I originally planned to spend a week in Paris during the last 6 days of December plus the first day of January. However, after looking at the costs of everything listed in Rick Steve's Paris guide, I'm not so sure anymore. (1) Is it really worth the experience? (I understand this is a subjective question, but for background, I am trying to balance a backpackers budget with my education in art history.) (2) Also, because I hear that Paris is beautiful during Christmas, is it going to be crowded with tourists? (I would assume costs would rise if this were the case!) From Rick's other books, it seems Winter is generally the off-season (except for places like Scandinavia and Switzerland), but does this apply to Paris? (3) I want to be in Paris at this time because I hear its beautiful. I've never been, so I need feedback. If some of you don't think its worth it, where else would be nice to stay in France for the last 6 days December + New Years Day? This is a bit of a lengthy post, so thank you for taking the time to read this! :)
I spent 10 nights in Paris a few years ago, arriving a few days after Christmas. It was beautiful. It was cold. It was wonderful, as Paris always is. I too highly recommend an apartment. On that trip I rented through VRBO from a woman who lives in Sausalito. If you would like the information about it let me know. I did see lines at the Louvre for people entering through the pyramid. I knew there was a better entrance and used it. It was no more crowded and in some ways less crowded than other visits I've made in August and October.
I've only visited Paris during the colder months, so I couldn't compare it to the summer months. "is it going to be crowded with tourists?" That depends on how you define "crowded". Being a huge city, the number of residents will dwarf the number of visitors at any given time, so the city overall probably will never feel like a crowded day at Six Flags. But some of the more popular museums and monuments can feel quite mobbed. I visited once between Christmas and New Years. The ticket lines for the Louvre, Orsay, Centre Pompidou, Arc de Triomphe and bell tower of Notre Dame were EXTREMELY long, although you could easily bypass all but the queue for the bell tower with the museum pass. Oddly enough, there was no line at the Eifel tower. Go figure. There were a few restaurants with lines out the door, but for the most part, we could easily find tables at restaurants. "Is it really worth the experience?" Only you can answer that. "Winter is generally the off-season" Take that comment with a grain of salt. It's written by the owner of a company that only offers summer tours. There is no "off season" in Europe, just different seasons for different activities.
Since you'll be there a week, you could consider renting an apartment. We find it's cheaper than hotels and being able to cook a few meals can also save some money. We've used vacationinparis.com and have been very happy.
Yes, I think Paris is absolutely worth it any time of the year but especially charming at Christmastime. Even though winter is "off season", Christmastime is not. Lots of people want to spend Christmas in Paris. VIP.com is great, but they're expensive. Check out this hostel in central Paris which has been highly recommended by many people.. mije.com/indexindividuelsuk.asp Don't know your budget, but there are many good budget hotels. Check out Hotel Marignan, Hotel St. Pierre, Hotel Diana, Hotel Eugenie, Hotel College du France, Hotel Jeanne d'Arc and Hotel de l'Avre (love this hotel). You can go to TripAdvisor.com or Booking.com and find more.
I love Paris and it is beautiful during the holidays but it's also expensive. If you could get an apartment that would be ideal. Christmas isn't necessarily off-season in Paris. In France, the Provence region has many Roman ruins. Avignon, St. Remy or Arles might be a possibility for a fun stay. We've been to Colmar during the holidays and the Alsace region of France is festive during that time. From an art history standpoint would you consider another city? Berlin is filled with history and less expensive though I haven't been there during Christmas. For real art history, Rome is another possibility. Just some thoughts!!