Paris at Christmas bistros & packing

We will be there for 8 nights (w/spouse & teenage daughter). We have an apartment in the fifth north of the Pantheon. We have never been to Europe in the winter. We want to pack light and would love suggestions on what to bring so we are warm but not weighed down. Also, I dream of an authentic neighborhood bistro that has great food at a great price. Does such a thing still exist? Please send suggestions. Thank you.

Posted by Kira
Seattle, WA, USA
1019 posts

We love Au Petit Suisse, 16 Rue de Vaugirard, by the Luxembourg Gardens. Adorable inside, and especially cute up on the balcony. Very good food - classic bistro fare, very reasonably priced, in a lovely relaxed atmosphere. They do an especially nice steak frites, and I just LOVE that they use a pile of croutons under the cheese atop their soupe a l'oignon, rather than a tranche of hard bread to wrestle with - genius touch! We also like le Passy, at 2 rue de Passy in the 16th - a friendly neighborhood joint with better than average food and pretty much NO tourist crowd. Right across the street is le Franklin, (1, rue Benjamin Franklin) which has wonderful specials and very fresh seafood. Their oyster tower is ENORMOUS and insanely fresh. Also basically tourist-free. And this isn't a bistro, but we love la Pinte, 13 carrefour de l'Odéon. It's a small, cozy place for a great beer or a glass of wine and some bread and sausage. The guy who opens up plays insane tunes - he's heavily into 1970s disco - but for some reason it really works. Also love the Highlander, at 8 Rue de Nevers, which is in a wonderfully atmospheric building opposite the Pont Neuf, has excellent Scottish beers and a warm, welcoming Scottish ex-pat vibe. We heard about au Petit Suisse from the night manager here. As for packing light but staying warm... I guess layers are the way to go. Thin layers. But since I pretty much never get cold, I am not the person to be answering you. Others will have awesome suggestions. :-)

Posted by Debi
Sherman Oaks, CA, USA
258 posts

Always a scarf or two, gloves and a hat. Everyone, man women and children wear scarves!! Heavy sweater worked for me. As others have said layers are the way to go. I like a Landsend down jacket. Umbrella or rain poncho for sure. nothing to heavy here. Happy Travels!!

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
5720 posts

I was quite cold in Paris over the holidays. It never got over 33 degrees. I don't know where Henrico is, so I'm not sure how acclimated you are to the cold. I live in California, so it doesn't get as cold here. It also might not be as cold as that when you are there. Check the forecast before you leave. The layering thing that many recommend did not work for me. Too many layers to remove when indoors, and it was sweltering on the metro. If I do another winter trip I will wear a warm (probably down) coat, with a sweater and or fleece vest underneath. A scarf, hat, gloves and warm socks help a lot. The coat is then easy to take off indoors without feeling like you are stripping by removing multiple layers. If your apartment has a washer you don't have to pack too much because you can do laundry. I pack in a carry on sized bag. For that winter trip I did use a compression bag for the bulkier clothes. Enjoy Paris at the holidays. It is beautiful that time of year! Actually any time of year...

Posted by melissa
826 posts

Down coat- not jacket-, silk longjohns, cashmere sweater, fleece vest,wool scarf, thick soled shoes. Carry the coat on as a personal item, sounds like so much fun!

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10683 posts

Is there such thing as an "inauthentic neighborhood bistro"? My knowledge of Paris is not nearly as extensive as some of the other posters on this website, but from my experience, mid-level bistros and brasseries are not particularly expensive. Not exactly budget dining, but you probably won't break the bank with three people either. And you won't have any trouble finding them. The weather will most likely be damp, but probably not as cold as you might expect (yes, there are always exceptions). At a minimum, I would bring a some kind of coat (not a parka), a scarf, gloves (not ski gloves), some kind of hat that covers the ears, warm socks and a sweater. You will most likely spend the majority of your time indoors, and if you dress too heavily, you may find yourself sweating when you go inside... which will make you even colder when you go outside again. In the off chance that you find yourself visiting during an abnormally cold period, you can always buy what you need in Paris. C&A is a decent but relatively inexpensive clothing chain that you can look for.

Posted by Kira
Seattle, WA, USA
1019 posts

Tom has a great idea in suggesting C&A! They've got a huge branch near au Printemps (49 Boulevard Haussmann) and a smaller (but still pretty gigantic) store on the rue de Rivoli near the Louvre (126 Rue de Rivoli). Also on that stretch of the rue de Rivoli is a big H&M (inexpensive clothing). Either would be a perfect place to pick up a down coat or heavier jacket for cheap if you run into a real cold snap. And bonus - the rue de Rivoli shops are packed with teenagers and your teenage daughter would probably love to go shopping there.

Posted by Southam
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
1277 posts

For a souvenir that will bring back memories for years to come, each of you, male and female, might buy a good scarf. Then notice all the techniques the locals employ to turn them into distinctive accessories. They can be bought anywhere, at different prices and qualities. I've shopped at both H&M and C&A, always amused that these highly efficient and moderately priced chains are based outside of France (H&M is Swedish and C&A is Dutch, although with head offices in Belgium and Germany.) Monoprix outlets are everywhere and sell groceries too.
To sample the American mall experience with a French flavour, look at the Place d'Italie complex, conveniently located on several Metro lines.

Posted by Judy
Grass Valley, California
498 posts

We will be in Paris for a week between Christmas and New Years and I found that the chapter on being in Paris in December, in the RS Paris 2012 book was very helpful. What you have to be careful of and I have found this in New York in the winter is it is cold outside and extremely warm inside. Museums, Metro's, so we are all taking coats for very cold weather and we can easily take those off. Eddie Bauer has a great selection of waterproof and insulated. Some are very nice classic trench style, as to not look like you are sking or camping.