Paris: the city of love. Paris: the city of lights. To me, it's Paris: the city of food. When it comes to Paris, everyone knows that it's truly one of the epicurean capitals of the world. All of the best chefs have been trained in Parisian cooking styles or under the auspices of some bougie-named celebrity chef. Accordingly, people go to experience the flourishing food culture. 

The only issue is that people tend to go in the summer. Yes, it is beautiful walking around when it's 80 degrees and sunny and when you don't have to brace for wind-impact every time you cross a bridge going over the Seine. And obviously, who would want to miss the opportunity to sit outside a little café and people watch from the comfort of your own little bubble?  

Jesse Fox

These are all great reasons to go in the summer but, as a true gastronomical enthusiast, you'll be missing out on some of the food in Paris if you confine your travel time to only the warmer months. 

Paris is also a city of exciting and seasonal winter foods. When the colder months come along, the Joyeux Noël spirit electrifies the city with even more lights, scents, colors, and overall energy.  Here are some of the best things to do (and eat) in Paris around the holiday season.

The Cafés

Like every movie or book portrays, there are always people sitting outside the cafés in Paris. Whether they are just sipping espresso watching the crowds go by or having a bottle of wine with a meal, people love to sit and people-watch. So, to compensate for the biting winter weather, cafés have installed very warm heaters above their outdoor seating areas. So, don't be afraid to get in that quintessential experience. Order some warm food, a big cappuccino, and enjoy the outdoor scene even in the middle of the winter. 

The Christmas Markets

Jesse Fox

A Catholic-majority nation, France tends to go all out for Christmas. So, around the city, various Christmas markets pop up selling everything from food to hand-knit scarves. At these pop-ups, the scents cause an olfactory overload; Chestnuts roasting on an open fire (not to be cliche or anything), mulled wine, nougat, and chocolate covered marshmallows all waft together. At this point you're hungry and curious to try everything and, if you're me, you do.  

Personally, my favorite thing at the Parisian Christmas markets is the nougat. Most stands have 10-15 flavors and they'll let you try every single one. I'd recommend the Sea-Salt Caramel or Ginger flavors, but try all of them so you know exactly what you what. The praline covered nuts are a must, too. Vendors stand next to machines that continuously pop them out so you can try a hot, fresh one before buying a whole bag. Finally, I'd recommend getting one of the various flavors of chocolate-covered marshmallows and washing it down with a glass of mulled wine. When it's cold outside, there's nothing that warms you more than hot red wine infused with orange, cardamom, and various other flavors. This pairs perfectly with the champagne-flavored marshmallow.

The Restaurants

Jesse Fox

Obviously, the restaurants in Paris are amazing. This is evident by the sheer number of people who go to this amazing city just for the food. However, a lot of restaurants do something unexpected for Christmas day: they offer specially prepared tasting menus. Understanding that these reservations fill up quickly, the day I could, I made one for my family at Joel Robuchon's Etoile L'Atelier. If you make the reservation early enough, you can sit at the bar to watch all the food being prepared by the multitude of apprentices working in the kitchen. After an expert sommelier reviews the wine list with you, you get the menu and make one of the biggest decisions of your life: a la carte or pre-fixe. I opted for the Christmas pre-fixe menu, a decision that was just oh so worth it.

After consuming 12 courses epitomizing some of the finest gastronomic expertise in the entire world, all I could say was "wow."  Each dish was better than the next and combined local cooking techniques with an eclectic variety of ingredients.  Black and white truffles, however, seemed to be the regnant ingredient that night. Overall, after dishes such as poached monkfish, yuzu-jelly oysters, salmon tartare covered in caviar and edible gold, and passionfruit cake, I can genuinely say that this was one of the most exciting and best meals of my life.  Therefore, I'd highly recommend trying one of the special Christmas dinner menus in Paris.

Chanukah in Paris 

Obviously, there's a lot to do apropos to Christmas activities.  What a lot of people don't realize though is that Paris still has a thriving Jewish community— many of whom still live in Le Marais. Whilst there, you can see many restaurants festively displaying lit menorahs in their windows, bakeries selling Jelly doughnuts, and people just walking around cheerily. I'd highly recommend spending some time in this area and trying some amazing Israeli food at Restaurant Kosher Pitzman or getting some decadent bread and pastries at Sacha Finkelsztajn (definitely try the challah.) There are, however, a number of Israeli restaurants and Jewish bakeries located on the Rue de Rosiers as well, so save room.

The Dessert Shops

Jesse Fox

Paris is known for its pâtisseriesThese pastry shops are hallmarks of Parisian culture and have traditionally served as bridges between the finest of France's baking traditions and the average person. Almost all of the pâtisseries in Paris make specialty items for Christmas, which is to say that on every street corner you can see beautiful seasonal pastries calling your name from the windows. To me, though, one pâtisserie sticks out more than the rest: Angelina. This establishment opened in 1903 and still, to this day, operates as a tea house with a full menu. They also have an in-house bakery that makes some of the finest pastries in Paris.

With a line that is normally 200-300 people long, Angelina has solidified its reputation in the world. Considering Paris is the third most visited city in the world, it only makes sense that tourists would want to try places like this. I'd highly recommend trying their winter specials like the Mont-Blanc Praline, a pastry involving a "traditional creamy praline heart, chestnut cream vermicelli, gingerbread shards," and more.  Also, you can't miss their hot chocolate, one of their best-kept secrets.  When I'm there, I order the hot milk chocolate and the hot white chocolate and mix them. But, if you're not into that, you can't go wrong with the plain stuff.

Final Thoughts

A time when flights across the pond are significantly cheaper than usual, Winter gives the city a completely different feel.  People during this time tend to just be cheerier and it makes the visit to this beautiful city every more magical. So, if you can, try and make it to Paris in the winter season at least once in your life. I promise you won't be disappointed.  Now, as I recount my romantic experience of solidifying my love for my cone of Berthillon ice cream with a lock on a bridge and then throwing the key into the Seine, I truly hope every foodie can experience this magnificent city in the winter, too.