The Champs-Élysées decked out for the holidays

Top Picks for a Festive Parisian Christmas

The City of Lights is one of the most magical places in the world to spend the festive season. From the lantern parade at La Villette to sipping a vin chaud by the banks of the Canal St Martin, we’ve put together some of our top recommendations for making the most of Paris during the upcoming holidays.

Christmas Markets

Nothing says the holidays quite like a Christmas market situated in front of one of Paris’ world-famous monuments, and this year you have several choose from: the 100%-made-in-France artisans’ market at the Place des Abbesses in Montmartre, the Christmas Village nestled at foot of the Eiffel Tower, and the Marché de Noêl de Notre Dame. But the magic doesn’t stop there. Cozy Christmas villages have popped up at esplanade de La Défense (just outside the city), and at the Jardin de Tuileries, where you just might spot Santa flying overhead.

Vin chaud at a Christmas market

Vin chaud at a Christmas market

For that picture-perfect Instagram shot, look no further than the Marché de Noël de Saint Germain in front of the church in the 6th arrondissement. Or, for those seeking unique Christmas gifts, why not try la REcyclerie, which is sponsoring three eco-villages of sustainable gifts coming from as far afield as Japan, or try the Swedish Christmas Market, specializing in Scandinavian goodies.

Ice Skating

Whether you prefer to your spend time sipping hot chocolate by the edge of the rink, or you’re the type of figure skater who wants to test your skills—and your blades—by linking a few salchows and triple jumps, the patinoire at Accor Arena is a great place to skate. For those preferring open air skating, try the whimsically decorated rink at the Jardin des Tuileries.

Street Displays

Festive Place Vendôme

Festive Place Vendôme

The elegant Place Vendôme in the 1st arrondissement (home of the unforgettable 5-star Ritz Hotel) always dresses to impress during the festive season. All around the 8th arrondissement there are beautiful light displays too, on the Champs Elysées, at Place de la Concorde, along Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré and on Avenue Montaigne. The Parade des Lanternes on December 4 is a one-night-only opportunity to stroll under the lovely glow of hundreds of hand-made lanterns in La Villette, while the Cour Saint-Emilion’s cobblestones shine with the light cast by 1200 suspended umbrellas and a giant Christmas tree.

Illuminations

Historic beasts roam free at the Jardin de Plantes

Beasts roam free at the Jardin de Plantes (copyright Jardin de Plantes)

As the night falls, several Parisian gardens and parks come alive with colorful displays. At the Jardin des Plantes, you’ll cross 600 million years of evolution accompanied by giant penguins, polar bears and mammoths all posing regally around the garden’s walking trail. If you prefer light shows, a dazzling installation of fire gardens, frosted forests and breath-taking projections awaits at Lumières en Seine in the Domaine Nationale de Saint Cloud (just outside Paris). There’s also the still-secret Nature Illuminée which, although its exact location has yet to be announced, already has a waiting list for tickets.

Window Decorations

Chistmas windows at Galeries Lafayette

Holiday windows at Galeries Lafayette

All the major department stores in Paris have dazzling window displays and interior decorations. The most famous is arguably Galeries Lafayette (9th arrondissement), which hosts a 25-meter Christmas tree that stretches all the way to its stained glass ceiling. This year you’ll also find a roller-dance party on the store’s 4th floor, where children and adults alike can skate to Disney classics. Other stores worth checking out are the newly reopened La Samaritaine, where the decorations include a giant advent calendar that reveals its daily surprise at 12:24 pm, the BHV Marais (4th arrondissement), Printemps Haussman (9th arrondissement) and Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche (7th arrondissement).

Galeries lafayette's xmas tree

Galeries Lafayette’s Tree

Festive Food

If there is one thing the French truly excel at for the holidays, it is sumptuous seasonal delicacies. If you are looking to blow your budget on a special holiday meal, you can dine like royalty in 5-star hotels like

Finally, if you are looking for a sweet treat to take to a gathering, then a bûche de Noël is the perfect choice. Parisian patisseries all try to outdo one another for the most deliciously creative bûche, with versions ranging from mini-Mont Blancs to entire pastry forests. It seems only fair that you sample as many as possible for effective judging!

Christmas Farther Afield

To satisfy your wanderlust, a 2-hour train journey transports you to the charming city of Strasbourg, home to Europe’s first-ever Christmas market. Situated close to the German border, Strasbourg combines French and German influences in its architecture, food and culture – making it the perfect place to sample all the traditions of a European Christmas.

Strasbourg is the capital of Noel

The capital of Noel

The most famous Christmas Market in Strasboug is also the most historic. Christkindelsmärik, at Place Broglie, dates back to 1570. Get your fill of the 11 markets spread across the city’s old town, then stroll from place Louise Weiss to the Sainte-Madeleine bridge to see some of the city’s loveliest facades illuminated by 600 hanging stars. You’ll be enchanted by the 30m-high Great Christmas Tree in the heart of Place Kléber, which lights up every night at 5 p.m.