How To Spend Christmas in the City of Lights

Paris is a romantic and magical destination at anytime of year, but at Christmas the city radiates with a festive glow unmatched by almost any other European city. Shop windows fill with chocolates and other mouthwatering treats and the city’s legendarily harassed and busy residents have even been known to stop and even crack a smile.

So if you’ve got a weekend to spare before the big day then a trip to Paris is the way to start your festive season with a bang. And to make it even better here’s a few suggestions for the best things to see and do during your time in la belle France!

Galeries Lafayette - christmas decorations

Christmas Window Displays

That’s not to say the department stores of Opéra aren’t worth a visit, or at least worth peering into from the outside. Paris’ two main department stores - the opulent Galeries Lafayette and the slightly more pedestrian (but still very impressive) Printemps - spend all year coming up with ever more inventive, intricate and complex window displays, which are generally unveiled at the end of November each year. These are truly works of art (indeed well known modern artists have collaborated on them in the past) and are generally surrounded by a gaggle of (suitably impressed) tourists. If you’ve got the time then pop up to the roof of either department store (Printemps’ terrace has the better view but can be a nightmare to find) and take in the vistas of the city; if you’re looking for an ‘I’ve been in Paris’ Facebook photo then this could be the place to take it!

Giant Snow Globe @ Paris

Christmas Markets

Yes, ok, starting off a guide to Christmas in Paris by mentioning a quintessentially German concept might seem a strange thing to do, but the Marché Noël at La Défense is worth breaking the rules for. The market is made up of around 300 wooden huts spread amongst the skyscrapers of Europe’s largest business district offering Glühwein, stocking fillers and warm and hearty food making the market well worth a wander. More conventional Christmas shopping needs can also be taken care of in the gigantic Les Quatre Temps shopping centre which is also situated in the area. While it lacks in individuality it most definitely makes up for in it scale and convenience. Plus it never gets anywhere near as busy as the department stores around Opéra or the boutiques of the Champs-Élysées. The Christmas market in Paris deserves to be on the list next to the best European Christmas markets.

christmas decoration

Other Tips

If you’re visiting after Christmas and looking to hit the sales then keep in mind that sale dates in France are officially regulated and 2013’s winter sales won’t start until January 9th. The first day of the sales is usually mad and unless shopping is your sport, probably best avoided. The officially enforced end date of the sales means that, unlike in the UK, discounts will get deep towards the end of the sale period since the products have to be shifted before a set date.

Got tips of your own? Then leave us a comment with your advice for the best Christmas activities in Paris, or any other cities you might love at Christmas time!