seemed like a good time to visit Florida. It turned out that airfare from Sacramento to Orlando was stupidly expensive, and in the course of research, we somehow discovered that it would be cheaper to fly to London. So we did.

London in January, with a 4 year-old. It was magnificent. There were about 12 tourists in the entire city. While we were there, London had its heaviest snowfall in 50 years, which meant we got to have a snowball fight in Hyde Park. Our son is 21 now, and doesn't remember much of the trip, but he remembers the snowball fight.
  #14  
Old 09-16-2019, 12:46 AM
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Originally Posted by DPRK View Post
Since you are willing to spring for a return train ticket, there is a Christmas market in Lyon as well! Near Strasbourg there are some towns like Colmar worth seeing. Paris itself has no shortage of christmas vendors.
I was there last year and "cold" is definitely not what I would call it. During a day with temperatures closer to30 than 20C I bought a bunch of stuff, including a wooden toy from the artisan who mades them that was such a huge hit with The Littlest Nephew that his mother asked for additional copies!

You don't mention exact dates.
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Last edited by Nava; 09-16-2019 at 12:48 AM.
  #15  
Old 09-16-2019, 02:12 AM
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Originally Posted by romansperson View Post
Do you want to spend your entire time in Paris, or are you up for a day trip? Strasbourg is about two hours away by train and if it's Christmas markets you want, they got it. And the German influence means good beer as well as good wine, and lots of wonderful food. We may end up in France in December as well, and Alsace is one of the areas we are looking at. We'll likely stay in Paris and do several day trips to different areas.
The Christmas markets in Strasbourg are good, but I would highly recommend that you don't make it a day trip but spend a couple of nights there. The area where the markets are is lit up quite nicely and you really should see it at night. The boat tour around the town is worth doing also, and I enjoyed visiting the Tomi Ungerer museum.

We have discovered the cheap flights to Paris right after Thanksgiving and have gone for the last two years. Flew into Paris, then directly to Strasbourg the first year, and Marsaille and Lyon last year. Then finished the trip with three or four days in Paris. Again, those were not day trips, and I wouldn't have enjoyed it near as much as I did if they were.
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Old 09-16-2019, 04:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Athena View Post
I have nothing to add about Paris, but our vacation got changed for the same kinda reason. We wanted to go to Northern Italy and Switzerland in October; instead we're going to London and the Cotswolds because the flights to Italy/Switzerland involved a ridiculous amount of money (over $2K!) and insane layovers (we had a choice of 40 minutes between flights or 8+ hours. WTH?). When we saw London was ~$800 and a very easy flight it was a no-brainer to do that.

WTH is with airfare these days? I never thought it'd be THAT hard to get to Europe.
Airfares are crazy. Got a text yesterday from a friend of mine in London wanting to visit me in Chicago in February. He’s a great guy and welcome to stay with me any time but I did show him the temperatures as I’m not sure I’d recommend a Chicago vacation in February. But the airfare was so low, he went ahead and booked it.
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  #17  
Old 09-22-2019, 01:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Northern Piper View Post
I've been in Paris during the Christmas season twice and found it pleasantly mild. With a good overcoat, warm shoes and gloves, it was just fine. Maybe Dolphinboy hit a harsh winter?

The first time, pre-Charlie Hebdo attack, there was a lot of outdoor activity. Christmas markets seemed to be every where, with vin chaud readily available to keep you warm. There was a nice one in the St Germaine de Près area, but the biggest one was out at the Grande Arche de La Défense, at the western terminus of the yellow line of the Métro. The entire Plaza of the Grande Arche was a huge market.

Unfortunately, post-Charlie Hebdo, things have been scaled back, because that sort of outdoor activity is a prime soft target for terror attacks. So the big Christmas market and kids' rides, that used to occupy the whole plaza in front of the Palais de Ville, had been drastically reduced to only about a third of the plaza. Dunno if there's still the big market at the Grande Arche.

Heartily agree with Hari Seldon's recommendation of Cluny and the tapestries. They are just beautiful. I sat there for the longest time, just looking at them.

We took a day trip (well, extended morning-afternoon) to the Père LaChaise cemetery. Saw Oscar's lipstick covered tomb and left a little rose there. Wandered about and found the tomb of Abelard an Nazis would line up prisoners to be shot.
d Héloïse and many others. And of course the execution wall, where the
It was a grey, misty day, and we ended sitting on the rise looking out over the cemetery, watching the sun burn off the mist. A very peaceful, contemplative day.

One other thing about Paris at Christmas is the music. It seemed like every church puts on terrific choral and instrumental works. The high point was the Midnight Mass at Notre Dame, but that won't be on this year.

Another fun event was New Years Eve on the Champs Élysées. They shut down on all vehicular traffic and pedestrians can walk anywhere. We got a little bottle of champagne and popped it at midnight near De Gaulle's statue.

Have fun!
I somehow missed this post earlier, Northern Piper, so just wanted to say thank you for relating your experiences. I hadn't thought of the Père LaChaise cemetery and we didn't get there last time - I'm going to look into it.

Also, Bear Nenno, I've always wanted to see Mon St Michel. That is stellar advice!
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Old 09-22-2019, 05:50 PM
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I’ve been to Paris in every season, and never regretted it. I’ve not found the winters to be overly cold — certainly not in comparison to Chicago. Milder then NYC, in fact.

There are plenty of warm cozy drinks and food to restore you after a brisk walk, and more than enough indoor activities. If you haven’t been, go to the Musee d’Orsay, which is my favorite Paris museum: focus is on the 19th century, from the early Romantics to the Decadents and on into early 20th century avant-garde.
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Old 09-22-2019, 05:52 PM
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As Northern Piper says, free music in churches!

And definitely do the great cemeteries, not only Pere Lachaise but Montmartre and Montparnasse. Say hi to Berlioz and Baudelaire for me.
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Old 09-28-2019, 10:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Ukulele Ike View Post
I’ve been to Paris in every season, and never regretted it. I’ve not found the winters to be overly cold — certainly not in comparison to Chicago. Milder then NYC, in fact.

There are plenty of warm cozy drinks and food to restore you after a brisk walk, and more than enough indoor activities. If you haven’t been, go to the Musee d’Orsay, which is my favorite Paris museum: focus is on the 19th century, from the early Romantics to the Decadents and on into early 20th century avant-garde.
Yes, Musée d'Orsay is well worth a trip. Sadly like Hari, I found La Saints Chappelle crodwed and noisy. The Revolutionaries did a good job of stripping it down to bare architecture. Didn't find it worth going to at all.
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  #21  
Old 09-28-2019, 11:01 PM
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Glad to be of service, ShadowFacts. Hope you have a good trip!
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