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Things to do in Paris during Christmas

Notre Dame Cathedral with Christmas Tree

Christmas festivities outside Notre Dame Cathedral

As the Parisian holiday season unfolds, the City of Lights transforms into a winter wonderland, casting a magical spell over every boulevard and plaza. Imagine wandering through the charming streets of Paris during Christmas, where twinkling lights drape elegantly over the city's iconic architecture, and a festive spirit fills the air. This enchanting time brings a special warmth to the crisp Parisian winter, making Christmas in Paris an experience like no other. Each corner of the city, from the grand Champs-Élysées to the quaint alleys of Montmartre, revels in the joy and splendor of the season, inviting locals and visitors alike to partake in its festive celebrations.

Take in a Christmas Concert

For many North Americans, seeing the Nutcracker is a time-honored holiday tradition. The ballet (called “Casse-Noisette” in French) is less popular in France; instead, Christmas in Paris means holiday music concerts, often held in extraordinary venues. Sainte Chapelle has a number of performances scheduled for the holiday season. Take in Handel’s Messiah at the Eglise de la Madeleine, or a Christmas concert at the Eglise Saint-Sulpice.

Christmas in Paris: Where to Shop

Bien sûr you’ll want to head home armed with unique gifts for your loved ones (or yourself). Although the Christmas-themed display windows of Les Grands Magasins are a site to behold, we recommend forgoing the department stores (and their international brands) in favor of independent boutiques. We love shopping around Pigalle and the Marais, where you’ll find dozens of small shops and their carefully selected inventories. 

Some favorites: Bon Marché was the first department store in Paris, is less crowded and you can find some of the best brands and unique designs. Magasin, specializing in simple Scandinavian trends; Sept-Cinq, a concept store devoted to Parisian designers; Lekker, another spot showcasing local designers; Le Rocketship, for small gifts and design items; and Myrtille Beck, for her Vogue-acclaimed jewels; Buly 1803, a beautiful shop (there one in the Marais and one at Saint-Germain des Près) that can personalize the packaging with an on-site calligrapher. Looking for something really specific? Organize a personalized Paris shopping tour with one of our experts, focusing on anything from fashion, design, art, quality cooking accessories, and more. 

Christmas in Paris: Where to Eat

From the bûche de Noël (yule log) to oysters, Christmas in Paris brings no shortage of decadent treats. To that end, our chefs and food experts have conceived of a Paris Christmas Food Tour. Visit with some of the city’s best sweet and savory vendors, learn about specific Christmas food traditions and ogle creatively-designed holiday chocolates and pastries (OK fine, we taste them too). Who could resist wandering one of the Left Bank’s traditional Christmas markets, a nod to France of yore?

Christmas in Paris: Christmas Carousels

In one of Paris’s most iconic squares (Hôtel de Ville), you might just find a vintage merry-go-round, temporarily installed in honor of the season. Step further back in time with a visit to the Musée des Arts Forains, a quirky museum with a collection of antique carnival and funfair relics. Their Festival du Merveilleux runs from December 26th, 2019 to January 5th, 2020 with special holiday shows. Normally open only by special reservation, the museum has open doors during the festival.

Another iconic Parisian Christmas activity? Check out Le Grand Palais de Glaces, the largest ice rink in the world.

Christmas in Paris…or Out of Paris

Just thirty-five miles beyond the city limits lies the baroque Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte. Known for inspiring Versailles (it’s said the King became so jealous of this château’s lavish design that he had its owner imprisoned), Vaux-le-Vicomte is today a shining example of jardin à la française. Indeed, it was a career starter for landscape architect André le Notre, who later was commissioned by said King to redesign the Versailles gardens. 

Vaux-le-Vicomte is normally open only in high season, but exceptionally welcomes visitors during Christmas when it offers special events (and decorations!) for the holidays. For additional info on holiday ideas, check out Secrets of Paris‘s comprehensive events calendar which is updated monthly.

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