Dave Marathakis is an Australian native, a former Contiki Trip Manager, and a current Sales Manager for Contiki in Canada. After almost four years on the roads of Europe in all seasons, Paris earned a place on his list of top cities to visit year round. With smaller crowds but still all the amazing sights of the city, winter is just as good a time to visit Paris as summer - but with a few extra inclusions and more time to visit some of the lesser known spots. Here are his picks for the best sights and secrets of Paris in winter:
Even though this is one of the most recognizable structures in the world, the Eiffel Tower does add an extra special element in the winter months. From December to February, the Eiffel Tower features an ice skating rink on the 1st floor of the tower. Combine the amazing views of the city with the ability to say you have skated on one of the world’s most famous structures – pretty unique.
Whilst the markets originated in Germany, Paris has embraced them with open arms. There are multiple locations in the city that host these events, with the more popular locations including the Champs-Élysées and Place du Trocadéro (near the Eiffel Tower). This is your opportunity to shop for Christmas decorations, regional produce, arts and crafts and one of a kind gifts.
Notre Dame often steals the spotlight when it comes to grand cathedrals, but my choice for a stunning yet hidden gem is Sainte Chapelle. Located just beside the Palais de Justice de Paris on the island of Île de la Cité, this church is home to one of the most stunning halls you’ll likely ever lay eyes on. On a clear crisp winter’s day, take a walk into the upper hall and watch as the stained glass windows fill the room with a kaleidoscope of color.
In the southern end of the city these tunnels were used by the Capuchin monks to store the bones of the graves that were exhumed, in an effort to help stop the plague in Paris. The monks in turn created elaborate designs with these bones, categorizing them based on the era when they passed. It’s a bit creepy, but definitely a top site to visit.
As the highest point in Paris, this is where the locals like to congregate during the summer months; but it’s also a great place to visit in the winter months. Take a walk up the hill during the daytime for awesome views of the city and the beautiful Sacré-Cœur, and then enjoy some local artistry in the main square. If hunger strikes (inevitable in France) there are many local cafés and restaurants where you can grab a great Parisian lunch.
By law, the major department stores are only allowed to run sales during certain periods of the year – and winter is one of these times. For 6 weeks over the middle of winter you can find top of the line clothing stores offering sales of up to 70% off; a great way to stay fashionable on a budget.
With the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe as a backdrop, Paris is a fabulous city to visit during New Years. The Champs-Élysées and Champ de Mars are the 2 main locations where locals gather for New Year’s Eve festivities, and I recommend you join them for an opportunity to see the stunning fireworks in the city of lights.