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The City Of (Christmas) Lights: 10 Things to Do in Paris During Christmas

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Imagine sipping a cozy mug of hot chocolate or mulled wine under the Eiffel Tower surrounded by Christmas trees. You stroll through a Christmas market, and snowflakes land on your tongue as you lace up your ice skates. You’re surrounded by all the magical things to do in Paris during Christmas.

Festive decorations are scattered throughout the city, and Paris has transformed into a Christmas wonderland. There are endless seasonal Christmas markets, countless lights and decorations, and Christmas trees at every corner.

Christmas in Paris is like stepping into a real-life snow globe. Between gorgeous lights along the Champs-Élysées, romantic strolls under the Eiffel Tower, and eye-popping decorations at the Hotel de Ville, this is the most magical time of the year.

TL;DR

Category Our Pick
Hotel Hôtel Beauquartier Moulin Rouge
Kid’s Destination Disneyland Paris
Christmas Market La Magie de Noël at Tuileries Garden Christmas Market
Christmas Lights Paris Festival of Lights at Jardin des Plantes
Christmas Day Dinner Le Train Bleu

Top Things To Do In Paris During Christmas

1. Sip on Mulled Wine at an Annual Christmas Market in Paris

Paris Christmas Market
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

First and foremost, visiting one (or many!) of the Christmas markets in Paris should be at the top of your to-do list. A visit to Paris in the winter is incomplete without sipping on mulled wine and shopping from local Christmas market vendors.

One can expect anywhere between 15 and 20 Christmas markets to pop up per holiday season. You can stroll under the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower Christmas Market or enjoy the over-the-top decorations in Paris at the La Magie de Noël (“The Magic of Christmas”) in Tuileries Garden.

If you don’t know where to start, any of these Christmas markets will leave you grinning ear-to-ear:

  • Saint Germain-des-Prés Christmas Market
  • La Magie de Noël Tuileries Garden Christmas Market
  • Eiffel Tower Christmas Market
  • Champs Elysées Christmas market
  • Marché de Noël des Abbesses
  • Place de la Concorde Christmas market

Add a dash of magic and holiday spirit to your Christmas village journey by playing the Christmas Markets Festive Digital Game. If you are visiting other parts of France, consider visiting the Alsatian Christmas Markets near the border of Germany.

2. Go Ice Skating on Christmas Eve

Ice Skating is one of the top things to do in Paris during Christmas
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Paris at Christmas is synonymous with ice skating rinks. From the Jardin des Tuileries to the Grand Palais des Glace, Paris is filled with opportunities to skate hand-in-hand with your sweetie or your kids on the ice skating rink

Tuileries Garden Christmas Market
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Many of these rinks are integrated into the Paris Christmas markets and offer opportunities for sweet treats and mulled wine. In fact, the Jardin des Tuileries frequently hosts a holiday Ferris wheel!

Top spots in Paris to ice skate:

  • Grand Palais des Glace Christmas market
  • Jardin des Tuileries Christmas market
  • Grande Arche de La Défense Christmas market
  • Plaza Athénée Christmas market
  • Galeries Lafayette Christmas market
Latin Quarter at Christmas
Alex Baker Kroeger / ViaTravelers

3. Enjoy Christmas Shopping in the Latin Quarter

The Paris Pantheon, a landmark in the Latin Quarter, during Christmas
danflcreativo / Adobe Stock

The Latin Quarter is an architecturally stunning haven–and a little-realized spot for authentic Parisian shopping. When you think of shopping in Paris, images of the 1st arrondissement, Faubourg Saint-Honoré district, and lights on the Champs-Elysées likely come to mind.

However, the iconic literary arrondissement has unique shops perfect for last-minute Christmas gifts. Choose from local storefronts like Shakespeare and Company and Avanti la Musica

Plus, it’s a great opportunity to visit lesser-known sites like Fontaine Saint-Michel, the Philippe Auguste wall remnants, and well-known ones like the Paris Panthéon. Add a bit of history to your shopping with this Exclusive Guided Walking Tour.

4. Gaze at Paris Christmas Lights on a Seine Cruise

Notre Dame and Seine River Paris  Christmas lights and a Christmas Tree
norbel / Adobe Stock

The best way to see the Paris Christmas lights is from the water. A Seine River cruise allows you to sit down and relax while slowly floating past the city’s best Christmas decorations and the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower.

If you’re a first-time visitor, a river cruise is an easy way to enjoy panoramic views of iconic sites like Notre-Dame de Paris, Alexandre III Bridge, and the Louvre Museum. Book an Evening River Cruise with Music on the Seine to fully experience why it’s called the City of Light!

5. Take a Day Trip to Visit Disneyland Paris

Address: Bd de Parc, 77700 Coupvray, France

Disneyland Paris is always enchanting, but a trip during Christmastime elevates the magic. The park offers extra-special holiday-themed events like the “Let’s Sing Christmas!” show, the Magical Christmas Tree lighting, and meet-and-greet opportunities with Santa Claus. 

Plus, you can fill up your tummy with exclusive seasonal treats like winter velouté and hot chocolate. What’s cooler than visiting the characters from Ratatouille in Paris itself?

Just a train or rideshare away, visiting Disneyland Paris from the city is the best Christmas day trip. Book a shuttle transport package if you don’t feel up to navigating public transportation. 

If you need to find hotels near Disneyland, book the L’Elysée Val d’Europe. It’s just over a mile from Disney and about 800 feet from the RER Val d’Europe train station.

6. Treat Yourself to Glitz and Glam at Moulin Rouge Cabaret

Exterior of Moulin Rouge in Paris
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Address: 82 Bd de Clichy, 75018 Paris, France

Bright, shiny sequins and boisterous tunes pair perfectly with Christmas in Paris. Enjoy a night on the town at the iconic Moulin Rouge Cabaret Show!

The Moulin Rouge Cabaret Show features 100 performers and 1,000 costumes in just two hours. You’ll sip on champagne and be wowed by exceptional showmanship during this creative production. 

Book your tickets well in advance as the cabaret fills up quickly, even not during Christmas and New Year’s times. Many nearby Paris hotels exist, but Hôtel Beauquartier Moulin Rouge is just steps away from the cabaret and is a solid option for stumbling home after too many glasses of champagne.

See Related: Best Paris Night Tours: See the City of Lights

7. Fill Your Belly with an Authentic French Christmas Dinner

La Coupole restaurant exterior
Petr Kovalenkov / Shutterstock.com

Did you really visit the City of Light if you didn’t indulge in a traditional French meal? Celebrate the Christmas season with a stunning Christmas or Christmas Eve dinner at one of Paris’s most indulgent restaurants, cafes, or brasseries.

Visit Paris like a local with our favorites for the best Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinner. All of these options are also great for a traditional New Year’s Eve dinner as well:

Are you interested in putting the apron on yourself and trying your hand at cooking some French cuisine? Test your skills in the kitchen with a French Macaron Culinary Class with a Chef.

8. Hear a Christmas Concert at a Cathedral in Paris

Interior of Sainte-Chapelle, Paris
Lisa Ward / ViaTravelers

While the Notre-Dame Cathedral remains out of commission, there is a plethora of stunning cathedrals in Paris worth visiting. Paris at Christmas is filled with professional choirs performing at gorgeous houses of worship across the city.

There are many opportunities to attend Christmas mass at these churches, but the holiday concerts are a great opportunity for those who’d like to leave the religious elements out. Check local listings at these architecturally stunning cathedrals and catch a holiday concert to get yourself into the spirit of the holiday season:

  • Sainte-Chapelle 
  • Saint-Eustache Church
  • Sainte-Clotilde

While an in-person visit to Notre-Dame is out of the question, you can enjoy the Eternal Notre-Dame: Virtual Reality Experience

9. Attend the Paris Festival of Lights at Jardin des Plantes

Address: 57 Rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris, France

Every season, the Jardin des Plantes presents an impressive Festival of Lights. Since the garden partners with the Paris Zoological Park, the holiday lights displays are generally wildlife-themed. 

Past exhibits have included impressive polar bears, lions, and chameleon displays. As you walk around, you’ll find a handful of chalets serving as warming stations and selling sweet treats and drinks. 

Plan to spend between one hour and 90 minutes at the experience. You are allowed to bring your own beverages–so fill up a thermos with hot chocolate if you want to save on cash. Guests must book timed-entry tickets for this after-dark and family-friendly Christmas in Paris activity.

See Related: Best Gardens in Europe to Visit

10. Admire the Great Christmas Tree at Galeries Lafayette

Galeries Lafayette, Paris Interior
agcreativelab / AdobeStock

Address: 40 Bd Haussmann, 75009 Paris, France

Galeries Lafayette’s Christmas window display and stained glass windows have attracted locals and tourists since the 1920s. However, in 1976, the giant Christmas tree put the department store on the map as a top holiday destination.

Every year, a new theme is chosen for the tree-so it is worth a visit even if you’ve had Christmas in Paris before. In modern times, onlookers will enjoy a sound and lights show every 30 minutes. The Galeries Lafayette’s Great Christmas Tree is the perfect spot to finish your holiday shopping, and today, it’s become a must-stop on any Christmas in Paris itinerary.

FAQ

Is Paris worth visiting at Christmas?

Absolutely. The City of Lights becomes even more enchanting with beautiful holiday displays, unique attractions such as the Great Christmas Tree at Galeries Lafayette, and special events like the Festival of Lights. Plus, many Christmas markets, like the popular Marché de Noël des Abbesses or Saint Germain-des-Prés, exist.

What is Paris like at Christmas?

Paris’s renowned architecture is bedecked with glittering lights, turning the streets into a magical winter wonderland. The city’s Christmas markets spring up all over the city, offering an array of holiday treats, from mulled wine to artisanal crafts. A notable example is the Galeries Lafayette’s Great Christmas Tree, a must-see spectacle that varies in theme each year.

What do people in Paris do on Christmas?

Many Parisians attend a holiday concert at one of the city’s numerous churches, followed by a Christmas day meal at a top spot like Le Train Bleu. Parisians also enjoy strolling the beautifully lit streets, visiting Paris Christmas markets, and admiring the spectacular window displays at major department stores like Galeries Lafayette.

Is Paris or London better for Christmas?

Both Paris and London offer unique experiences during the festive season, so it ultimately depends on what you’re seeking. Paris becomes a magical winter wonderland with the city’s architecture adorned in glittering lights. Highlights include the Festival of Lights and the various Christmas markets in Paris.

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