Christmas in Paris is magical. I have been to Paris for many Decembers and I can tell you it's one of the best places to spend the Christmas holidays. It is a wonderland of love and lights all year round, but the holidays in Paris have an extra dose of magic!
As the City of Light dons its festive attire, Paris transforms and captivates the heart and soul. The enchanting allure of Christmas in Paris is a testament to the city's timeless elegance and cultural richness. I say this being someone who isn't super into Christmas! And even I get into the spirit when I am there.
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Streets are adorned with twinkling lights, iconic landmarks are draped in holiday cheer, and the sweet aroma of freshly baked pastries wafts through the air (although that is ALL year round!) —Christmas in Paris is a celebration that transcends mere festivities.
The beautiful boulevards and department store displays are transformed into illuminated pathways and dazzling windows. Garlands decorate the classic Parisian buildings, and Christmas markets bring you all the goodies that this festive season has to offer and more.
I've written about the holidays in Paris before, but in this post, I wanted to focus on celebrating Christmas in Paris specifically.
So on y va !
Join me on a journey through this magical city as we uncover the unique charm and timeless traditions that make Christmas in Paris an experience like no other.
What to Do in Paris for Christmas
There are plenty of activities to do in Paris during Christmas. Whether you want to have a fancy meal with co-travelers, go ice skating in pop-up rinks, or visit the Christmas markets, you’re sure to find many options to keep you occupied the entire day!
Christmas Lights in Paris
Paris is the City of Light but it becomes even more apparent during the Christmas season. The entire city is illuminated with hundreds and thousands of dazzling lights – whether lining the famous avenues and boulevards or sparkling Christmas markets filled with artisanal delicacies.
Avenue Champs Elysées
Champs Elysées (in the 8th arrondissement) is the most famous and most visited avenue in Paris, and as such, it is truly a sight to behold during Christmas. The festivities transform the entire road into a glittering wonderland with each tree lit up with hundreds of fairy lights.
Looking for a Christmas tree in Paris? This is the spot! There are around 400 trees on the avenue and the light displays creates a beautiful visual effect, right up until the Arc de Triomphe. Champs Elysées also has several luxury boutique stores that go all out during this time so you can enjoy the festive spirit with some shopping.
The Boulevard Haussmann is another well-known street in Paris. It is famous for its lines of departmental stores like the Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. These stores attract several million visitors throughout the year, and during Christmas, they put on spectacular displays of lights and decorations, both inside and outside, see more about that below.
Christmas Lights Tour
To see all the Christmas lights, you can also book a Christmas Tour organized by Toot Bus. They take you across the city to see the most Instagrammable spots while you kick back and listen to festive songs.
Christmas Window Displays
One of the most anticipated things in Paris during Christmas is the unveiling of the window displays at the departmental stores. Every year, the stores come up with fascinating festive concepts that are turned into stunning window displays with animation, music, and a rainbow of colors.
The Christmas season is celebrated with so much pomp and fun at this luxury departmental store! At Galeries Lafayette, you can see stunning light and decor exhibits both inside and outside. Their window displays are full of animated images and scenes that come to life with music and movement, showcasing humans, animals, objects, and everything in between.
Each year, a different theme is featured, such as “The Greatest Showman,” “The Little Prince,” or “The Beehive.” They also have a huge Christmas tree in the gallery's center that reaches high up towards their glass domed ceiling.
Address: 40 Bd Haussmann in the 9th arrondissement.
Printemps Paris Haussmann
Another big department store next to Galeries Lafayette is Printemps, which also sets up spectacular displays of lights and decorations like its neighbor. The window displays have a new theme each year and luxury brands with classic French expertise bring it all together. The displays are fascinating for both children and adults alike.
Address: 46 Bd Haussmann in the 9th arrondissement.
Le BHV Marais
Le BHV Marais, a multi-specialized department, is converted into a winter wonderland of lights and decorations throughout the holiday season. The windows serve as backdrops for fascinating, animated scenes that thrill visitors.
Address: 52 Rue de Rivoli in the 4th arrondissement.
Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche
During the holiday period, Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche, the first department store in the world, transforms into a place of enchantment and wonder, with Christmas lights and decorations, and a Christmas tree in the heart of the store.
The windows here are adorned with poetic sceneries in which childhood is always the center of attention. You can also attend several events and courses, from book signings and chocolate tastings, to yoga sessions, and more.
Address: 24 Rue de Sèvres in the 7th arrondissement.
Not to be outdone by the grand dames, the new Le Samatariane (or renew if you visited before their closure in 2005) also gets into the Christmas spirit for the unveiling of their Christmas displays!
Le Samaritaine department store transforms into a mesmerizing winter wonderland during the festive season, captivating visitors with its enchanting Christmas displays. The iconic façade of the historic building becomes a canvas for an elaborate light show, illuminating the grandeur of the structure with a symphony of colors that dance in harmony with the holiday spirit.
As shoppers step inside, they are greeted by an immersive experience where each department is adorned with festive decorations, glittering ornaments, and elaborately designed Christmas trees that evoke a sense of magic and joy. The fragrance of seasonal delights wafts through the air as the store showcases an array of exclusive holiday collections, making Le Samaritaine a destination that not only caters to the discerning shopper but also serves as a beacon of Christmas cheer in Paris.
Christmas Markets in Paris
The Christmas markets (Marché de Noël) in Paris enchant visitors with their festive charm and vibrant atmosphere, changing the city into a winter wonderland. The markets come alive with twinkling lights, festive decorations, and the scent of delicious food and drinks.
Strolling through the quaint wooden chalets, visitors can discover an array of artisanal crafts, holiday decorations, and delectable French treats. The markets showcase the city's rich cultural heritage, featuring local artisans and traditional craftsmanship alongside international influences.
From handcrafted ornaments to regional delicacies, the Christmas markets in Paris offer a magical blend of holiday spirit and Parisian elegance, creating an unforgettable experience for locals and tourists alike.
La Magie de Noël at the Jardin des Tuileries
The Christmas market at Jardin des Tuileries (Tuileries Gardens) is one of the most magical markets in Paris. It is the perfect mixture of gift shopping, enjoying thrilling rides, gliding on the ice skating rink, and feasting on the many gourmet stalls. It replaced the large market that used to be in the Champs Elysées area that was shut down by the mayor of Paris a few years ago.
Over 80 wooden chalets sell a variety of things, including arts and crafts, meals, refreshments, and handmade presents. When it comes to enjoying some rides, you can find a giant Ferris wheel, a merry-go-round, a skating rink, and other attractions perfect for both children and adults. The market is open throughout the day and into the evening from late November to early January.
Check out my full guide the Garden of Tuileries.
Alsacien Christmas Market at the Gare de L’Est
The Alsacien Christmas Market/Alsatian Christmas Market is held outside the Gare de l’Est and is a one-of-a-kind market that honors the traditions and cuisines of the Alsace region of eastern France.
Since the Alsace region is close to Germany and Switzerland, the products and meals here are heavily influenced by those two countries. Among the 30-odd stalls, you can find pretzels and sausages, cheese, wine, beer, and even gingerbread.
The market is great for learning more about Alsatian crafts, folklore, and history. This year’s market is open for just a little over two weeks, from December 1-17, so make sure you head there if visiting Paris during that time!
Address for Gare de l’Est: Rue du 8 Mai 1945 in the 10th arrondissement.
Notre Dame Christmas Market
There is a cozy little Christmas market held near the Notre-Dame Cathedral and is home to some of the best handmade and local treats, from jewelry and toys to wines, liqueurs, and cheese. The market is small but offers great deals on French crafts and gastronomy.
Here you can find a lot of handmade creations – decorative objects, cashmere, mohair and silks, hand-painted trinkets and baubles, precious stone jewelry, and wooden toys. You’ll also be able to taste local delights like foie gras, saucisson, hot chestnuts, and mulled wine. The market is open in December in Square Viviani (Square René Viviani).
Saint Germain des Prés Christmas Market
For that festive feeling in the heart of the Latin Quarter, head to the Saint Germain des Prés Christmas Market. Located along the Boulevard Saint-Germain, the market is lined with bookstores, art galleries, and cafes, making it one of the most picturesque and charming events.
It is a small market with around 40 chalets but you can find a bunch of things – from fine jewelry, leather goods, and ceramics to chocolate bars, gourmet honey, and local treats. The market is open from late November to early January throughout the day.
Address: right next to the St-Germain-des-Prés Church, 3 Pl. Saint-Germain des Prés in the 6th attondissement.
Holiday Bazaar by the American Church
Not the same as a Paris Christmas market, but Christmas celebrations are a great time to visit the American Church in Paris. Here, the AAWE (Association of American Women in Paris) celebrates a festive event called the Holiday Bazaar where you can enjoy handcrafted creations, products, and services offered by their member and non-member women business owners.
While the entry is free, make sure you RSVP as the spots can fill up quickly. Check their events page for info.
La Défense Christmas Market (Le Village de Nöel sur le Parvis de la Défense)
Located on the Esplanade of La Défense (technically outside of Paris but often referred to as the 21st arrondissement!), The Christmas Village held in Paris's business sector is surrounded by splendid views of the towering glass skyscrapers.
It is one of the biggest and finest markets in France with around 180 chalets bringing a wide range of gourmet treats, handmade gift items, and delicious wheels of cheese. The market is located in the open area of the esplanade and this can get quite windy and chilly but you can always rush to get your hands on flavorful warm mulled wine and piping hot snacks and meals to keep the chill at bay.
The market is open from mid-November to late December and is expected to have a Santa Claus booth, musical performances, and creative workshops.
Classic French Christmas Desserts and Sweets
Christmas is synonymous with feasting and being merry, so it would be a grave error to not mention classic traditional French meals! While being a time for celebration, it is also a time for indulgence – from rich chocolates and truffles to spiced bread and cookies.
Bûche de Noël
A Yule Log, known as Bûche de Noël in France, is a classic Christmas dessert that symbolizes the burning of a large log in the fireplace during Christmas to bring in good luck. This custom dates back to the Middle Ages and is represented in the form of a log, a popular sweet treat in all pâtisseries everywhere.
The traditional pastry is made with a sponge cake rolled with a cream filling and covered with chocolate frosting. It is decorated with meringue, marzipan, and sugar to look like an actual log and to show different Christmas elements like mushrooms, a holly, or snowflakes.
Like anything else in this culinary capital, many wonderful and more modern versions of the Bûche de Noël can be found all over Paris!
Mulled Wine (Vin Chaud)
Mulled wine, known as vin chaud in France, is a staple drink during the holidays. The warm beverage is perfect to keep the chilly winds at bay while strolling the Christmas markets and admiring the glittering lights. It is made by simmering red wine with several spices like cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and nutmeg.
It is sweetened with honey, sugar, or even orange juice. For an extra kick, some recipes also suggest the inclusion of stronger liquors like brandy or cognac. You can get the drink at Christmas markets in paper cups or in decorative reusable glasses, making them a great souvenir for your trip!
Pain d’épices, or spice bread, is a Christmas market favorite in France. A traditional dessert from the Alsace region, pain d’épices is a fragrant cake made with honey, rye flour, and various spices, such as cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.
You can buy it plain or decorated with candied fruits, nuts, or chocolate chips.
Chocolates and Candies
Christmas is incomplete without a heap of chocolates, and France is no different. While you can find specialty chocolates throughout the year, the end-of-year festivities take chocolate shopping to a new level.
You can find almost anything you can dream of, and more, during this time. Chocolatiers like Alain Ducasse, La Mère de Famille, Patrick Roger, Jacques Genin, La Maison du Chocolate, and Jean-Paul Hévin go out of their way to craft beautiful boxes of these indulgent treats.
Don't forget the amazing hot chocolate in Paris too!
13 Desserts of Provence
As the name suggests, the 13 desserts of Provence are a delicacy of the Provence region. It is a collection of sweets served towards the end of the Christmas Eve meal (Le Gros Souper) in southern France. The number 13 symbolizes the Last Supper, representing Jesus and the 12 apostles.
Every family serves a different variant of desserts but the most common ones include fresh fruits, dried fruits and nuts, nougat, calissons (candied fruit and almond paste), and pompe à l’huile (olive oil and orange blossom bread). They are displayed on the tablecloth towards the end of the meal and are consumed in small portions throughout the night.
Look for popular Provençal restaurants in Paris like Le Basilic and Chez Janou to get a taste of this experience!
Ice Skating Rinks in Paris
In Paris, the end-of-year celebrations include pop-up ice rinks all across town, giving you a chance to glide on ice while being surrounded by glittering lights and trees and all things Christmas.
Christmas Skating Rink at Jardin des Tuileries
The most popular ice skating rink is in the Jardin des Tuileries Christmas market. Known as La Patinoire de Noël du Jardin des Tuileries, the rink is surrounded by several stalls of the market selling Christmas baubles and trinkets, gourmet delicacies, and other ornaments.
Skating on this rink is a magical experience, filled with festive vibes and the hustle-bustle of Christmas and New Year. The rink is perfect for kids because it offers skate helpers to assist them and prevent frequent falls.
Pailleron Skating Rink
The Pailleron Skating Rink is another option if you prefer to glide on the ice all year round. A part of the Espace Sportif Pailleron, a sports complex that contains a swimming pool and a gym, the rink is open to the public and offers a refreshing respite from the summer heat as well as a place to practice and have fun during the colder months.
It is suitable for skaters of all levels, whether beginners or advanced. They also host events like ice hockey games, disco nights on ice, and figure skating. The prices can vary according to the high and low seasons but it is just as fun whether you’re skating on Halloween or in the spring.
I love Paris at Christmas time, something I have previously written about in my Paris for the Holidays post and in my French Holidays & Celebrations You Need to Know About if You Are Traveling to France, and of course in Paris in December and Paris in the Winter.
Paris at Christmas is a timeless celebration that captures the essence of joy, elegance, and the enduring magic of the holiday season. It is a magical place during the holiday season, one I have enjoyed many times and I highly recommend it to anyone considering a trip during this time of year.
How about you? Have you been to Paris at Christmas? Do share! Are you interested in visiting in December? Do tell!