Winter Indulgences: February in Paris
Story by Tory Hoen, Haven in Paris Correspondent
I’ve always loved Europe in the winter—and Paris in particular. And by winter, I mean real winter: January and February, when the holiday crowds have cleared out and it’s gray, gray, gray all day. I can sense you raising your eyebrows as you read this, but bear with me. Not only is it a particularly tranquil time to be in Paris, but you can also find great deals, with airfare rates down and many accommodations offering discounted rates for visitors to the city.
Most peoples’ visions of Paris probably involve leisurely summer picnics, springtime flowers, and long strolls along the Seine on warm evenings. I would be lying if I said thoughts of these things don’t make my heart race, but winter has its own distinct charms, and on cold February days, I love feeling like I have the entire city to myself.
Plus: in the deepest, darkest depths of winter, we have an excuse to indulge in activities that might otherwise seem just a bit too decadent. Hot chocolate for breakfast? Bring it on… we have to stay warm somehow! Some favorite things (and guilty pleasures) to explore this winter:
- Cozy cocktails. Paris has countless rustic bars that practically beg you to come in and hunker down over some vin chaud or, for the hardcore set, a whisky on the rocks. The swanky Le Fumoir offers a very reasonable happy hour (6-8pm) and Harry’s Bar serves up a reliable selection of classic cocktails. For an inexpensive but interesting selection of wines by the glass, head to Le Baron Rouge and mix it up with the locals.
- Winter fashion. If you think Parisians are daunted by the cold, think again. On the contrary, the drizzly streets of Paris become veritable catwalks for those strutting their stuff in boots, scarves, gorgeous coats, and fur accessories of all kinds. Everywhere from the big department stores to tiny consingment shops overflow with winter items, and February is a great time to shop if you get here in time for les soldes. Check out Kiliwatch in the second arrondissement for vintage (i.e. guilt-free) furs.
- Films at La Pagode. On really cold nights, I love to catch indie films (French, American and international) at La Pagode in the 7th. With its pagoda-like façade and ornate interior, the theater is worth seeing no matter what’s playing.
- Hot chocolate for breakfast (guilty pleasure #1). You can get it almost anywhere, but for the ultimate indulgence, head to Angelina for the chocolat chaud a l’africain, which is as thick as a melted chocolate bar—but not too sweet. While Angelina is not exactly “off the beaten path” (in fact, it’s planted firmly on said path), this decadent Belle Epoque tea salon still does it for me. My mother brought me here on my first ever trip to Paris, and it still makes me feel like a (very lucky) little kid all over again!
- Fondue (guilty pleasure #2). Fondue in Paris is a little like pizza in America: even when it’s bad, it’s good. The aroma of fondue became a dominant theme in my life when I lived on rue Mouffetard, right above the poetically named “Saveurs de Savoie.” Fine dining it is not, but sometimes a vat full of melted cheese is exactly what you need.
- Cold Winter Walks. Parisians don’t exercise much, but they love a good walk. No, not the intense, pump-your-arms-back-and-forth kind. In fact, the more leisurely, the better. The idea is just to get out there and breathe, and observe, and meander. Yes, it’s winter, but all the parks are open, and the banks of the Seine are particularly romantic under an icy winter moon. So bundle up, get out there, and get a little lost—that’s what winter in Paris is all about.
Written by Tory Hoen for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.