A winter vacation in France has an additional dose of enchantment. This is particularly true for Christmas in Paris. During this annual festival, the City of Lights is really magical. All the districts are lit by a lot of twinkling bulbs. Each neighborhood is festive in a unique way. Every quarter and every single corner has a distinct enchantment and charm from delightful Christmas markets to lively ice rinks and Les Grands Magasins.
Christmastime is an excellent time to visit the capital of France. While Paris is especially festive and fun at Christmastime, you need to know how to take full advantage of your trip. In this comprehensive guide, we will include the attractions not to miss at Christmas while in Paris. Check out the best things to see and do in this amazing city at Christmastime.
Top 5 Paris Christmas Markets
No Christmas trip to the City of Lights is complete without visiting Paris Christmas markets. These markets have a long tradition. Most of them take place in the city squares, but there are also markets tucked in quiet areas away from the busy streets. Listed below are the best Paris Christmas Markets (in no particular order).
1. Jardin des Tuileries Christmas Market
The predecessor of this popular market was Champs-Elysées Christmas Market. It stretched from the Place du Concorde to Arc de Triomphe. After its cancellation in 2017, the reimagined version of this market – called Tuileries Garden Christmas Market – started to operate in 2018.
Comprising over 100 chalets, it’s held every year next to the Musée du Louvre in the Tuileries Garden. While not the largest Christmas Market in Paris, Jardin des Tuileries Christmas Market is still worth visiting. Don’t miss it during your Christmas holiday!
2. Saint-Germain-des-Prés Christmas Market
This Christmas market is held every year near a parish church in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés quarter. Away from the city crowds, this small market is tucked in a neighborhood that is very popular with gourmets. Tourists also often visit this place to enjoy gastronomic specialties and buy various souvenirs.
3. La Défense Christmas Market
With over 350 chalets, La Défense is one of the biggest Paris Christmas Markets. It occupies a space of about 13,000 square meters, hosting artisans from around the country. The exciting light displays consisting of numerous LED lights are created specifically for this event to enchant visitors. The outdoor ice skating rink is another attraction of this market. There is also an animated village that is designed with little ones in mind.
4. Notre Dame Christmas Market
Despite being affected by a devastating fire in 2019, Notre Dame didn’t stop attracting the attention of tourists. The same goes for Notre Dame Christmas Market. This annual festival will return this year too. Aside from craftsmen and artisans, you will also find Santa Claus and the best French specialties in this place at Christmas. They all come to the market each year.
5. Champs De Mars Christmas Market
Located at Quai Branly and Champ-de-Mars districts, this Christmas market allows tourists and Parisians to get a large dose of the Christmas spirit at once. There are more than 130 chalets selling decorations, treats, gifts, and so on. In addition, this place is home to an outdoor ice rink. It lets the visitors admire the Eiffel Tower while they ice skate and drink hot mulled wine (vin chaud). Cheers!
Things to See and Do in Paris at Christmas
Christmas markets are considered the best Paris attraction at Christmastime. However, there are also many other things to do in this lovely city at Christmas besides visiting Christmas markets. Read on to reveal extra ways to spend a Christmas holiday in the City of Light for completely new experiences.
Watch Christmas Light Displays
After dusk, you can see the lights of Paris by taking an illuminations river cruise. This is a great opportunity to explore the City of Lights while sailing down the River Seine in the summertime. What if you visit Paris in the winter? Don’t worry, you will still be able to see the lights of Paris. There are a lot of Christmas light displays across the city. The most popular ones include:
Take a Day Trip to The Paris Fair
Vintage fairgrounds have withstood the test of time and they are still very popular nowadays. If you are interested in going back in time with them, you should visit the Museum of Fairground Arts (Les Pavillons de Bercy).
It possesses an impressive collection of stalls and fairground rides that are roughly 170 years old. The Museum of Fairground Arts hosts the famous Festival du Merveilleux at Christmastime, gathering musicians, dancers, magicians, puppeteers, and storytellers.
Keep in mind that the only way to gain access and explore this magnificent place is to take a guided tour. It’s an awesome place for families with kids. Children can ride on most carousels for free.
Enjoy Ice Skating in Paris
Do you like ice skating? This is a favorite holiday activity of many people. Lucky for them, Paris offers a decent number of indoor and outdoor ice rinks during the winter season, including:
- Grande Arche rooftop Christmas ice rink
- Ice rink at Galeries Lafayette Rooftop
- Le Grand Palais des Glaces
- Champ de Mars ice skating rink
- La Cour Jardin ice rink
Be sure to explore indoor and outdoor ice rinks alike. Lace your skates up and go ice skating!
Go Window Shopping
Large department stores in Paris dress for Xmas with festive shop window displays across the city. From Beauty and the Beast to Hollywood glamour, they are decorated with a variety of themes to attract buyers. These eye-catching stores feature plenty of sparkles, lights, and animations.
Each year, there are opening nights showcasing new window displays. They take place at Le Printemps, Galeries Lafayette, BHV Marais, and Le Bon Marche Rive Gauche. Window shopping brings the city to life at Christmastime.
Take Christmas-themed Food Tours
Just like the residents of most French cities, Parisians have a Christmas tradition of eating desserts. If you are a foodie who wants to try different seasonal delights at a time, take a private food tour.
An experienced guide will help you get the most out of your Christmas holiday by shedding some light on the best food this city has to offer. There are a lot of specialty and pastry shops waiting to be discovered. This is a good chance to indulge in delights such as a yule log, nougat, and gingerbread. Don’t miss it!
Listen to Christmas Concerts
The festive Christmas concerts are held in some of the most gorgeous buildings in Paris, such as the cathedrals and chapels at La Madeleine, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Sainte-Chapelle, and Saint‐Eustache. A lot of people, both residents and tourists, visit these spectacular buildings at Christmas to listen to classical concerts.
We recommend visiting Sainte-Chapelle for the most enjoyable experience. Musicians play the best classical music while the light makes the stained-glass windows glow. It is magical indeed.
From Christmas markets and Christmas light displays to outdoor ice rinks and Les Grands Magasins, Paris offers a wide range of attractions at Christmastime. In this guide to Christmas in Paris, we’ve covered the most popular tourist attractions and the best things to do in Paris at Christmas. Consider them when planning your winter trip to Paris to make your vacation unforgettable. Merry Christmas!