Many people are considering whether or not they should cancel trips to Paris this winter in light of the terror attacks on Nov. 13. But one way to show solidarity with France is, as guidebook author and television host Rick Steves said, to continue traveling.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Paris, the victims, and their loved ones," Steves writes on his blog. "And it remains my firmly held belief that the best way for Americans to fight terrorism is to keep on traveling.”
While you could postpone a trip until the summer, Paris undergoes a magical transformation in the wintertime and, if you’ve never seen the Eiffel Tower covered in snow, it’s a sight to behold. Plus, there are many added benefits of visiting Paris in the winter months.
Exploring the city, decked for the holidays, is very romantic and it is low season, so pretty much everywhere you go will be devoid of the crowds that plague most tourist attractions in the warmer months. There are also several not-to-be-missed attractions that make Paris a winter wonderland and a sight to behold.
At no other time than the holiday season does Paris truly embody its moniker, “City of Light.” The magical colors of the seasonal street decorations are awaited anxiously by Parisians and visitors alike, who travel from around the world to see the luminous arches, multicolored bulbs, incandescent flames and sparkling projections of light that bedeck the avenues of the French capital.
Paris Cityvision organizes the Illuminations of Paris motorcoach tour that showcases the city’s illuminated monuments at nightfall. Those up for an evening stroll should head to the Champs-Elysées, Avenue Montaigne, Place Vendôme, the Montmartre district and Bercy Village.
Shopping and Paris are synonymous, and shopping is even more magical in the stunning Christmas market on the Champs Elysee or in other areas around the city such as Montparnasse and La Defense. For whatever reason, the holiday markets that are so popular throughout Europe are not as ever-present in the U.S.
So if you are looking to experience them, this is the place to do it as they are huge in Paris throughout the Christmas season. The markets create a Christmassy atmosphere with their wooden chalets, tasty treats, festive items, regional produce and arts and crafts.
Nativity Scenes and Christmas Masses
Many Parisian churches celebrate the traditions of the holiday season with nativity scenes. The installations take on many different forms, from the poetic to the life-size, and each have their own artistic take. Some scenes are animated, inspired by local life or feature new, contemporary takes on the biblical story. Head to Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral, the Madeleine church or Sacre-Coeur for some of the best. Christmas masses are held in churches around the city for those traveling during the holidays.
Christmastime is also a time for fun and merriment around the city. Twenty of the city’s arrondissements (neighborhoods) offer free merry-go-round rides for children. There’s also the Jours de Fetes at the Grand Palais and the Big Wheel at Place de la Concorde. Theme parks, such as Disneyland Paris and Playmobil FunPark are also decked for the holidays and Vaux le Vicomte chateau and Chateau Breteuil offer storytelling sessions and special workshops and shows for children.
If the weather is chilly, head inside to see some of the treasures of Paris. City Wonders offers one way to explore some of the city’s best museums on a city tour that whisks visitors through the lines and escorts guests through galleries decked out for the holidays. Its Winter Visit to Versailles and Musee d’Orsay takes guests to two of Paris’ most historic places.
During the tour, English-speaking guides bring the museum’s masterpieces to life and escort guests to exclusive VIP areas of the palace not open to the general public. Rates start at $142.53 per adult and $131.81 per child.
For more information, visit City Wonders.
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