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A photo of the Champs Élysées looking up towards the Arc de Triomphe. Christmas lights illuminate either side of the boulevard.

When the City of Light Becomes the City of Lights

December can be a miserable month to be in Paris. It’s cold. You don’t see the sun for days on end. And the whole city shuts down at the first hint of a snowflake in the air. But December is also the month when the City of Light becomes the City of Lights. As in plural. Because December is when Paris transforms into an ocean of lights for the holiday season. Buildings are adorned with decorations, illuminated trees line the public squares, and garlands span the streets. When the sun sets and the lights come on, December is a truly magical time to be in Paris. If you will be visiting Paris in December, here are my favourite spots to admire the City of Lights.

Avenue des Champs-Élysées

Yes, this is a cliché. And yes, it will be crowded with visitors and locals alike, all vying for the perfect Instagram shot. But the lights along the Champs-Élysées are a classic for a reason. There’s nothing like looking up this famous avenue and taking in the parallel lines of illuminated trees that culminate in the Arc de Triomphe. This view is famous for a reason.

L’Avenue Montaigne

After getting the perfect photo at the Champs-Élysées, be sure to take a stroll down the nearby Avenue Montaigne. This street is home to some of the most famous haute couture boutiques in the world. It is also lined with trees that get covered in white lights every December, creating a magical environment for some window shopping. If you time your stroll just right, you’ll reach the end of the avenue in time to watch the Eiffel Tower light up across the river. As I said. December in Paris can be magical.

Place Vendôme

From the high end shops to the Ritz Hotel, Place Vendôme is a square steeped in luxury. And every December, this royal Place spares no expense in its decorations for the holidays. Towering trees mark each corner and lights adorn the buildings and lamp posts. Place Vendôme may not be as famous as the Champs-Élysées, but it is one of my favourite places to take in the lights of the holidays every year.

Rue Saint-Honoré

Rue Saint-Honoré is similar to Avenue Montaigne, in that it is lined with boutique after boutique that I will never be able to afford to shop at. But every December, these boutiques go all out in decorating their exterior facades. The result is stunningly beautiful. In particular, be sure to head to the intersection at Rue Cambon. With Chanel on one corner and Dior on the other, it is truly a sight to behold.

Lumières en Seine

Last month I wrote about the annual festival of illumination at the Jardin des Plantes. And I stand by my recommendation. But this past weekend I visited the Lumières en Seine at Parc de Saint-Cloud, and I was completely blown away. Unlike all of the other locations listed above, Lumières en Seine is a ticketed event. And a not cheap one at that. But it was absolutely worth every centime. The experience involves walking along a 2km route through the park, with 25 different lighting installations to discover along the way. There were fields of fairy lights, rainbow bridges, mystical forests, illuminated swans, and plenty of gorgeous photo ops. Everything was set to music, and it all culminated with a truly spectacular lighting show at the Grande Cascade. I really hope that Lumières en Seine is an annual event, because I will happily buy next year’s ticket today.

A photo of the light show at the Grand Cascade at the Lumières en Seine.

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.


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