Christmas in Paris - Special Ways to Celebrate in 2019
Holiday Lights & Decorations, Christmas Markets, Ice Skating, Religious Services, Concerts, Büche de Nöel, & More!
Paris is always a magical city - but even more so during the Christmas holiday season when brilliant decorations light up the city, hot mulled wine and roasting chestnuts warm you as you browse through the Christmas markets, and Bûche de Noël and other seasonal treats fill the windows of every patisserie you pass by.
With fantastic holiday window displays at all the city's biggest department stores, pop-up ice skating rinks at iconic sites, spectatular Christmas and New Year concerts in historic churches (plus a don't-miss Handel's Messiah sing-along), and tempting sales to make your holiday shopping even more exciting, you'll discover lots of wonderful things to do and see during the holiday season.
Here are our recommendations for special ways to enjoy Paris during the holidays, including the best places to enjoy the Christmas lights and decorations, wonderful holiday tours and cruises, the best Christmas markets, churches where you can see nativity scenes and attend Christmas mass and church services, tips for where to enjoy Christmas dinner in Paris, and everything else you need to know to join in the spirit of the Christmas season in Paris.
Top photo: Christmas lights along Boulevard Haussmann in Paris
Best Places to See Christmas Lights Sparkle across Paris
To see the most lavish display of Christmas lights and decorations in Paris, head straight to Champs Élysées, where a million (yes, literally!) sparkling blue and white lights cover street trees between Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe.
As you walk along the sidewalk, you'll also see festive decorations and even more lights in most of the stores lining this famous avenue.
Although the Christmas lights usually stay on from 5pm to 2am, they will be on all night for Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.
Want to get the best views of Christmas lights in Paris? These three tours let you experience unforgettable close-up looks at the city's most spectacular holiday lights:
Christmas Eve and Day Dinner Cruises - Enjoy a special 5-course dinner cooked on board, live music, and magical views of illuminated famous sights and landmarks along the Seine River as you cruise by in a comfy glass-covered boat. These holiday cruises always sell out - so book early to avoid disappointment! Book now
Christmas Illuminations Paris Small Group Walking Tour: This popular evening walking tour takes you to see the city's most beautiful holiday decorations, including the famous displays at famous department stores, dazzling lights along Champs-Élysées to Arc de Triomphe, illuminated streets in the fashionable Place de la Madeleine neighborhood, and the sparkling light show at the Eiffel Tower. Book now
Paris Christmas Lights Tour - Snuggle under a warm blanket as an open-top bus takes you past the city's most brilliant Christmas lights. Along the way, you'll also see famous Paris attractions such as the Arc de Triomphe, Paris Opera House (Palais Garnier), Eiffel Tower, and Louvre museum as well as famous neighborhoods such as the Left Bank. It's an unforgettable way to see Paris illuminated with thousands of sparkling lights! Book now
Private Christmas Tour of Paris with a Ferris Wheel Ride - A local professional guide picks you up at your hotel (and takes you back at the end) for this special tour, part walking, part driving, to see the most famous Paris holiday lights and decorations as well as some places you might not discover on your own. As a bonus, enjoy a glass of mulled wine (or hot chocolate) and a ride on the giant Paris ferris wheel. Book now
More Ways to Experience Paris at Christmas
Where to Drink Hot Mulled Wine: Paris Christmas Markets
Starting in November, Christmas Markets pop up all over Paris, offering a wide variety of arts and crafts , regional food specialties, and other gifts.
With sparkling lights, brightly decorated Christmas trees, and visits from Saint Nicolas - or Père Noël, as Parisian children call him - these festive street markets attract crowds of shoppers until well into the night.
So copy the Parisians - sip hot mulled wine, munch on roasted chestnuts, and sample delicious sausages and cheese while exploring all these markets have to offer - a tradition that's been around since the Middle Ages.
Where to See the Best Christmas Windows & Displays in Paris Department Stores
Starting in early November, the four biggest Paris department stores - the grands magasins - dazzle children and adults alike with imaginative Christmas window displays featuring elaborate animated scenes complete with sparkling lights, holiday music, and plenty of jolly Santas, festive Christmas trees, teddy bears, and beautifully wrapped gifts.
Galeries Lafayette boasts the most elaborate - and most anticipated - windows, inspired by a different theme each year. For 2019, the theme is bees - you'll see them working in their kitchens, preparing for a holiday party, and conducting a royal procession for the Queen Bee. The traditional Christmas tree inside the cupola will also feature magical bees along with winter flowers. Every half hour, you'll see the tree's lights fade as bees fly around the cupola and put on a spectacular show.
Plan Where to Eat Your Christmas Eve & Christmas Day Dinners
Parisians typically celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at home with family and friends over sumptuous feasts featuring traditional French holiday specialties - raw oysters, foie gras, bûche de noël, and much more!
If you're visiting Paris during this special holiday season, you can enjoy the same type of meal - but you'll need to do some preplanning and make reservations. Although many family-owned restaurants, cafes, and even brasseries will be closed for the holiday, you can still find plenty of excellent choices among the city's larger brasseries and restaurants, especially those in 4- and 5-star hotels. For a fancy dinner, expect to pay in the range of 100€-200€ per person, depending on the number of courses, Champagne, and wine. Be prepared to pay even more if Michelin stars are involved - but you can expect a meal to remember!
For something less elaborate, less traditional, and less pricy, head to the Marais where plenty of Jewish delis will be open or to the 13th arrondissement's Quartier Asiatique (Chinatown) around Place d'Italie for tasty Chinese and Vietnamese food.
Another popular option:
6. Sample Bûche de Noël & Other Special Christmas Foods
By early December, every pâtissier in Paris has filled its windows to overflowing with creative versions of bûche de noël, the traditional French Christmas log cake.
Although Parisians buy an entire cake to take home and serve to family and friends for Christmas dinner, you can easily experience this delicious concoction in many Paris tea rooms and restaurants.
Angelina, 226 Rue de Rivoli, 1st arrondissement
Cafe de la Paix, 5 Place de l'Opéra, 9th arrondissement
La Cuisine de l'E7 Restaurant at Hotel Edouard VII, 39 Avenue de l'Opéra, 2nd arrondissement
7. Take a Holiday Cruise on the Seine River
To see famous Paris lighted attractions, sparkling Christmas lights, and even the Eiffel Tower light show, take one of these popular Paris Illuminations cruises:
Paris Christmas Lights Tour - For a spectacular tour of Paris Christmas lights, bundle up and hop on this open-top double-decker bus as it takes you on a Christmas-themed tour to see the city's most brilliantly lighted streets and attractions - Find out more
9. Attend Christmas Eve Mass or Church Services in Paris Churches
Want to attend special Christmas Eve Mass or church services in Paris?
You'll find lots of wonderful options throughout the city, from the city's grandest historic churches where you can view nativity scenes and hear spectacular organ and choral music to six smaller places of worship offering services in English.
Christmas celebrations begin at Disneyland Paris in early November with plenty of entertainment and fun for everyone.
You'll find a spectacular giant tree, entertaining shows, festive Christmas parades, and dazzling holiday decorations everywhere. Don't miss two brand-new holiday shows at Walt Disney Studios® Park this year, a new immersive nighttime extravaganza, and singing carols with Santa, Mickey, and Minnie for a magical experience you won't forget!
When: Early November through early January
Disneyland Paris and Transportation
Take RER A to the Marne-la-Valee station, walk across a small plaza to Disneyland Paris, and buy your tickets at the gate - or check out these advance ticket options to make your trip faster and easier:
11. Ice Skate in Iconic Paris Locations
Ice skating rinks pop up in a few Paris locations just for the holidays - so don't miss this wonderful chance to skate in iconic sites (and of course take memorable selfies).
Locations vary each year - here are locations/dates from last year so stay tuned to find out what's planned for for 2019-2020:
Grand Palais (3 Avenue General Eisenhower, 8th arr; metro: Champs-Elysees Clemenceau) - December 16 - January 9 (including Christmas Eve and Day, and New Year's Eve and Day) - Dubbed the Grand Palais des Glaces ("The Great Hall of Ice"), the ice rink set up in the nave of the glass-enclosed Art Nouveau Grand Palais is the largest popup ice rink in the world, with a giant ice sculpture and onsite bistro offering French-style hot dogs, waffles, hot chocolate, and more. Two time slots are available for skating: 10am-1pm (adults 17€, children 3-12 years 12€) and 2pm-7pm (adults 25€, children 12€). Prices include skate rentals. During the evening hours (8pm-2am), the space turns into a dance floor with light shows, mirror balls, and DJs (29€). More information: www.legrandpalaisdesglaces.com
Grande Arche de la Défense (1 Parvis de la Défense; 5 minutes outside of Paris on the Metro - take the Metro 1 line or RER A to the La Défense Grande Arche station) - December 8 - January 6 (open only on Wednesdays and weekends Dec 8-21; daily Dec 22-Jan 6, including holidays) - Enjoy fantastic views of Paris and the surrounding area from the pop-up ice rink set on top of the Grand Arche anchoring the Défense Esplanade (where you can also visit the largest Christmas Market in the Paris area). Access to the ice skating rink is included in the price to access the Grande Arche's rooftop (12€ adults, 7€ child (3-18),10€ students, and skate rental is 3€ (personal skates prohibited). The ice rink is open 10am-7pm, and until 8:30pm on Dec 27 and Jan 3. Bring gloves, as they are mandatory for skating on the rink. Check the Grande Arche website for more details (click on Tickets).
12. Shop for Gifts at Pre-Christmas Sales
Although the famous January sales don't begin until a week or so after New Year's Day, pre-Christmas sales during December are a "Paris insider's secret" that can save you significant money on your holiday gift shopping.
How much? Clothing by well-known designers and brands usually runs around 20% off, but home decor and gift items may be reduced as much as 50%. You have to look around because by no means does every store do this - but if you happen to spot something you want, you'll be thrilled!
Stores along and around the Grands Boulevards and Champs-Elysees, as well as boutiques in the Marais are a good place to start looking - but be alert as you're walking around, because you'll see these discrete "offerts" or "reduction" signs all over the city.
13. See Paris at Night on the "Big Wheel"
Take a ride on the "Big Wheel" ferris wheel at Place de la Concorde and get a panoramic view of holiday lights across Paris.
14. Sing Handel's Messiah in the American Cathedral
Celebrate the holiday season in Paris by joining the Paris Choral Society and a group of other Messiah enthusiasts in their annual sing-along of Handel's Messiah Part 1 plus the famous Hallelujah Chorus at the American Cathedral (23 Avenue George V, 8th arr).
If you don't already know the words or have a score, no worries - you can rent or buy one at the door.