It’s December and the holiday season is in full swing here in Paris. Lights decorate the streets. The tree is up at the Galeries Lafayette. And the window displays of the department stores of Paris are ready to be seen once more. Personally, I love Paris in December. It may be cold, but I love the decorations that are on display everywhere I look. I love the lights and I love the festive energy that’s in the air. But my favourite part about being in Paris during the holidays is the many Christmas markets that take over the city. They were all mostly cancelled last year, but this year they’re back. And I fully intend on making the most of their return.
The Christmas markets are actually a tradition that originated in Germany in the late Middle Ages. Dresden held what is now considered to be the first official Christmas market in 1434, and that market has been running ever since. The tradition quickly spread to other countries across Europe, but today, they are particularly popular in Austria, Switzerland, and England. German immigrants also brought the tradition overseas, meaning Christmas markets can now be found in cities all over the world.
In France, the most famous Christmas markets are the ones found in the region of Alsace, with the Strasbourg market drawing millions of visitors every year. However, nowhere can you find more markets in the same city than in Paris. Every year, those iconic wooden chalets appear in the Tuileries Garden, along Boulevard Saint-Germain, and in the plaza in front of Hotel de Ville, among many other locations. The largest Christmas market can be found at La Defense, with over 350 stalls to choose from. But there are also dozens of smaller markets that pop up throughout the city. My personal favourite is the Notre Dame Christmas market, located in Square Viviani, directly across the river from Notre Dame Cathedral. I have spent many hours over the years browsing those stalls with a cup of mulled wine in hand.
The Christmas markets typically run for the four weeks of advent. However, many of the larger markets run from late November into the first week of January. Meaning you have lots of time to take in the sights and browse the chalets. And if you get hungry, there’s plenty of tartiflette and grilled saucisses on offer. Not to mention all the mulled wine and cider. So if you ever find yourself in Paris in December, do not miss out on this classic holiday tradition. It’s guaranteed to get you in the festive mood.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a mountain of churros to go eat…
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.