Oh what fun it is to be in Paris during the holiday season! Dazzling Christmas lights brighten up the main avenues, while decorations deck the city’s restaurants and storefronts. Everywhere you turn, charming holiday villages pop up here and there, offering freshly roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and chocolat chaud to keep you warm, and lots of opportunities for unique Christmas shopping.
INSPIRELLE has curated this list of over 36 seasonal must-sees to celebrate the holidays in the City of Light! From spectacular Christmas displays to traditional markets, pop up ice rinks and winter wonderlands to holiday shows, the season is filled with festive activity.
NOTE: Details are correct at time of publication. Please note that several popular activities such as the Champs Elysée Christmas Market, the ice rinks at the Hotel de Ville and Eiffel Tower have been canceled this winter 2017-2018. Please check each organizer’s website before heading out in case of any changes.
Charming Christmas Markets
Snack on regional delicacies, sip hot chocolate or mulled wine (vin chaud) and pick up some artisanal crafts at one of the many Christmas markets (marchés de Noël), charming little villages composed of chalets which line many of the avenues in different arrondissements of Paris.
INSPIRELLE TIP: All the big markets will be crowded, so hang on to your kids and belongings; and while the shopping can be overpriced, it’s definitely worth a stroll to soak in the festive atmosphere.
Christmas Market in Les Halles
With the holiday market on the famous Avenue Champs Elysée discontinued this year, the new Christmas Market set up in Les Halles becomes the city’s holiday showcase. The 70 snow cabins promise quality arts and crafts with festive animation for everyone including a Santa Clause house.
When: through Dec. 31, 2017
Where: All around the Fontaine des Innocents in Les Halles, 75001
Christmas Market at La Défense (L’Arche de Noël de la Défense)
The largest and most authentic Christmas market in the Ile-de-France region is under the big illuminated arch presiding over the Esplanade of La Défense. The square is now transformed into an enchanting village of over 300 wooden chalets. Bring all the family here to find a wide variety of Christmas trinkets and French regional cuisine, as well as arts and crafts from as far as Morocco, Tunisia, China, Iran and Nepal. Around the esplanade, there’ll be music and games for the kids, and even a chance to get a photo taken with Santa Claus.
When: Through December 28, 2017, daily from 11:00am-8:00pm, 11am-10pm Saturdays and Sundays
Where: Esplanade de La Défense
If you prefer to stay away from the mega-markets, there are plenty of smaller Christmas markets around Paris, each with its own slightly different ambiance and charm, in local neighborhoods.
Alsatian Christmas Market at Gare de l’Est (Marché de Noël Alsacien de la Gare de l’Est)
For a taste of Alsace, where the French picked up their tradition of Christmas markets, head to this market under a large tent for typical Alsatian regional specialties like gingerbread, pretzels, sausages, sauerkraut and wines.
When: December 1 to 16, 2017 daily from 9am -8pm, Sundays from 10am-7pm
Where: Place du 11 novembre 1918, 75010 Paris
We’ve only highlighted a few key marchés and villages de Noël above. To locate the wide variety of Christmas markets around Paris, including the arts and crafts-themed one near Notre Dame Cathedral, and others at Saint-Sulpice, Saint-Germain-des-Près, Montmartre, Champ de Mars, Les Invalides and more, check out the city’s official visitors bureau website, or the X-Mas Markets website, a guide to Christmas markets around Europe.
Spectacular Shows to Captivate You
Prefer to stay indoors when it’s cold outdoors? How about enjoying one of these captivating performances on in Paris this winter!
Singin’ in the Rain at Théâtre de Châtelet in Grand Palais
A fabulous treat to enjoy one of the greatest dance musicals ever produced and recreated in the space of the Grand Palais. Sign up for a tap lesson from a dance teacher of Swing Tap school two hours before the performance. The show is in English with French subtitles.
Where: Grand Palais, 3 Avenue du Général Eisenhower, 75008 Paris
When: Through January 11, 2018. Check WEBSITE for showtimes and bookings.
Cirque d’Hiver Bouglione
A traditional and well-loved circus which has been around since 1852, back this year with a new show called “Exploit”.
Where: 110 rue Amelot, 75011 Paris
When: On until March 11, 2017. Check WEBSITE for details and bookings.
CirkAfrica au Cirque de Phénix
A spectacular show showcasing the African continent under the Big Top of the Cirque de Phénix. Don’t miss out on this fabulous glimpse into the African culture through amazing exploits and humor.
Where: Pelouse de Reuilly, 75012 Paris
When: Through January 21, 2018. Check WEBSITE for details and bookings.
Holiday Ice Skating
While you can skate at indoor rinks around the city year-round, something about skating under the wintery stars makes the experience a little more magical. So, get your earmuffs and gloves on and head to one of these seasonal outdoor ice rinks over the holidays:
Trocadéro on Ice
Imagine yourself skating with the stunning Eiffel Tower as a backdrop! The gardens of Trocadéro will be converted to a 300-meter outdoor ice rink flanked by 100 friendly German-style chalets selling comfort food and Christmas crafts.
When: December 20, 2017 – January 8, 2018, 11am – 8pm. Market open daily same hours (closed on December 25 and 31; early closings on December 24 at 5:30pm, and on December 31 at 5pm)
Where: Jardins du Trocadéro, 75016 Paris
Market Village and Rink in the Champ de Mars
Or cross the Seine River to skate at the Champ de Mars ice rink at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, surrounded by another festive holiday village. Then, warm up with delicious hot cider, hot chocolate, and mulled wine while you rest your feet.
When: December 21, 2017 – January 8, 2018, 11am – 8pm.
Where: from Quai Branly to Avenue La Motte Piquet Grenelle in the 7th arrondissement
Enchanting Window Displays and Christmas Shopping
In keeping with the tradition of the big department stores in major cities around the world, the Grands Magasins of Paris go all out each year and transform their display windows into mini-Winter Wonderlands. Elaborate displays are an orchestra of ornate decorations, scintillating lights, animated figures and music sure to offer a feast for the eyes for visitors of all ages. A perfect stop while doing your Christmas shopping!
Visit the websites of each store for details and opening hours: Printemps, Galeries Lafayette, Le Bon Marché, BHVFestive Fun for Kids
If the Parisian Christmas Villages, light displays, and ice skating are not enough to keep your kids entertained, here are some more ideas they’ll love!
Disneyland – Enchanted Christmas
Leave it to the king of magic makers to create an unforgettable holiday experience for kids of all ages. All through the holiday season, Disneyland Paris has pulled out all the stops to make it the coolest Christmas ever with spectacular lights and decorations to set the scene, a merry Christmas parade, a nighttime fireworks spectacle, a “Frozen” sing-a-long, special holiday menus at all the restaurants and hotels, and meet ‘n greets with Santa and the usual Disneyland cast of characters. Plenty of holiday cheer to keep the spirits high!
When: Christmas festivities daily until January 7, 2018
Where: Disneyland Paris, 77777 Marne-la-Vallée
Charléty on the Snow
No snow in Paris? Look harder! The Charléty stadium, the second largest sports complex in the city, is transformed into a spectacular winter sports destination that’ll have kids from 3 to 16 years old jumping for joy. Attractions include: 4 zip-lines, a snow garden (300m²), games, walks in snowshoes, sledding, ice-skating on synthetic ice, trampolines, and merry-go-rounds.
When: December 25, 2017 to January 5, 2018, 11am – 6pm (closed on January 1, 2018)
Where: Stade Charlety, 99 boulevard Kellermann, 75013 Paris
Disney on Ice
The ice skating extravaganza returns to the Zenith Auditorium at La Villette park with a show entitled, “Le Voyage Imaginaire”. Boys and girls of all ages can watch their favorite characters such as Peter Pan, Simba and Ariel glide, jump and twirl before their eyes as they take the audience on a journey to imaginary lands.
When: December 6- 17, 2017. Showtimes vary, so check the Zenith WEBSITE for details
Where: Parc de la Villette, 75019 Paris
For the “believers”, a photo with Santa, better known as Père Noël in France, is a must to ensure they get their presents for being nice. It’s amazing how the jolly guy gets around, isn’t it? Here are some places around Paris for your little ones to pay a visit to Father Christmas:
Get your photos with Santa in the toy department on the 5th floor of the store.
Where: 40, Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris
When: Until December 24, 2017 on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 11am-7pm; Wednesdays and Saturdays from 11am-8pm
Printemps Haussman – La Grande Recré
Look for the bearded jolly fella in the fuzzy red suit inside the Grande Recré toy store located in Printemps.
Where: 51 Boulevard Haussmann 75009 Paris.
When: Weekends until Christmas, from 11am-1pm and 3pm-6pm
Centre Commercial Beaugrenelle
Take a break from shopping to get a photo with Santa on his throne, at this popular shopping mall, decked out for the holidays.
Where: 12 Rue Linois 75015 Paris
When: Wednesdays and weekends in December, every day through December 31, 2017, check WEBSITE for times
Christmas Market at La Défense
Father Christmas can also be found at the largest Christmas market in the Paris region.
Where: Esplanade de La Défense
When: Monday to Thursday and Sunday 11pm-8pm, Friday 11pm-10pm and Saturday 10h-22h until December 28
L’Aquarium de Paris
Here’s a different twist: Santa will dive into the giant aquarium and swim with exotic fish at the Paris aquarium for 10 minutes!
Where: 5 Avenue Albert de Mun, 75016 Paris
When: December 18-24, 2017, every day at 3pm
Centre Commerciale So Ouest
This ultramodern shopping center on the northwest edge of Paris is hosting a traditional visit with Santa on certain dates throughout the month.
Where: 31 rue d’Alsace, 92300 Levallois Perret, Place Central -1 floor
When: Through December 24th on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 1:30pm-7:30pm (6pm on the 24th)
Christmas Concerts in Historic Settings
What’s Christmas without a bit of Christmas music? From classical music in historic surroundings to traditional Christmas carols in the churches, there are plenty of places where you can get inspired by beautiful voices this month.
Churches serving the Anglophone community:
The American Church in Paris in the 7th arrondissement is performing a Candlelight Christmas Concerts with four excellent choirs on December 9th at 5pm and 8pm. NB: Tickets must be ordered online and the 5 pm concert is already sold out.
The American Cathedral in the 8th arrondissement has a large choir and extensive music programs. For the Christmas season, they are offering a Messiah Sing-Along on Sunday, December 10 at 3 pm, and Lessons & Carols for Christmas on December 16 at 6 pm and December 17 at 4 pm.
NOTE: Both churches offer Christmas pageants and services on December 24th and 25th. Check their websites above for times.
Performances at other locations:
Paris is blessed with a non-stop roster of cultural events, including plenty of seasonal concerts – from classical to Gregorian chants and sacred music – being performed in extraordinary historic settings. The best place to find out what’s on in the classical music scene and to buy tickets is Classictic.com (in English).
Here are some of the Christmas season performances to search for on Classictic.com so you can book your tickets in advance (click on title links for more details and bookings):
Dinner and Christmas Concerts at La Sainte Chapelle
Gaze at the breathtaking stained glass windows of La Sainte Chapelle, while enjoying a superb performance of classical music. Indulge in a delicious meal before or after the concert at the brasserie Les Deux Palais, just steps away from the Sainte Chapelle.
4 boulevard du Palais, 75001 Paris
Various dates throughout December
Classical Music at l’Eglise de La Madeleine
Experience the Four Seasons of Vivaldi and Christmas carols in the lovely neo-Classical La Madeleine Church in Paris.
14, rue de Surène 75008 Paris
Evenings throughout December 2017. Click here for dates and program.
Dazzling Christmas Lights
They don’t call Paris the City of Light for nothing! By night, the city dazzles as seasonal decorations, luminous arches, and colorful light projections deck the avenues and storefronts across the French capital. The largest display of illuminations is along the entire 2km length of the renowned Avenue des Champs-Elysées. Other popular spots include the adjoining Avenue Montaigne, the grandiose Place Vendôme, the charming Montmartre area which is home to the Sacré Coeur Basilica, and Bercy Village.