Visiting Paris with friends or family at Christmas time is bound to require some sort of agenda. So – besides wandering markets and browsing displays and illuminations, what else can you do to make the most of the city’s festive offerings and give your visit some structure?
Firstly, you can beat the cold by getting active. Ice skating is as popular across the Channel at Christmas as it is here, and November heralds the opening of a number of outdoor rinks installed in the city squares (often conveniently placed next to a market). Although the usual rink at the Eiffel Tower is not due to open this year, there will be skating setups at Place de l’Hôtel de Ville and Montparnasse; another popular spot is Patinoire Pailleron, close to the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont.
As the sharp, sweet scent of candyfloss hangs in the air, follow the sound of tinny music towards Paris’ carousels (merry-go-rounds), an ever-popular attraction for both big kids and actual kids. Carousels are an entrenched part of French childhood and most parks in Paris have one, such as the Jardin des Plantes – featuring dodos and dinosaurs – and a small version at the Jardin du Luxembourg, simple but well-loved with its weathered elephants. Rides on many carousels are free at Christmas time, giving parents a few spare moments to catch their breath: try Hôtel de Ville, which has an old-fashioned, two-storey merry-go-round; the Tuileries for something a little faster; or Trocadéro for an ideal photo opportunity with the Eiffel Tower just behind.
For something more sedate, hop into an open-topped Citroën ‘deux-chevaux’ for a night-time 2CV tour of the highlights of central Paris with Paris Authentic. Tours pass by the Champs-Élysées, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Grand Palais, Opéra and Louvre and give passengers an excellent overview of the city sparkle from the comfort of this iconic vehicle.
If you fancy an exhibition, the Christian Dior: Couturier du Rêve has garnered rave reviews since it opened in July. Running until 7 January 2018 at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (in a wing of the Louvre), it celebrates Dior’s 70th anniversary with a display of over 300 couture gowns and fashion accessories. Through these it pays homage to the founder and the six subsequent designers who have ensured Dior’s continuity: Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferre, John Galliano, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri.
Finally, food fans should note down 15-18 December 2017 in their diaries for ‘Noël Gourmand’, a delectable foodie trade show taking place at Quai d’Austerlitz. Three days of gastronomy showcase the talent and expertise of the best artisans in France with upscale products and regional specialities on offer. A wonderful array of farmhouse cheeses, oils, spices, mushrooms, seafood, charcuterie and foie gras, wine, chocolate and confectionery... all of which you can taste on site and take home to prepare Christmas and New Year dinner parties to remember.