4 Grand Department Stores Bring Christmas Magic to Paris
Every year, the four famous big Paris department stores - the grands magasins - dazzle children and adults alike with imaginative Christmas window displays featuring fantastical animated scenes with sparkling lights, festive holiday music, and of course lots of jolly Santas, festive Christmas trees, teddy bears and other toys, and beautifully wrapped gifts.
The stores - Galeries Lafayette, Printemps Haussmann, Bon Marché, and BHV Marais - typically reveal their spectacular windows in early November, just as the first holiday lights and other decorations begin to light up the city with seasonal cheer.
The most elaborate windows take teams of artists, artisans, and decorators up to a year to design and create, but their efforts pay off for the stores as crowds of Parisians as well as visitors from other parts of France and countries around the world gather to view the enchanting holiday scenes - and of course, shop in the stores where even more Christmas holiday decorations add to the celebratory mood.
If you're visiting Paris during the holiday season, don't miss the experience of seeing these enchanting Christmas displays filling the stores' huge street-side windows.
Spend a few moments soaking up the magic - it's part of the pleasure of being in Paris at Christmas.
Galeries Lafayette: Huge & Fabulous Holiday Windows
Galeries Lafayette's flagship store on Boulevard Haussmann, one of Paris's historic Grands Boulevards, boasts a large number of huge windows overlooking the famous street as well as around the corner on Rue de la Chaussée d'Antin.
You'll see elaborate automated figures enacting fantastical scenes and favorite Christmas legends in non-stop shows that mesmerize you as you watch.
Look closely, and you may see subtle references to a recent movie such as "Starwars" or fairground-themed "The Greatest Showman."
Luxury goods such as designer bags and gorgeous jewelry provide an extra layer of interest in some windows, while others focus almost solely on irresistible fashion favorites or kids toys - all offered for sale inside.
Be sure to stroll through the store to see the fabulous (and enormous!) Christmas tree suspended from Galeries Lafayette's famous 140+ foot Art Nouveau stained glass dome.
Crowds of shoppers become particularly dense around noon and again in late afternoon and evening, so plan your visit during the morning or mid-afternoon to get the best views.
Location: 40 Boulevard Haussmann, 9th arrondissement Metros: Chaussée d’Antin, La Fayette Stay nearby:
Printemps Haussmann: Christmas Gifts & Fantasy Worlds
Printemps Haussmann, also located on Boulevard Haussmann, creates unique and beautifully crafted Christmas windows that compete successfully with next door neighbor Galeries Lafayette's splendid displays.
At Printemps, you can see an appealing new theme unfold across the windows each year, with high-end designer merchandise skillfully woven in among the appealing scenes. Look for lust-worthy bags from Fendi, exquisite perfume from Yves Rocher, and Burberrry trench coats and scarves.
Printemps-Haussmann excels at getting even the tiniest details of the miniature worlds displayed in their windows just right.
Take a look at the backgrounds - snowy villages, city architecture, beautifully decorated Christmas trees. It's a fantasy world - but step inside the store and you'll see the real thing!
Location: 64 Boulevard Haussmann, 9th arrondissement Metro: Chaussée d’Antin, La Fayette Stay nearby:
- Maison Albar Hotel Opera Diamond - Excellent hotel close to Galeries Lafayette and Saint Lazare station - More
- Best Western Plus Hotel Sydney Opera - Highly rated budget hotel close to Printemps-Haussmann - More More to enjoy nearby: Christmas lights along Boulevard Haussmann
BHV Marais: Christmas Windows with a Theme
BHV Marais, located across Rue de Rivoli from the magnificent 19th century Hôtel de Ville (Paris City Hall) in the 4th arrondissement, lives up to its full name - The Bazaar of l'Hôtel de Ville - by featuring a marvelous selection of luxury goods from a wide range of sources.
More often than not, the department store's Christmas windows reflect this focus as the store teams with brands, French regions, or even other countries to present toys and other products interspersed among the Santas and decorated trees.
So while you'll see holiday motifs and upbeat seasonal music, simple animations, and illuminations from ever-changing colored lights playing across the window displays, you'll also see lots of wonderful merchandise representative of the brand, region, or country's culture - all tastefully shown within the context of the holiday spirit. Be sure to look for the Lego window!
Location: 52 rue de Rivoli, 4th arrondissement Metro: Hôtel de Ville Stay nearby:
- Hotel Victoria Chatelet - Charming boutique hotel with affordable rates - More
- Hotel des Deux Iles - Small elegant hotel in a 17th century building on nearby Ile Saint Louis - More More to enjoy nearby: Christmas Market at Les Halles; shopping at boutiques in the Marais
Bon Marché: Christmas Holiday Windows
As the oldest department store in Paris as well as the only one on the Left Bank, Bon Marché uses its expansive street-side windows along Rue de Sèvres in the ritzy 7th arrondissement to serve up Chrismas nostalgia for simplicity and elegance.
Look for jolly Santas, sparkling lights, piles of brightly wrapped gifts, and traditional Christmas carols wafting through the speakers to put you in the holiday mood.
You'll see some animations, but instead of intricate story lines or products displayed across the windows, Bon Marché's message is simple: Christmas is coming, traditions matter, and the holiday promises warmth and good cheer.
Location: 24 Rue de Sèvres, 6th arrondissement Nearest Métro: Sèvres Babylone Stay nearby:
- Hôtel Lutecia - Grand 5-star hotel around the corner from Bon Marché; relax in the pool or at the Jazz Bar after a day of shopping - More
- Hotel Le Petit Chomel - Lovely and affordable boutique hotel within a 1-minute walk from the store - More More to enjoy nearby: Luxembourg Garden - beautiful even in the winter!
Map & Addresses for Paris Department Stores with Christmas Window Displays
Map Showing Paris Grands Magasins - Big Department Stores
Au Printemps: 64 Boulevard Haussmann, 9th arrondissement, 75009
BHV:52 rue de Rivoli, 4th arrondissement, 75004
Bon Marché: 24 Rue de Sèvres, 6th arrondissement, 75006
More Ways to See Christmas Displays, Lights, & Decorations in Paris
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
Check our tips on how to find discounts, deals, and bargains for Paris hotels. Whether you're looking for cheap accommodations or want to pay less for luxury, we'll show you How to Save on Hotels in Paris.