We are big fans of off-season travel to begin with, but there’s hardly a bad time to visit Paris. Winter means all the greatest hits of the city, as well as seasonal pleasures like ice-skating at the Champs de Mars (right under the Eiffel Tower (December 22–January 7) or on a rink at the Grand Palais (December 13–January 8); or hitting the crazy twice-a-year department store sales (Les Soldes) that run from the second week of January through the beginning of February and dip as deep as 70 percent off, ooo-la-la. Here are some more ideas to keep you hot for Paris.
See the city’s great indoors
One of the (petite) downsides to traveling in the off-season is that you may encounter a bit of weather and in Paris, that can keep you from waltzing around the Luxembourg Gardens or Père Lachaise cemetery. One interesting new indoor diversion opened in August: a museum dedicated to the occupation, resistance, and liberation of Paris and France during World War II. This fascinating era of bravery and patriotism, as well as extreme adversity, is the subject of multimedia displays and collections of historic artifacts at the new Museum of the Liberation of Paris. It is housed in a 1785 gatehouse designed by the esteemed architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, the basement of which once served as a defense shelter for members of the Resistance. The museum is free to the public and most of the information is available in English, especially if you download the free app before your visit.
Even if you can snag a ticket to the da Vinci show at the Louvre, it’s bound to be a mob scene. Go French instead and check out the exhibit Degas at the Opera, on through January 19 at the Musée d’Orsay. Degas famously loved the city’s performing arts, and his paintings, sketches, and pastels often depict dancers and musicians, onstage and off. His work, which delves further into dark spaces than that of his fellow Impressionists, is moody and dramatic, perfect for winter in Paris.
The Grand Palais has mounted an exhibition featuring another French artist enamored with performers, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. His affectionate focus on humanity—the beautiful and the bawdy—and the energetic lines of his work make seeing this show, Toulouse-Lautrec: Resolutely Modern, a very nice and very Parisian way to spend an afternoon. (Through January 27.)
Keep drinking as though it’s warm outside
Don’t worry that because winter is coming/has arrived, the Parisians’ delightful warm-weather habit of drinking on a terrace will end. Some clever venues have set up garden bars inside with paving-stone floors and glass ceilings to recreate an outdoor vibe. One side of the intimate space taken up by the Jacques Bar at the Hoxton, in the second arrondissement, features green plants to complete the alfresco illusion. The space is enchanting but small, so plan in advance. When you arrive, order a dish of caviar d’aubergine (a simple and tasty eggplant dip) from the bar menu, the perfect accompaniment for a glass of something bubbly in this festive indoor garden.
Dine with the stars
Another hotel you may have heard of, the storied Le Bristol, also has a winter treat for food and wine lovers. Not only did the hotel’s restaurant, Épicure, recently pick up three Michelin stars for the 10th time in a row, its chef, Eric Frechon, is celebrating his 20th anniversary overseeing all the kitchens at Le Bristol. As if that’s not enough to get excited about, Le Bristol is kicking off Wine Mondays, a series of dinners at 114 Faubourg (a less formal but still one-starred restaurant at the hotel) that runs monthly through June 1. The sommeliers comb through the hotel’s extensive wine cellar to find some of their favorite vintages, new and old, and chef Loïc Dantec designs a four-course menu to harmonize with their selections. If you’re going to splurge on a meal while you’re visiting Paris, this would be a good one to choose.
Paris, where fine dining has almost always meant French cuisine, is heartily embracing chefs who come from all over and who are cooking with ideas not based on Larousse Gastronomique. In the case of Virtus, the husband-and-wife chefs come from more than one place: Marcelo Martin Di Giacomo from Argentina and Chiho Kanzaki from Japan. The two, inspired by their home cuisines, their tenure at Mirazur (on the French Riviera), and the changing seasonal produce available from the Marché d’Aligre—the farmers’ market right down the street—have been concocting daily menus that have scored the restaurant its first Michelin star. Dinner is great and an affordable three-course lunch (served Wednesday through Saturday) brings the vegetable-forward restaurant into reach.
(Left) Bank on a nice room
Hotel lovers (pretty much everybody around here, anyway) are giddy with anticipation of the early December opening of the Paris outpost of a favorite Italian hotel brand, J.K. Place. The boutique hotel has just 30 guest rooms (each with its own swoony design, and many with fireplaces) in a carefully restored consulate. Like its brethren in Florence and Rome, the hotel will have a clubby vibe in its lobby and lounge, and it also offers a sleek pool and an intimate Sisley spa. J.K. Place is on the Left Bank, a quick walk from the Musée d’Orsay, so if you can bear to leave your fantastic room, you’re right in the purring center of things.
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