The season leading up to Christmas is a light-filled, festive time in Paris that can provide an ideal backdrop for a romantic vacation or an enchanting holiday season with the kids.
Each year, elegant holiday lights adorn several neighborhoods, shopping districts and historical sites in Paris, ushering the city out of its November gloom.
Christmas/holiday lights displays on the Champs Elysées
The majestic Avenue des Champs-Elysées is flooded with lights every winter, with light-drenched trees stretching all the way from the Place de l’Etoile and the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde. Don’t forget to visit the Christmas market in the area while you’re at it.
Christmas Light Displays at Paris Department Stores.
The classic Paris department stores district near the Opera Garnier is awash with lights and elaborate window decorations every holiday season, generally starting at the end of November and throughout the January sales season in Paris.
For those of you who’ll be in Paris on Christmas day, remember that all of the city’s major museums and galleries will be closed. Many shops, cafes and restaurants are also closed all day on the 25th or are open only until the early afternoon.
An ice-skating rink is set up on the plaza outside of Hôtel de Ville (Paris City Hall). Christmas markets spring up all around the city, with their warm wood-roofed booths, vin chaud (hot wine), enchanting decorations and gifts, and gourmet treats. Chanukah celebrations like menorah lightings add to Paris’ holiday-season charm. There are also plenty of ways to celebrate a memorable Christmas in Paris.
With all the good cheer, Paris in December is nonetheless fairly relaxed, making the month an ideal time to take advantage of the city’s many sights and attractions. Take your time exploring museums, sipping cinnamon-infused hot wine, or attending a special holiday concert. Have a real retreat from the holiday madness back home and try taking Paris in frame by frame, like a painter would.
Foodie Christmas in Paris
The French celebrate with their blow-out meal the day before Christmas. In Paris, fresh oysters and creamy foie gras are on the festive menu, with delicate smoked salmon and hearty chapon (roast chicken), turkey or goose. Leave room for some chocolatey Bûche de Noël washed down with champagne.
In need of a spiritual uplift after all that shopping over Christmas? In Paris, a midnight mass must is the Eglise de la Madeleine (finishing at 12.45, you can still catch the last metro home). Or see the Christmas crèche at the oldest church in Paris, the pretty Eglise St-Germain-des-Prés, dating from the 6th to the 11th century.