By Catherine Le Nevez, Lonely Planet Local
Festive cheer is everywhere in Paris right now. Although the sun is setting early and you'll need to rug up against the cold, the City of Light isn't hibernating: brightly lit streets are filling with Christmas shoppers, chestnuts are roasting over smoky fires on street corners and decorations dressing shop windows are enchanting children and adults alike.
Pungent truffles and freshly shucked oysters are among the seasonal treats at the local street markets, whose canopied stalls are now lit by glowing lamps, and on the menus of cosy bistros, grand brasseries and renowned gastronomic restaurants. For a moveable feast, cruise Paris' streets in comfort while dining on gourmet French cuisine on the glass-roofed Bustronome bus.
Queues are shorter at iconic sights – the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Sacré-Cœur and Notre Dame included – along with scores of less well-known but absorbing small museums. Paris' beautiful 19th-century passages couverts (covered arcades), such as the capital's oldest, the Passage des Panoramas, with four interconnecting passages (Feydeau, Montmartre, St-Marc and Variétés) shelter enticing eateries and intriguing shops.
And the cultural season is in full swing, with ballet and opera productions, and a host of exhibitions, festivals and events taking place city-wide.
Lonely Planet Local Top Pick: Illuminations de Noël (to 8 Jan 2019)
Right now, Paris lives up to its moniker as the City of Light more than ever with festive lights sparkling along the av des Champs-Élysées. Other key locations to see dazzling Christmas displays include rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 8e; place Vendôme; av Montaigne, 8e; Bercy Village; Forum des Halles; and Montmartre, 18e. You can also take an open-topped bus tour of the lights with L’Open Tour. More info: www.parisinfo.com.
Lonely Planet Local Catherine Le Nevez says: Despite the chill in the air, this is one of my favourite seasons. Strolling the fairy-lit avenues is magical, but I especially love watching the enchanting animated window displays, which change every year, at Grands Boulevards department stores Galeries Lafayette and Le Printemps.
Africolor (to 22 Dec; www.africolor.com) Celebrating its 30th year, this African-music festival is primarily held in outer suburbs, such as St-Denis, St-Ouen and Montreuil.
Festival d’Automne (to 13 Feb 2019; www.festival-automne.com) Established in 1972, the Autumn Festival of arts presents painting, music, dance and theatre at venues throughout the city.
Franz West (to 10 Dec) Early paintings, sculptures and papier-mâché creations by avant-garde Austrian artist Franz West (1947–2012) are on display at the Centre Pompidou.
Jean-Michel Basquiat (to 14 Jan 2019) The works of neo-expressionist American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–88) are spotlighted at the Frank Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Bois de Boulogne.
Peintures des lointains (to 6 Jan 2019) Paintings and drawings of Tahiti by Matisse and Gauguin are among the works displayed as part of the Paintings from Afar exhibition at the Musée du Quai Branly.
Picasso: Bleu et rose (to 6 Jan 2019) Picasso's pivotal blue and rose periods, from 1900 to 1906, are showcased at this exceptional exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay.
Salon du Cheval de Paris (24 Nov–2 Dec; www.salon-cheval.com) Sporting events and competitions including show jumping and dressage are part of the nine-day Paris Horse Fair.
Venise, les arts et l'Europe au XVIIIe siècle (to 21 Jan 2019) This blockbuster exhibition at the Grand Palais pays tribute to Venice's artistic endeavours in the 18th century.
Zao Wou-Ki: L'espace est silence (to 6 Jan 2019) Some of artist Zao Wou-Ki's large-format triptychs in oil and Chinese ink on paper, displayed at the Petit Palais' Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, have never previously been exhibited.
Caravage à Rome (to 28 Jan 2019) The intimate Musée Jacquemart-André traces Italian master Caravaggio’s 'Roman period' from his early apprentice days on.
Epiphany (Three Kings' Day; 6 Jan 2019) Patisseries bake frangipane-filled puff-pastry galettes des rois (kings' cakes), which conceal a fève (small trinket).
La Saint-Sylvestre/Le Réveillon du Nouvel An (31 Dec–1 Jan 2019) Bd St-Michel, 5e, place de la Bastille, 11e, the Eiffel Tower, 7e, and especially av des Champs-Élysées, 8e, are the Parisian hotspots for welcoming in the New Year.
Paris Cocktail Week (18–26 Jan 2019; www.pariscocktailweek.fr) Participating cocktail bars all over the city create signature cocktails; there are also workshops, guest bartenders, masterclasses and food pairings.
Soldes d'hiver (winter sales; 2 Jan–12 Feb 2019) Bargains at Paris' twice-yearly sales can yield discounts of up to 70% at shops citywide.
2023 Rugby World Cup (Sep–Oct 2023) France will host the 10th Rugby World Cup, coinciding with the 200th anniversary of the creation of the sport. Centrepiece venues will include the Stade de France.
2024 Summer Olympics (2–18 Aug 2024; www.paris2024.org) A flurry of activity is underway before Paris hosts the 2024 Summer Olympics, with events taking place during the run-up.
2024 Summer Paralympics (4–15 Sep 2024; www.paris2024.org) Paris will stage its inaugural Summer Paralympics in the month following the 2024 Summer Olympics.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (9 Oct 2019–27 Jan 2020) The art nouveau Grand Palais is a fitting backdrop for artworks by post-impressionist painter and illustrator Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Marc Chagall (from 13 Feb 2019) Multicoloured works by the Russian-French artist are projected on the former iron foundry walls, ceiling and floor of Paris' digital museum L'Atelier des Lumières.