What could be nicer than snuggling up at a cosy Parisian fireside after a long day wandering markets, falling over on ice rinks and abusing the credit card in department stores? There are many restaurants with open fires in the city – try Hôtel Jules & Jim (Marais), a much-admired boutique hotel with a stunning courtyard woodburner; Atelier Maître Albert (Jussieu), whose long main salon boasts a vast stone fireplace at one end and an open grill at the other; and Le Flamboire (St-Georges) and Robert et Louise (Marais), where the flames are actually used for the preparation of some hearty meat dishes as well as the warming of visitors’ fingers and toes. Bars follow firy suit across town: sip cocktails or hot chocolate at La Cheminée at the Park Hyatt (Opéra), Gentleman 1919 or Blind Bar (Champs-Élysées).
Several Parisian restaurants offer special festive menus if you choose to dine out on your visit. The opulent L’Opéra Restaurant at the Palais Garnier offers an exceptional Christmas Eve dinner designed by chef Chihiro Yamazaki, featuring duck foie gras or smoked salmon; St-Jacques scallops or guinea fowl; and a sublime chocolate fondant or red berry ice cream log (€88 per person). Vegetarian alternatives are available on request.
Christmas in France is synonymous with oysters – so to get into true Parisian festive spirit, sip and slurp in style at Le Dome café, where Picasso used to dine. Or hit up Le Baron Rouge on a Sunday afternoon before 4pm, where the oyster man from Arcachon shucks plates of them for around €6. Washing them down with one of the house whites, you’ll be cheek-by-jowl with the locals but that’s all part of the fun.
Or for something ultra-romantic to sweep a loved one off their feet, why not book a gourmet cruise on a traditional boat on the Seine for either Christmas Eve dinner or Christmas Day lunch? These cruises – on board a ‘bateau Parisien’ or ‘bateau mouche’ – include an all-inclusive menu with champagne and wine, live musical entertainment and breathtaking sights along the way, whether by day or after dark when river’s reflections are nothing short of spellbinding.