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 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 24, 2018 through January 6, 2019
Where: Tuileries Gardens at Place de la Concorde, Paris 75001
Christmas Market in Les Halles
This Christmas, the Forum des Halles hosts its first 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: December 1, 2018 through January 6, 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 22 to December 29, 2018, daily from 11 am – 8 pm;
10 am – 10 pm Saturdays and Sundays
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 the wide variety of Christmas markets around Paris, including the arts and crafts-themed market near Notre Dame Cathedral, an Alsatian market at Gare de l’Est, and others at Saint-Germain-des-Près, at the foot of the Eiffel Tower in the Champ de Mars, a “Made in Paris”-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!
Chicago the Musical at Théâtre de Mogador
Bob Fosse‘s legendary production, featuring music by Kander and Ebb finally hits Paris en version française. This tale of lust, murder and celebrity in Jazz Age Chicago has lost none of its sparkle. With a superbly talented cast and 14-piece live band, it promises to be a treat for the eyes and ears.
Where: Théâtre Mogador, 25 rue de Mogador, 75009 Paris
When: Through June 30, 2019. Check WEBSITE for showtimes and bookings.
Jean Paul Gaultier Fashion Freak Show
Basking in the success of its first sold-out season, the life story of iconic fashion couturier Jean Paul Gautier continues into 2019 at the Folies Bergères Theatre. Fashion Freak Show is a fabulously fun and provocative cabaret show filled with music, dance and of course, Gaultier’s flamboyant fashion. Check WEBSITE for details and bookings.
Where: 32 rue Richet, 75002 Paris
When: Through to March 10, 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 “Extra”.
Where: 110 rue Amelot, 75011 Paris
When: Dec. 1, 2018 – Mar. 17, 2019. Check WEBSITE for details and bookings.
Le Roi Singe at the Cirque de Phénix
This spectacular production showcases stars from the Cirque de Pékin bringing to life one of China’s best-known legends, that of Sun Wu Kong, aka the Monkey King. Don’t miss out on this fabulous epic filled with humor and acrobatic delights.
Where: Pelouse de Reuilly, 75012 Paris
When: Dec. 1, 2018 – January 20, 2019. 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:
The Grand Palais de Glace Ice Rink
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 16, 2018 – January 9, 2019, 11am – 8pm.
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. 8, 2018 – Jan. 6, 2019, 10:30 am – 7 pm daily, till 8:30pm on Dec. 27 and Jan. 3.
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.
Market Village and Rink in the Champ de Mars
Or cross the Seine River to skate at the Champ de Mars 300 square meter ice rink at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, surrounded by another festive holiday village of 100 chalets. Then, warm up with delicious hot cider, hot chocolate, and mulled wine while you rest your feet.
When: Dates TBC
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!
Disneyland – A Very Chrismouse
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. This year, 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 December 10, 2018 to until January 6, 2019
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 2 to 17, 2018, check here for showtimes
Where: 1 Avenue de Paris, 94300 Vincennes
Disney on Ice
The ice skating extravaganza returns to the Zenith Auditorium at La Villette park with a show entitled, “Crois en Tes Rêves”. Boys and girls of all ages can believe in their dreams by watching their favorite characters Cinderella, Aurore, Jasmine et Belle glide, jump and twirl before their eyes. The opening spectacular act pays tribute to our favorite, feisty rodent, Mickey Mouse, who celebrates his 90th birthday.
When: December 12- 23, 2018. 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. A special play space for children is also available on weekends during the holiday season.
Where: 40, Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris
When: Until December 24, 2018 Everyday from 11am-8pm
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: Wednesdays and Saturdays, photo sessions from 11 am – 7 pm
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 and chiming with music.
Where: 12 Rue Linois, 75015 Paris
When: December 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23 from 2:30 pm to 7 pm; December 24 from 2:30 pm – 5 pm.
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, Monday to Thursday and Sunday, 11 pm – 8 pm, Friday 11 pm – 10 pm and Saturday 10 am -10 pm, until December 29
Here’s a different twist: Meet Père Noël in the wonderful, wacky world of Mary Poppins’ Christmas throughout the store. There is even a team of British nannies on standby to entertain your kids while you shop.
Where: 5 Avenue Albert de Mun, 75016 Paris
When: Through December 23, 2018 for Mary Poppins activities; and every Wednesday and Sunday from November 28 for Père Noël.
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 24 on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, from 1:30 pm – 7:30 pm (6 pm on Dec. 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 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):
Don’t miss your chance to hear classical masterpieces of Vivaldi and Gounod performed by the Orchestre Paris Classik in one of the world’s most famous landmarks — the Eiffel Tower!
Where: Salle Gustave Eiffel, Eiffel Tower, Paris
When: Dec. 24 & Dec. 31, 2018 and Jan. 1, 2019
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 22, 29, 30 and 31
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.
Place de la Madeleine, 75008 Paris
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.