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10 Best Things to Do on Christmas in Paris

Markets, street lighting, special activities and many more attractions. At this time of the year, Paris shines more than ever and just walking along its avenues will give your Christmas the special touch you desire.

Joaquín Montaño

Joaquín Montaño

9 min read

10 Best Things to Do on Christmas in Paris

View of the Arc de Triomphe at Christmas time | ©Pierre Blaché

If normally there are a lot of activities and places to see in Paris, during Christmas its charm is multiplied. The French capital dresses up for the holidays with its elegant illumination and offers its inhabitants and visitors a wide range of entertainment for both adults and children.

During these dates, the Christmas spirit is embodied in the streets of Paris, to the point that it is difficult to choose what to visit first. For that reason I have prepared this small list of ideas and key points so you can organize your visit and choose according to what you like the most.

1. Strolling under the Christmas lights

Eiffel Tower at Christmas| ©Nathalie
Eiffel Tower at Christmas| ©Nathalie

If there is a time of the year when the City of Light lives up to its nickname, it is Christmas. Strolling through its most important streets to contemplate the lighting is a must if you travel to the French capital during that time.

Each of its avenues is filled with multicolored bulbs formed the most diverse forms, projections and luminous arches. Likewise, all its historic buildings and monuments are also filled with these lights and show their best face to Parisians and visitors who come from all over the world.

Although all over the city you will find unforgettable Christmas lights, there are some areas that you can not miss: the Champs Elysees, the Place Vendôme, the entire Montmartre district or Bercy Village are some of these areas.

To enjoy these decorations you just have to stroll quietly or hire an organized tour of Paris. Another way to see the illumination is with one of the tourist buses that travel around the city.

Book a place on a sightseeing bus in Paris

2. Disneyland Paris

Illumination and pyrotechnics show on the Castle| ©Zino Scheers
Illumination and pyrotechnics show on the Castle| ©Zino Scheers

Christmas may be the best time to visit the nearby Disneyland Paris to put the finishing touch to your trip to the French capital. No matter your age, the park offers illusion, magic and a unique experience to all its visitors during this season.

In addition to sharing its streets with all the Disney characters and riding the Disneyland Paris attractions, at Christmas time the whole park shows its best face with its garlands, Christmas balls and lights.

It is worth mentioning the huge Christmas tree that is placed at this time of the year, adorned with a fantastic set of lights that wraps it with color and brightness. You can not miss the special parades that several times a day along the main street and showing different Christmas allegories.

The Christmas season in Disneyland Paris usually begins in November and lasts until after Epiphany. To get to the Disney Park from Paris you have multiple options, from doing it on your own to hiring a private transfer. Of course, I recommend you to check the weather, as it is usually quite cold.

Buy your tickets to Disneyland Paris

3. Attend the Christmas show at the Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge by night| ©Leandro Kibisz
Moulin Rouge by night| ©Leandro Kibisz

Christmas in Paris is not only experienced in the streets, but all kinds of establishments offer special activities. The best known is possibly the one organized by the most famous cabaret in the city: the Moulin Rouge.

On these dates, the Moulin Rouge offers the opportunity to attend a special show that reflects the best of its essence. In addition, it also includes a dinner that has nothing to envy to the best restaurants in the city.

To spend a Christmas night in this legendary place you must be proactive, as tickets for the Moulin Rouge are usually sold out quickly.

In case you have been left without the possibility of going, you can always try to go to see another popular show that is celebrated those days. It is offered at the Lido Paris Merveilles and you have the option of buying the normal ticket or the special one that includes dinner.

Buy your tickets for the Moulin Rouge with dinner

4. Visit the Marchés de Noël, the Christmas markets of Paris

Notre Dam Christmas Market| ©Claudia
Notre Dam Christmas Market| ©Claudia

During the Christmas season, several neighborhoods of Paris install the Marchés de Nöel, Christmas markets that are one of the great attractions of the city when you visit it in December. Strolling through them, with their smells and colors, you will feel transported to a magical world.

The tradition of Christmas markets in Paris comes from Alsace, a region of the country whose convulsive history has made it belong to both France and Germany at different periods.

These markets, of which I talk more in depth in the article on Christmas markets in Paris, are made up of small huts that offer products such as crepes, roasted chestnuts (marrons), waffles and mulled wine, a drink is perfect for warming up in the cold Parisian winter. In addition, they are also ideal places to buy decorative objects, gifts and many other things.

Christmas markets begin to open in mid-November. Among the most popular are those located on the Champs Elysées, in the Tuileries Garden, at Notre Dame or on the Champs de Mars, although there are also some smaller ones in other neighborhoods of Paris.

If you can, you should not miss the one in the Montmartre district, where you will find stalls selling handicrafts and products from all regions of the country.

Book a tour of the Montmartre district

5. Ride on the carousels

Carousel in Paris| ©Marcelo Campi
Carousel in Paris| ©Marcelo Campi

If you travel with children to Paris, it is almost impossible that they do not want to enjoy the many carousels that are installed in some districts of the capital. These merry-go-rounds are, moreover, totally free and riding them is an experience that the little ones (and many older ones) will not forget.

Although there are quite a few that you will find in the streets of the capital, I advise you not to miss the one installed in the Trocadero Square, with great views of the Eiffel Tower. In addition, you can take the opportunity to visit the Christmas market that is installed in the tower itself.

On the other hand, it is also very interesting to approach the Place de la Concorde. Here you will not find a carousel or merry-go-round, but a big Ferris wheel from which you will be able to see part of the city. If it is at night, you will enjoy the Parisian illumination in all its splendor.

6. Enjoy the decoration of the shop windows

Touring Galeries Lafayette| ©Mario Sánchez Prada
Touring Galeries Lafayette| ©Mario Sánchez Prada

Parisians live Christmas with great intensity and this is reflected in the effort they put into decorating the whole city, both public and private environments. Anyone who knows their way around Paris will notice this effort with just a glance.

In recent years, the decoration of stores and malls has become one of the great attractions of the city at this time of the year. Walking through the streets and looking in the shop windows is an experience that makes anyone feel like a child again, as lights, colors and illusion are everywhere.

One place you should definitely go to is the Galeries Lafayette. If you need to go by metro, here is a small guide to use the metro in Paris, but either way it is a must visit at Christmas.

In this department store is not only installed a fantastic Christmas tree, but its windows have one of the most spectacular decorations in the city. Thus, those in charge of that window have achieved a decoration that includes movement and music to achieve a hypnotic result.

On the other hand, some of the Parisian boutiques have in their windows automatons and fantastic artifices that tell stories and fairy tales for all audiences. Among the most prominent are those of Printemps Haussmann, Le Bon Marché or BHV. In the latter, in addition, children can have their picture taken with Santa Claus.

Book a shopping trip to La Vallée outlet store

7. Skating on the ice rinks

Skating rink of the Grand Palais,| ©Eric Demarcq
Skating rink of the Grand Palais,| ©Eric Demarcq

If you are a little bit skilled or if you feel like having a good time, one of the most popular entertainments during the Parisian Christmas is ice skating. At this time of the year, several installations of this type are installed, including some on a major monument.

These ice rinks are generally free to enter, but be aware that you will have to pay to rent skates and equipment if you don't bring them with you. Some of them also have a special area for children. In recent times, however, some ice rinks are appearing that do require a fee to use them.

The grace of these rinks lies not only in skating with greater or lesser skill, but the location of some of them is certainly spectacular. Among these is the one installed in the Grand Palais, under its impressive glass dome, which is the largest non-permanent rink in the world.

If you can and are enjoying Paris at night, I recommend you go to this rink when night falls, as it becomes a kind of disco with DJ and strobe balls where you can dance with your skates.

On the other hand, the Galeries Lafayette also has its own ice rink on its terrace, so you will have a nice view of the Opera and the Eiffel Tower.

Finally, I can only recommend the rink located in the Eiffel Tower itself, more specifically on the second floor. If you have already climbed the monument, you will not be surprised to know that the experience of skating on it enjoying the views from the Eiffel Tower is something unrepeatable.

Joaquín's Traveller Tip:

Be prepared to share the main streets with a large crowd of people doing their Christmas shopping or just strolling around. On the other hand, remember to bring warm clothes, as temperatures can be very low...

8. Experience New Year's Eve and New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve on the Champs Elysées in Paris| ©Carlos
New Year's Eve on the Champs Elysées in Paris| ©Carlos

The big days of Christmas are undoubtedly New Year's Eve and New Year's Eve. For the past few years, Paris has been celebrating the turn of the year with several activities that are worthwhile, both for the spectacle that is organized and for the atmosphere in the streets.

On the night of December 31, the Champs Elysées in Paris dresses up for the party. Thousands of Parisians and tourists gather there to welcome the good year with a great spectacle of light and sound in which a video is projected on the Arc de Triomphe. To finish, you will be able to enjoy fireworks.

The next day, a big New Year's parade is held on the same avenue. Floats, musicians, clowns, dancers and acrobats parade through a street full of people.

Joaquín's Traveller Tip:

New Year's Eve is for enjoying yourself, but beware of drinking too much. According to the laws of the country, if the police find you in the street drunk they can fine you more than 100 €. It is also forbidden to throw firecrackers.

9. Christmas concerts

Maison de la Radio,| ©ferdee2
Maison de la Radio,| ©ferdee2

Music lovers will have plenty of options to enjoy their visit to Paris during the Christmas season. In several halls of the city, as well as in some churches, different concerts of great quality are held.

They are well known those organized in the Maison de la Radio, a building built in the 60s. During several nights you will be able to enjoy the performance of several of the most important orchestras in the country, including the Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orchestre National de France.

On the other hand, another concert that traditionally takes place on these dates is the one offered by Radio Classique, held at the Champs Elysees Theater.

The concert held every year at the Notre Dame Cathedral was one of the highlights of the Christmas musical program. While it remains under repair, they have moved to the Church of the Madeleine, the most famous neoclassical temple of the capital, and the Church of Saint Germain de Pres.

After the concert, I recommend you go to the Latin Quarter (or hire a tour there) to taste the cheeses offered there.

Book a tour of the Latin Quarter

10. Take a little christmas cruise on the Seine River

Seine Crossing| ©josefrancisco salgado
Seine Crossing| ©josefrancisco salgado

There is possibly only one activity more romantic than taking a cruise on the Seine River: doing it during Christmas or, even better, during New Year's Eve.

Although throughout the year you can hire various types of cruises (day cruises, night cruises, dinner cruises including ), on the night that says goodbye to the year there are some companies that organize a small party on board their boats.

This celebration includes the New Year's Eve dinner, cotillion and a dance that lasts well into the night. All this, in addition, with views as spectacular as those of the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower or the Notre Dame Cathedral, all of them adorned with special Christmas lighting.

Book your cruise on the Seine