Traveling to the French capital during the festive season? Here are the most incredible ways to celebrate and enjoy Christmas in Paris.
Christmas is coming! This is my favorite holiday and celebrating Christmas in Paris is a real treat.
The whole city is dressed in its coat of light and shines with a thousand sparkles, the atmosphere so relaxed and soothing.
Whether with friends, family, or kids, this article will help you experience the magic of Christmas as it should be, and who knows, maybe meet Santa Claus in person!
Before You Go, Here Are Some Practical Tips to Plan Your Trip to Paris
– Book your accommodation in advance. For the best stay, I suggest staying at this Eiffel Tower view hotel (9.0/10) if you want to look at the Iron lady from your hotel room. The People – Paris Bercy (8.9/10) if you’re on a budget, Hôtel Eiffel Turenne (8.7/10) if you’re on a mid-range budget, or Maison Albar Hotels Le Pont-Neuf (9.0/10) for a luxurious stay. If you’d rather stay at an apartment, then this is the apartment rental I recommend.
– Don’t miss out on popular tours and activities in Paris. Some of my favorites are; this Louvre museum-guided tour (4.5/5), this Seine River cruise dinner (4.7/5), this Eiffel Tower guided Tour (4.3/5), this Versailles Palace guide tour (4.8/5), or this Montmartre walking tour (4.8/5).
– Don’t forget to take Travel Insurance. Request a free quote from my favorite insurance, World Nomads. (More on this at the end of the article.)
– Prepare your trip extensively with this Paris Travel guidebook. Don’t forget a universal travel adapter, a travel neck pouch, and comfortable walking shoes.
– Consider getting either the museum pass or the Paris city pass if you plan to visit a lot of attractions. The city pass comes with free transportation and access to the hop-on-hop-off bus. You can read my Paris museum pass review to see if it’s right for you.
A quick word on the weather: Weather in Paris at Christmas time
To enjoy Paris at Christmas, you need to be well prepared! The weather in the capital can be a little chilly, and over the last few years, the temperatures have been fluctuating between 0 and 10 degrees during Christmas week.
At night, it can slightly freeze. The risk of rain is quite high so remember to bring an umbrella! (This windproof travel umbrella is a great choice to bring along). It’s also been a long time since it snowed for Christmas, fortunately, the ornaments are there to make up for the atmosphere!
To make sure you stay warm in Paris during Christmas, carry warm clothes like this Merino wool long-sleeved top as the base layer, this Columbia fleece as the mid-layer for extra warmth, and finish off the look with this waterproof and windproof jacket.
Here are some of the other winter travel essentials, you shouldn’t leave behind while traveling to Paris during Christmas.
OTHER CHRISTMAS IN PARIS WINTER ACCESSORIES
– Full set thermal base layer for women and here’s the men’s version
– Fleece for women and here’s the men’s version
– Winter jackets for women and this one for men.
– Woolen socks -To keep your feet warm and dry at all times
– Gloves – these ones are actually touch-screen sensitive, so you can use your phone without taking them off.
– Scarves – buy this long and thick one for extra warmth.
– Knitted cap – this is the one I recommend to keep the snow off your hair and to stay warm.
–Earmuffs – protect your ears from cold Europe by buying these cool earmuffs.
– Waterproof Winter boots for women and these ones for the guys
You can also read this comprehensive Packing list for Paris in winter to find out everything you will need to pack for your winter vacation in Paris.
How to spend Christmas time in Paris
Watch the Paris Christmas lights
Paris is a city of (Christmas) lights! This expression takes on its full meaning when Paris puts on its coat of lights! So here are some of the places to watch the Paris Christmas lights to let yourself be overwhelmed by the Christmas spirit in all its glory.
The champs elysées avenue
The most beautiful avenue in the world takes on a new dimension at Christmas – a must-see to appreciate the beauty of the moment. More than 100,000 bulbs illuminate the avenue over 2 kilometers.
The majestic trees of the avenue are draped in a veritable mantle of light, garland and decorations give another particular touch to this legendary place.
How to get to champs elysées avenue: Use George V Metro
Related post: Big mistakes to avoid in Paris
The Christmas windows
Every year, the city’s historic department stores ( BHV, Printemps, Galerie Lafayette, and Bon Marché) compete with each other in ingeniousness and creativity to sell you the most dreamlike creations.
Their windows feature automatons, dolls, and other works of art on the theme of Christmas.
They are renewed every year and delight children and grown-ups alike. The discovery of the showcases is always a moment much awaited by the Parisians.
I don’t want to spoil what the showcases have in store for you this year, but what’s for sure is that you won’t be disappointed!
Do not hesitate to visit them early in the morning because in the afternoon or when darkness falls, you will have to struggle hard to find a good view of the windows, and the youngest ones are likely to be in ”hell”!
And as long as you are there, you can enter the department store of the Galerie Lafayette to admire the huge central Christmas tree from the balconies of the various floors, it is an absolute marvel!
How to get to The Christmas windows: Metro: Hotel de Ville for the BHV, Havre-caumartin for Printemps and Galerie Lafayette, Sèvre-babylone for Bon Marché
The Bercy Village
This shopping center, which looks like an old village, turns into a magical forest lit up with a thousand lights during the Christmas season.
About thirty magnificent illuminated sculptures all along the central path lead to a huge and beautifully decorated Paris Christmas tree.
But in addition to the superb illumination, the village offers animations and activities for all ages, such as trail games or Christmas music concerts!
How to get to The Bercy Village: Use Bercy Metro
Read more: Hidden gems in Paris you need to visit
The chicest avenue in Paris is adorned with a magnificent sparkling dress as Christmas approaches.
The refinement is at its height here thanks to the superbly decorated garlands and firs.
All the luxury boutiques are involved and it is a real pleasure to stroll along the display windows.
How to get to Avenue Montaigne: Use Franklin D. Roosevelt metro
Pro tip* How to enjoy the illuminations without getting exhausted?
Walking the crowded streets of Paris can be exhausting and grueling. Fortunately, there is a solution to enjoy it without getting tired. The “bus of illumination“, with a panoramic rooftop will pass through all the most important monuments in Paris to enjoy the lightings. From 1h30 to 2 hours ride, you will be offered a blanket and a hot drink to combat the cold! You can book the amazing Christmas Lights Night bus tour of Paris from here.
Visit the Paris Christmas markets
One of the Christmas in Paris traditions is to stroll the Christmas markets. It is a tradition that originated in the East of France.
Going for a walk in a traditional market during this period is an unforgettable Christmas experience.
Starting in mid-November, there are many Paris Christmas markets that will amaze you with their wooden chalets dressed in fairytale lights and covered with snow.
Enjoy the atmosphere, admire the work of the craftsmen, and taste the French (and foreign) Christmas specialties as well.
Strolling through the Christmas market without tasting mulled wine or onion soup is sacrilege! So here are some of the best Christmas markets in Paris you should check out to immerse yourself in the holiday spirit.
The Christmas market of La Défense
The market of La Défense is the biggest Christmas market in Paris gathering more than 200 exhibitors in cute wooden chalets.
The square, which is usually very contemporary in appearance, is transformed into a true Christmas village lit up by a thousand lights.
As in the other Christmas markets in Paris, all your senses will be awakened as you walk along the alleys and their relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
How to get to the market of La Défense: Use La Défense metro
The Alsace Christmas market
Located at the Gare de l’Est, the historic Alsatian Christmas market (the oldest outside the Alsatian region) is an unmissable event in Paris.
It is the ideal place to discover traditional specialties from the Eastern part of France, Kougelhopf, Bredele, Munster… It’s the perfect place for gourmets! Candy, delicatessen, wine, jams… Everything you need to enjoy French gastronomy!
How to get to The Alsace Christmas market: Use: Gare de l’Est metro
The Tuileries market
Formerly localized on the Champs Elysée avenue, it has been relocated to the Tuileries gardens for greater safety and for the pleasure of all!
No traffic in the park! It is one of the largest Christmas markets in Paris and the perfect place to immerse yourself in the atmosphere, find beautiful original and traditional gifts as well as get a full belly!
French gastronomy is in the spotlight and you can taste specialties from each region. In addition to traditional craftsmen such as carpenters and glassblowers, there are many attractions such as flying chairs and bumper cars.
An ice rink will also allow you to skate in an enchanting setting. To please children, dozens of free animations and street theatres are offered free of charge.
How to get to The Tuileries market: Use Tuileries metro
Related post: Incredible things to do in Paris in winter
What should you buy at the Paris Christmas markets?
First of all, it would be sacrilege not to taste the traditional hot mulled wine with spices. To find it, follow the smell! Mulled wine is the star of the stands, between 2 and 4€ per glass.
Do not hesitate to observe how it is made to be sure that it is “good wine” (check if there is no cardboard wine behind ) to avoid being ripped off.
To stay in the mouth’s pleasure, gingerbread in the shape of a cake or biscuit is indis-pen-sable.
Traditional wooden toys are also a must, their origin is normally controlled but do not hesitate to ask the seller to be sure that they are artisanal products!
Christmas tree decorations are also very popular, especially the traditional “Meisenthal balls” which are magnificent glass balls to hang in the tree from Eastern France.
Enjoy The Nativity Scenes in Paris
One of the other things to do in Paris at Christmas is to watch the Nativity Scenes! The tradition of the nativity scenes, dating back to the 13th century, generally highlights the nativity scene with the help of figurines (miniatures or real life-sized) called “Santons”.
Even if you are not a fervent believer, the spirituality of these scenes is always wonderful and full of emotions. And below are some of the native scenes that are worth a sight.
Notre Dame Cathedral
It is one of the most beautiful and exciting places in Paris. Not only is the nativity represented, but it is also a whole village that is recreated around it! The artistic work done on the figurines is absolutely marvelous and charming. Don’t miss it!
How to get to Notre Dame Cathedral: Use Cité metro
The Madeleine church
We have already talked about this very special church which is one of the best places to visit in Paris.
Faithful to tradition, its nativity scene is regularly cited as one of the most beautiful in the capital. Revisited from year to year, it can be traditional or more modern, but always enchanting!
How to get to The Madeleine church: Use Concorde metro
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The parish of Saint Francis Xavier
This is also quite exceptional, sheltering more than a thousand “santons” in a church little known to tourists, this nativity scene will transport you to a wonderful world where you will have time to observe all the meticulous details of this titan’s work.
How to get to the parish of Saint Francis Xavier: Use Saint-François Xavier metro
Christmas at Disney
If there is one thing in which Disney is very strong, it is to transcribe the joy of the holiday season in his park. A day (or more!) at Disneyland will fill you with emotions.
The park turns into a Christmas village from November to January, all the scenery and characters are in the style of the most memorable holiday.
To add to the magic of the place, there is occasional snow on the main avenue thanks to artificial snow guns! A stay that will delight the young and the old and, of course, you will be able to meet Mickey and all his friends!
New since the last two years, Disney has set up a Christmas market at the entrance of the park to taste mulled wine, sweets, hot chestnuts, and other Christmas specialties!
Related post: Best day trips from Paris by train
Things to do in Paris during Christmas
Treat yourself to a French gastronomy
At Xmas in Paris, the finest restaurants offer you exceptional dining experiences for a festive and chic “à la Parisienne” cuisine.
The “Eiffel Tower Bubble”, for example, is a temporary winter terrace on the first floor of the Iron Lady.
Under an amazing transparent dome offering an exceptional panoramic view, you can enjoy an excellent lunch or dinner. The products are of high quality and come from the Artisans Guild of the Tower. Outside mealtimes, a wine tasting is also possible.
To stay in the winter theme, why not take a look at the “ice Kube bar”. This bar is unusual, to say the least because it is an ice bar! It is on ice seats in ice cups in a room at -20 ° C that you can enjoy your cocktails, which are also ice-cold of course!
If you are afraid to catch a cold, no worries because the bar lends jackets and gloves. In addition, access to the ice room is limited to 25 minutes max. Indeed an unforgettable adventure not to miss while visiting Paris during Christmas
It is also a tradition in France to enjoy a “yule log” for Christmas. Unique and delicious, this log (glazed or not) is a must-have for dessert. There are many different shapes, colors, and flavors! You can find them in any bakery, pastry, or restaurant.
For an outstanding “log”, I recommend one from the “Lenôtre restaurant”, it looks like a real wooden log but is made of a pear sorbet and a chestnut ice cream, all covered with fine marzipan. It was conceived and designed by Chiefs Guy Krenzer and Guy Mollet.
For an even more original yule log, discover the “Le Noël de Marie-Antoinette” at The Westin hotel, which takes the shape of a beautiful chandelier!
Created by chef Florence Lesage, her refined perfume of almond biscuit accompanied by an orange and vanilla cream will have you melting! You can also enjoy this special log at Bar Tuileries.
Honestly, French gastronomy would deserve a blog post on its own! So to discover all its delights, I recommend taking this Christmas gourmet tour – Ideal to taste the specialties and discover the different Paris Christmas markets at the same time.
Watch the Classy and unique Paris Christmas trees
Paris is the world’s fashion capital, but how can we combine the sophistication of fashion with traditional Christmas?
Well, every year during the holidays, the association “Les Sapins de Noël des Créateurs” has been organizing a prestigious charity event in support of a great cause for more than 20 years.
The world of Fashion and Design provides a reinterpretation of the famous traditional Christmas tree. Many well-known names have already participated in the event, such as Jean-Paul Gaultier, Chanel, and Dior.
The created artworks are then auctioned off at a gala evening to donate the money to a charity. So even if you don’t have the means to buy the exhibited artworks, you can still admire them at the magnificent Plaza Athénée!
How to get there: Use Alma-Marceau metro
Go Ice skating!
One of the many things to do in Paris in December or during the Christmas period is Ice skating. So below are some of the places to enjoy the outdoors in Paris in winter as you skate the festivities away.
Ice skate at Grand Palais.
The Christmas holiday period is always the perfect time for a quick ice skate on the temporary ice rinks in Paris.
The largest temporary ice rink is absolutely unmissable: from mid-December to January it takes place in the “Grand Palais”, which has been specially transformed for the occasion.
This is the 5th time that this temporary ice rink, the largest in France, has been staged at the Grand Palais. Let me tell you right away that the atmosphere is absolutely incredible thanks to the lighting, music, and decorations put in place.
Even if you are new to ice skating, don’t miss this exceptional temporary rink. Many activities, shows, and animations are organized such as games for children during the day or a set of DJs in the evening! The price may seem a little steep, but it’s totally worth the cost!
How to get there: Use the Champs-Élysées – Clemenceau metro
Related post: The ultimate guide to visiting Paris for the first time
Ice skate at the La Défense rooftop
Another interesting rink is the one on the La Défense rooftop. At 110 meters high, it offers you a 360-degree panorama of Paris and its suburbs.
A word of advice, combine your skating time with a meal at “La city” restaurant since the price of the skating rink is included in the price of the restaurant!
How to get there: Use the La Défense Metro
Ice stake at the Eiffel Tower skating rink
Also, make a detour to see the Eiffel Tower skating rink, it is the one that offers the most “Parisian” scenery, perfect for romantic pictures! It is also the most crowded one, unfortunately.
How to get there: Use the Bir Hakeim Metro
Take a Seine River Christmas cruise
There is no better way to watch all the Paris Christmas lights from the Popular monuments than on a Seine River Cruise.
With the reflection of the beautiful lights on the river and a 5- course French festive gourmet, there is nowhere you’d rather be on Christmas eve in Paris.
You can cruise the seine on either December 24 or December 25 during lunch or dinner time to fully soak in all the festivities of this incredible city of lights.
You can book this incredible Christmas Day lunch Seine cruise if you prefer cruising the Seine during the day on Christmas or this Christmas Dinner cruise if you’re all about cruising at night.
Related post: Romantic things to do in Paris
Help the unlucky ones
Something a bit different here. Christmas is a time of generosity, sharing, and helping each other.
I know you’re on holiday and you want to relax but doing something for someone else is one of the most rewarding things to do in Paris during Christmas!
In this challenging period for the poorest, many associations are looking for volunteers to help out, such as ” Les petits frères des pauvres”, an association that offers to keep company with elderly people who feel alone or in need.
Also the “Secours Populaire”, are always in desperate need of toys to offer gifts to children forgotten by Santa Claus.
Extra tips to guarantee a wonderful time in Paris at Christmas time
At this time of the year, the city is really overrun by tourists. I, therefore, recommend you book your activities and accommodation in advance. I recommend using GetYourGuide to book all your activities and Booking.com for your accommodation in Paris.
Also take into account longer travel times, whether on the road (finding a taxi or a uber can be complicated) or on public transport, everything is packed!
As far as shopping goes, opt for the early morning because last-minute Christmas shopping is a thing in Paris and all the shops are packed as well.
Paris is also a city of culture and the number of theatres plays, shows, and Christmas concerts proliferate during the Christmas holiday season, so don’t hesitate to stop by the tourist office to check out the latest news.
I hope you found this compressive guide to Christmas in Paris useful as you plan your trip to the French capital during the best time of the year.
NEVER TRAVEL TO ANYWHERE WITHOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE
One of the biggest mistakes you’ll ever make when planning a trip is to forego Travel Insurance!
You might think that it’s expensive, but when you think of how much it will save you when you lose your valuables or even get sick, then you’ll know that it’s NOT that expensive!
There are many Travel Insurance companies out there, but I love World Nomads! They cover almost every single thing you might face/do while traveling, it is easy to request a quote, and if you ever need to claim, the claiming process is not a rat race!
I’ve used World Nomads on all my trips, and I am confident and happy to recommend it to you!
No worries if you’re not yet ready to book your trip, you can request a free quote from World Nomads here and see if it suits your personal needs!
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