Celebrating Christmas in Paris? Here’s a handy guide for you!
Picture this – you are walking hand in hand from the ambiently lit Arc de Triomphe to the romantic Champs-Élysées admiring the Christmas lights and pinching yourself along the way.
Here’s a comprehensive guide to spending a magical Christmas in Paris to make that dream a reality.
The article features great tips on Paris’s best-kept secrets, weather conditions, and what to wear in this chic city, including hidden gems that most folks have never heard about.
Why You Must Celebrate Christmas in Paris
With its festive, uniquely European Christmas Markets, the aptly named City of Lights, illuminated Champs-Elysées, sublime classical music concerts, colorful Moulin Rouge cabarets, and fine French cuisine is a romantic winter wonderland during the holiday season!
Celebrating Christmas in Paris is simply a unique experience!
Where To Stay In Paris At Christmas
If you are looking for a romantic budget-friendly hotel for a magical Christmas, with a 5-minute walk to the iconic Eifel tower – look no further!
The Best Western Au Trocadéro, situated in the 16th arrondissement, offers all the modern amenities one would expect in a great hotel (including soundproofed rooms), coupled with a delicious breakfast and elegant cocktail bar for after-dinner drinks.
But the hotel’s most outstanding feature is its location as the Arc de Triomphe, including the Musée Chaillot, is nearby, and the Trocadero Metro Station is around the corner, which gives you easy access to the Champs Elysée and several other incredible destinations.
Paris Weather During Christmas
The weather in Paris in December is a mixed bag with roughly 15 rainy days and 8-9 days that may either be sunny or partly sunny, and the likelihood of snow is low as it only occurs every 2-3 years. So, if you have a white Christmas, consider yourself lucky!
Daytime temperatures range from the mid 40s°F to icy cold days, with temperatures dropping to the mid-20s°F towards the end of December. So, you need to be prepared for every eventuality!
What to Wear in Paris
Visiting chic Paris in winter with all those stylish women can be tricky, especially if you want to stay warm yet maintain a sense of style.
So, here are our essential must-have clothing items that you can simply layer:
- Base and mid-layers: a merino wool long-sleeved base layer with a mid-layer fleece.
- Winter coat: ideally windproof and rainproof for those chilly Parisian days.
- Leggings/jeans: merino wool leggings or stylish jeans.
- Shoes: waterproof boots, or sturdy walking shoes, coupled with thermal socks.
- Other essential accessories: a warm scarf, beanie, touch screen gloves (for Instagram shots), and a compact umbrella.
What To Do In Paris At Christmas
Paris is always a magical city, but more so at Christmas time! So, without much further ado, here are the best activities the romantic City of Lights offers during the festive holiday season.
1. Visit A Festive Christmas Market
Paris has some of the best Christmas markets in Europe, ranging from large to quaint boutique markets hidden away from touristy areas. So, here are the best Paris Christmas markets in the heart of the city.
Jardin des Tuileries Christmas Market
France’s second-largest market, the Jardin des Tuileries Christmas Market is situated in the area where the summertime funfair is normally held.
It is one of the most well-frequented and popular Christmas markets with fun arcade rides, food stalls, bars, and trendy boutiques, including a haunted house with obligatory Zombie- Santa!
Abbesses Christmas (Marché de Noël des Abbesses)
Situated in Montmartre, the charming Abbesses Christmas market has 15 well-curated stalls circling a Place des Abbesses carousel.
There is a great variety of bespoke jewelry, clothing, and food, and it’s a great place to find amazing Christmas gifts with a special “made in France label.”
La Défense Christmas Market (Le Village de Nöel sur le Parvis de la Défense)
Located under the elegant Grande Arche of La Défense, this market is the largest in the French region, and with 350 wooden chalets stores and a wide selection of quality items, you are bound to find something special.
2. Watch A Christmas Concert At Sainte Chapelle
Add to your festive cheer with an uplifting classical concert held in the exquisite La Sainte Chapelle, a historic church with magnificent stain-glassed windows and peaceful tranquility in the heart of the bustling city and away from the maddening crowds.
3. Take a Christmas-Themed Food Tour
The fabulous gourmet food Christmas tour is foodie heaven and a great way to celebrate the holidays in style and learn more about delicious seasonal French treats.
The intimate guided tour, with limited groups of eight people, kicks off at a Christmas market where you will be able to sample all its finest French delicacies, followed by a shop where you will be able to indulge in chocolate Yule logs and gingerbread men, coupled with a steaming glass of spiced wine.
During the informative tour, you will learn more about the 13 French Christmas desserts tradition and enjoy a warm beverage in a quaint Parisian tearoom. What’s not to love!
4. Go Ice Skating
Get in the holiday spirit while ice-skating in Paris!
Paris has several charming ice rinks dotted all over the city; while some of them spring up when temperatures start plummeting, others are more of an annual occurrence, like the famous Hotel De Ville (or town hall) in Le Marais.
The Hotel De Ville ice-skating rink is opened with a spectacular show which is so popular that people queue for miles to see it, and if you are brave (and patient) enough, it is certainly worth waiting for. However, we must add that the ice-skating rink is not opened every year.
Alternatively, head back to the Jardin des Tuileries Christmas Market as they have a fabulous ice-skating rink with a DJ to boot. So, you are bound to have a great time and work off all those holiday festive season indulgences!
5. Admire The Christmas Lights
The Paris Illuminations, endearingly called, range from extravagant displays on Champs Elysée and the Arc de Triomphe, with sparkling Christmas lights and decorations on over 150 streets, to sophisticated department store holiday window displays.
It also refers to the extravagant Christmas light shows at Disneyland Paris and enchanting fairy lights at the amazing Paris Christmas markets.
Other places to enjoy festive Christmas lights are at the Place de la Concorde, Place de la Bastille, and alongside the picturesque Seine River, or the ambient subdued festive lights in all the magnificent Parisian churches.
Apart from being magnificent, all Paris festive lights are environmentally friendly as they consist of LED bulbs that are powered by renewable solar energy. So, they are virtually free, which means that even more Parisian streets will be illuminated in the coming years.
Although, if you want to see the festive lights in style, enjoy a Seine River evening cruise to see Paris at its finest with its ambiently lit monuments and other landmarks while indulging in a romantic candlelit gourmet meal and a glass (or two) of French champagne.
6. Warm Up with a Traditional French Vin Chaud
Indulging in a decadent cup of steaming Vin Chaud or hot chocolate is one of life’s greatest pleasures – especially on a cold Parisian day!
So, pop into Angelina situated on Rue de Rivoli to sample their sublime Chocolat Chaud Africain, which is the ultimate indulgence for chocoholics.
Other great options include Carette at the Place des Vosges for a luxurious Vin Chaud where you can sit in the square or get one to go at Lindt, which is situated near the Palais Opéra Garnier on your way to the Jardin des Tuileries, or the magnificent Palais Royal.
7. Take In the Massive Christmas Tree at Galeries Lafayette
The spectacular Galeries Lafayette, located in the 9th arrondissement, is famous for dazzling Christmas window displays, which some would argue are better than most NYC department stores since it opened in 1912.
But the star of the show is Galeries Lafayette’s Instagram-worthy 66 feet-tall Christmas Tree adorned with spectacular decorations, illuminated with ambient twinkling lights.
8. Have A Magical Holiday At Disneyland Paris
For a truly magical family holiday, head over to Disney’s Enchanted Christmas at Disneyland Paris, which features family-friendly holiday entertainment, sound and light shows, spectacular fireworks display at Sleeping Beauty’s enchanting castle, and delicious seasonal food (you do not have to cook).
Other great festive touches include a gigantic 79 feet tall Christmas tree, twinkling festive light displays on Main Street, encounters with festively attired Disney characters, and Santa, including Mickey’s Sparkling Christmas Parade–it’s a memorable experience.
Unlike Disneyland in California, Disneyland Paris feels more like a winter wonderland at times with the possibility of real snowfall between November and December months, which turns it into a winter wonderland for children, and parents alike.
9. See The Festive Window Displays
Most grand Paris department stores like the Grands Magasins are famous for their spectacular Christmas window displays.
While all the leading Parisian department stores change their festive window displays on an annual basis, the rivalry is intense, and they all try to outdo each other every year.
So, here are the best department stores, including their addresses where you can join the locals in their favorite pastime of ‘faire du lèche-vitrine,’ which literally means “window licking” (no kidding), or window shopping in the rest of the world:
- Printemps Haussmann Department Store on 64 boulevard Haussmann, Paris 9th
- BHV Marais on 52 rue de Rivoli, Paris 4th
- Bon Marché Rive Gauche on 24 rue de Sèvres, Paris 7th
- Samaritaine Paris Pont-Neuf on 9 rue de la Monnaie, Paris 1st
10. Enjoy a Crafted Holiday Menu in a Restaurant
Nothing is as quintessentially French as the Bûche de Noël or yule log cake, a holiday season favorite.
So, indulge in a decadent slice at some of the few sit-down restaurants that sell individual pieces (most are sold as whole cakes).
While there is fierce competition between France’s leading chefs to produce the most spectacular, or Avant-Garde, Bûche de Noël, they are spectacular works of art and simply delicious!
So, head over to the Ritz Paris, Bar Vendôme to sample some of the finest versions, like the hazelnut- chocolate – log adorned with dark chocolate, decadent caramelized cocoa beans, and adorned with gold. Or head over to Café Pavane, where a wide variety of bûches are served as individual slices.
11. … Or Have Your Christmas Dinner at Moulin Rouge
With its dazzling can-can dancers and spectacular theatrics, the iconic Moulin Rouge is the perfect place to enjoy one of the world’s best cabarets, a delicious Christmas feast, and the finest French champagne.
The highly entertaining Moulin Rouge Féerie show is a feast for the eye with vibrant colors, glamorously dressed showgirls in elaborate costumes, world-class choreography, music, and dancing.
What’s not to love!
12. Buy Christmas-Themed Souvenirs
If you have not found any Christmas souvenirs at any of the Parisian markets, head over to the ‘Il Etait Une Fois,’ situated on six rue Ferdinand Duval, and you will be in for a surprise
This truly unique Christmas boutique and local favorite only stocks unique and rare Christmas decorations, which you will find nowhere else in Paris.
Things To Note When Traveling To Paris At Christmas
Now that you know more about the magical City of Light, let’s address any lingering questions you might have before you book your flights.
Most importantly, book your flights and accommodation well in advance to get great deals. Even though December is not classified as a high season, many travelers prefer less crowded travel destinations, which increases hotel rates.
And remember that it is rainy in Paris and cold during the holiday season, so pack accordingly and focus on wearing layers of clothing to keep you comfortable throughout the day.
If you are planning on visiting many Parisian attractions, it might be wise to invest in a Paris Pass, which will grant you entry to more than 60 attractions like Versailles or the Louvre. You won’t have to queue for tickets in the cold, and you can choose a Paris Pass for the duration of your stay.
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
Before you leave for France, make sure you have a valid travel insurance policy because accidents happen on the road. We have been paying for Safety Wing travel insurance for a little over a year now, and we happily recommend them to our family and friends.
If you get sick, injured, or have your stuff stolen, you'll be happy to have the ability to pay for your medical bills or replace what was stolen.
Because, for just a couple of dollars a day (depending on how long your policy is for), you're going to get lots of things covered. Be smart and get travel insurance.