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, winter wonderlands, and holiday shows, the season is filled with festive activity.
NOTE: Details are correct at the time of publication. 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 Magic in the Tuileries Gardens
Discover a winter wonderland in the heart of the French capital. Christmas chalets will be offering warm cider and hot chocolate, regional foods and products as well as plenty of original gift ideas. Ride the giant Ferris wheel for a spectacular view of the city of light or treat the children to a holiday “guignol” marionette show. There’s even an ice rink to test your skating skills!
When: November 15, 2019 through January 5, 2020
Where: Tuileries Gardens at Place de la Concorde, Paris 75001
Christmas Market in Les Halles
This Christmas, the Forum des Halles in the heart of Paris hosts its second Christmas Market, with 50 snow cabins promising quality arts and crafts and festive animation for everyone — including an ice rink and a Santa Claus house.
When: November 14, 2019 through December 29, 2019
Where: Canopée des Halles, Passage de la Canopée, 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 350 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, ice skating atop the Grande Arche and even a chance to get a photo taken with Santa Claus.
When: November 21 through December 28, 2019, Sunday to Thursday 11 am – 8 pm; Friday 11 am to 10 pm, 10 am – 10 pm Saturdays. Closed December 25.
Where: Esplanade de La Défense, 92800 Puteaux
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. To locate them – including the arts and crafts-themed market near Notre Dame Cathedral, an Alsatian market at Gare de l’Est, others at Saint-Germain-des-Près and at the foot of the Eiffel Tower in the Champ de Mars, a “Christmas Forest”-themed village in front of City Hall 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.
An American In Paris at the Théâtre du Châtelet
Don’t miss this performance of the classic musical by George and Ira Gershwin. The internationally renowned, 4-time Tony-Award winning musical is back in the theater where it was first adapted for the stage in 2014.
Where: Théâtre du Chatelet, 7 rue Edouard Colonne, 75001 Paris
When: Through January 1, 2020. Check WEBSITE for showtimes and bookings.
Urban Circus at the Théâtre le 13eme Art
Seven International Artists in a New Age Circus that combines street and urban art. Hip hop and incredible stunts that will blow your mind. Check Website for details and bookings.
Where: Place d’Italie Centre Commercial Italie Deux, 75013 Paris
When: Through December 31, 2019
Cirque d’Hiver Bouglione
A traditional and well-loved circus which has been around since 1852, back this year with a new show called “Défi”.
Where: 110 rue Amelot, 75011 Paris
When: October 12, 2019 – March 15, 2020. Check WEBSITE for details and bookings.
NOMAD: The Stars of Mongolia at the Cirque de Phénix
This spectacular production showcases stars from the Cirque de Mongolie bringing to life a Nomad camp under the stars. Don’t miss out on this fabulous epic filled with humor and acrobatic delights.
Where: Place Cardinal-Lavigerie , 75012 Paris
When: November 23, 2019 – January 19, 2020. Check WEBSITE for details and bookings.
Holiday Ice Skating
While you can skate at indoor rinks in 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:
An Ice Palace at the Grand Palais
Imagine yourself skating inside the magnificent Grand Palais museum! The Palace will be converted again into the largest indoor ice rink in the world. You can rent skates (patinoires), glide and party on nocturnal nights until 2 am and even enjoy one of the best winter sports on Christmas Day and New Year’s.
When: December 13, 2019 – January 8, 2020, 10am-1pm and 2pm-7pm.
Where: Grand Palais, Avenue Winston Churchill, 75008 Paris
Check times, dates and rates HERE.
The Grande Arche at La Défense
How about skating in a winter sports station at 110 m altitude with a panoramic view over Paris and its surroundings? Head to the rooftop of the Big Arch at La Défense and warm up with a hot chocolate at the Christmas Market down below.
When: Dec. 20, 2019 – Jan. 5, 2020, 11:00 am – 7 pm daily. Check the schedule for special evening hours.
Where: Grande Arche, 1, Parvis de la Défense, 92800 Puteaux
Cost: 12€/adult, 7€/children 3-12 years. Skate rental 3€.
Book your tickets HERE.
Skate and Shop on the rooftop of Galeries Lafayette
After admiring the elaborate Christmas decorations, enjoying a stunning #glasswalk, taking a photo with Santa and doing your Christmas shopping, you can now skate al fresco on the rooftop of the flagship store of Galeries Lafayette! Bring your skates and head up to the 160 square-meter ephemeral outdoor rink for a breathtaking view across the Parisian rooftops from the Opera all the way to the sparkling Eiffel Tower. Did we forget to mention that it’s free?
When: Nov. 20, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2019, everyday from 10am – 8pm
Where: Galeries Lafayette Haussman, 40, Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris.
More info on their WEBSITE
Market Village and Rink in the Champ de Mars
Or cross the Seine River to skate at the 300 square meter ice rink at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, surrounded by another festive holiday village of 60 chalets. Then, warm up with delicious hot cider, hot chocolate, and mulled wine while you rest your feet.
When: Dec. 20, 2019 – Jan. 5, 2020
Where: from Quai Branly to Avenue La Motte Piquet Grenelle in the 7th arrondissement
You’ll also find seasonal ice skating rinks at the Christmas Markets in the Forum des Halles and the Jardin des Tuileries (See “Christmas Markets” section above)!
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, BHV
Festive 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!
Storytelling and Fun With a Historical Twist
Guided visits with festive events and French storytelling at famous historical sites throughout Paris: Conciergerie, Panthéon, Chateau de Vincennes, Rambouillet and many more…
When: December 21, 2019 – January 5, 202
Where: Information for various locations at the Centre Des Monuments Historique
Traditional French Dancing Balls
Put on your dancing shoes and join the French at their popular street balls during the holiday. Two of Paris’ most famous city squares will be transformed into a dance hall
with live music and a DJ until midnight.
When: December 26 – 29, 2019
Where: Place de la Concorde, 17h30 dance workshop for the entire family, 20h with live music and 21h to midnight with a DJ
Where: Place de la Bastille, 17h30 party for families, 20h live music and 21h30 to midnight with a DJ
Disneyland – A Very Chrismouse
Leave it to the master 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. Once again, Mickey Mouse hosts the biggest holiday party with spectacular lights and decorations to set the scene, a merry Christmas parade, a nighttime fireworks spectacle, a “tap-tap-tap along” big concert, 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 from November 9, 2019 – January 6, 2020
Where: Disneyland Paris, 77777 Marne-la-Vallée
Christmas Magic in Vincennes
This festive Holiday show, Les Enchanteurs de Noel, runs for two weeks in December on the grounds of the Château de Vincennes, and features Merlin the Wizard, Santa Claus, battling knights and a spectacular parade with stilt walkers, acrobats, fire-eaters, witches and fairies. After the show, continue the merry fun with a mini-amusement park with rides, inflatable structures, trampolines, giant bubbles and much more for the entire family!
When: December 7 – 22, 2019, check HERE for showtimes
Where: 1 Avenue de Paris, 94300 Vincennes
Disney on Ice
Mickey Mouse is the master of ceremonies at this perennial crowd-pleaser. La Magie Eternelle runs for two weeks in December on the grounds of the Parc de la Villette. Let Mickey guide and glide you through this ice show with his irresistible friends: Minnie, Donald, Pluto, your favorite Disney princesses, plus the Toy Story 4 personalities!
When: December 6-12, 2019. 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:
Galeries Lafayette Haussman
Ho ho ho! Get ready to meet Santa and capture a memorable photo with the legend at Galeries Lafayette! 10€ for a 10cm x 15cm photo. Kids can even join the Santa letter writing workshop to ensure that he knows exactly what they want for the holidays!
Where: 5th floor, 51 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris.
When: 10am – 8pm on Wednesdays, Saturdays & Sundays from Nov. 23 to Dec. 24, 2019
Printemps Haussman – La Grande Recré
Look for the bearded jolly fella in the fuzzy red suit everywhere inside the department store which has dedicated its decorations to the world of Pere Noel. Exclusive Santa photos on two days only a week.
Where: 51 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris.
When: Saturdays and Sundays, November 30 – December 22, 2019
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, 92800 Puteaux
When: Nov. 22 – Dec. 29, 2018, Sunday to Thursday 11 pm – 8 pm, Friday 11 pm – 10 pm and Saturday 10 am -10 pm. Closed Dec. 25.
Immortalize your child’s visit to see Pere Noel with a studio portrait located in the Observatory at this downtown department store. Also, to help you Christmas shop, a garderie or babysitting station has been set up near Santa’s studio with nounous to keep your kids enthralled with games and fun!
Where: 5 Avenue Albert de Mun, 75016 Paris
When: Through December 22, 2019, every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, 2 pm – 7 pm
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 plus Christmas storytelling and musical fanfare.
Where: 31 rue d’Alsace, 92300 Levallois Perret, Place Central, -1 floor
When: Through December 24 on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, 10:30 pm – 1 pm and 2 pm – 7 pm.
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 14th at 8pm. After Nov. 30, tickets are only available in person at the church.
The American Cathedral in the 8tharrondissement has a large choir and extensive music programs. For the Christmas season, they are offering a Messiah Sing-Along on Sunday, December 8 at 3 pm, and Lessons & Carols for Christmas on December 15 at 6 pm – 8 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 highlights 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):
Listen to Beethoven and Schubert, Christmas Carols, Chopin and Tchaikovsky by candlelight in magnificent iconic settings of Paris.
When: December 13, 19, 20 and 23, 2019
Where: See website for details and dates for the Candlelight program
Christmas and New Year’s Concerts at the Eiffel Tower
Don’t miss your chance to hear classical masterpieces of Britten, Vivaldi Bartok and Brahms performed by the Orchestre Paris Classik in one of the world’s most famous landmarks — the Eiffel Tower! Tickets are going fast.
Where: Salle Gustave Eiffel, Eiffel Tower, Paris
When: Dec. 21, 24 & 31 2019 and Jan. 1 & 4, 2020
Christmas Concerts at La Sainte Chapelle
Gazing at the stunning stained glass windows of the magnificent Gothic La Sainte Chapelle while enjoying a classical concert is nothing short of magical.
Where: 4 boulevard du Palais, 75001 Paris
When: December 20, 22, 23, 27, 28 and 30, 31, 2019
Classics at l’Eglise de La Madeleine
The historic neo-Classical Église de la Madeleine offers a rich program of classical concerts, from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to Albinoni, Pachelbel and Mozart, to Handel’s Messiah, Christmas Classics, Ravel, Beethoven, and more.
Where: Place de la Madeleine, 75008 Paris
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. More than 150 streets in 70 neighborhoods will be lit up!
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. For a dreamy Christmas walk, stroll by the Paris City hall in the evening between December 13 to January 1 for projections of white snowflakes over a winter wonderland on the town square.
For the grande finale on December 31st, everyone’s invited to welcome the new year together on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées. An hour before midnight, the iconic Arc de Triomphe will be illuminated with a vivid light show followed by fireworks when the clock strikes midnight to ring in 2020! Bonnes Fêtes everyone!