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Christmas in Paris: The ultimate guide to a magical winter getaway

Published

20 November, 2023

Edited

29 November, 2023

Enjoy a sparkling winter break in the City of Lights

Paris is one of the most romantic destinations in the world. With fabulous attractions, world-class shopping, gourmet food and exceptional entertainment, it's a lively, welcoming and dynamic city with plenty to offer the discerning traveller.

During the festive season, the City of Lights takes on a whole new brilliance. A Christmas vacation in Paris allows you to enjoy wonderful festive markets and dazzling decorations, warming winter concerts and theatre shows, and the magic of Disneyland Paris for the little ones.

In this article, we’ll look at things to do during a winter getaway in Paris, how to make the most of the city’s endless festive shopping and dining options, and a few tips on what to pack and how to get around during this busy time of the year.

What not to miss if you're visiting Paris during the holiday season

While Paris is a year-round destination, there's something very special about the atmosphere and the sparkle the city takes on during the Christmas holiday period. Here are a few of the festive treats the city offers visitors during the winter season:

Explore the city’s festive Christmas markets

European Christmas markets are a delight. Filled with the warm scent of gingerbread, mulled wine and Christmas treats, it’s a chance to stock up on hand-made gifts and presents for everyone.

The best Christmas markets in Paris are located at the Champs-Elysées and Notre Dame. The incredible La Magie de Noël at Tuileries Garden is a must, with its fabulous Ferris wheel and hundreds of stalls. It’s the biggest Christmas market in Paris and has a carnival atmosphere, perfect for a fun-filled family day out.

Christmas markets are your chance to find unique gifts you won't discover anywhere else. They're an opportunity to admire the artisan skills of woodturners and leather goods makers, jewellery artists and traditional toy makers. The other half of the attraction of Christmas markets is the delicious food. You can wander through the market, sampling mouth-watering French food and drink. We guarantee you'll have a full-to-bursting bag of goodies by the end of your visit.

Admire Parisian Christmas decorations

Paris certainly lives up to its name as the City of Lights at Christmas. The whole city comes glitters, with dazzling illuminations on the Champs-Elysées and the Eiffel Tower standing as a beacon in the city's centre.

In every park and open space, you'll find fountains combining light and music shows to wow passers-by while the city's historic monuments take on a whole new look during the season.

The boulevards are lit up by spectacular window displays in department stores and boutiques, tempting you to step inside and explore the myriad of festive goodies on display. As with many cities, Christmas trees play an important part in the seasonal decorations, and you'll find brightly coloured trees adorned with lights at all of the iconic landmarks. The Christmas lights in Paris are a wonderful part of the celebrations, whether you’re in the heart of the city or out in the suburbs.

Experience Christmas at the Palace of Versailles

The Palace of Versailles is spectacular, with sweeping gardens, sparkling fountains and an air of opulence. It’s also home to a series of special events and concerts during Christmas, including a unique eco-friendly skating rink and the annual Christmas Illuminations.

The best place to see the Versailles Illuminations is the entrance of the Passage de la Geôle. Alternatively, you can gaze up at the lights in the Passage Saint-Louis et Carré à l’Avoine. The Cour des Centeurs and the Avenue Neveu Sud are also sparkling with Christmas lights.

Christmas Mass takes place at the Royal Chapel and the St Louis Cathedral and is a truly enchanting experience that brings the Christmas story and the spirit of the season to life. If you would like to take part in a Christmas celebration at the Palace, your dedicated concierge can arrange transport to make it easy to get to and from the Palace without worrying about catching the last train back into the city.

Attend an enchanting Christmas concert

Another one of the top things to do in Paris at Christmas is to attend one of the many magical Christmas concerts. From Christmas carol sing-alongs to exquisite performances like the Sainte-Chapelle Christmas concert or the annual Christmas Day concert at the Eiffel Tower, there’s something for everyone.

Family-friendly activities for your winter break in Paris

Christmas in Paris is a wonderland for younger travellers, and there are lots of things to do in Paris at this festive time. Disneyland Paris is a short drive away from the city. It’s everything a young visitor could wish for, from the spectacular Disney Illuminations that light up the Castle of Sleeping Beauty, to parades and lantern processions with all their favourite characters on show. Tickets go quickly, so it's wise to book ahead.

Another must-visit if you’re spending Christmas in Paris is Santa’s Village at Montmartre. The Christmas village is always a busy place for those last-minute presents, and Santa's grotto is filled with elves working to get all those gifts done in time for the big day. It's a magical experience for younger travellers.

Across the city, there are also festive workshops and activities for kids, where they can create everything from learning to make gingerbread people or creating their own crafts and gifts.

The sound of music fills every church, hall and major venue, so no matter where you’re staying in Paris, you’ll be close to a Christmas concert.

If you're staying at a onefinestay apartment in Paris, your dedicated concierge can arrange tickets and reservations to concerts across the city. Whether you're a jazz lover or want to listen to the mellow strains of Vivaldi's Four Seasons, a regular favourite for many Christmas concert performances, you'll find the concert for you. For the more popular performances, tickets can sell out very quickly, so it's wise to book in advance to avoid disappointment.

Indulge in a spot of Christmas shopping

Wandering around the shops and markets is part of the appeal of spending Christmas in Paris. From the artisan stalls in the Christmas markets to the couture boutiques of the Champs-Elysées, there’s nothing quite as much fun as a spot of retail therapy.

It’s worth taking a stroll down some of the back streets off the main shopping boulevards, where you’ll find the more unusual and unique boutique stores.

For more handcrafted treasures, the Christmas markets are the places to go, with a huge variety of bespoke gifts on display (as well as some fabulous gourmet treats). You'll also find that many of the big department stores have special offers on things such as designer perfumes and gifts for him, her and the little ones. With in-store cafés where you can catch your breath before diving back in, they're a great place to get all those last-minute gifts before the big day.

Visit the museums and art galleries

Paris is famous for its museums and art galleries, some of which house the most famous and iconic paintings in the world.

Throughout the Christmas period, you’ll find a wealth of special exhibitions and art installations, where rare works of art are brought out and put on display for limited periods. The Louvre has to be on your list of the best things to do in Paris at Christmas, and surprisingly, the crowds you normally get in the summer months can be a little thinner at this time of the year. Savour the beauty of the Mona Lisa, or gaze in wonder at Rembrandt's The Portrait of Dr. Gachet.

Keep a lookout for special workshops and activities at this time of the year, too, as many museums have special Christmas programmes, including lectures, guided tours, and family-friendly events.

Enjoy ice skating in the heart of Paris

One of the most popular things to do in Paris at Christmas is to go skating. As the festive season gets into full swing, skating rinks pop up across the city and are the perfect excuse for family fun.

The busiest rinks are at the Eiffel Tower and the Hôtel de Ville. The Eiffel Tower is a very special experience because the rink is on the first floor, so you get a great view as well.

Other skating rinks where you’ll find plenty of family-friendly fun include Tuileries Garden, where the rink is part of the park's amazing Christmas market and celebrations. If the weather turns a little inclement, there are also some indoor rinks to discover, such as the Accor Arena Ice Rink, which is a huge 1500m² rink, so there's lots of room for everyone. You can rent skates at any of the major permanent skating rinks in Paris, and some of the seasonal rinks, such as the Grand Palais, also have skates to rent for a small fee.

Practical tips for visiting Paris in winter

If you’re planning a Christmas vacation in Paris, France, it's wise to remember that the city can get quite chilly during December. Snow isn't common, but you'll need to pack a few extra jumpers and a woolly scarf, especially if you're planning on going to Midnight Mass or strolling around Christmas markets. Expect temperatures to be around 5°C/41°F on average, with only a couple of hours of sunshine a day. The chances of a shower are high, so pack a jacket and an umbrella.

Getting around Paris is incredibly easy, even during the festive season, thanks to the extensive Metro system extending to the outer Arrondissements. Overground trains also take you to destinations across the region and beyond. In the city, taxis are plentiful, or you can ask your dedicated concierge to arrange car hire or a chauffeur service to transport you around in style.

Savour an unforgettable Christmas in Paris

This holiday season, experience the magical lights and festive atmosphere of Paris with onefinestay. From booking you useful services, such as private drivers and professional childcare to crafting a unique Christmas itinerary for you and your family to enjoy, our team are on hand to ensure this festive season is the best one yet. Tempted? Speak to one of our Travel Advisors for further information.