THE BLOG

A Winter Weekend in Paris

08/04/2014 13:49 BST | Updated 06/06/2014 10:59 BST

Montmatre is a great place to start your tour as you can see the city from the heights of the Sacre Coeur Basilica. It's a popular hangout amongst artists and you'll probably be accosted by a keen caricaturist wanting to sketch your finest assets. Stop for a coffee in the main square and even though it may be a tad overpriced, it's worth it to soak up the buzz around you and warmed up by the outdoor heaters.

After meandering down the hill, passing boutiques, tea shops and fondue restaurants you'll end up somewhere near the Moulin Rouge on Boulevard de Clichy. It's iconic red sails don't disappoint but the prices to see a show certainly do. It's nice to see but any ideas about this being a glorified place set on it's own as in Baz Luhrmann's portrayal will be dashed as it is just another construction on an avenue of sex shops and erotic museums.

The streets around Republique and Canal St Martin offer plenty in the line of restaurants. Try La Madonnina, a relaxed and romantic trattoria serving simple but incredibly tasty fresh pasta and other Italian favourites. The parmigiana melanzane was great to start and a selection of mini deserts and coffee was the perfect way to wind things up, not forgetting the house white that went down very easily.

Continue the night at Favela Chic with its infectious carnival vibe and matching cocktails. You'll find your feet movin' and groovin' along with trendy locals and tourists busting loose.

Visiting Paris in Winter is great in many ways (small tourist queues and a legit excuse to move from cafe to bar to cafe) but not in others (it can be so grey you can't see the top of the Eiffel Tower). Fortunately, the area around the River Seine is walkable enough that if you do have to drastically change plans to cope with weather blips, there is plenty to do nearby. A boat trip along the river is a must but don't waste your time using the Bateaux Mouches company as the commentary is limited and relayed in far too many languages.

Don't be put off by the hoards of people waiting outside the Musee d'Orsay as they do (eventually) file in at a reasonable pace. The former railway station holds some of the most impressive impressionist and post-impressionist art and really is worth a visit. If you're hungry, the restaurant on the first floor is a grand spot to dine with its gold walls and awesome chandeliers.

On the other side of the river, past Place de la Concorde, is the area around La Madeleine. The temple in the centre belongs more in Athens than next to the designer stores of Paris but it makes a towering attraction as you window shop at Dior and Prada and pop into Maille for some top-quality mustard. Further east along the river you'll encounter the Île de la Cité which houses Notre Dame de Paris, the infamous cathedral that is well worth a look - anyway, what's a city break without at least one church visit?

Not flash but grand enough, Chez Omar has to be sampled for its fluffy couscous and other French classics. The closely packed tables full of hungry locals are a testament to the reasonably priced food and buzzing atmosphere.

Le Marais is one of the nicest areas to wonder around and cafe hop. Start at Bastille and drift along towards Place des Vosges, a gorgeous square and garden that was Victor Hugo's stomping ground. You'll pass heaps of mouth-watering cafes and restaurants as lunch-potentials but carry on a bit further until you hit Rue des Rosiers where you'll be spoilt for choice, well, for falafel at least. L'As du Fallafel is the best place, and you'll know which one it is by the snaking queue outside.

Forget Versaille, the Crowne Plaza Republique is the perfect royal residence for a Parisian break. Right next to the metro and spanning the length of the place, this 4* hotel is brilliantly located to explore the city. Get a room that looks out over the majestic courtyard or one at the back with its own balcony.