If you can tolerate the cold and are keen on including some outdoor activities in your museum-packed Paris itinerary, the winter is an excellent time to visit. An injured back keeps me on the sidelines but watching locals and visitors, big and small, glide along the ice at the skating rink stationed in front of Hôtel de Ville (through March 17th) immediately transports me back to childhood. Back to the adrenaline rush and father-daughter time I eagerly anticipated each season.
Each visit unfurled the same way. I'd gingerly waddle my way from the safe, rubber mat to the crisp, glistening ice where my dad would be waiting after having completed a few laps on his own while I prepared. We'd skate until our limbs felt numb or I had fallen one too many times to feel confident enough to continue and then make our way indoors for piping hot soft pretzels and steaming cups of hot cocoa.
Though I'd love to create new skating memories in Paris, I don't have to hit the ice to relive the joy it brought me as a kid. I can, however, recreate the post-skate snack - at least half of it, anyway. Resist the temptation to seek chocolaty warmth at the cafés immediately surrounding the Hôtel de Ville and head to one of two places just a short walk away (or both if you really need to a pick-me-up after your icy workout):
//1- Head toward Place des Vosges but continue on rue de Turenne (15 minutes) until you reach Jacques Genin's much-lauded tea salon and pastry shop. Ask for the millefeuille (made to order), his specialty, and a pot of chocolat chaud to recover but don't leave without a sachet of his caramels for the road.
//2- For a more traditional experience, take rue de Rivoli toward the Tuileries for a break at Angelina, a longtime fixture of the Paris hot chocolate scene (yes, there is one). Epic lines are likely but you'll be glad you persevered when you take your first sip of their Chocolat L'Africain and tuck into their sinful Mont Blanc.
For more info on ice skating in Paris, read here.