Welcome to my Eat+Stay+Play travel guide for Paris! I’m really excited to bring you this travel guide because although we’ve been to Paris before, we had never been in winter right before Christmas. Paris is magical in winter and I’m happy to share all the fun things we found to do. If you follow me on Instagram, you can see my daily travel highlights and feed posts showing what I wore. A good coat is a must and this one was a lifesaver!
As with every Eat+Stay+Play travel guide, I am going to provide you with restaurant suggestions, lodging advice, and guides on what to do – this time in beautiful Paris, France! Every traveler’s itinerary looks different. Our trip to Paris spanned a week over Thanksgiving. We spent every day in Paris with one day trip to Provins, an easy and quick train ride away. If you want to escape the big city for a pastoral and charming medieval atmosphere, definitely go to Provins. We flew out on a Saturday, arriving in Paris early Sunday morning. We flew home the following Saturday.
Know Before You Go to Paris in Winter
Paris is cold in the winter time and can be rainy. We were fortunate to only see a small amount of rain and we experienced some sun, but for the most part it will be cloudy and cold. Paris is completely worth it, though. In addition to a warm coat, I recommend fleece lined leggings. I have worn them in some pretty cold temperatures with boots and have stayed pretty comfortable. Given the chance of rain, make sure you don’t only pack your favorite suede boots. A leather or nubuck pair like these will work. I also packed a travel-sized umbrella that we did end up using. A good blanket scarf is essential, too. Be sure to check out my full packing list for Paris in winter for other wardrobe tips.
Paris in winter is much less crowded than summer. That doesn’t mean there aren’t tourists, but we really enjoyed how much less crowded the streets and monuments are. It makes taking photos so much more enjoyable because you can actually get the shots you hope for. I’m planning a separate post on all the perfectly “Instagrammable” places in Paris, so stay tuned for that!
Before traveling to Paris, practice your French. I enjoyed using the Duo Lingo app for a few weeks before, and it really made a difference. Spoiler alert – I took French in high school and have kept up a little conversational French over the years. I’m not bilingual by any means, but it feels so good to chat up a store clerk or boulangerie owner when asking about that beautiful Parisian handbag or yummy croissant. I had two different Parisians tell me they actually thought I was French, so I guess my pronunciation is still good. I think they appreciate that you’re trying, and don’t worry – if you need help just ask, “Parlez-vous anglais?” and most everyone is willing to assist you in English if they are able.
Use the Paris metro! It’s easy, convenient, and pretty cheap to get around the city. Paris also has Uber, which we used a few times and it was so easy! Check Google for any issues with the metro like construction or repairs and then take Uber if the metro line is down. Our Uber drivers were friendly and spoke English, so if public transportation scares you it’s a great option.
Where to Eat in Paris
Let’s start with the fun part – where to eat in Paris! If you think French food isn’t your thing, think again. Paris is full of culinary treasures waiting to be tasted, from corner bakeries to cheese shops and brasseries to cafes. A lot of menus are only offered in French, so don’t be surprised if an English menu is not available. Sometimes there is a bit of an English translation on the French menu, but it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with some common French cooking terms or foods like cochon (pig) and confit (candied). Des œufs are eggs and very common in French cooking. I love eggs however they’re made so I usually scan menus for them in particular.
I will be doing a separate post featuring every restaurant and all the food and drink you must have in Paris, but these are my standout restaurant recommendations that made my Eat+Stay+Play guide.
Le Bistro Marbeuf was a bit of an accidental find. We intended on another restaurant that we thought was closed and ended up here. Le Bistro Marbeuf makes my standout list for a few reasons. It’s quintessentially what you picture when you think of a restaurant in Paris. It’s cozy, softly lit, full of locals, and serves up traditional French cuisine. We somehow snagged the best seat in the house at a corner table along the window. The restaurant was soon full after that so I’d recommend a reservation for any time after 7 pm. It was quiet and romantic – exactly what I wanted on our first night in Paris. The staff is very warm and friendly, recommending some of the best risotto I’ve ever had. This is where we first tried Beaujolais Nouveau, too! You are very close to the Champs-Élysées for a little pre-dinner shopping as well.
Les Apôtres de Pigalle is a tiny tapas-style restaurant located in Pigalle. You must make a reservation here as they only do two seatings for dinner and there are not many tables (You can actually make a reservation through Facebook Messenger; how cool is that?). We cozied up to a small table by the window again (my favorite place to sit when dining in a big city). We are big fans of tapas and so we loved all the choices here. They also do a happy hour that lasts until 7:30 pm, pretty late by most HH standards. We had some of the best charcuterie and ceviche in the same meal.
La Maison Stella Cadente by itself is worth the day trip to Provins. The Stella Cadente House is a bed & breakfast set on the most lush and charming grounds. I couldn’t decide if I was suddenly in a Jane Austen book or had transformed into Marie Antoinette herself. Everything is lovely from the stunning light pink and white exterior down to the sink in the blue powder room. The decor is colorful and whimsical with a nod to classical French design. If you’re looking for a long and relaxing multi-course French meal, then La Maison Stella Cadente is it. Order a bottle of wine and whatever you do, don’t be in a rush. I loved the prawns with saffron rice and the service is very friendly. I did not want this lunch to end and I want to go back and stay in the B&B.
L’Ange 20 is a small restaurant with an exceptional chef. We first came here four years ago when they were in their old location, which was darker and a bit more intimate. The new location is brighter and more lively, but a very good experience just the same. It’s in Le Marais, one of my favorite neighborhoods in Paris, so be sure to build some time into walking around either before or after. Reservations are a must, service is very good, and it’s reasonably priced. I loved the crispy goat cheese on green beans salad and the grilled duck breast is done perfectly.
Where to Stay in Paris
We have stayed in hotels and apartments in Paris, and I can recommend either. This time we opted for the Hilton Paris Opera. It recently went through a renovation and is located quite conveniently to the Saint Lazare train station. Normally I don’t recommend a place this close to a train station, but Saint Lazare was pleasantly surprising in its cleanliness and safety. Plus it made it easy to get around the city quickly. Space is a premium in a city like Paris, but our room was equipped with enough storage space to unpack for the week. I also really enjoyed getting ready in the bathroom. It was spacious with a large enough vanity and full size shower. Also, no bidet which I think just takes up too much room in any bathroom. The hotel staff is helpful and friendly, too. We asked the concierge to make a dinner reservation for us where calling was the only option, and she was able to secure the reservation in less time that it would have taken us to say “bonjour.”
Where to Play in Paris
There are more things to do in Paris than you can accomplish in one week, but I’ve made a short list of some musts. If you’ve never been to Paris before, then I would prioritize all the monuments first – the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame, the Louvre Museum, etc. As a couple of return visitors, we spent our time walking our favorite neighborhoods and looking for fun places to photograph the city, with an occasional cafe stop along the way.
Below is a breakdown of our day-by-day. To see more detail watch my Paris story highlights on Instagram.
Day 1 – A walk through the park beneath and around the Eiffel Tower as well as the surrounding neighborhood. Pit stop for coffee and a Nutella crepe. Visit the Arc de Triomphe and stroll down the Champs-Élysées from there. Pop into some shops and pick up an early Christmas present at Longchamp. Dinner at Le Bistro Marbeuf. Head back over to the Eiffel Tower to see it sparkle and light up at night.
Day 2 – Photos on Rue de Cremieux by the rainbow houses. Walk along the Seine to Notre-Dame (entrance is free). Grab a vin chaud (hot wine) along the way and take in her exterior beauty. Walk over to Shakespeare & Company for a souvenir book. Lunch at Les Deux Magots, Hemingway’s favorite cafe. Pop into the Louvre and wave at the Mona Lisa. More shopping and exploring on foot. Christmas decorations are out and the store windows are breathtaking.
Day 3 – Grab a savory crepe for breakfast at La Creperie. Visit the Musée d’Orsay for a less crowded museum experience than the Louvre. Grab a couple sandwiches for lunch and Uber to Galleries Lafayette for a truly unique Christmas shopping experience. The tree in the center of the store is stunning! Enjoy drinks on the rooftop and a view of Paris, including an unobstructed view of the Eiffel Tower. Pop into Printemps for more Christmas shopping mania and unique decor. Dinner at Les Apôtres de Pigalle followed by night photos of Moulin Rouge. Grab a nightcap at Garnier across from the hotel.
Day 4 – Day trip to Provins via train. This is a Unesco World Heritage site and a quiet escape from big city Paris. Step inside the Église Saint Quiriace, a church dating to 1062, where Joan of Arc once attended mass. Long lunch at La Maison Stella Cadente. Back to Paris on the train for a walk to Palais Royal to see Buren’s columns, an outdoor art installation of 260 black and white columns emerging from the ground at various heights. Head over to Sézane for some unique French finds and snap a photo of the famous floor. Dinner at Ramen Bowl, a casual and really delicious ramen noodle house.
Day 5 – Spend the morning in Montmartre. Have breakfast of croissant and coffee at Pain Pain. Not only do they have one of the best croissants in Paris, the atmosphere and decor is adorable. Walk up the steps to the Sacré-Cœr, the highest point in Paris. Grab another vin chaud and stroll the cobblestone streets. Spend the afternoon and evening in Les Marais. Shopping at Merci followed by wine at Cafe Hugo. Dinner at L’Ange 20. Uber back to the hotel.
Day 6 – Train to La Défense for a Christmas market. Take in the Grande Arche, a structure erected in 1989, also the year of the bicentenary of the French Revolution. It’s huge and looks like a giant doorway or window. Beneath it is a fun Christmas market of food stalls and shops. You can easily spend your morning here. Grab yet another vin chaud and stroll through every single one. Have a raclette sandwich and some cheesy potatoes to help warm you up. Take the train back and spend some time on Rue Cler. There are fruit stands, shops, flower markets, and cafes. Grab a grand crème at Cafe Brasserie Aux PTT and do some people watching. Follow that with a macaron from Ladurée (the main location is on Champs-Élysées). Walk over to Invalides for a peek at Napoléon’s tomb. Pop into Le Bon Marché for a little more Christmas shopping and impressive decor. Enjoy a pre-dinner glass (or bottle) of wine at Maison Sauvage in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Dinner at La Jacobine. Get the escargot if you’ve never had it. They do a fabulous job here.
Day 7 – Travel day home.
I’ll be sharing more details about many of these spots in future posts. Paris is always a good idea, but I hope you’ve enjoyed my travel guide to Paris in winter. For more Eat+Stay+Play travel guides click here.
As always, thank you so much for reading and please share! I’d love to know your favorite spots in Paris, too. Comment below and let me know!
Xo – Erin
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