Travel tales

Paris at Christmas time

Paris at Christmas time

I’ve sweltered on the beach at the Paris Plages in the middle of summer, walked through parks full of flowers in springtime and watched the leaves change colour in autumn, but until now I’ve never seen Paris in winter. So last year I finally put this right with a quick pre-Christmas weekend in the city. And the City of Lights puts on a great show at Christmas – with plenty of festive markets, light displays, ice rinks and funfair rides to keep you busy. Here are some of my picks on what to see in Paris at Christmas time.

The decorations

From the start of December, Paris decks herself out for the festive season. Trees are draped with twinkling lights, decorations are strung across the streets and shop windows are piled high with gifts. Most areas have some sort of Christmas decorations, but some of the most impressive are at Place Vendome and in Montmartre – as well as the over-the-top sparkles along the Champs Elysées, where the trees are covered with lights that change colour every half hour. You’ll also find a huge Christmas tree outside Notre Dame Cathedral, and inside is a beautiful wooden carved nativity scene.

Paris’ big department stores go all out for Christmas with some impressively festive store window displays. They start planning them as soon as the previous year’s are taken down and even have a big celebrity opening night when they’re unveiled each year. You find some of the best at Galeries Lafayette and Printemps (both Boulevard Haussmann, Metro: Chaussée d’Antin), Le Bon Marché (24 Rue de Sèvres, Metro: Sèvres-Babylone) and BHV (52 Rue de Rivoli, Metro: Hôtel de Ville).

Christmas decorations in Paris

Christmas trees at Notre Dame Cathedral and Galeries Lafayette

The Christmas markets

Originally starting in Germany, Christmas markets have spread across Europe to become a festive tradition, and you find them in most cities, Paris included. Grab a cup of vin chaud while you wander around the market stalls housed in little wooden chalets, selling everything from handmade tree decorations and wooden gifts to cheeses from across France and Eiffel Tower shaped biscuits.

There are markets – aka ‘Marchés de Noël’ – held across the city. The biggest are in La Défense, with over 300 stalls (Metro: La Défense), and along the Champs Elysées (Metro: Concorde or Champs Elysées-Clemenceau). There are also smaller neighbourhood markets like in Saint-Germain-des-Prés (Metro: Saint-Germain-des-Prés), at Montparnasse station (Metro: Montparnasse), in Montmartre (Metro: Abbesses and Anvers) and in Square René Viviani near Notre Dame Cathedral (Metro: Saint-Michel or Cité). Make sure to double check dates and details though – last year we read in several places online about there being a big market at Saint-Sulpice but turned up to find a deserted, empty square!

Paris Christmas markets

Lavender baubles and Eiffel Tower biscuits at Saint-Germain Christmas market

The festivities

There’s a big ice rink outside the Hôtel de Ville – entry is free but it’s €6 to hire skates and there can be big queues. There are also rinks at the Champs-Elysées (€10 adults/€7 under 12s) and Jardins du Trocadero (€6), and a rink with a view on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower (skate hire included with your Tower ticket). For another great view, take a ride in the Place de La Concorde’s Grande Roue – or Big Wheel. It s open every day until midnight from 11 November 2016 to 19 February 2017 and costs €10 (€5 under 10s). From 60 metres up you get a bird’s-eye-view of the Christmas lights along the Champs-Elysées.

Or how about a trip to the funfair? Normally a private collection owned by an antique dealer, the Musee Des Arts Forains is full of vintage fairground rides and stalls dating back to 1850 and is open to the public from 26 December 2016 to 3 January 2017, 10am–6pm. It’s also free for children to ride on many of the city’s carousels between 17 December 2016 and 2 January 2017.

Ferris wheel at Place de la Concorde, Paris

Ferris wheel at Place de la Concorde

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Paris at Christmas time – On the Luce travel blog

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46 Comments

  • Reply
    Ann Koplow
    December 19, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    Beautiful! Thanks so much.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 19, 2013 at 4:34 pm

      Thanks, it’s such a beautiful city at any time of year but the Christmas decorations make it even more so!

  • Reply
    Kerry Ascione
    December 19, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    It looks magnificent! I have only visited Paris during the summer, during a 2009 Home Exchange; it was great, and I did love the Paris Plage; but I would love to visit during the Christmas season.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 19, 2013 at 4:35 pm

      I’ve spent a lot of time in Paris but somehow missed out on seeing it in winter until now, but so glad I finally did!

  • Reply
    68W Wife
    December 19, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    Always enjoy reading about all the places you have been. 🙂

  • Reply
    AlainBKK
    December 19, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    Reblogged this on AlainBKK.

  • Reply
    lunaflorencia
    December 19, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    Beautiful photo!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 19, 2013 at 4:36 pm

      Thank you – I loved taking pictures of all the lights and we were lucky enough to have some great weather!

  • Reply
    Viaggiando con Bea
    December 19, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    Paris is really fantastic and romantic. I’ve been there for Christmas a few years ago and I can’t forget midnight time. An explosion of colours and fireworks.
    Merry Christmas Beatrice

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 19, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      Merry Christmas to you too! It must’ve been lovely to spend Christmas there, I was once in Paris for Bastille Day and the fireworks were spectacular.

  • Reply
    fatfreefashion
    December 19, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    Beautiful pics! Really longing for a Paris trip now….nothing like a Parisian market to get into the festive spirit.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 20, 2013 at 2:18 pm

      Very true – that mulled wine smell always makes me feel festive!

  • Reply
    curioustourist13
    December 19, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    So pretty!

  • Reply
    Andrew Seal
    December 19, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Great pictures and post. Makes me want to get on the next plane and see it for myself this year. Too bad! Happy Holidays.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 20, 2013 at 2:19 pm

      Maybe next year! Happy holidays to you too.

  • Reply
    disconnectedlandscapes
    December 19, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Reblogged this on Disconnected Landscapes.

  • Reply
    deanjbaker
    December 19, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    good to see this

  • Reply
    jlhilleary
    December 19, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    Lucy- I’m so glad you continued this reverie in Paris. One of my favorite memories is of being in the City over a Christmas pre-week. I scheduled a long layover on my way from Baku to Washington DC and stayed at a little hotel near the Louvre. One evening I took a walk in the snow looking for something for dinner. In the air, I could smell foods cooking so I followed the scent to an open aire market near the Tuileries.

    I found a man stirring something fabulous in the largest copper kettle I had ever seen- about 3 feet across. I put together my best imitation of bad French and asked for a serving of whatever this was.

    He gave me a heaping serving of the most wonderful ham, potatoes, and onions in a divinely creamy sauce… in a styrofoam to-go container. All I could think of was how odd this was getting this quality of food in a lowly to-go box. I don’t know whether it tasted so good because I was hungry, the ham was so warm against the snowy cold, this was in Paris, or- maybe all of the above. I look for that flavor every time I am back!

    Great memories! (And yes, by the way, the people were lovely to me, even if it was Paris and I was an American speaking badly in French… miracles do happen at Christmastime!)

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 20, 2013 at 4:20 pm

      How fantastic! Paris must look so beautiful in the snow. And that dish sounds so tasty (sounds a lot like tartiflette which you get a lot in the Alps), perfect for the weather! Glad to brong back some good memories.

  • Reply
    Where's Wiwi?
    December 19, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    Looks magical! It would be great to be there in the lead up to Christmas but hopefully it will still be as festive in a couple of weeks. Great shots by the way!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 20, 2013 at 2:22 pm

      A lot of the decorations and events are on into the New Year so hope it’ll still be festive for your trip too!

  • Reply
    Suzanne Courtney
    December 19, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    This look so lovely Lucy. I reallly need to give Paris some serious attention; it’s been way too long…

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 20, 2013 at 4:21 pm

      Definitely! Even though I’ve been there quite a lot in the last few years my Paris to-do list never seems to get any shorter!

  • Reply
    Ardun Ward
    December 20, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Great photos Lucy! Would love to return to Paris for a xmas.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 20, 2013 at 2:30 pm

      Thanks Ardun, it was lovely, well worth a festive visit.

  • Reply
    casasgredos
    December 21, 2013 at 5:24 am

    Lovely photo, were a week ago and look forward to returning again.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 22, 2013 at 6:04 pm

      Thanks, it’s a great time of year to be there isn’t it!

  • Reply
    mrgladstone92
    December 21, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    Reblogged this on airtravelagency and commented:
    paris at it s best in christmas

  • Reply
    megtraveling
    December 22, 2013 at 1:12 am

    These sights are simply marvelous – how wonderful that you were in Paris to see everything!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 22, 2013 at 6:04 pm

      So pleased to have finally made it at Christmas time, next time some snow would be good though!

  • Reply
    Kathryn Burrington
    December 22, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Christmas is a magical time to visit so many European cities with Paris top of the list!. Hope you have a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, travel-filled New year.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 22, 2013 at 6:06 pm

      Thank you – and hope you have a fantastic Christmas and happy New Year too!

  • Reply
    Monica Stott (@TheTravelHack)
    December 23, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    It looks so gorgeous and festive! I’m planning on going to Paris early next year but I wish I’d had chance to visit in December now and make the most of the festivities. I’ll come back to this if I change my mind next and go next Christmas!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 24, 2013 at 1:24 pm

      Paris is fantastic at any time of year so sure you will have a great time!

  • Reply
    Karen
    December 27, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    How lovely to see Paris during the Christmas season…I’ve only been in the Spring and Fall.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 30, 2013 at 1:09 pm

      It’s a lovely time to be there, so glad to have finally seen it (though spring and fall are pretty nice too!)

  • Reply
    lucyjay95
    December 30, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    I’d love to go to Paris, looks beautiful 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 30, 2013 at 7:43 pm

      It’s one of my favourite cities! Hope you get to make it out there some day.

  • Reply
    melloluigi74
    January 1, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    wonderful

  • Reply
    JenR
    January 18, 2014 at 12:57 am

    Paris at Christmas is at the top of my list – loved both posts!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      January 18, 2014 at 2:14 pm

      Thanks so much, it is a lovely time to see the city!

  • Reply
    Colossal Dreamer
    January 28, 2014 at 9:11 am

    I will be in Paris next month for Valentine’s Day (cheesy right?) and I’m excited to see her during the winter as well. Although the Christmas lights won’t be up I’m sure Paris will not disappoint. Thanks for your blog it’s very informative and creative. Please check out my new travel blog at:
    http://colossaldreamer.wordpress.com/

    Julia

  • Reply
    Clare Laming
    October 17, 2014 at 1:01 am

    Hi! I am staying over in Paris this year and I’ve heard from numerous people about the mysterious Saint Sulpice Christmas Market and that it simply doesn’t appear. I will investigate that mystery. What was your favourite Christmas market in Paris?

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