Picture a crisp December day and the whole of Paris waiting to be explored. We thought it would be fun to suggest a couple of walks you might enjoy that are particularly festive this time of year. Whether you know the city like the back of your hand or are planning your very first holiday, there is no more magical time of the year to meander through Paris than during the holiday season.
Discover the Hidden Shopping Passages of Paris
Perfect for a wintry promenade whatever the weather: stroll through a labyrinth of snug covered passages and step back in time to the pre-Haussmann days of the 1850s, when the “passages couverts” used to provide a shopping haven for the well heeled inhabitants of the city. Stroll through the gardens of the Palais Royal, and take a peek at the Le Grand Colbert restaurant, which is almost as famous for its Jack Nicholson/Diane Keaton scene from the film “Something’s Gotta Give” as for its illustrious Art Nouveau décor.
Proceed into the stunning Galerie Vivienne with its sumptuous architecture and extravagant statues, pausing to window shop at what is possibly the very best wine shop in Paris, Les Caves Legrand. You might care to take a well-earned pause and enjoy some afternoon tea or a weekend brunch at the very charming A Priori Thé before moving on to the oldest covered arcade of them all, five minutes’ walk away and situated between the financial Bourse and the Opéra.
The maze-like Passage des Panoramas is an unmissable delight, whether your tastes run to perusing a philatelist paradise or to quaffing a glass of wine at the excellent Coinstot Vino bar. Spot the Théâtre des Variétés, once hunting ground for the fictional character Nana from Zola’s novels, and marvel at the façade of the famous workshop of the historical engraver Stern, now transformed into a café-restaurant with salons designed by French darling Philippe Starck. Succumb to the Italian culinary charms of the Caffé Stern here, or remain resolutely patriotic with the delicious bistro-style French cuisine at the cosy Racines restaurant just close by.
Finally, a trip to the passages couverts would not be complete without a festive wander down the busy Passages Verdeau and Jouffroy by the entrance to the Musée Grévin wax museum, complete with a shop specializing in walking sticks, another in miniature dolls’ houses and everything you would need to fill it. La Maison du Roy is perfect for Christmas decorations and for stocking fillers.
For the gourmands, there are Christmas chocolate cakes galore at the glorious salon de thé at Le Valentin – in a nutshell, the covered arcades have something for everyone: it’s a perfect treasure trove full of hidden surprises.
Zigzag around The Golden Triangle
If your tastes are more mainstream, try taking an alternative route around the Champs-Elysées this Christmas. The only way to start is by forming an orderly queue and waiting in line to sup some heavenly hot chocolate at Angélina on the rue de Rivoli, before taking a bracing stroll around the Tuileries gardens and coming out to admire the glittering view of the breathtaking illuminations stretching from Concorde all the way up to the Arc de Triomphe. You could choose to even catch a peek of Montmartre from the heady heights of the top of the Ferris wheel here – it’s not for the fainthearted, but affords a spectacular view of the city, whatever the time of day.
Back on terra firma, you may need some vin chaud and maybe some finger-warming roast chestnuts while you amble past the bustling Christmas market chalets on the way up the Champs-Elysées: you’ll find everything here, from Christmas baubles to gift jewelry to local farm produce to pack in your suitcases as a souvenir. Click here for more tips on how to enjoy the fun Christmas markets in Paris!
To enjoy a truly magical moment, we propose a couple of detours: take a left at the place Clémenceau and walk past the majestic Grand Palais as far as the Seine, where you can get the best view of the golden globe of the Invalides. Take a pause – and some photos – on the equally golden Pont Alexandre III bridge, where Adele famously sang “Someone Like You” and Owen Wilson even more memorably got his girl in Midnight in Paris.
We highly recommend a pit stop for coffee or cocktails (or just a nosy at the glorious décor) in the glamorous Mini Palais restaurant on the corner towards the river – or for an unexpected treat, discover the café and the little known inner courtyard and garden inside the Musée du Petit Palais just next door. The museum is free of charge and offers a little quiet respite from the busy streets just moments away, and we guarantee the unexpected oasis at its center will quite take your breath away. Whether for a spot of culture or just a cup of coffee, this secret place is definitely one of Paris’s hidden treasures.
Take a brisk walk along the avenue Franklin Roosevelt behind the Grand Palais to rejoin the Champs-Elysées, but bear left onto the avenue Montaigne and step into the lap of luxury. This is the home of Chanel, Chloé, Jimmy Choo, Prada and the brands that put the haute into haute couture. Stop for an indulgent glass of champagne at the heated terrace of the trendy L’Avenue restaurant and be bowled over by the enormous and over-the-top but totally show-stopping giant bauble just opposite chez Dior. Alternatively, carry on to the end of the avenue and take a seat on the terrace of Chez Francis at the corner. If night has fallen, you will have a truly incomparable view of the Eiffel Tower when its lights sparkle on the hour every hour – and everything will be all right with the world if you time it just right!
Zigzag your way back to the Champs-Elysées by ambling up avenue George V. Take a peek at the entrances to the world-famous Crazy Horse and the luxurious George V hotel with its Art Deco overtones. Check out the Christmas program at the welcoming American Cathedral. Admire the headscarves at the beautiful Hermès boutique and catch the inevitable queues in front of the Louis Vuitton flagship store – et voilà, you are now back in the heart of the hustle and bustle of the Champs-Elysées. Bonne promenade!