Dazzling December: What to Do in Paris This Month

Dazzling December: What to Do in Paris This Month

December is finally upon us, and with it brings beautiful decorations, the streets and shops donning their most spectacular displays. The mood is one of anticipated excitement, with the upcoming school holiday just weeks away.

On the 24th, many families around France will attend Midnight Mass at church, followed by a communal meal called Le Réveillon de Noël, filled with foie gras, oysters, and other festive treats. On the big day itself, families and friends will spend the day opening gifts, eating food, playing games, and drinking lots of vin. Let’s just hope that Père Fouettard has decided that you have been well behaved this year… 

But before Christmas day arrives, there is a lot to do across Paris to get yourself into the jolly mood. One of the best places to admire Christmas illuminations is the Champs Élysées, where over a million (yes, you read that right!) shimmering lights adorn the 400 trees that mark the way from Place de la Concorde to the iconic Arc de Triomphe.  

Read on to find the best places to do your Christmas shopping, enjoy the marchés de Noël, and embark on a festive day out for you and the family. This is the month where the City of Light truly does sparkle, so wrap up warm and get exploring.  

Christmas illuminations on the Champs-Élysées. Photo by: Trey Ratcliff/Flickr

Where to do your Christmas shopping:

Don’t leave your Christmas shopping until the day before. Instead, make a jubilant day of it in one of Paris’ iconic shopping destinations. 

Bercy Village

Enjoy a fulfilling day of Christmas shopping and eating at Bercy Village. The magic of Christmas has been injected into Bercy Village through a wonderful collaboration with Blachere Illuminations. The Saint-Emilion Court has been transformed into a walkway of glowing festivities that could bring a smile even to Scrooge’s face. The illuminations begin at 5pm each evening, so make sure to enjoy them while sipping on a vin chaud and enjoying a slice of pain d’épices after a successful day of Christmas shopping. Later in the evening, head to the UGC Ciné Cité cinema complex to watch a cozy Christmas film to round off a truly great day.  

Neighborhood Villages  

There’s nothing better than boutique hopping in real Paris neighborhoods like the Rue de Charonne (11th), lined with unique shops and concept stores. (Read Jennifer Ladonne’s “Boutique Beat” column on our sister site, France Today.) There’s also a reason districts like Saint-Germain-des-Prés are so popular for shopping- there’s a wide variety of shops from artisanal labels to designer brands. The holiday lights, and Christmas market on Boulevard Saint-Germain, add to the vibe.

Marché de Noël de Saint-Germain-des-Prés/ Facebook

Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann

Each year since 1976, Galeries Lafayette welcomes a majestic Christmas tree into the center of its spectacular store. The 23-meter-high tree is adorned with over 5000 Swarovski crystals and weighs a whopping 1.6 tons! Until the 31st of December, the creative vision of Charles de Vilmorin encompasses all seven floors of Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann. The theme, “My Dream Christmas”, brings a poetic and fashion-forward emphasis to this year’s celebrations. The window displays around the exterior of the building “tell a tale of a little girl, her paintbrush, and all of the heartwarming characters she meets along the way.” Aside from the decor, the shelves of the department store are overflowing with wonders that will please all of your gift recipients.  

‘My Dream Christmas’ in collaboration with Charles de Vilmorin at Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann

Christmas Markets

France is known for its Marchés de Noëls, with scenic squares transformed into gleeful grottos for the month of December. Although the most famous markets are near the German border in Strasbourg and Colmar, Paris manages to squeeze in many wonderful bazaars. Which one will be your favorite? 

Tuileries Christmas Market 

Once again, the Jardin des Tuileries is staging a spectacular funfair and Christmas market. Guests will be transported to what resembles an alpine village with 80 chalet-style stalls set within the impressive gardens adjacent to the Louvre Museum. Shopaholics will be spoilt for choice at the range of gifts and goodies, from handmade jewelry and clothing to seasonal French produce. This market is also a haven for foodies, with all of the gaufres and cidre chaud to warm all of the bellies in Paris. The ice rink takes center stage, so take the opportunity to show off your axels and toe loops (or face plants for the less graceful). Rollercoasters and rides will provide visitors with a dose of adrenaline, and the legendary merry-go-round gives far-reaching views of the Parisian skyline. A visit to this market will prove why it is the most popular Christmas market in Paris, with over 13 million visitors each year.  

Notre-Dame Christmas Market 

For me, the most picturesque marché de Noel is the one that takes place in front of Notre-Dame de Paris. Situated in the Square René Viviani on the left bank of the river, the market is set to the impressive backdrop of the 800-year-old Catholic treasure. Here you will find high quality art and artisan crafts, along with fancy foods such as foie gras and camembert – the perfect gift for the epicurean in your life. Keep your eyes peeled for fine cashmere and mohair, delicate glasswork, handmade silver jewelers and wooden toys. Appearances from live musicians and Père Noël himself further add to the merry mood.  

Nearby, the Hotel de Ville stages a Christmas market showcasing all local or handmade products.

Christmas decor at Meert. (C) Marcus Loke, Unsplash

Montmartre Christmas Market

The Place dès Abbesses Christmas market is one of the smaller marchés that Paris has to offer, though what it lacks in size it makes up for in charm. Located in one of the most Instagram-worthy areas in Paris, this market deviates from modernity, and instead focuses on traditional fare. Temptations of iconic festive foods such as escargots, raclette, gaufres, and roasted chestnuts will tease your senses with their decadent smells.  

The Christmas market in Montmartre. Public Domain

A Celebratory Day Out

Open-Top Christmas Bus Tour  

No matter the time of year, an open-top bus tour around Paris is always an excellent idea. However, at Christmas time, this activity becomes even more special when the usual landmarks are enlivened with dazzling lights. The finely chosen route takes guests past Opera, Place Vendôme, Concorde, Champs Elysées, Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, the big department stores, and many more of Paris’ marvelous monuments. The commentary is available in 10 languages which makes this an accessible activity for almost all tourists, and the Christmas music played between descriptions adds to the cheer.  

Christmas 5-Course Dinner Cruise  

What better place to marvel at the scenes of Paris than from a glass-roofed boat floating down the Seine? Splurge on a cruise on Ducasse sur Seine, overseen by the legendary culinary maestro himself. As the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Hôtel de Ville, and many other enchanting landmarks line the riverside, this will be a culinary (and cultural!) adventure like no other. The luxurious six courses are accompanied by lovely live music to create an evening of memories that will be cherished for a lifetime.  

Moulin Rouge Christmas and Dinner Show 

Both on stage, and in the kitchen, the festive flare will ignite the Moulin Rouge this Christmas. Upon the opening of the doors at 6:45 pm, guests will be treated to a gourmet dinner prepared with seasonal produce. The meal will be enjoyed alongside premium champagne to the serenading music of a live orchestra. The hundreds of red lights twinkling on the ceiling like fireflies will provide a magical ambiance for the “Féerie” show that begins at 9 pm. Expect dazzling costumes, fabulous feathers, and a plethora of sequins and diamanté. This is a unique Christmas event not to miss!  

Lead photo credit : Champs elysees at Christmas (C) Stephanie LeBlanc, Unsplash

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Inspired by the rich culture that France has to offer, Poppy Pearce moved to Paris as an au pair in August 2022. Having gained a degree in Theology and Religion with Arabic from the University of Exeter, Poppy has a passion for languages and experiencing new cultures. When she’s not working, Poppy loves to explore everything that Paris has to offer, from exhibitions and museums, to restaurants and second-hand clothing stores.