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There’s a nip in the air, but with Christmas right around the corner, Paris always seems to shines a bit brighter during the holiday season. But all those extra bobbles and balls do not mean you can’t still find some affordable cheer around town.
Here are six easy ways to celebrate in Paris à la Cheapo.
Through early January, the city’s iconic streets are aglow with holiday lights, Christmas window displays and the sounds of the holidays. Of special note are the trees and lights at Place Vendome, the festive decorations hanging across rue Montorgueil, and of course, the ever-campy but always appreciated displays on the historic Champs-Elysées.
To appreciate the lights, be sure to grab a cup of hot wine (vin chaud) to go while strolling the streets. The Christmas markets, while selling plenty of trinkets, do manage to provide enough of the sweetened, spiced wine that make them worth a trip. Once the holidays are finished, the wine is still available in most cafés, and is often a bit tastier—and it doesn’t get cold as quickly.
Holiday eating in Paris can be tricky because many places close on December 24, 25, and January 1, but diners won’t starve, even on a budget. A simple yet exceedingly affordable meal can be had at old favorite Chartier while those looking to drop a bit more can have a four course meal including Champagne at the famed Coupole for €71. Though it may seem steep, it’s a lot cheaper than many holiday menus around town!
Winter is here, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend all of your time in Paris huddled away. Strap on your skates or rent a pair and hit the rink at the Hotel de Ville for some outdoor activity. If it’s a bit too frigid outside, the Patinoire Pailleron by the Parc de Buttes Chaumont is a bit more tolerable with its indoor rink and costs just a few euros to take hit the ice.
Although there haven’t been fireworks for several years in Paris on New Year’s, the Eiffel Tower does offer a lively light show, and the Champs-Elysees is the place to be if you want to join the throngs. Otherwise, don’t expect much more than a Champagne toast at midnight and some rabble rousers in the streets.
There is more to look forward to in early 2014. On January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, you’ll see bakeries decked out with the galette des rois, the frangipane-based cake that ushers in the New Year. A small figurine of the baby Jesus is hiding inside each cake, and French tradition holds that he or she who finds the token in their slice buys next year’s cake.
Start off the New Year in debt—vive la France!