Celebrate the Holidays in Paris

If there’s one time of year when the “city of romance” becomes even more romantic, it’s around the Winter holidays. From the end of November through the beginning of January, Paris transforms into a holiday wonderland, combining the old and the new with just a hint of “je ne sais quoi.” From holiday shopping to New Year’s Eve revelry, here are some elements you are sure to enjoy if you plan on spending the holidays in Paris.

Christmas Champs Elyses Paris

Christmas on the Champs Elysees in Paris

Paris’s Marchés de Noël (Christmas Markets)

During the month of December, you’ll find various holiday markets throughout Paris (some are included as a part of the regular weekly markets), and one of the most famous is the Trocadéro Christmas Market, located opposite the Eiffel Tower. Here you can browse over 120 stalls with wintry culinary delights as well as artisanal and hand-crafted products (my favorite are the wooden toys.) Of course, a stroll through a Christmas market isn’t complete without a cup of mulled wine in your hand.

Paris City Lights and Decorations

Les Galeries Lafayette in Paris

Christmas display under the dome at Les Galeries Lafayette in Paris

Each holiday season, Paris’s historic quartiers (neighborhoods) get decked out with vintage street decorations and lights. Nothing gets you into the holiday spirit like a stroll down the Champs Elysées, around Place Vendôme, or down Avenue Montaigne. Paris’s department store windows rival those of New York’s 5th Avenue. Take in the detailed, traditional wintry scenes with miniature “Parisians,” or glamorous displays with glitter and gold. Some of the best window decorations can be found at Galeries Lafayette, Printemps and the stores along Boulevard Haussmann.

Holiday Concerts or Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral

Christmas Tree at Notre Dame

Christmas Tree at Notre Dame

Throughout the holiday season, Notre Dame Cathedral hosts a variety of classical music concerts. Most of them are free and open to the public. If you’re looking to experience a memorable mass experience on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, it doesn’t get much more Parisian than Notre Dame. It’s wonderful to hear the traditional hymns and carols sung in French. As an added bonus, the impressive, intricately decorated Christmas tree on the main plaza in front of the Cathedral makes for a great photo opportunity.

Le Patinage/Ice Skating

Few things are more romantic than ice skating in Paris under the glow of Christmas lights. If this sounds like your cup of tea, than head to one of the public rinks at Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) or the Eiffel Tower (no rush, the rinks stay open from December until February). This is a great place to bring the family, too. There is a small sledding area for the kids, and you can rent skates and sleds for everyone on the spot. Grab a crêpe from a nearby street vendor, take in the holiday decorations, and make an evening of it.

The Eiffel Tower and Fireworks on New Year’s Eve

Eiffel Tower on New Years Eve

Eiffel Tower on New Years Eve

Paris is quite festive on New Year’s Eve. All of the night’s events lead up to the culminating moment, which is, of course, midnight. Whatever you do until then, you want to make sure you’re in a place to see the Eiffel Tower, because it bursts into an array of sparkles at the stroke of midnight. Since the sale of fireworks is legal in Paris, there are also many fireworks shows (both professional and amateur) to delight New Year’s Eve revelers. So, where’s the best place to watch the show? That depends on your style:

  • True partiers should head to the Champs-Elysées around 9pm, as tourists and locals converge on this world-famous boulevard. Bars along the Champs-Elysées host live music events and drink specials to keep the party going until midnight (and after). There are several spots along the Champs-Elysées that offer a great view of the Eiffel Tower.
  • For a somewhat calmer scene, head to Montmartre. Grab a glass of champagne at a local bar and then head out to the Sacre Coeur Cathedral plaza for stunning views of the Paris skyline (including, of course the sparkling Eiffel Tower).
  • Another option is to take a dinner cruise down the Seine. Yachts de Paris and Bateaux Parisians are known for their cruises featuring gourmet fare and great views of the city lights.

Written by Jen Westmoreland Bouchard for EuropeUpClose.com

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