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
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Sport
football
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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
  • Get to the point
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

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Recruitment Genius: Centre Manager

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Guru Careers: Accountant

    £28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Assistant Manager

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hotel in Chadderton is a p...

    Day In a Page

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk