48 Hours In: Paris

France’s capital celebrates the depths of winter in elegant style, with giant ice skating rinks, festive markets and twinkling lights

Click image to enlarge map

Travel Essentials

Why go now?

Midwinter in the French capital is far from bleak – indeed, for the next few weeks Paris is en fête. A festive market stretches along the Champs-Elysées from the  Place de la Concorde (1), while a fairground has been set up at the Bastille (2). And a light show has been installed in the Eiffel Tower that sparkles every hour on the hour during the evening for 10 minutes.

Touch down Eurostar trains (08705 186 186; eurostar.com) from London St Pancras, Ebbsfleet and Ashford arrive at the Gare du Nord (3).

Flights from most UK airports arrive at Charles de Gaulle airport, 26km north. The city centre can be reached on line B of the suburban railway, the RER (ratp.info). A €9.25 ticket takes you to Gare du Nord (3) and Châtelet (4), though the latter is currently a massive building site.

Some BA flights from Heathrow and CityJet from London City arrive at Orly, 15km south. Take the Orlyval rail to Antony, where you change to the Métro network. A single is €10.70.

The metro and RER suburban rail networks cover most of the city. Single tickets for journeys within the Paris boundaries cost €1.70, but a carnet of 10 tickets for €12.70 is more economical.

Get your bearings

January and February are the coldest months in the French capital: even the Paris pooches are wrapped up against the bitter cold. So you won’t want to stray far. This itinerary concentrates on the First and Fourth arrondissements, the most central districts on the Right Bank (north) of the River Seine. Within this ragged rectangle reside many of the city’s treasures. The main tourist office (5) is at 25 rue des Pyramides (00 33 8 92 68 30 00; parisinfo.com); open 10am-7.30pm daily.

Check in

Hotel-Résidence  La Concorde (6), tucked in a courtyard at 5 rue Cambon  (00 33 1 42 60 38 89; hotel-paris-concorde.com), has an optimistic three stars, but the staff are friendly and helpful and the location – a minute’s walk from the Tuileries, and two minutes from Place de la Concorde (1) – is excellent. The double-room rate is €155, including breakfast, buying direct, but you may find cheaper rates at booking.com.

In a quiet street in the Marais, the 7e Art (7) at 20 rue St-Paul (00 33 1 44 54 85 00; paris-hotel-7art.com) celebrates the silver screen. Doubles with a cinematic ambience from €100, breakfast an extra €8 per person.

Or stray to the Left Bank, where the Hotel Quai Voltaire (8) at 19 Quai Voltaire (00 33 1 42 61 50 91; quai voltaire.fr) has a double room rate of €127 (breakfast €11 per person). The rooms can feel cramped, and those on the lower floors are noisy, but it claims the best view of any hotel in Paris.

Day Two

Window shopping

Two grand department stores jostle  for attention on Boulevard Haussmann: Galeries Lafayette (9) (00 33 1 42 82 34 56; galerieslafayette.com) and Au Printemps (10) (00 33 1 42 82 50 00; printemps.com).  The displays are  works of art. Normal hours are 9.30am-8pm daily except Sunday, but Printemps will be open tomorrow.

The Place du Marché St-Honoré (11) is a stylish glass structure which is ringed by market stalls. To see how much haute couture sells for these days, check out a block or two along rue St- Honoré (12). But for a more intimate experience, the Galerie Vivienne (13) is full of individual stores selling crafts and second-hand books, with Jean-Paul Gaultier just outside the western entrance and wine merchant Legrand Filles et Fils outside the eastern door.

Lunch on the run

Le Bougainville, at the eastern exit of Galerie Vivienne (13), at 5 rue de la Banque, is a lively, atmospheric café. If you are keen to make the most of the daylight, visit the delicatessen Chez Marianne (14) at  2 rue de l’Hospitalière (00 33 1 42 72 18 86; noon-midnight daily), where a pitta about the size of your head, filled with hot falafel and salad, costs €5.50.

Take a hike...

… around a corner of the Marais. From the exit of St-Paul Métro (15), head south down the narrow rue du Prévôt, flanked by bulging buildings. Turn left at the end along rue Charlemagne, then right along rue des Jardins St-Paul. Look for the pink sign saying  “Village St-Paul” (16) and wander through the courtyard full of artists’ studios and workshops.

Emerge opposite the 7e-Art Hotel (7). Turn left up to rue  St-Antoine, and go right. Look on the left for the Hotel de Sully (17) at No 62, a former mansion now a cultural centre. Walk into the courtyard and keep going, possibly diverting into the excellent bookshop (open 10am to 7pm daily). Continue on the same trajectory to go through a door to emerge, possibly with some surprise, in the south-west corner of the Place des Vosges.

Cultural afternoon

The 400-year-old mansion in the south-east corner of the Place des Vosges, at No 6, is the Maison de Victor Hugo (18) (00 33 1 42 72 10 16; bit.ly/HugoHere; 10am to 6pm daily except Mon and Tue; free) – where the writer lived in a second-floor apartment from 1832 to 1848. Besides writing Les Misérables here, he created some extravagant rooms. “I missed my vocation,” he once said. “I was born to be an interior decorator.” The Salon Chinois is the most striking, with an oriental fireplace inscribed “VH”. Climb the elegant staircase all the way to the fourth floor to see some intriguing posters and photographs.

An aperitif

The Café Hugo (19) at the north-east corner of the square is cosy, while the Delaville Café (20) at 34 Boulevard Bonne Nouvelle (00 33 1 48 24 48 09; delavillecafe.com) is wilder. Behind the pink and red Christmas trees you find a former Belle Epoque bordello. During happy hour (4-8pm), a glass of champagne is €5.

Dining with the locals

The southern end of Rue Montorgueil is packed with restaurants. L’Esplanade Saint Eustache (21) at 1 rue de Turbigo  (00 33 1 50 08 53 03) is a cheerful bistro. Rump steak with frites and green salad is €13.50. L’Escargot (22) at No 38 has been serving snails for two centuries. With a main course, expect to pay about €20, with dessert an extra €5.

Le Petit Marcel (23) at 65 rue Rambateau is tourist central, but good value: two courses start at €14.60, and include rabbit terrine with Calvados plus tartare classique.

Day Two

Sunday morning: go to church

The grand Parisian church that is probably visited less than any other is St-Germain l’Auxerrois (24) (00 33 1 42 60 13 96; saintgermainauxerrois.cef.fr). Its magnificent rose window, the subject of a Claude Monet painting, faces the eastern end of the Louvre (25). Its foundations date from the 7th century. More  recent additions include a handsome 15th-century wooden statue of Saint Germain (open Sundays 9am to 8pm, with masses at 9.45am and 11.30am; on other days, 8am to 7pm).

A walk in the park

Many tourists are drawn to the art collection within the Louvre (25), but for a fresh look consider the palace as a gateway to the Jardin de Tuileries. The existing garden was the location of the palace begun in 1561 by Catherine de Medici. The name arose because the location was the site  of kilns making tiles.

Louis XIV ordered a new park to be created here in 1666. Interspersed with the trees are dozens of sculptures, including a Henry Moore and Rodin’s Kiss close to the Musée de l’Orangerie (26) (00 33 1 44 77 80 07; musee-orangerie.fr). This elegant museum was chosen by Monet to house his water-lilies paintings: eight curved canvases hang in two oval rooms.

Open 9am to 6pm daily except Tuesdays, €7.50; free on the first Sunday of each month.

Take a ride

The city’s riposte to the London Eye is La Roue de Paris, a big wheel at Place de la Concorde (1). A seven-minute ride costs €10; 11am to midnight until 7 February. Or head to the other end of the city centre, to La Bastille (2), where a high-altitude, high-speed fairground ride takes you way above the traffic.

Out to brunch

Close by at 5 rue de la Bastille, Bofinger (27) (00 33 1 42 72 87 82; bofingerparis.com) serves hearty fare from Alsace daily from noon; try duck terrine to start, followed by a full-on Alsatian meat fest, for €28.90 all in, and see if you can walk out. The offering at Café Delaville (20; see An Aperitif) is lighter and cheaper (€23).

Take a glide

The icing on the Christmas cake: take a spin on the outdoor rink outside the Hotel de Ville (28) (City Hall), which is frozen, and open, until 3 March 2013; 9am to 10pm at weekends (from noon on other days); €5. For more opulent surroundings still, a rink has just opened inside the Grand Palais (29); 10am to 9pm, €12 to twirl around this gorgeous Beaux Arts building. But get your patins (skates) on; it comes out of deep freeze on 7 January.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
books
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
One of the 'princesses' in the video
videoYouTube reinstates sweary video after takedown for 'violating terms'
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?