Every year during Christmas, Paris welcomes visitors from all around the world: tourists, families, businesses and Parisians themselves exalt in admiration of the city’s beauty and wonders. The city of romance is transformed into a fairytale town, and takes you to magical places that you would never dream of… its traditional and popular Christmas markets, shops, luxury boutiques, cafés, restaurants, museums, galleries, artists, food, cuisine and wines. Below are some of the highlights of Paris during Christmas, whether it’s day or night…
Champs Elysées and its illuminations
L’avenue de Champs Elysées during Christmas is the most spectacular place to visit, the largest avenue in the world, decorated with more than 800,000 LED lamps and 400 glowing trees. The magic usually starts around mid-November until the beginning of January each year. Les avenues Montaigne and Faubourg Saint Honoré are also adorned in the most beautiful way, giving the shine and brightness of a thousand flames dazzling in a sweet and subtle display – so magical in every sense.
The famous avenue Montmartre and La Place du Tertre will also have Christmas displays and, walking on the left bank of Paris, you will also enjoy Christmas delights especially around Le boulevard Saint-Germain, located between art galleries and luxury boutiques, and the so renowned jewellery square, La Place Vendome, which offers marvellous Christmas illuminations. The shops and Le Ritz Palace (re-opened in July 2016) is also beautifully decorated. Last but not the least, the Iron lady of Paris, La Tour Eiffel will be dressed up with striking lights sparkling every hour in the evening.
Christmas markets in Paris
The concept was born in Alsace, in the east of France, in the 1990s; the Christmas markets have since spread throughout Europe and have now become an essential festive event of the Christmas season in Paris. The markets are on the four corners of the capital, from La Gare de l’Est to L’avenue de Champs-Elysees going all the way to La Défense, on the west side of Paris; the journey is an absolute pleasure, especially if you love walking! La Défense Christmas Market is the largest in the region with more than 350 wooden chalets offer an amazing variety of Christmas handcrafted products and French gourmet specialities. Then comes Champs Elysées Christmas Market – with more than 200 wooden chalets, it is the most visited of all the Christmas markets in the city.
The markets extend from La Place de la Concorde to Champs Elysees roundabout – the famous and dangerous driving place. You can also continue your walk from the Saint-Germain Des Pres area where you will also find charming Christmas markets offering about 30 small chalets. It is the smallest Christmas market in Paris but it is lovely; its little stands offer traditional handicrafts and =local products. On the other side of the Eiffel Tower, Le Jardin de Trocadero hosts many wooden chalets, offering a wide selection of gifts and decorations for the Christmas and New Year celebrations. Paris at Christmas is breathtaking; however, you must really experience the markets during the evenings when the modern surrounding buildings, houses and candles are blowing lights everywhere, and Christmas trees are all over the streets of the city, illuminating unique spirited settings.
Fun Christmas activities
Around La Tour Eiffel, there are always ice staking rinks all over the place; do not miss out on the experience of holding hands and swinging around like a professional ice skater, taking part in one of several activities offered by the local association Trocadero on Ice event. If you miss this one, there are always other opportunities but don’t miss the ice staking rink experience in Paris. The second most ephemeral ice skating rink ever created in France is in a magical place – inside Le Grand Palais, in the heart of its sumptuous nave. One of the funniest attractions of the Christmas period in Paris is riding on the Big Wheel of the Concorde Square – down the Champs Elysées – try it! At 70 meters high, it dominates the elegant Place de la Concorde, and brightens up as soon as the night falls, offering a stunning view of the city. Over the years, it has become a must-see attraction for Parisians and tourists alike. What would be the Christmas holidays in Paris without its animated windows?
This event is the rendezvous for young and old people, no matter their age group; they all enjoy the spirit and magic of Christmas, the windows shopping or decorations. The most eagerly anticipated displays are those of Les Galleries Lafayette, Printemps on Boulevard Haussman and Bon Marché. Each year each window competes for creativity and imagination, the question always being which is the most exceptional window? Come, see, judge and give your verdict – there is a new theme year after year, and this is of course without forgetting the huge Christmas tree that sits and smiles at you as soon as you enter a boutique or shop.
While you stroll, do not miss the wonderful Parisian cribs in the most magnificent churches of Paris. In every church of the city, whether it is an Orthodox, Catholic and/or Protestant, there is one crib beautifully prepared by artists and amateurs, in life size or a small version. This allegorical and poetic scene is animated and drawn from local lives and even revisited by some contemporary artists. The famous Notre Dame de Paris, L’Eglise de la Madeleine, L’Eglise Bonne Nouvelle and La Basilique du Sacrée Coeur welcome new crib creations. Whether traditional, Baroque or modern, they are pieces of art attracting many visitors every year, and each of the churches organises concerts and entertainments for children and adults throughout the holidays.
Between the Paris illuminations, the Christmas markets, the giant ice staking rinks, the churches, monuments and so on you will find enough attractions and activities to fill all your Christmas desires. Every single element assures you of a magical and memorable moment with your family, friends or just the two of you.
Zakary Chanou is Managing Director at Ultimate Guide Paris.