Christmas in Paris: 13 Things to Do Including Markets & More
There are few more romantic things to experience than Christmas in Paris. Just picture the City of Love decked out in Christmas lights while warms hops are full of presents and decor while you’re sitting in a café with your loved one drinking red wine. It really is quite magical.
A few years ago I was able to experience Christmas in Paris, so here are my best tips on what to do and see!
What is Christmas in Paris Like?
The Christmas atmosphere really strikes Paris in mid-November, when the lights are pulled out of the closet, and the markets begin to spring up. The Christmas season officially kicks off with the lighting of the lights along the Champs-Elysées by the mayor of Paris. You can enjoy the atmosphere until about mid-January, when the lighting is cleaned up again.
Keep in mind that on Christmas Eve and Day, many sights, museums and attractions are closed. However, there are also a large number of museums that are open, so just make sure you make a good planning in advance. I advise you to book tickets in advance for the places you want to visit so that you do not end up empty handed.
Some restaurants in Paris are also closed between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and those that do open can be very busy. If you’re sure of a place, it is better to reserve a table as early as possible. If you do not want to make a call, it is sometimes possible via Google :-).
Where to Stay in Paris at Christmas
Of course, if you want to stay close to Champs-Elysées, you can, but all of Paris will be in the spirit as well. Check my guide on the best neighborhoods in Paris as well as my tips on budget hotels in Paris to figure out where you want to stay.
13 Magical Things to do in Paris at Christmas
1. Admire the Christmas lights on the Champs-Élysées
Every year Christmas is officially kicked off with the lighting of the Christmas lights on the most important place in Paris: the Champs-Élysées For years you could also find the largest Christmas market on this street, but since last year it has been moved to the Jardin des Tuilleries.
But it is still worthwhile to visit because more than 12km of LED lighting is used to decorate the more than 200 trees. You’ll also find many shops on the street with festive winter shop windows, and a skating rink (more on that later).
2. Walk along the most beautifully lit streets.
There are many more streets with beautiful Christmas lights (and not as busy as the Champs-Elysées). More than 150 streets are decorated around Christmas time!
Avenue Montaigne is very popular. In addition, stroll along Place Vendôme, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Bercy Village, Rue Vieille du Temple, Place des Abbesses in Montmartre, and of course Boulevard Haussman with its large department stores such as Galeries Lafayette and Printemps.
3. Enjoy the lights of the Eiffel Tower
Although the Eiffel Tower has no special lighting for Christmas, it remains one of the most romantic places to visit for the holidays (not to mention it’s easily one of the top sights in Paris no matter the season). The days are shorter, which means that you have more time to enjoy the light show! There is a five-minute light show every hour on the hour from sunset until one in the morning. I always feel like I’m in a bit of a fairytale with all the twinkling lights.
4. Look for Christmas tree inspiration
Where most cities in Europe have a gigantic Christmas tree in one central location, in Paris that is not the case. The best places to go for a Christmas-tree portion are the chic Place Vendôme and the Galerie Lafayette .
On Place Vendôme you usually see several decorated Christmas trees, with beautiful 18th century city palaces in the background. Galerie Lafayette is worth a visit simply because of its beautiful shop window, but it also has a huge impact every year with a Christmas tree under its Art Deco dome. So come in!
5. Window shop in all the major department stores
One of the nicest things to do in Paris during Christmas is to do a little window shopping so you can enjoy all the fun displays. The best of the best Les Grand Magasins.
Some department stores even hire famous fashion designers to design their shop windows. The most special stores to visit are: BHV Marais, Printemps, Le Bon Marché and Galeries Lafayette. With the latter you will always find a giant Christmas tree inside. And if you are there anyway, you can immediately do your gift shopping here.
6. Visit the museums and their exhibitions
The Christmas period is a good time to visit the famous museums of Paris. Not only can you enjoy warming up when it is cold outside, there are often exhibitions around that time that you would not otherwise see. Some museums are even open during Christmas!
7. Go to Château Vaux-le-Vicomte
While Versailles is, of course, the most famous former royal residence near Paris, there is one place that’s even better for Christmas decorations and atmosphere. The Château Vaux-le-Vicomte is a 17th-century castle that even served as inspiration for Versailles.
The château was once in the possession of the Minister of Finance under King Louis XIV. After a mutual dispute, the minister was deposed and the castle had to be sold (and a part of the furniture ended up with the king in Versailles …).
It is still privately owned and is completely decorated with for Christmas! It really doesn’t get any more romantic than here!
8. See how graceful you are on the skating rinks
I can’t skate more than a meter without falling, so for me it would not be a pleasant activity. (I would probably cling to random passers-by). However, many people really enjoy skating at Christmas.
Paris also has a number of outdoor skating rinks to choose from in unique areas. Did you know that you could skate on top of the Eiffel Tower until last year? That is no longer possible, but there are many other places. For example, how about skating on the roof of the Grande Arche? With a height of 106 meters you have a great view over the city.
Of course you can skate in Jardin des Tuilleries during the Christmas market. But another special place is Grand Palais des Glaces. The exhibition hall at Grand Palais will be transformed into a giant ice rink of 2700 m2 at Christmas. It is especially worthwhile to go in the evening when there is a DJ playing and brightly colored lights!
Take your gloves with you, because they are mandatory everywhere!
9. Stroll through Montmartre
I think Montmartre is already the most charming neighborhood in Paris, but at Christmas, it’s even nicer than normal. You will find the highest Christmas market in the city there, and you can also attend a service in the Sacré-Coeur. At the beautiful white basilica you also have fantastic views of the city. Don’t miss the nativity scene as well!
A number of streets are cheerfully decorated with Christmas decorations. Plus it’s always a nice idea to settle down in one of the many wonderful restaurants and cafes.
10. Take a ride in the Ferris wheel
At the Jardin des Tuileries you can find a large Ferris wheel around Christmas, which is completely lit. How nice is it to take a ride there and to look out over the city of lights from a height of 50 meters?
11. Admire the Christmas lights with a bus tour
Dress up warmly and book a 1.5-hour open bus ride along the Christmas lights of Paris. You can see, among other things, the glittering lights of the Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées, and other sights . Listen on your headphone to an audio tour about the things you see, interspersed with Christmas songs. You also get a blanket to crawl underneath during your tour and a warm drink.
Alternatively, if you prefer to be on foot, try this Christmas lights walking tour.
12. Experience the magical Christmas atmosphere at Disneyland Paris
Is there a more magical time to visit Disneyland Paris than around Christmas time? I think not. Disney’s Enchanting Christmas will take place between November 9 and January 6. You then stroll through a park that is adorned from head to toe with cozy Christmas decorations, sparkling lights, and lovely Christmas stalls.
Visit one of the special shows, or take a look at the famous Disney Parade that runs through the park several times a day. Disneyland is open for Christmas, by the way!
13. Explore the Christmas Markets of Paris
At present, not all opening times of the Christmas markets are known, so it is best to look up the specific market for visitor information.
At the Gare Montparnasse station you will find these stands that focus primarily on delicacies and French sweets.
Jardin des Tuileries
In the past the Christmas market was always held on the Champs-Elysees. However, it has now been replaced by this market. You will find more than a hundred stalls with delicacies, presents, a skating rink, and fairground attractions.
Place de l’Hôtel de Ville
Every year a Christmas market lands on the square in front of the beautiful town hall. You have a beautifully lit forest, a merry-go-round, and stalls full of warm snacks.
Since 2017, a Christmas market has been organized close to Le Canopée des Halles with over 50 stables and a 20-meter-high Christmas tree.
Champs des Mars
At the foot of the Eiffel Tower you will find this Champs de Mars with perhaps the best views of all Christmas markets.
Gare de l’Est
This market is known for being in the Alsace style. You will find all kinds of regional specialties!
With over 350 stables, this is the largest Christmas market in Paris. It’s easier to spend hours here, that’s how big it is!
It is not yet clear whether this Christmas market will continue after the tragedy that befell Notre Dame in 2019. This is normally one of the most charming ones.
On Place Abbesses you will find one of the most famous Christmas markets in the city. Montmartre is located on a hill overlooking Paris. It has only about 20 stalls, but is still worth seeing just to see the rest of the neighborhood!
Saint-Germain des Près
With 25 chalets, this market is not very large either, but you can visit the neighboring church immediately afterwards. You will find mainly luxury products and gourmet foods. Book a tour of Saint–Germain here
And there you have it! All the best tips for things to do in Paris during Christmas!
Have you ever celebrated Christmas in Paris?
General Travel Tips
- For accommodation, I always check Airbnb or Booking.com for the best prices.
- If your insurance at home doesn’t cover travel, you may want to look into SafetyWing for an affordable option.
- I always recommend checking Get Your Guide for the best tours in Europe and Tiqets for specific attraction deals.