Whether you're into modern art or madeleines, there are plenty of reasons to visit Paris this winter.
Contrary to popular belief, spring is not the only time to visit Paris. Come sun, rain or even snow, you’ll find winter is a magical season to explore the city.
Unlike in other European capitals, street life thrives here year round. Café terrasses remain open throughout the colder months, keeping diners warm with blankets, heaters and steaming glasses of vin chaud. If wintry walks take your fancy, crisp wanders in the Jardins des Tuileries followed by hot chocolate at Angelina await.
Winter is also one of the best times to delve into the city’s unrivalled cultural treasures. Museums are quieter, galleries are less crowded and you’re much more likely to get a last-minute spot on a guided tour. After dark it’s time to hit the theatre, catch a cabaret show or settle in at one of the city's best restaurants.
This winter is particularly exciting, thanks to the opening of the Yves Saint Laurent Museum, the completion of the Pompidou Centre’s refurbishment and a host of excellent exhibitions and shows.
Here’s our itinerary for the perfect long weekend in the city. Got more time to spare? Check out our complete guide to Paris.
Arrive at: Gare du Nord. Don’t waste any time by stepping off a newly revamped Eurostar train in the centre of Paris, free from the hassles of baggage claim, airport transfers and passport checks. Fares start at £29 each way and the journey from London to Paris takes just over two hours.
Check into: CitizenM. With rates from €80 a night, the new Gare de Lyon CitizenM is one of the most affordable places to stay in the city. Snug rooms come with king-size beds and plenty of cool tech, including a tablet that controls everything from the music to the mood lighting.
Lunch at: Au Pied de Fouet (3 rue Saint Benoit, 6ème). Red-check tablecloths and an old school menu featuring confit de canard and tarte tatin make this cosy, informal bistro a favourite. The first Au Pied de Fouet opened 150 years ago, and while there are now a handful of locations around Paris, all retain bags of charm.
Walk: along the Seine. Every trip to Paris should start by the river and it’s just a ten minute walk to the left bank opposite Notre-Dame. If you’ve got time, stop in to see the cathedral’s magnificent interior. From here you can spend a pleasant hour wandering among floating gardens and pavement games on the newly pedestrianised Berges de Seine, ending up at Pont d'Iéna for the postcard-perfect Eiffel Tower view.
See avant-garde art: Palais de Tokyo. Few galleries push boundaries like the Palais de Tokyo where artworks range from large-scale installations to performance pieces by the likes of Abraham Poincheval, who made headlines this year by living inside a glass box for a month while he hatched a clutch of eggs with his body heat.
Dine at: Les Grands Verres. Quixotic Projects – the company behind taqueria-cum-speakeasy Candelaria and hip beer-and-boilermaker bar Glass – have just taken over the restaurant at the Palais de Tokyo, softening the industrial space with a forest of dangling light bulbs. Expect fresh, seasonal dishes and a nod to Mediterranean flavours: perhaps milk-braised Berkshire pork with smoked aubergine or bucatini with comté, pistachios and heirloom tomatoes.
Cabaret: The Crazy Horse. It’s adults-only for the risqué burlesque shows at The Crazy Horse, the city’s decidedly contemporary cabaret. Order a bottle of champagne, settle into a red velvet booth and prepare for a riot of barely-there costumes and collaborations with the likes of Christian Louboutin.
High-fashion: Yves Saint Laurent Museum. October saw the opening of this landmark museum, dedicated to the work of France’s most controversial couturier. Check out our full review for more details and consider booking one of Cultival’s behind-the-scenes Saturday morning tours.
Modern masters: The Pompidou Centre. The contemporary art collection at the Musée National d'Art Moderne in the Pompidou is simply unrivalled, with only 5% of the works on display at any one time. Now the renovation of the museum is finally complete, next year’s visitor numbers are expected to surpass 4.5 million. Get there this winter before the crowds.
Lunch at: Marché des Enfants Rouges. The oldest market in Paris might not sell much fresh fruit and veg these days but the Moroccan and Lebanese food here is among the best in the city.
Take a tour: of Paris on screen. Walk off your lunch with the brilliant Set in Paris, whose walking tours trace movies including Midnight in Paris and Amélie. Most appealing at this time of year is the two-hour introduction to Coco Chanel's Paris, including a stop at Angelina for their famously decadent hot chocolate and a wander through the Jardin de Tuileries.
Get steak-frites: Bistrot Paul Bert (18 Rue Paul Bert, 11ème). Book a late table for dinner at this convivial restaurant where bistrot classics are elevated to new levels – it's the place to order steak-frites. Their much-lauded Paris-Brest, a delicious confection of choux pastry, hazelnut praline and cream, is best shared between two for dessert.
Breakfast: Blé Sucré (7 Rue Antoine Vollon, 12ème). Consistently appearing on lists of the best baguettes in Paris, this bakery on the pretty Square Armand Trousseau is an essential Sunday morning stop for pains au chocolat. Pick up some madeleines – named the city's best by Le Figaro – to take home.
Wander: Marché d'Aligre. To see one of the best markets in Paris in full-swing, get here before noon when the first traders start packing up to go home. As well as the butchers and cheesemongers in the original market building, a melee of fruit, vegetable and flower stalls spill out into the surrounding streets. Sunday regulars often pop by Le Baron Rouge for a quick glass of wine, sipped standing up at a repurposed barrel table.
Lunch: Clamato. Switch from traditional to trendy for seafood sharing plates at this wildly popular no-reservations restaurant. The menu changes daily but might include whelks with celeriac remoulade, sea bream ceviche or scallops with herb butter.
See: Fondation Louis Vuitton. It’s a schlep across the city to get to this striking Frank Gehry-designed gallery in the Bois de Boulogne – but you won’t regret concluding your trip here. Not only are the views from the roof spectacular, but you can catch works by the likes of Andy Warhol, Rothko, Matisse and Picasso at the MoMA in Paris exhibition until March 2018.
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