Paris is lovely all year round. But it becomes extra magical in the run up to Christmas. I’ve been fortunate to spend some time in Paris before Christmas in 2019 and I am beyond excited to announce that I will be having another Christmas weekend in Paris this year. But what is there to do in Paris before Christmas? Well, don’t despair. In case you are planning a trip to Paris this Christmas, I’ve got you covered. Read on for my Christmas in Paris recommendations.
Christmas in Paris: See the Christmas lights
Paris is known as the City of Lights. Which doesn’t actually have anything to do with the spectacular illuminations on show every night throughout the year. But they do step up their game a notch (or two) for Christmas in Paris.
Wander the boulevards and parks and see the millions of twinkle lights everywhere.
Visit the Christmas markets in Paris
Ok, Paris might not be the first city you think of for Christmas markets. And it pains me to say, the Parisian Christmas markets don’t quite compare to the ones in Vienna for example. But if you are spending time in Paris in the weeks before Christmas, why not visit a Christmas market or two whilst you are here. There are several Christmas markets dotted around Paris and some of them are in some very picturesque settings.
The Christmas market at the Canopée des Halles
Set around the Les Halles shopping centre, this is a rather small Christmas market (compared to some of the other Christmas markets in Paris), but it does look pretty.
La Magie de Noël (Christmas Magic) at Tuileries Gardens
Located close to the Louvre in Tuileries Gardens, this Christmas market is a mix of traditional Christmas stalls and fun fair. A huge Ferries wheel, a selection of French foods and the all so important vin chaud (mulled wine), what more could you ask for when spending Christmas in Paris.
Christmas market at La Defense
With over 300 stalls, this is the largest Christmas market in Paris. I have to be honest, I have not yet been, but I am planning on adding it to my agenda for our upcoming Christmas weekend in Paris.
Notre Dame Christmas market
Since the fire at Notre Dame in 2018, the Christmas market has moved to the other side of the Seine.
Christmas in Paris: See the Christmas decorations at the Grands Magasins
The big department stores in Paris (Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, Le Bon Marché) go all out for Christmas, with unique window displays and breathtaking decorations.
See the Christmas tree at Galeries Lafayette
What would Christmas be without a Christmas tree? And Christmas in Paris is no exception. For the most spectacular Christmas tree in Paris head into the Galeries Lafayette and see the several stories high Christmas tree in the dome. Take your time to take it all in. There is so much going on here. Head up a few floors to come eye to eye with the Christmas tree from the glazed viewing gallery. Trust me, it is totally worth it (although, there might be a bit of a queue to get to the front of the gallery, but your Instagram will thank you for your patience).
Christmas in Paris: Go Ice Skating
Each winter, several ice rinks pop up all across Paris. I have to make a confession here. I haven’t skated in a very long time. I used to love it as a kid, but ever since becoming an adult, I have somehow stayed clear of the ice (and certainly after a rather painful knee operation years ago, I have been too scared to try it again). But I love seeing ice rinks in winter. They are so quintessential Christmas bucket list (or is that just the Hallmark movie expectation instilled in us all?) and if they are in picturesque settings, even better. Whether it is the Natural History Museum in London, the Rockefeller Centre in New York or the City Hall in Vienna, nothing beats a glittering ice rink paired with Christmas lights and stunning architecture.
Until a few years ago, you were able to actually skate on the Eiffel Tower (they had a rink up on the 10th floor platform), sadly, this does not seem to be around anymore.
But you could go up to the 8th floor of Galeries Lafayette and enjoy the ice rink here (along with magnificent views of Paris).
Or head to the Grand Palais for a stunning indoor ice rink within the large Palais structure.
There is also an ice rink at Tuileries Gardens, close to the Christmas market, so perfect if you’d like to combine the two.
Usually all of those ice rinks also have skates to rent, so don’t worry about bringing your own for your Christmas in Paris experience.
Go Christmas shopping in Paris
I mean, it does make sense, doesn’t it? Paris is perfect for shopping all year round. As you are soaking up all that Christmas cheer that Paris has to offer, why not get some unique Christmas gifts for your loved ones (or yourself, I firmly believe in treating myself as well as others)?
And no, I am not talking about cheap miniature Eiffel Towers or printed tea towels (although nothing wrong with those if you are into that kind of things).
But how about a nice box of macaroons, maybe some local chocolates for your parents, French wines for the siblings? Or put together a hamper of French delicacies (obviously, you could just get all the bits and put the hamper together once you are back home, saves on luggage space this way).
I bought some beautiful silk scarf at Galeries Lafayette two years ago (both for myself and a friend). And I love visiting Lafayette Maison & Gourmet just opposite the main Galeries Lafayette building. On the ground floor you’ll find an incredible selection of chocolates as well as cakes and pastries. And in the basement, you have a very large food hall, selling loads of French goodies. From coffees and teas to chocolates, biscuits, sweets. Or go for the savoury options with a selection of dried saucissons, condiments and mustards?
Don’t worry. It might look posh and expensive, but a lot of the things are similarly priced in the food hall than they would be in a ‘normal’ supermarket. I would also highly recommend just visiting a standard supermarket to pick up products as well. Perfect souvenirs and presents as far as I am concerned.
Oh, and some good news for all those Brexit sufferers out there. Even though you are no longer allowed to take dairy and meat products with you when travelling from the UK to the EU, the same rule doesn’t apply on your way back. If you stay within your tax-free allowance for alcohol and overall presents (you are allowed up to 18 litres of wine and gifts up to 390GBP), you are absolutely fine to bring all those French goodies with you. And when travelling by Eurostar between London and Paris, you don’t have any issues bringing liquids with you (and you don’t have any weight restrictions for your luggage either). If travelling by plane, you will obviously have to keep an eye on your luggage weight and ensure all liquids go into your hold luggage. You don’t want to say goodbye to your carefully selected presents at airport security.
How about picking up a nice Paris themed Christmas ornament? Either as a Christmas present for a loved one or as a keepsake to remember Christmas in Paris.
And whilst you are having all those vin chauds at the various Christmas markets, check out the arts and crafts on offer there. Who doesn’t love a unique and handmade Christmas present?
So, there you have it. My recommendations for a wonderful Christmas in Paris. I can’t wait to experience another Christmas season in Paris shortly.
How about you. Have you ever visiting Paris before Christmas? What was your favourite thing to do? Do you have anything to add to this list?