During the Christmas season, Paris becomes a magical place where its “City of Light” nickname takes on a special meaning. Come December, the city gets decked out with millions of sparkling Christmas lights, jolly seasonal ornaments, and a million activities meant to spread the Christmas spirit. We think Paris at Christmas is something that needs to be on your bucket list!
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What Not to Miss in Paris During Christmas
Paris during the winter is an excellent idea for great experiences. During this time of the year, the crowds diminish and the weather is not too cold. Temperatures range from lows of 3°C (37°F) to highs of 8°C (46°F).
It does get chilly enough to live up to what winter in Europe should feel like, without extremes. Of course, Paris has more than enough cozy cafes, restaurants, museums, churches, and other warm spots to escape the cold outside.
Here are some great things to do around Paris at Christmas that need to be on your bucket list. Joyeux Noel!
1. Enjoy the lights
Parisians take the art of decorating their city very seriously. During Christmas, the city is adorned with millions of lights, making it sparkle even more than normal. Dazzling displays can be seen throughout the city creating a festive atmosphere for Parisians and tourists alike during the holiday season.
Lavish displays of twinkling lights and decorations can be seen in most Parisian districts from late November to early January, but the display in Champs Élysées takes the cake.
A million bright lights adorn the iconic avenue from Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe. Other spots to take in the shiny magic at the French capital are Avenue Montaigne, Place the la Bastille, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, and Bercy Village.
2. Visit the Paris Christmas markets
Christmas markets in Paris usually open up on the first weekend of Advent (November 27 in 2022), and they are surely worthy of a visit.
Christmas markets are set up in a glittery chic style, just like the rest of the city. Whether you’re looking to do some Christmas shopping or simply want to browse a bit with a hot drink and a slice of gingerbread in hand, Paris’s markets are sure to please. You’ll find tons of items, including arts and crafts, gifts, stuffing fillers, regional specialties, and roasted chestnuts.
Many of the Christmas markets in Paris can be found near iconic attractions. This allows you to take advantage and do some sightseeing as you market hop in the French capital. The Tuileries Garden Christmas Market, La Magie de Noël (The Magic of Christmas), is one of the most beloved holiday markets. There are over a hundred small wooden chalets, a majestic Christmas tree, an ice rink, and a sparkling carousel all within the Tuileries Gardens.
Other markets worth checking out are La Défense Christmas Market, Marché de Noël near Notre Dame Cathedral (with occasional appearances by Santa Claus (aka Père Noël)), and Saint-Germain-des-Prés Christmas Market.
Topping the list, though, and one of the best Christmas markets in the city is Trocadéro, right at the foot of the Eiffel Tower! Here, you will be able to do some shopping, eat and drink at the food stalls, and watch the tower’s hourly light show. Is there anything more magical than that?
3. Drink hot chocolate (chocolat chaud)
As the weather gets colder and the Christmas spirit sets in, you might be yearning for some hot chocolate. You’re sure to find plenty of it in Paris. It happens to be one of the world’s hot chocolate capitals!
Parisians take the art of crafting and drinking chocolat chaud very seriously. Once you taste it, you’ll be able to confirm it is a delicious, velvety concoction. The cocoa is sure to warm you up after a day of sightseeing.
There are many iconic places in Paris where drinking a cup of hot chocolate is almost a ritual. Check out the literary Café de Flore, Un Dimanche à Paris, and Charles Chocolatier. Of course, you can also grab a cup in almost every corner cafe. Sometimes that’s easier if you don’t have the time to head to the fancier, more traditional spots.
4. Glide on the seasonal ice skating rinks
During the Christmas season, temporary ice skating rinks pop up in several Paris locations. This is a wonderful opportunity to skate in beautiful places all over the city.
Tuileries Marche de Nöel ice skating rink and Grand Arche anchoring the Défense Esplanade are two favorite rinks set up along with the Christmas markets. The Eiffel Tower doesn’t miss out on this winter tradition. They offer a chance to glide and spin on the tower’s first floor.
5. Listen to a church Christmas concert
Festive concerts are held throughout Paris during the Christmas season, and feature breathtaking choirs. The beautiful Parisian churches are stunning any time of year, so seeing them come alive with Christmas carols is an unforgettable experience.
You can attend classical concerts at Saint-Germain des Prés, Saint‐Eustache, and La Madeleine, but Sainte-Chapelle is the star in these matters. The gothic building’s humongous stained glass windows glow as musicians play, creating a truly mesmerizing sight to behold.
6. Celebrate an “Enchanted Christmas” at Disneyland Paris
If you have time, take in the special holiday events at Disneyland Paris. They go out of their way to add their own festive touch to the theme park. There are amazing Christmas decorations, seasonal treats, markets, and special performances. If Disney is on your to-do list, this is one time of year you don’t want to miss!
7. Admire Paris Haussman store decorations at Galeries Lafayette
Every year, as the holidays approach in mid-November, a spectacular Christmas tree appears right under the dome at Galeries Lafayette’s Paris Haussmann store.
The majestic 21-meter high tree, along with the amazing window store decorations at the shopping center, make up a much beloved Christmas tradition that goes back to the early 1900s.
The tree beneath the art deco dome is decorated with beautiful 120 shiny ornaments. It is topped with a chandelier made of thousands of Swarovski crystals!
Whether you are visiting the Galeries to purchase some of their luxury brands, or merely window shopping, you’re sure to be enamored with the building and it’s fabulous displays.
8. Take a holiday cruise on the Seine
Day and night cruises along the Seine River are available in Paris year-round, but at Christmas time, you’ll want to book a magical evening Seine River cruise. Everyone is sure to have a wonderful time as you float along the river and see the city of Paris from the water.
Some cruises will offer Christmas dinner and most have live music that adds to the ambiance. We recommend booking a lunch or dinner cruise, but be sure to book in advance!
Tip: Most Seine River Cruises begin at the Pont de Alma 1, located near the foot of the Eiffel Tower.
9. Try all of the foods in Paris at Christmas
As the saying goes, Christmas is the time to eat, drink, and be merry, and Paris is no exception!
There are literally thousands of places where you can enjoy delicious seasonal fare in Paris. It doesn’t matter if you stop at a restaurant, a local coffee shop, or the many Chrsitmas stalls scattered around the capital.
Escargot, oysters, foie gras, smoked salmon, chestnut-stuffed turkey, bûche de noël (also known as a Yule log), hot spiced wine (vin chaud) and chocolate, as well as scrumptious pastries are some of the goodies on a typical Parisian holiday menu.
10. Attend Christmas church services
If you’re considering attending Christmas church services or simply want to admire the architecture, the holidays are the best time to go. Services are held in many churches throughout the city, including some of the most iconic ones.
For an unforgettable Christmas Eve, don’t miss the Sacre-Couer Basilica. There’s an organ concert, choir vigil, and midnight mass. If that’s too late, there are several masses held on Christmas Day.
Saint Madeliene, Saint Eustache, and Saint Sulpice also hold Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Services. English services are also available at St. Michael’s Church, the American Cathedral, and Scots Kirk.
11. Find the city’s hidden gems
There are a few spots that shouldn’t be missed during the Christmas holidays, including the covered passages of Paris. These unique arcades sit between buildings throughout the city. During the Christmas period there are extravagant window displays, decorated trees, and sparkling lights.
Look for some of our favorites: Passage Verdeau, Passage des Panoramas, and Passage Jouffroy. These corridors are the perfect place for holiday photos in Paris.
Paris is one of the best places to spend the holidays, with everything from Christmas bells and live nativity scenes to decorated shop windows and elaborate light shows. If you want a destination that will certain get you in the holiday spirit, Paris is the place to be!
Europe Travel Tips
Book Your Flights – You can find discounted fares using sites like Momondo or Skyscanner. If you want to keep an eye on discount fares, we suggest signing up for Scott’s Cheap Flights, a daily newsletter with flight sales around the world.
If you travel frequently, consider investing in a Priority Pass for airport lounge access. It’s nice to have a space where you can relax before your flight.
Book Your Accommodation
We regularly use Expedia.com and Hotels.com to find lodging when we travel. It’s a great way to compare vacation rentals, hotels, and resorts.
If your family knows they want to stay in a vacation rental, we recommend looking at VRBO and Plum Guide.
Book Your Transportation
For rental car agencies, try Rentalcars.com. We tend to use Hertz simply for the quality of service. If you need airport transfers, we recommend Welcome Pickups.
When traveling in Europe, we use AutoEurope to make our bookings. They find the best rates and allow you to compare different car rental agencies. Europcar is another option. If you plan to take the train, we recommend using Rail Europe.
Book Your Tours and Travel Photos
We regularly used companies like Viator and GetYourGuide to book tours when we travel. Both have great communication and a large variety of activities that work for all ages. Other companies to look at include Tours by Locals and Withlocals.
If you’re visiting a city with multiple attractions, be sure to check out a discount pass, such as CityPASS or Go City. Both are worthwhile investments.
Context Travel is another option and they offer more educational-based activities. The former teacher in me loves their tours. For unique, curated activities, check out Headout.
One of our favorite things to do annually is taking photos with Flytographer. They have photographers around the world and we’ve used them on four separate occasions. This is our favorite travel souvenir.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
With the state of travel these days, it’s important to have some type of travel insurance to cover any unforeseen accidents, illnesses, threats, or cancellations. We always travel with insurance and would recommend SquareMouth, Travelex, or Medjet as good options. And if you want to compare different insurance options, use Travel Insurance Master or World Nomads to find the best policy for your group.