As the autumn days grow shorter and the temperatures colder, it’s time to focus on the next celebration in the calendar. Festive fairy lights, hot chocolate and cozy furry throws are all present and correct in this round-up of the best places to drink and dine in Paris in the run-up to Christmas.
LA BULLE, NOVOTEL LES HALLES
The Heated Bubble Experience
Bubbles have become the latest buzz word in 21st century travel, with tinted – or sometimes totally transparent – bubble capsules popping up all over France. Some have transformed into quirky hotel rooms in forests, while others – like La Bulle at Novotel – are all about dining and drinking in see-through surroundings. Picture raising a toast to a white Christmas from the comfort of a heated bubble, while the snow falls around you – few things could be more festive. It’s a common misconception that this bubble is open to hotel guests only – no doubt due to the name of its location, the ‘Jardin Privé’ – but in fact it welcomes everyone for pastries and cocktails feasts. It’s also very conveniently located just a three-minute walk from the annual Christmas market at Forum Les Halles, so it makes a great stop-off after a spot of shopping. Look out for the mulled wine and the marrons glacés!
THE CHOCOLATE BAR
A Winter Chalet Experience For The Sweet Toothed
Every sweet-toothed chocolate connoisseur will – or should – know of Hugo and Victor. An award-winning patisserie packed full of macarons and ice cream, and offering freshly baked pastries every day, it is renowned for its taste sensations. Ingredients are top quality and locally sourced – the salted butter caramel ice cream, for instance, which was voted the best around by Le Figaro, is produced using milk from a local farm close to the city. For the Christmas season, in special collaboration with the hotel Les Jardins du Marais, a winter chalet dubbed The Chocolate Bar will offer up the Hugo and Victor brand’s classic recipes. Visitors can get cozy in the bar’s faux fur draped surroundings and enjoy its 1500 sqm terrace up until the end of the year. Plus the location is in the heart of the Marais, only a few minutes walk from the Picasso museum.
LE BULLE PARISIENNE
The Igloo of the Eiffel Tower
The Iron Lady has been the talk of the town lately, thanks in no small part to the recent re-opening of its luxurious second floor restaurant, Le Jules Verne. However it’s the floor below that offers the best views – and some of the most delectable Christmas menu choices too. The bubble, open from now until April 2020, accommodates up to 80 people at one time. Guests can brunch courtesy of Michelin-starred chef Thierry Marx – known for his quirky creations, which include nitrogen-baked meringues – or enjoy traditionally Parisian fare the rest of the day. Plus there’s a pop-up wine cellar this winter producing tipples from locally-sourced grapes. Visitors can feast their eyes on the enormous wine barrels positioned a few steps from the transparent dining bubble and then once the meal is over, they can take a trip ‘next door’ to learn about modern wine-making techniques. Plus, of course, there’s always the panoramic views atop the tower…. the ultimate Christmas experience!
THE ICE CUBE BAR
Champagne At Paris’s Premier Shopping Space
Many will be tempted by the winter rooftop bar Le Perchoir, located atop Le BHV Marais department store – and it’s certainly a contender for those who prefer to see the Eiffel Tower on the skyline than actually dine inside it. Yet perhaps even more eagerly anticipated is the return of the Ice Cube Bar at Galeries Lafayette. The setting is electrifying on Boulevard Haussmann at this time of year, with the animated store windows, which shopaholics will struggle to pry themselves away from, and even Christmas lighting that passers-by can control! By downloading an app, it’s possible to change the patterns and colors in real-time all through December. Plus, in the unlikely event that champagne and oysters at the Cube could ever elicit a blasé response, there’s always the signature hot chocolate and cake once favored by Coco Chanel, served at the Angelina tea room in the Lafayette Dome. A great way to warm up before heading off again into the sparkling winter streets.
LES DEUX MAGOTS
The Historical Hangout That’s Even Open On Christmas Day
Finally, the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district is one of the city’s most magical of all at Christmas time. The atmosphere is electric, the neon lights twinkle and the crowds at the area’s bars, restaurants and quirky shops are livelier than ever. Sadly L’Hotel’s Le Restaurant – a top contender for festive spirit, not to mention quality caviar dishes at below average prices – is closed until February for renovations. Yet there are plenty of alternatives, such as the famous Les Deux Magots – a venue where history happened.
Oscar Wilde’s wealthy lover Lord Douglas was the archetypal Christmas Scrooge when he reportedly refused to foot the bill for them to dine here on multiple occasions. However the likes of Pablo Picasso and Jean Paul Sartre were to be less thrifty, sometimes seemingly spending more time here than they did in their own homes. Today, it’s fashion designers and film stars, alongside the locals and tourists, that grace this renowned café. It’s even open on Christmas Day, in case you’re inclined to go all out and share a bottle of Dom Pérignon with the family. Lord Douglas would no doubt have shaken his fist in fury at the expense and demanded a discounted hot chocolate instead!
These are just a few of the options for the run-up to the Christmas season – enjoy!