12.12.12

Why Paris is Better in the Winter

Galeries Lafayette Holiday Display, Paris

Unlike most of my expat entourage, I rarely welcome visitors. Blame ever-demanding schedules, depleting funds, lack of interest or wanderlust for more exotic, even tropical destinations. But among those who have traversed the ocean just to spend time eating and living like a local, more than half have made the journey toward the end of autumn or in the throes of winter - a surprising and particularly frosty time, you might think, to explore the storied streets of Paris. Yet with each passing year, it is the spring season that proves erratic and increasingly bleak - gray skies and rain blanket the city meant to be awash in bright sunlight.

That said, skip the incessant rain and unreliable temperatures and come during the winter for the alarmingly crisp blue skies, the ice skating at Hôtel de Ville (or if you're here for the holidays, inside the Grand Palais), the boutiques that cajole with their festive window displays and twinkle lights, and the rich and toothsome seasonal dishes that warm the soul. But if those things aren't enough of a draw, perhaps the expats below will be able to convince you:

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One my favorite things about winter in Paris is the selection of indulgent cheeses that come into season this time of year. The appearance of Mont d'Or - the cheese that wears a belt of spruce bark around its middle - is a symbol of the season in the same way that asparagus heralds the arrival of Spring. My favorite version comes from Barthélémy. I also love the local habit of stuffing fresh black truffles into runny cheeses to add extra luxury to holiday celebrations. Androuet's Brillat-Savarin aux Truffes is among the city's best. -- Meg Zimbeck, Paris By Mouth 


Winter in Paris can be magical! I love wandering the city after dark to see the festive holiday lights, then stopping into a steamy, bustling café for some vin chaud. When I'm out running errands, a cone of roasted chestnuts is the perfect thing to warm up frozen fingers. There are fewer tourists and the seasonal food is sublime! What's not to love?"  
-- Jennifer Greco, Chez Loulou


One of my favorite things about winter in Paris is being awake to watch the sun rise over the city. The sun rises around 8am and sets at 4pm which can be a bummer because it's dark so early but watching the sky change colors during breakfast makes it the perfect way to start your day. – Rubi Jones, She Let’s Her Hair Down

And in similar thinking....

Despite the shorter days (which are downright depressing), I love that most mornings you are welcomed with a beautiful sherbet-colored sky.  This seems to be a winter phenomenon  - if you get up just as the sun starts to rise you can enjoy strips and bands of pink, peach, and gold. Then of course on a cold and wet winter’s day, there’s no better accompaniment than a big cup of chocolat chaud. – Jane Bertch, La Cuisine Paris 


Before I moved to Paris, I used to come every winter around New Year’s. Winter in Paris, if you get a good week when temperatures are mild, it’s a great time because you see the real Paris. Parisians are actually in the city going about their lives, unlike in summer when Parisians abandon the city to tourists. I used to book a good hotel, usually in the 6th arrondissement, spend days walking around in a spirit of discovery, take in one or two art shows, and devote evenings to gastronomical pleasures in excellent restaurants.  –Matthew Fraser, professor  

I love strolling through the different neighborhoods at night and seeing what lights they've put up this year. They definitely change every year and it's fun to see what they come up with. The beauty is in the classic simplicity. --Anne Ditmeyer, Prêt à Voyager

What's your favorite time of year to visit Paris? 
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