“I love Paris in the Winter, When it Drizzles”

Paris is beautiful no matter what time of year you visit, but our favorite time to visit has also become our favorite Holiday tradition, Christmas.  Below are some tips from what we have learned from our multipe visits. Please feel free to send us your tips, hints and ideas.

We typically go the first week of December (hotels and other things are usually a little cheaper at this time). The festivities are set up as early as the week before Thanksgiving.

The majority of the things we do can be found year around, although there are a few things that make Christmas time extra special:

1.  The Christmas Markets in various places around the city – Our favorite is along the Champs-Elysees

http://goparis.about.com/od/shopping/a/parischristmasmarkets.htm

2.  Vin Chaud and Onion Soup – Which can be found just about everywhere, some you just leave a Euro in a container and take what you want.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2010/jan/16/paris-cafes-vin-chaud-bistros

Here is a short video with some of various trips to Paris around Christmas:

Where to stay:

This depends on many factors, first of which is budget.  If you would like a hotel room, then we highly recommend Priceline.  Both times we bid for a hotel room we ended up with a great four star hotel for around $100 (but price bidding is something you have to be willing to work at for days).  The first hotel we won was the Hotel Concorde La Fayette, which is one of the tallest building in Paris.  This hotel is amazing because of the views of Paris; almost as high as the Eiffel Tower, but you can sit in a private bar to watch the town. Beautiful.  Photo Courtesy of Concorde LaFayette.

The second time we Priclined a  hotel we stayed at the Novotel near the Eiffel tower.  I would actually say this is more of a three star hotel, but the location was perfect.  A short walk to the eiffel tower and the free breakfast is a great way to start the day and save money.

If you are traveling with a group or staying for a week or so we also recommend renting an apartment. Paris has hundreds to choose from ranging in all sizes and standards.  Here are a couple sites worth looking into:

http://www.vrbo.com   – We used this site to book our apartment (for three couples) for this upcoming trip (2012).

http://www.airbnb.com – Conde Nast introduced this one to us and it seems to have some really great options and easy to navigate.

There are also hostels and cheaper hotels outside Paris’s inner circle if you would like to go as cheap as possible.

Getting around:

After we exit the airport we immediate head to a little shop near the train station to purchase a travel pass.  This will allow you to ride the trains, metro and buses.  We recommend purchasing the pass for all zones (1-5) which allows riders to take the train to Paris city center from the airport and back as well as to Versailles and EuroDisney.  If just staying in inner circle of Paris, you can purchase for zones 1-3 (just don’t forget to find a way from the airport to the center of town).

  http://parismetro.tourpackagers.com/detail1.aspx?id=19

What to do:

  • Gallaries De Lafayette – Great Christmas lights and shopping.
  • La Marias – Unique part of town built around many of the old renaissance neighborhood now it is home to some very unique and fun shopping as well as nightlife.
  • Montmartre- The Bohemian lifestyle was a big part of this area for decades (think of the movie Moulin Rouge), the wonderful part of town sits on the same hill as the Sacre Coure and is one of our favorite places to hang out, drink mulled wine, eat crepes, watch the painters and listen to the music.  If you want a movie-like Paris experience this is a great place to go.
  • Christmas Markets (see link towards top of the page) – We like to take the metro to the Arc de Triomphe (Charles de Gaulle Etoile Metro Stop), from there we walk down the Champs Elysees to watch the nightlife, street performers and Christmas Lights.  Towards the end you will find the Christmas Market as well as the Beautiful Farris Wheel.
  • EuroDisney! –  This is always a must for us. EuroDisney (or Disneyland Paris) is a little pricey but we have always found it well worth the money. There are two parks (much like Disneyland and California Adventure) and most of the lines for rides are not as long as they are in Disneyland or Disneyworld (they also have the best spacemountain). Christmas time there is very well done.
  • Museums – Of course the Louvre comes to mind when you think of Paris Museums where you could easily spend days lost in the countless rooms and floors, but the Musee d’Orsay (which has more modern art such as Cezanne, Degas, Renoir and van Gogh) is actually the highest rated atraction by tourist in Paris (according to Trip Advisor).  The Musee Orangerie features the masterpiece of serene beauty, Les Nympheas, a 360 degree exhibit painted by Monet(you can purchase the ticket for both of these together for 14 Euros).  There are hundreds of other museums, some free, some for a cost (most are free on the first sunday).  If you want to visit many of them than you can purchase a museum pass for one fee.

http://www.musee-orangerie.fr/homes/home_id24799_u1l2.htm

  • Get out and Walk – The best way to experience Paris is on foot. We have found many great shops and cafes because we started walking in a direction and just happened to stumble upon them.  Paris also has a great program where a Parisian will volunteer to walk with you for a few hours so they can show you the city and tell you about there favorite parts.  Visit http://www.parisiendunjour.fr/ to book a tour.  We have even had some wonderful people offer to take us around last minute.

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