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5 must-have experiences in Paris this winter

Admire the Christmas lights and window displays

It isn’t nicknamed the ‘City of Light’ for nothing – and at Christmas, Paris’ boulevards and department stores really come into their own. From 15 November this year, Bercy Village will be illuminated by artist Laurent Sanguinetti, who has worked with Hermès and Philippe Starck to create an enchanted forest with 28 luminous sculptures and imaginary creatures in the trees lining the main street. Renowned brand Baccarat will light up the Faubourg Saint-Honoré with chandeliers, while the district of Saint-Germain-des-Près is bedecked with lights and a traditional market. And both the Bon Marché Rive Gauche and Galeries Lafayette will be a shopper’s delight, adorned with colossal Christmas trees and shelves laden with toys and treasures.

© Michel Vespasien – Galeries Lafayette at Christmas

Take shelter and wander the covered passageways 

Mostly built in the 19th century, these twinkly glass-roofed arcades are a typically Parisian architectural feature, most of them now housing shops, tearooms and restaurants. Head to the area of the Grands Boulevards for a glut of 20 of them, each with their own character. One of the oldest is the Passage des Panoramas, dating from 1799, where the Théâtre des Variétés still entertains visitors. Passage Brady or ‘Little India’ offers a touch of the exotic with Indian, Pakistani, Mauritian and Reunion shops, while Passage Verdeau is an antiques haven. And with a metal and wrought iron structure of 12 metres high, Passage du Grand-Cerf is one of the capital’s most spectacular places to stroll.

© Tristan Colangelo – Passage des Panoramas

Get cosy with cheese fondue and hot chocolate

It’s not all about the classic bistro in Paris – few visitors appreciate the city’s multi-national cuisine, and you don’t need to go to the mountains to enjoy dishes such as cheese fondue, raclette or tartiflette. A must for cheese lovers, these are all served at cosy tables in Les Fondus de la Raclette, Le Chalet Savoyard and Le Refuge des Fondues. The wonderful wooden chalet atmosphere of L’Assiette aux Fromages on Rue Mouffetard is another favourite. If it’s a sweet treat you fancy, a kaleidoscope of teas, hot chocolate and piled-high lemon meringue beckon visitors in from the cold at Le Loir dans la Théière in the Marais district. A highly satisfying way to refuel this winter season.

© OTCP - Loïc Lagarde – Eat Raclette at La Défense’s Christmas market

Marvel at a lesser-known museum

Paris spoils visitors for choice of museums, but the Atelier des Lumières is a new addition to the cultural scene you might not have yet explored. Housed in a former foundry, it digitises works by iconic artists in monumental immersive exhibitions, using 140 video projectors and a spatialised sound system. ‘Van Gogh, Starry Night’ is in the spotlight until 31 December. Additionally, the enchanting Musée des Arts Forains boasts Europe’s biggest collection of 19th-century fairground and show objects that will take you back in time. And to make it even easier to enjoy museums, the Paris PassLib’ is a flexible sightseeing package granting adults, young people and children access to temporary exhibitions at the 11 City of Paris museums (except the Catacombes and Crypte Archéologique). It also covers 1-hour river cruises and day-long Open Bus Tours.

© Eric Spiller - Atelier des Lumières, Van Gogh exhibition

Socialise at seasonal events

The last few months of the year are kicking off with a bang in Paris: the Autumn Festival (10 September–31 December) is a multi-disciplinary celebration of theatre, music, dance, film and the visual arts at the forefront of the cultural stage. Around 40 venues across the city play host, including the Théâtre de l'Odéon and Centre Pompidou. It’s also time for a tipple as the vineyards of Montmartre herald the grape harvest with the Fête des Vendanges (9-13 October). Expect tastings of artisanal and regional products, dances, walks, talks and exhibitions all celebrating wine. Love indie music? Go to Pitchfork Festival at the Grande Halle de la Villette, where Skepta, Belle & Sebastian and Charlie XCX are playing from 31 October to 2 November.

© iStock – Firework during the Fête des Vendanges

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