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Paris and.... ? (Where else to go?)

I'm having such a hard time making a decision & hoping you all can help. I'll be making my first visit to France in December with a few girlfriends. We will be traveling for a week total, and Paris is our main destination, however we'd really like to spend a few days elsewhere. Italy is possibly my favorite place on earth, specifically the town of Assisi, I swear 3/4 of my heart was left there - so I'm torn between finding "my" Assisi in France (quaint & charming - especially something that's beautiful to see during the Christmas season) verses checking out Amsterdam or Belgium while we have the chance.

We're all mid-30s, moms, escaping out kids/husbands if that helps ;) We like good food, wine, and just experiencing the culture in general.

Thanks in advance!

Posted by
31 posts

Yes, it will just be a week (kids to attend to back on the home front, you know ;) )

We're thinking 3-4 nights in Paris and 2-3 nights elsewhere. Only looking to conquer two cities.

Posted by
2620 posts

Paris can easily need a whole week, that's what I'm planning to spend there in May with only a visit to Versailles for outside Paris proper. When planning my trip I considered spending my second week visiting either some other part of France, such as Lyon or further south to the Provence area, or taking the train to Bruges and Brussels and flying home from there. For your trip with other people I suggest finding another city in France and I expect there'll be plenty of knowledgeable suggestions offered shortly.

Posted by
31 posts

...and yes, Christmas markets definitely have an appeal. The locations I would choose if this were a Spring/Summer trip are much different, so I'm hoping to make the best of visiting France at the Christmas season.

Posted by
784 posts

With only a week, I would simply stay in Paris. There is more than enough to see and do there. In December, the weather will be iffy at best, trees will be bare, no flowers, so towns and villages will be stark, not up to your expectations of finding an Assisi in France. Paris will be vibrant and fun at Christmastime.

Posted by
7061 posts

If you want an add'l location that's different from Paris, I would spend a couple of days in Colmar with maybe a trip to Strasbourg to sample another Christmas market and see the cathedral. Colmar is 3 hrs by train from Paris and it's less than an hour between there and Strasbourg. It's a nice smaller town, maybe not as quaint and charming as Assisi but I loved the canals and the old town and I can imagine it's wonderful during the Christmas season.

Posted by
2644 posts

I can't tell if you have 7 nights total in Europe to work with or 5 nights with travel days on either end. If you're 7 days from US to back to your house in US, I would do Paris and something really close to Paris, I think. If you truly have 7 nights in Paris and you're set on a second city (you could easily spend the entire time in Paris and add in a few day trips), you could do Barcelona as it will likely be in the 50s, which is a nicer temperature for walking around. You could do Venice (my personal favorite), but it will be wet and not very warm at all. You could do an easy connection with London, which will also be cool, but still workable.

A charming little town in France, 3 hours by train from Paris, is Colmar. Look it up on Google images...adorable.

Posted by
751 posts

We haven't been yet, but Colmar is definitely on my wish list. It looks so charming, and appears they have beautiful Christmas markets. It's about a 3 hour train ride from Paris.

That being said though, in 3.5 hours you could also get to Amsterdam, which is one of my favorite cities! Not sure if they have many Christmas markets though. Bruges could be another option, as it definitely fits the "quaint and charming" criteria, and they do have a Christmas market. It's more of a beer town than a wine town, but if you like beer, theirs is exceptional!

If you do decide to visit two countries, I would try and fly open jaw (say into Paris and out of Amsterdam) to save time and money backtracking.

Sounds like a fun trip!

Posted by
3984 posts

If you look on google images for Colmar be sure to add the word December or Christmas to your search so you won't be disappointed when you show up and there are no cascading geraniums on every home and railing in the town. It does look like they decorate with lights and evergreens nicely at Christmas time though. I've only experienced Colmar in the summer but I imagine the Christmas market scene to be quite beautiful. What are the specific dates for your Christmas getaway? Some markets aren't open after December 23 for instance. It's easy to look up dates though if this is something you want to experience.

Posted by
31 posts

You all are so helpful - thank you!!

I've actually only been to Assisi in the cold, wet, non-flowering winter & it's still my favorite, so I'm not too afraid of being disappointed by that (though, I am steering clear of visiting wine-country, vineyards & lavender fields for that reason of course!). Colmar is one that's already on our list actually, so great to hear that so many of you like it. (And they must have a great Christmas market, as Rick recommends it here: https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/france/festivals).

We will be there the beginning of December (starting around the 5th).

Has anyone done Annecy & Colmar? I'm drawn to them both - can't decide!

Also, for those that recommended Amsterdam, what did you like about it?

Posted by
7061 posts

I've been to both but only in the Summer and I loved both. Annecy is one of my all time favorite places in France but, like I said, I've only been there in Summer so I have no idea what it's like around Christmas and what their Christmas market is like. I will say that having been to all three, I think Annecy is a little more comparable to Assisi than Colmar (for quaint and charming), but from what I've read from people on this forum Colmar may be the better choice during the holiday season. And Colmar may be easier to get to from Paris than Annecy.

Posted by
9792 posts

I've been to both Colmar and Annecy, and for the needs of your trip, I would recommend Colmar (or Strasbourg, just a little bit closer to Paris. It's a bigger city, but you explore it by neighborhood. Some people on this board have very strong feelings for Colmar over Strasbourg; I don't and think Strasbourg is a lovely place in its own right). I like that you're going in EARLY December, that makes the Christmas markets more manageable than they get by later in the month (I would still recommend you do your Colmar/Strasbourg jaunt during the week instead of on the weekend to avoid bigger crowds). the TGV fast train is only 2 hours and 2 minutes from Paris to Strasbourg, and then on a little further to Colmar. Either one is exactly what you want at Christmas time -- festive and fun, and different than Paris.

Posted by
751 posts

In answer to your question about what I liked about Amsterdam, I love walking the canals, sipping beer in cozy cafes in the Jordaan, and spending time in the many wonderful museums. There are also great day trips - Keukenhof (in the spring), the Waterland area, Delft, Leiden, and Haarlem. We've been there in the spring and also in November. November was definitely grayer, so I think it depends what you're interested in seeing - if it's mainly outdoor things, maybe skip Amsterdam until the weather is nicer.

Posted by
8180 posts

A week is perfect for Paris and that is what I would do, but if you want one more then fly into Paris and spend 4 nights/3 days and then take the Thalys early the next morning to Amsterdam and spend the last 3 nights 2 days there and fly home. We often finish our trips with 3 days in Amsterdam -- we like flying out of that airport and it is a town that repays a 3 night visit.

Posted by
15651 posts

Colmar !!! I went to the Xmas markets about 3 years ago. Most of the shop facades (not just the windows) had beautiful decorations, the town is charming medieval buildings and canals. You could stop in Strasbourg for a few hours on the way to or from Colmar (there are luggage lockers in the train station). If you stay in Colmar more than 2 nights, you can visit one or more of the nearby Alsatian villages - many do it up big for Xmas. If you choose Alsace, consider flying open-jaw Paris-Frankfurt. There are fast trains between Strasbourg and Frankfurt (about 1/2 hour less travel time than Paris) and it's a short train ride from the Frankfurt station to the airport, unlike Paris where you'll have to traverse the city from the train station (Gare de l'Est) to the airport.

Posted by
679 posts

I loved Amboise. The town is lovely and the chateaux in the area are fabulous. I think it would be a fun place to stay with girlfriends.