Paris is spectacular in December. There is a special light as the days grow their shortest of the year, a sparkling kind of light as night falls. Unencumbered by leaves on the trees, the streets and buildings glow with a pinkish-orange – and then suddenly, the streets are magically illuminated by varied strings of whitish blue lights, and the shop windows come alive.
Winter is my absolute favorite time to travel to the City of Light. Flights are more reasonably priced, and there are far fewer crowds than in summer. One can settle in and feel more like a resident than a tourist while getting caught up in the hustle-bustle of Parisians passing on the streets.
It’s true that the days are short and it can be chilly and wet, but there are intense heat lamps that will warm you at a sidewalk café while you drink your vin chaud (hot mulled wine) or incredibly delicious, thick hot chocolate.
When I was in Paris in early November, preparations were already underway for the season: lights were being installed on the Champs Elysees, on rue Cler and near Saint Sulpice. By now, all the window displays are up, Christmas trees are sprinkled throughout the city, and the annual skating rinks at the Hotel de Ville, the Champs Elysées and the Grand Palais are open for business.
The charming little wooden chalets of the Christmas markets on the Trocadéro, Saint Germain, Place d’Italie amongst other neighborhoods sell regional specialties from throughout France.
I love walking the streets at dusk, crossing the huge expanse of the Tuileries Gardens with the Grande Roue (giant ferris wheel) illuminated at the end at the Place de la Concorde with the goldentopped ancient Egyptian obelisk standing guard nearby.
Paris is lovely at any time of year, of course, but the holiday lights and window displays combined with the crisp air and evening skies make it particularly magical in December and all winter long.
Photo credit: Michael Osman and Bella Rao