I think we decided we were gonna spend Christmas abroad in January. But back then, we planned for it to be a two-week beachy, adventurous spectacular with a big, fat long haul flight to boot.
It was supposed to be the finale in our epic honeymoon trilogy (part one was Budapest, part two Jordan) but then, you know…..I got all knocked up, so plans changed a wee bit. We came to book our trip, but as I was about two-months pregnant I felt like crap and couldn’t imagine ever feeling better so we ruled out anything too ‘big’.
It kind of broke my heart a little, because I’ve longed for a hot, sunny Christmas break my whole life. Just once, just to see what it’s like. And if we’d been a lot more organised than we are, that’s exactly how we would have spent the festive break. Luckily for us, we are both pretty crap at travel planning (it’s just one of the travel mistakes I can’t stop making!) so we got to October and decided we needed a new plan, and a new destination.
Somewhere easy, but not too boring. Near, but still abroad. Exciting, but not too tiring. Paris came up trumps.
Although we’ve both been several times — both together and before we met — Paris is totally one of our favourite cities to visit and spend time in. And with the pressure of ticking off touristy things off, we could simply do what we wanted. Eat yummy French food, wander the gorgeous Rue and live like locals,
The comment we were most commonly met with when we told people where we were going was: “but what if everything is closed?” I mean, how awful would that have been, right? Me, Oli an AirBnB and some stocking chocolate on Christmas Day……depressing. But I’m happy to tell you Christmas is alive and well in Paris and it doesn’t turn into the ghost-town London seems to each year. The metro is open for goodness sakes!
But there are considerations that need to be made, and if you decide to take a cheeky mini-break from family festivities one year I highly recommend crossing the channel to Paris.
Here’s my guide to spending a super successful, festive break in Paris.
Stay in Le Marais
I love loads of different areas in Paris: Montmartre is super romantic and, hello Amelie, and I have a soft spot for Montparnasse despite how ugly it is too.
But at Christmas, I would wholeheartedly recommend staying in the Le Marais area. It’s really central, so if you need to zip to the Eiffel Tower or Champs Elysées you can do so in twenty mins or so on the Metro. And you can walk to Notre Dame too, which is a total must-do.
But more than anything, Le Marais is home to the super cool Jewish Quarter, so you don’t have to worry about what will be open on Christmas Day as we discovered practically everything was! It meant we didn’t have to worry about where we were going to eat, and booking ahead.
Take a Christmas Day Cruise
One of the best things we did was to book a lunchtime cruise on Christmas Day with Bateaux Parisienne. I expected a slight level of cheese, and I certainly didn’t expect the best French food around, but OMG it was the BEST!
For less than £70 a head (we actually booked through Viator in the end, but you can book directly through Bateaux Parisienne) we were greeted with champagne, along with endless red and white wine and then more champagne. Plus all the food….which was DIVINE. The cruise takes you merrily along the Seine for a couple of hours, before docking back at the Eiffel Tower and they give you a cool little guide to the sights you are going to see along the way.
Let’s all just take a moment to remember that out of about 12 glasses of alcohol, I drank one. So that leaves one very tipsy husband….
Take the Ultimate Fashion Tour
Paris is the ultimate style haven right? I mean, I’m not one for shopping when I travel as I pack super light and typically only take carry-on luggage. But I have always coveted Parisian style, long before ‘French Girl Hair’ became a thing too. I’ve always wanted to be French, and must have been the only eight year old Francophile obsessed with cheese boards around.
So when Chloe Johnston contacted me to take one of their amazing, bespoke tours, I jumped at the chance. More of an experience than a tour, we were greeted by the effortlessly cool Ellie who was our guide and translator for the whole day.
We went to three different locations for the day, all tailored to my specific interest, and stopped for a delicious lunch on the Rue Cler – a super Parisian street filled with boulangerie and traditional cafés. We first visited former fashion blogger Eva’s beautiful boutique in the 11th aroundissment and chatted to her about what she does, and she shared some of her favourite pieces. She runs her business with her husband, an antique furniture buyer and designer, and the shop is like an art gallery.
We then met the amazing Catherine, who makes the bets bags in the world. I had to try really hard not to buy several while I was in her store as they are honestly the most effortlessly stylish and practical things of beauty. A former designer for Hermes, each and every one of her bags looks beautiful but has some seriously hidden depths in the form of secret zips, pockets and customisable inserts. But they never look ‘practical’ despite clearly being made with a busy woman in mind.
Lastly we explored the 17th arondissment and met the inimitable Blaise Moi – a perfumer with over 30 years experience creating scents. He has made bespoke scents and toiletries for loads of luxury hotel chains (like the Kempinski) and also creates extra-special wedding gifts too. As regular readers will know, I’m a total beauty addict so I’m not ashamed to say I totally geeked out in his fragrance lab!
More than just being able to learn some history, and explore new areas in Paris we actually got to see things you would never be able to see as a tourist. Having the run of a boutique, and being able to chat directly to a designer is pretty much a dream for most people and I got to live it out for a day! Happily, you can too.
We properly pigged out in Paris, because…..well, Paris. I think it’s pretty safe to say you can wander into anywhere and you’ll eat fairly well, as long as you avoid uber touristy streets (like the Rue Rivoli, or Champs Elysees, for example) but I’ve never eaten anything really hellish. Although , of course, I’m sure it happens!
These were some of my favourites:
34 Rue des Rosiers, 75004 Paris, France
This place is awesome. A sort of hole in the wall, that’s turned into a super cool cafe with queue manned by staff with walkie-talkies – expect the most delicious falafel of your life, wth frites and Israeli beer.
Just amazing, and right on our doorstep too!
30 rue Vieille du Temple, 75004 Paris, France
We kept wandering past this and marvelling at how ridiculously French it was. The name translates to ‘the little horseshoe bar’ I think, because the bar is that super cool, retro horseshoe shape – with some tables hidden behind.
We were the only foreigners in there on Christmas Eve, and awesome locals were propped up at the bar eating Beef Bourguignon and drinking yummy red wine. So, obviously we went back to gran some dinner on Christmas Day (yes, even after eating an epic five-course lunch!)…..we ate late, okay?
The menu had a special sign on it, which Mr Wanderluce pointed out was something to indicate the restaurant specialises in traditional home-cooking. And you can see why, as the food was some of the best, proper French food I’ve ever eaten. It’s what you imagine Paris will be like, you know?
5 Rue des Archives, 75004 Paris, France
This was such an epic find! A tiny, blink and you’ll miss it eaterie selling the most delicious artisan hotdogs for about €5, this was definitely needed after we’d walked around the city all day and just wanted some yummy, fast food. It reminded me of the places you find at Borough market, all hipster’s with beards selling simple grub tarted up you know?
I shared it on my Instagram Stories, and inspired the lovely Milou from Explorista blog to try it out too. She seconded how damn yummy the food was, so it’s a winner with us travel bloggers at least!
4 boulevard Saint Denis, 75010 Paris, France
3 Rue de la Gaité, 75014 Paris, France
This is a golden oldie for us, and we always go back. This time, the restaurant has expanded and has a few branches, which is indicative of how bloody delicious it is.
The food is typically French (think juicy steaks…..) with an alpine twist in the form of hearty mash potatoes cooked two ways — truffarde and aligot — served straight from the pan. One is criminally smooth and cheesy, the other more like smashed potatoes. Both insanely good!
Like I mentioned, we didn’t really do stacks of sightseeing as we’ve visited before. But most of the museums were open if you did want to visit. Christmas Day was the only day we found touristy things to be closed and even then, the Champs Elysees was insanely busy and the Noel Village (a sort of Winter Wonderland) was in full swing.
But I’d really recommend two places, which we visited on Boxing Day and in the days after that.
This is the most visited cemetery in the world and judging by it’s inhabitants you can see why. Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison and many, many more are to be found here and it’s honestly absolutely stunning.
We used the Lonely Planet walking guide to see some of the most famous tombstones, but we also just wandered quite a lot, finding huge family mausoleum’s and tiny little graves. I’m a little strange, as I love graveyards. Not sure why, but I’ve always found them to be incredibly peaceful and calming…..so, for me, it was a total joy to visit.
Another strange thing about me is my obsession with anything Jewish. I found Judaism the most fascinating religion when we learned about it at school, and read Anne Frank’s Diary a gazillion times before the age of eleven. Nowadays, I am always drawn to staying in the Jewish Quarter when travelling (Budapest, Venice) and my favourite museums tend to be Holocaust related too.
The Memorial de la Shoah was packed full of information, with several heartbreaking videos and photography series too. It’s pretty much all in French, but there’s an extensive timeline of Jewish history which has English translations. It’s not the best museum I’ve ever visited, and how incredibly interesting the history is, is diluted by the sheer volume of information, which isn’t displayed in the most imaginative of ways. Needless to say, I’m always blown away by the horror of the Holocaust and how recent it was – sometimes you don’t need the detail to understand that I guess.
I would definitely recommend it, and when we went it was free — a total bonus if you are on a budget.
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Please note I was a guest of Chloe Johnston Style, but my views are my own regardless of who foots the bill. See my full disclaimer here.
Also published on Medium.