The City of Lights sparkles all year long but at Christmastime Paris is truly one of Europe’s most festive locales. France’s capital city is a lovely, warm, and welcoming spot to spend the holidays, and visitors of all ages will be thrilled with the lights and sounds of the season as they peruse the city’s various arrondissements.
Truly, there’s so much to do in Paris before, during, and after the Christmas holidays, including visiting popular tourist sites that are decked out for the holidays, listening to concerts, watching light shows, scoping out Nativity scenes, and shopping at the city’s many Christmas markets. And you’ll love the food, too, especially the traditional holiday goodies.
For many, the December holidays are all about family…and your family will certainly have a wonderful time spending Christmas together in Paris. There are loads of activities available for kids young and old, and plenty that the whole family can do together. We promise no one will be bored, even those sometimes hard-to-please adults.
For example, ice skating on the rink outside Paris’ City Hall (l’Hotel de Ville) is a spectacular experience, simply because the city scenery around you while you’re soaring across the ice is so stunning. Actually, there are two ice rinks at City Hall, one meant for younger children and new skaters, which makes it an ideal skating location for those with little ones. Skates can be rented at the site.
There’s another rink on the Champs-Elysees too – more of an ice “pathway”, actually – that opens by mid November, a bit earlier than the city hall-area rink.
For more winter outdoor fun, pack up the family and head to the Charlety Stadium where they organize a “snow park” each year. Located in South Paris, Charlety opens their park in late December and offers not only skating but also zip lines, sledging, snow shoe walks, merry-go-rounds, and more. A true delight!
If you reach Paris before Christmas Eve, you can take advantage of the shopping opportunities at the city’s many outdoor Christmas markets, which generally close on Christmas Eve day or the day before. A few, like the market at La Defense, stay open until the 29th or 30th of December. That one, in particular, is quite nice and very extensive, with some 300+ stalls or “chalets” peddling lovely local wares. Kids will love the Christmas Village there as well.
The Haut-Montmarte Christmas Market actually remains open until after the New Year and though it’s less than half the size of La Defense, it offers quality merchandise in a nice location directly in the center of historic Montmarte.
Of course, Paris’s boutiques, department stores, and other retail locations are all decked out in their holiday finest as well, and some of their window displays rival those of New York’s Macy’s and Bloomingdales. Check out the windows at Bon Marche Rive Gauche, at Printemps department store – where the windows are generally animated, and at Galeries Lafayette, where a famous French designer usually takes the reins and produces a spectacular Christmas display.
Sparkling Christmas Lights
Everywhere you look, Paris is decorated for the holidays. Tiny twinkling lights adorn the city’s buildings and landmarks, like the Eiffel Tower, and the streets – from the most popular boulevards to small neighborhood alleys – are festooned with lights.
It’s difficult to say where the best light displays are located – there are so many marvelous illuminations – but be sure to check out the lights on the hundreds of trees that line the Champs-Elysees, the majestic lights of the Place Vendome, the fairytale-like displays at pretty Bercy Village, and the many displays on the historic houses and stores along the Avenue Montaigne.
A French Christmas Meal
Part of the joy of spending time in Paris, regardless of the time of year, is exploring the wonderful eateries that dot the city. There are so many truly excellent restaurants in Paris that it’s difficult to zero in on any one or two in particular, but if you’re visiting during the holiday season be sure that – wherever you dine – you try some of the country’s favorite holiday foods, particularly if you find yourself eating out on Christmas Day. These include foie gras on sliced French bread, escargot, goose or turkey with chestnut stuffing, oysters, and – of course – the wonderful bûche de Noël for dessert, served with, champagne, lots of strong coffee, and liqueurs. Yum!