Magical Christmastime in Paris

Like A Local Guide • 16 Dec, 2014

Paris, the City of Light, shines even brighter at Christmastime. From colourful illuminations and meticulously decorated shopfronts to Christmas markets, ice skating rinks and Christmas choirs, the French capital has lots to offer Christmas lovers! Our local Hélène recommends her favourite festive spots.

Soak up the holiday spirit at Christmas markets

Avenue des Champs-Elysées: From mid-November until the beginning of January, this avenue is Christmas heaven, especially for visitors. While the market attracts a huge number of tourists from all over the world, most Parisians try to avoid it. I have to admit, however, that the hundreds of wooden stalls selling all sorts of arts and crafts, mulled wine and winter specialities are pretty welcoming.

La Défense: This huge and traditional Christmas market takes place on the esplanade at La Défense to the delight of both children and adults. Father Christmas will be there every day for a photo shoot!

Saint-Germain-des-Près: A Santa’s village is set up in front of the Saint-Germain-des-Près Church until January 2nd. Near the illuminated trees of Boulevard Saint-Germain-des-Près, you’ll also find small stalls selling arts and crafts, local produce and much more. It’s a great place to get ideas for Christmas presents.

Place des Abbesses: About 20 chalets are set up around the carousel on the charming Place des Abbesses until January 1st. This convivial and authentic market puts children at the heart of its activities, but there are lots of nice things for adults as well.

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Photo credit: Hervé Platteaux

Montmartre: There’s a Christmas village on Montmartre’s romantic Place du Tertre until January 4th, with about 50 charming chalets. Father Christmas will be there, and children can post their Christmas wishlists in a special letter box.

Gare de l’Est: Until December 19th, you can find all manner of Alsatian specialities at the forecourt of Gare de l’Est. From pretzels to gingerbread, there’s plenty to please your taste buds!

Place Saint-Sulpice: The magic of Christmas takes possession of the famous Place Saint-Sulpice until December 24th. There are several stalls offering typical Christmas foodstuffs as well as arts and crafts.

Get active on ice rinks

The huge ice rink in front of the Hotel de Ville is free. It draws a big crowd as ice skate rental is just €5! There’s another popular rink in Montparnasse, which is also free. Although it’s a bit smaller, it’s a bit less crowded.

A new ice skating rink has opened on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower. It’s charming, but very touristy.

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Photo credit: Caravanum

You’ll find a majestic temporary ice rink under the glass roof of the Grand Palais from December 13th to January 6th. It’s a bit expensive, but the setting is worth the price. From Thursday to Saturday you can skate to the rhythm of DJs and enjoy an incredible light show!

Once you’re done skating, you’ll definitely need to seek out somewhere to sip delicious hot chocolate. Check out our guide to the best places for hot chocolate in Paris.

Be captivated by the decorations

Little by little, Paris is lighting up for Christmas. The most famous Parisian department stores have transformed their shopfronts into enchanting universes to the delight of passers-by.

Printemps Haussmann invites you on a magical Christmas journey by Burberry, Galeries Lafayette introduces you to its mischievous Monster Show, the BHV Marais breaks away from traditional Christmas displays and Bon Marché focusses on colourful winter imagery.

Under the wonderful Galeries Lafayette cupola, there’s a 25-metre upside down Christmas tree with an hourly sound and light show.

Father Christmas will visit BHV Marais on December 17th for the last time this year. Kids can have their make-up done and get a photo with him from 10:30 am to 6:30 pm.

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Photo credit: KamrenB Photography

Champs Elysées is worth the trip for its magical lights, as is the Forum des Halles with its gorgeous musical Christmas tree that’s connected to four different instruments.

The cobblestone streets of Bercy Village put on their Christmas costumes for the enjoyment of young and old alike. The atmosphere is much more intimate here. Father Christmas will stop by on December 21st, and there are plenty of activities for children. Fun and enchanting times are guaranteed! The Musée des Arts Forains will also open its doors to the public from December 26th until January 4th for a majestical festival

The Hotel du Collectionneur, a luxurious hotel near the Arc de Triomphe, offers an otherworldly experience in its patio’s bubble. How about enjoying an unforgettable romantic dinner in the majestic bubble?

When it’s freezing outside, the covered passageways of Paris are great places to chill out and admire beautiful festive window displays. These charming passageways become even more so at Christmastime. The Baroque-style shop La Maison du Roy in Passage Jouffroy makes you feel as if you’ve travelled back to the 18th century, while Passage des Princes takes you back to your childhood with its stores for children. Passage des Panoramas is a genuine little gem perfect for a coffee or lunch. The luxurious Galerie Vivienne is a treat for the eyes thanks to its astonishing architecture.

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Photo credit: Frédérique PANASSAC

Attend Christmassy musical events

The special Christmas event “Jazz and Snack takes place at various jazz clubs in the first district of Paris throughout the festive season.

Notre-Dame Cathedral will host a free Christmas concert on December 20th at 8 pm. A choir of both children and adults will be accompanied by the glorious sounds of the cathedral’s organ.

If you want to discover something different, the Gospel dream team gives you the chance to experience an American Christmas. Performances take place at several churches in the capital, and tickets range from €20–30. Remember to book in advance!

For more local recommendations read:
What locals like to do in Paris
Where locals like to eat in Paris
Where locals like to party in Paris

Special tip: For a more authentic Paris experience, get the Like A Local mobile app

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Hélène is a native Parisian who studies Tourism Management at La Sorbonne. Currently based in London, she’s convinced that travelling is the key to understanding people and being open-minded. An explorer at heart and passionate about cooking, she believes that travel and food go hand in hand. When travelling, she tries to learn about different cultures and what makes them unique.

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Like A Local Guide is about stepping off the tourist trail and finding cool and cosy spots where locals like to spend their time. We built a website and mobile app to bring insider recommendations from around the world to your fingertips.

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    Hello, Thank you for the post. My wife and I are visiting Paris for the first time this year from December 26-January 3rd. Was wondering if you had any information on how things are life on January 1st. Are most things closed? Any ideas on things to do? Thanks!
    Jonathan • Dec 10, 2015 • Reply