5 Reasons to Visit Paris at Christmas

A photo of the tree at the Galeries Lafayette, one of the reasons to visit Paris at Christmas

It’s officially December, which means that the annual holiday celebrations are well and truly upon us. I’ll be honest, I love the holidays, especially in Paris. This is a city that loves to go all out at Christmas, and I look forward to it every year. In fact, it wouldn’t be December without my annual pilgrimage to see all the lights and decorations. There are so many things to see this time of year, but below are my favourite reasons why you should visit Paris at Christmas.

The Markets

Christmas markets are a staple of the French holiday season. The most famous ones are located in Strasbourg and the Alsace region, but they can be found everywhere. Especially in Paris. The main markets are at La Defense and the Tuileries Gardens, but most neighbourhoods will run smaller ones throughout the month. Personally, my favourite part about going to the Christmas markets is the food and drinks, and I always fill up on tartiflette, mulled wine, and churros. Add in some roasted chestnuts and raclette and you have the full market experience. It’s a meal I look forward to every year.

The Lights

Paris is known as the City of Light, and every holiday season the city takes this nickname to heart. Beautiful lights adorn the streets of Paris, with shop windows and garlands adding to the effect. The most famous displays are located on the Champs-Elysées, Avenue Montaigne, and Place Vendome, but Christmas lights truly can be found everywhere. Go for a walk in whatever neighbourhood you find yourself in, and you’ll be surrounded by sparkling lights in no time.

The Windows

Paris has several large department stores, and every year they spare no expense with their beautiful window displays. The windows along Boulevard Haussmann even have raised platforms directly in front of them so that small children can have a better view. Make a day of it and make the rounds of the Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, BHV, and the Bon Marché. They will likely be crowded, but it will be worth it.

The Trees

If I’m being honest, this one is a little bittersweet, because every year, the plaza in front of Notre Dame would play host to a beautifully decorated tree. That won’t be the case this year, but there are plenty of others to marvel at, including the massive one in the centre of Les Halles. However, the pinnacle of Christmas trees in Paris is always the one located in the main atrium of the Galeries Lafayette. Every year is it truly spectacular and a definite must see.

The Rinks

I grew up ice skating, so it’s always a particular joy for me to see the various ice rinks that pop up throughout the city for the holidays. This year there’s one at the Christmas village on the Champ de Mars, meaning you can skate with the Eiffel Tower as your backdrop. There’s also a skating rink located on top of the Grand Arche at La Defense that will give you a stunning view of the city. My personal favourite, however, is the ice rink under the dome at the Grand Palais. Every year, this massive exhibition hall is transformed into an enormous 3,000 square metre ice rink, complete with music, lights, and a DJ in the evening. What could be better?

Everyone Should Visit Paris at Christmas!

The above is just a small sampling of the activities and sights around Paris at the holidays. There is just so much to see and experience every year, and with so much festive cheer in the air, I almost don’t mind the cold weather. Almost. So if you’re visiting Paris at Christmas, I hope you have a chance to take in some of the beautiful sights around the city. And if we’re not seeing you this year, it’s time to start planning for next year. See you at the markets!

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Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.