Updated: Oct 8
Fall is finally upon us in DC! The air conditioner is off, the windows are open, pumpkin spice is everywhere! It also means that my yearly Thanksgiving trip to Paris draws near.
This tradition began in 2016, a year I would describe as, by far, the worst ever. That year, Thanksgiving rolls around and I’m what one would call “depressed.” Thankfully(?) I had booked a two week solo trip to Paris! I begrudgingly (who even am I??) left the country and slept through most of my first day in Paris, because, depression.
On my second day in Paris I texted a friend to ask her if she thought it was a problem if I’d only eaten bread and cheese since I got there.
On my sixth day in Paris, I had what I described then as “life-changing” escargot. Apparently, when you’re sad, snails can change your life.
On my ninth day in Paris, I took the train to Reims to drink champagne and accidentally ordered lamb’s head for lunch.
By the time I returned home, the bread/cheese/wine/chocolate/snails and friends who had also escaped to Paris that fall had done a healing number on my soul.
2019 will be my 4th annual Thanksgiving trip to Paris. It’s a fantastic time to visit the City of Lights. The weather is usually cool, but not too cold. It’s low season for tourists so you can more easily get into the museums or on the tours you want to do. Flights and hotels are a little cheaper.
Whether you’re flying solo or with friends, Paris has so much to offer. Below are my favs.
Food & Wine Experiences
Paris by Mouth leads wonderful food/wine walking tours in different Paris neighborhoods. The tours typically include a stop for baguettes and croissants, chocolate or pastry, cheese, and charcuterie. They always end at a local wine shop where you taste all of the food you’ve picked up with curated wine selections. I made some great friends on these tours when I traveled alone and made some great memories when I did the tours with friends.
La Cuisine Paris offers a number of cooking classes in English. The sauces class is a useful technical class. If you’re interested in shopping at an open-air food market but nervous that you don’t speak French, the market class is a chef-led class to purchase food and then you go back to the school and cook it.
Le Cordon Bleu also offers day classes. Some of theirs run a little longer (6 hours) so depending on how much time you have, you may not want to spend that much time in class. But you do get an apron and chef’s hat to take home.
A day trip to Reims or Epernay is well worth it if you’re a lover of bubbles.
Afternoon tea at Le Meurice. If you’re lucky, their world-renowned pastry chef Cedric Grolet will swing by your table for a visit while you’re munching on his sweet creations. You will also not regret following him on instagram.
My Favorite Restaurants & Cafes
Le Bistrot d’Henri/Saint Germain: here you can have life-changing snails and boeuf bourguignon (seriously)
Huitrerie Regis/Saint Germain: a tiny place with only raw seafood offerings (Huitrerie means oyster, btw)
Le Relais de l’Entrecote/multiple locations: all you can eat steak frites
L’Enoteca/Marais: if you need a break from French food and want Italian
Bistrot Paul Bert/Marais: a great, classic bistrot option
Cafe Central/Invalides: great people watching cafe on Rue Cler
Le Mabillon/Saint Germain: another great people watching cafe in the Saint Germain
La Villa des Abbesses/Montmartre: Rue de Abbesses in Montmartre has a number of good people watching spots. This is one
A La Place Saint Georges/Saint Georges Square: it’s spot on a bustling square makes it ideal for people watching
*a note about Paris cafe culture: in the fall/winter, they have heat lamps and blankets at most cafes, so even when it’s chilly you can sit outside and enjoy the world passing you by. Also, America, please get on this program.
All I Want to Eat is Bread
Paris by Mouth has a handy map of the places that have won best baguette over the years. Check it out to find the best baguette in the neighborhood you’re staying in. My favorites are Le Grenier a Pain in Montmartre, La Flute Enchantee in the Marais, and La Parisienne in Saint Germain.
Go to Aux Merveilleux de Fred for brioche. Thank me later.
My #1 favorite croissant of all time is at Pierre Hermes in the Saint Germain. It is rose, litche, and raspberry. I do not believe you can get the croissant at all their locations, so make sure to go to the one on Rue Bonaparte. You can also get chocolates and macarons here.
Should I Stop Eating and Go to a Museum?
No. But if you must you can obviously go to the Louvre. You could spend an entire day/s here. If you choose to enter the madness of the Louvre, rent the audio guide and choose the highlights tour (unless you like museums a lot more than me and really do want to spend the whole day).
My favorite museum: Musee d’Orsay
My second favorite museum: Rodin (especially the sculpture garden)
A good off the beaten path choice: Musee Marmottan Monet
If you really insist on going to museums instead of eating and people watching at cafes, make sure to check out the Paris Museum Pass. You can buy a 2, 4, or 6 day pass. In addition to saving you money, you can often skip the lines to get in if you have a museum pass. The pass will give you access to other attractions like the Arc de Triomphe if you’re in the mood to climb some stairs or Sainte Chapelle if you want to see some great stained glass and aren’t going to Reims as I recommended here.
The key with the pass, is that you have to stack your museums because once you activate the pass you have 2/4/6 days to use it depending on which one you pick. In 2016 I bought the 4-day pass, but by day 4 I was tired of museums and went shopping instead. I made it to Rodin, Orangerie, Sainte Chapelle, Picasso, Arc de Triomphe, and Orsay before I abandoned the pass.
Last year I went to 0 museums and ate/drank/shopped instead.
Here are some other things you can do in no particular order depending on how long you have:
If you do what I suggest and go at Thanksgiving, the Paris Christmas markets should be open. This gives you a whole new opportunity to eat and drink delicious things.
Take a river cruise of the Seine (ideally one that gives you champagne)
Day trip to Versailles
Day trip to Mont Saint Michel
Go shopping at Galeries Lafayette - they have a rooftop champagne bar during the holiday season (perhaps it is year round, I don’t know because I only go at Thanksgiving)
Watch the Eiffel Tower light up and sparkle on the hour, every hour, in the evenings