Paris has a special kind of magic during the festive season. You may better associate the City of Lights with springtime, February the month of love, and July’s mega holiday Bastille Day, but this city really shines like a twinkling bauble in November and December. Simply being here will get you in the festive mood as most stores and streets deck the halls with glitter and street lights aplenty. Lights and decorations are usually put up around early-November and are taken down at the beginning of January.
Please get in touch to book your festive trip to Paris and more at email@example.com or 021 975 2047.
Here are our must-do suggestions for Paris during the festive season:
Take an open-topped evening bus tour
The streets of this glorious city are always lit up but they really go all-out for Christmas. The best way to take it all in is from the top of a bus that takes you past the best routes to appreciate them.
…and a Seine river cruise
No light-viewing expedition is complete without seeing the sparkles from a different vantage point: the Seine river. We highly recommend an evening cruise (perhaps with dinner?) and have several operators we book with to ensure a fabulous evening out.
Stroll the Champs-Élysées
Paris’ most famous avenue sparkles with 150 000 lights, with the bare-branched trees lit up like stars. Strolling along the lit-up Champs-Élysées at night and peeking into the beautifully decorated shop windows while sipping a decadent hot chocolate or vin chaud (mulled wine) is an experience that perfectly encapsulates the enchantment of Paris at Christmas time.
Other streets to see lights include Avenue Montaigne, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, and Rue Montorgueil, but you’ll see lights all over the centre of town.
Visit Paris’ iconic department stores (Grands Magasins)
Paris is home to 5 famous and fabulous department stores – and they go all-out with stunning Christmas decorations. And, even if you won’t be spending a cent, you can still take in the decorations.
- Paris Printemps, near the Opera Garnier, is usually the first to unveil its beautifully decorated window displays (think: Harrods with French flair).
- Galeries Lafayette Boulevard Haussmann, aside from gorgeous displays and lights, also has one of the most famous Christmas trees in all of Paris, with a different theme every year.
- BHV Le Marais, not far from the Notre Dame, also covers everything in lights and festive décor, and is another good place to pop in, perhaps after visiting the Christmas market at the Notre Dame.
- La Samaritaine, near the Louvre, is the smallest of Paris’ department stores, but by no means is it unimpressive. Bedecked with lights and Christmas trees, it’s worth a visit too.
- Le Bon Marché on the Left Bank boasts several enormous glittering trees suspended along the grand staircase.
Browse a Christmas market (Marche de Noël)
For those seeking a more traditional Christmas experience, Paris offers an array of Christmas markets scattered throughout the city. They usually open from the end of November/early December, so keep an eye out for what’s happening when you visit. La Magie de Noël (“The Magic of Christmas”) in Tuileries Garden is the largest and has rides as well as food and gift stalls. Amongst others, the Marché de Noel Notre Dame, Hôtel de Ville, and La Défense, and Marché de Noël de la Canopée des Halles are also popular. There is also usually a “Christmas Village” near the Eiffel Tower on the Champ de Mars.
Indulge in traditional festive delights
Parisians take their culinary traditions very seriously. Boulangeries (bakers) and pâtisseries (pastries) overflow with delicious treats, and there is plenty of competition to outdo each other. There’s the famous chocolatey bûches de Noël (yule log), as well as other more regional (but still available in Paris) specialities like Bredeles and Kougelhopf from Alsace, and Pain d’Epices from Burgundy (gingerbread). Looking for “chestnuts roasting on an open fire”? Sorted. You can buy the marrons chauds from street vendors, who will hand you your piping hot chestnuts in a little paper cone – you’ll usually find them around Christmas markets. (Just remember to peel the shell off before taking a bite!)
And to drink? Hot chocolate and vin chaud (mulled wine aka gluehwein) are the most iconic winter warmers and can be enjoyed while strolling through the sparkling streets.
Take a foodie tour
We love foodie tours as they provide a great insight into how local people live, along with a sprinkling of history, and some great treats. The guides are also very knowledgeable so, even if something isn’t on the tour menu, they’ll know the best places to get it. If you’re unsure where to start with those Christmas delights, this is the best solution. We work with award-winning tour operators for foodie tours, so get in touch to book yours!
Glide the ice
As December approaches, ice-skating rinks pop-up in various locations throughout Paris, allowing visitors to glide with joy amidst the stunning backdrop of the city so, if you want to work off a little of the festive treats, now’s your chance (or just relax and watch the skaters on the ice).
Discover the covered arcades
There are several historical and very attractive covered arcades which have been restored to their former grandeur and are filled with fascinating boutiques – and they look extra enchanting during the festive season.
Experience a concert
Why not take in a theatrical holiday production at the magnificent Opéra Garnier or Théâtre du Châtelet? There is invariably something festive on (although it does book up far in advance) to get you into the festive spirit, from music to ballet.
There are also often Christmas concerts in churches or chapels which visitors can attend, some of which for free (although donations towards church restoration is always welcome). Worshippers are generally also welcome to attend mass at most churches. Just be aware that these are active places of worship, and should be treated with respect.
Do a day trip
You don’t have to stay in Paris for your whole visit. You can easily do a day trip to the chateaus of Versailles, Fontainebleau, or Vaux le Vicomte – all of which decorate with flair for Christmas. Have a blast at an amusement park like Disneyland Paris or Parc Asterix, or even wander further afield to nearby Reims, Epernay, or even Strasbourg for more festive exploration.
TIP! Book as far in advance as possible, particularly for things like cruises, Christmas lunch or dinner, and shows. They sell out very quickly and you don’t want to be disappointed.
These are just a few of our favourite suggestions but, with its elegant buildings, world-class shopping, luscious cuisine, and iconic landmarks, there is so much more to appreciate. Paris at Christmas time will be a truly memorable experience.
The above post is designed to inspire. All information is correct at time of writing, but it is always best to check before you travel to ensure there are no closures or changes.