If you are lucky enough to spend Christmas in Paris you will be delighted by this magical city. The aroma of vin chaud and roasting chestnuts fills the air and millions of fairy lights sparkle. Paris embraces winter and at Christmas comes alive in many different ways for you to explore and enjoy.
On Christmas day it doesn’t close down either like many other cities around the world. The public transport still works and many of the restaurants are open. There are even some museums that you can visit.
How to spend Christmas in Paris
The City of light becomes a fairyland over this period. A good way to see the lights is to ride on the big wheel on the Place de la Concorde for amazing views of Jardin des Tuileries and the Champs-Elysées.
More than 125 squares and streets are lit up during the holidays and many more are beautifully decorated for the festive season.
The store windows are stunning and no visit to Paris would be complete without visiting my favourite store Galeries Lafayette to see the legendary Christmas lights and decorations in this beautiful art nouveau masterpiece.
The big department stores all compete for the best window displays. The 3 main stores to visit are Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, and Le Bon Marché. Adults and children alike are entranced by the magical displays of animation and whimsy. There are even steps provided for toddlers to get a closer look.
Explore the Christmas markets
There are a number of marchés de Noël (Christmas markets) to explore. My favourite sprawls along the Champs-Elysées. Halfway along there is a food market selling regional specialities from all over France. It is a foodie’s delight and we went back 3 times to try different dishes. If we had more time we would have gone back again! What could be better than the finest gourmet goodies the country has to offer all in one market?
If you are looking for unique Christmas gifts then you will find more than enough to choose from here. You will find any number of interesting stalls selling fabulous items and trinkets.
The market is set up around mid-November and continues until 1 January. Generally, about 16 million visitors enjoy this market in six weeks but having said that it never felt overcrowded.
There are also markets around Saint-Germain-des-Prés and in front of Notre-Dame in the weeks leading up to Christmas day.
Numerous skating rinks spring up in winter. There is even an option skate on a rink in the Eiffel tower high above the city. You will find other rinks at the base of the Eiffel Tower, Parvis de L’Hotel de Ville, and the main hall of the beautiful Belle Epoque Grand Palais.
Shop for chocolate
The chocolatiers in Paris are famous for their amazing creations. At Christmas, they pull out all the stops. Treat yourself to something special, but don’t forget you could have a chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) as well.
One of the best I had in Paris was at Ladurée. It is nothing like ordinary hot chocolate. It is rich, decadent, indulgent and velvety with a hint of bitterness to taste, oh and it is very moreish! It’s not the cheapest hot chocolate in town, but in my opinion, it is definitely the best.
Have a Christmas meal somewhere special
We treated ourselves to a couple of special meals when we were in Paris. Christmas Eve, we had dinner at L’Atelier De Joel Robuchon a Michelin starred restaurant on the Champs-Elysées. We were seated at a bar counter, looking into the area where the food was being prepared. It was like live theatre watching the chefs working and the food was incredible. This was one of my favourite meals ever!
We had Christmas lunch in a restaurant in the Eiffel Tower. There are 2 restaurants to choose from and we opted for the less formal 58 Tour Eiffel. What a view to enjoy while you have your lunch! It certainly was memorable.
If you are planning a special meal then it is advisable to book as early as possible as it can be difficult to secure a reservation over the holidays.
More inspiration: My foodie guide to Paris
France produces more than 150 000 metric tonnes of oysters each year and almost all of the production is eaten in France.
Oysters are as traditional in France as Turkey is in the USA so make the most of the beautiful fresh oysters accompanied by a glass of chilled champagne, naturellement.
Chestnuts & Vin Chaud
When I think about Paris at Christmas the first thing that comes to mind is the smell of chestnuts roasting wherever you go. On a cold day, it’s the perfect snack while you wander around the city.
My husband’s favourite is the hot wine or vin chaud. It has notes of honey, orange and cinnamon and is his solution for keeping the cold at bay. It is a little too sweet for me but it is delicious.
You can’t spend Christmas in Paris and not eat pastries or any of the other seasonal treats! The Bûche de Noël (Yule log) is everywhere. The city’s pastry chefs show just how creative they can really be at Christmas and the windows groan temptingly. There are limited edition cakes, macarons, pralines and divine pastries. It was just as well we walked miles every day to at least try to burn off some of the calories we consumed trying many of these delicious morsels
Living in the southern hemisphere Christmas is in summer so the cooler weather was welcome. Do you know what I enjoy most about Christmas in Paris? Simply just wandering around soaking up the atmosphere, especially along the banks of the Seine and the tiny cobbled streets. There is no doubt that Paris has me under its magical spell and I can’t wait to go back.
Related: What to do in Paris in 2 days
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