Paris is considered to be pretty magical year-round but come Christmastime, the city’s atmosphere becomes completely enchanting. The City of Lights sparkles even brighter as its most famous monuments glow with glittering lights, festive decorations adorn the streets and department stores reveal lavish window displays. If you plan to spend the holidays in Paris this year, make it particularly special with our Christmas guide to Paris.
Fill up on festive treats at the Christmas markets
Although Christmas markets originated in Germany, nowadays you’ll find them all over Europe during the festive season. Traditional marchés de noël can be found in every quarter of Paris, each one unique in its own way. Look out for the wooden chalets selling all manner of seasonal crafts, toys and decorations and for the vendors roasting chestnuts and pouring mugs of vin chaud. Some of the most memorable markets include the market at Notre Dame, Montmarte’s Abbesses Christmas market and Le Village de Noël at Les Halles.
Go ice skating
A favourite winter pastime in the northern hemisphere, dig out your scarf and mittens and go for a spin on one of Paris’ many outdoor ice skating rinks. Some of the city’s most famous rinks include those at Jardin du Tuileries or underneath the Eiffel Tower. This year, however, it’s the rooftop rinks that are the talk of the town. The ice rink on top of the Grande Arche at La Défense allows you to skate 110 metres above Paris, while the Galeries Lafayette rooftop rink offers one of the most beautiful views of the city.
Admire the twinkling Christmas lights
Every arrondissement strings up its own individual display of Christmas lights, so no matter where you are in Paris, the streets feel delightfully charming. The most dazzling display can be found along the Champs Elysées where over a million twinkling blue and white lights cover every tree lining the avenue. You don’t have to stick to the main tourist locations to see sparkling lights, however. Over 150 streets and squares glitter across the city.
View the extravagant window displays
Every year, Parisians eagerly await the unveiling of the Christmas window displays at the city’s four major department stores: Printemps Hausmann, Galeries Lafayette, Bon Marché and BHV Marais. Themes change every year and the displays always seem grander and more evocative each year; think mechanical puppets, animations, light displays and lots of sparkle. Each store typically reveals their displays in early November, just as the first holiday festivities begin.
Attend midnight mass at one of Paris’ cathedrals
All of Paris’ grand churches hold a mass on the night before Christmas but the service at the Notre Dame Cathedral is perhaps the most famous and special. Featuring hand-crafted nativity scenes, impressive choral and organ music, glowing candlelight and lavishly decorated Christmas trees, it’s an unforgettable experience. Other touching services are held at the Sacré Coeur in Montmarte, the Église Saint Eustache in Les Halles and the Left Bank’s Église Saint Sulpice.
This guest post was written by Rachel Bale.