Paris: a city of love, light, and lots of lovely ways to beat the winter blues. From the edible to the audible, la vie here est most definitely belle

A different light

A different light

At no time does Paris deserve its City of Light title more than in the dark winter months, when the streets sparkle with ornate illuminations. Flanked by trees frosted with fairy lights, the Champs Elysées appears grander than ever, with the avenue’s famous Ferris wheel tracing circles in the sky. Here you’ll find the famous festive market, too, its starlit stalls selling everything from quirky toys and knitted gifts to bûches de Noël (yule logs) and oysters. For a true hit of the city’s majestic light show, take an open-top bus tour at night – a panoramic view of its big sights and brilliant lights.

Get your skates on

Get your skates on

Paris boasts one of Europe’s most scenic ice rinks, laid out beneath the iron and glass vaults of the Grand Palais. One of the largest ice rinks in the world, every night DJs drop in between 9pm and 2am, turning the place into an ice cool disco. If you prefer to carve ice under the stars, try the rink in Place de l’Hôtel-de-Ville in front of the nineteenth-century City Hall. And don’t be put off by the pros; an area is partitioned off for children and those unsteady on their skates. The rink is free, although you’ll need to pay for skate hire, and is open from December until March.

Cat that got the Crème Brûlée

Cat that got the Crme Brle

One of France’s most renowned ‘palace’ hotels, Le Bristol is a sublime spot at any time of the year. But in winter its plush velvet banquettes and wood-panelled walls are particularly welcoming. Start your evening under chandelier-light with a seasonal cocktail in the intimate Bar du Bristol, then move into Eric Fréchon’s three Michelin-starred Epicure restaurant for such signature dishes as stuffed macaroni with black truffle and artichoke foie gras. Take your digestif in the lounge with the company of resident Burmese cats Fa-Roan and Kléopatre.

A sweet treat

A sweet treat

The French know their hot chocolate. A truly decadent chocolat chaud experience can be had amid the labyrinthine corridors and Rococo mirrors of Ladurée Royale café, on Rue Royale. The historic brand is best known for its melt-in-the-mouth macarons, but the thick, bitter hot chocolate served up in elegant pots is equally alluring. As it’s hibernation season, treat yourself and pair it with a fine pastry, such as their Tarte Tatin.

Grande Dame

Grande Dame

You don’t need to be religious to appreciate the Gothic grandeur of Notre-Dame, following the flicker of candlelight as you weave through its dimly lit chapels or enjoying the breathtaking aspect of the city from the top of the tower (be warned, it’s a 422-step climb). Every year, a large nativity scene is staged in the cathedral and regular masses are held throughout Advent, with choirs making use of the space’s excellent acoustics. You will need to arrive early to secure a pew, but there’s plenty to marvel at as you wait.

Of course, you’ll need a beautiful bolthole too. Check out our pick of the French capital’s best hotels.

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