Tis officially the season! And the city of lights takes on a whole new meaning during the holidays. Paris seems to blossom overnight into a Christmas spectacular, with strung lights partout, sparkling Christmas trees, and window displays that are more like works of art. With all this holiday spirit, one can easily get lost in the midst of the grandeur. Read on for a few suggestions on getting the most out of Christmas in Paris.
The major department stores have some of the most elaborate and stunning window displays in the city. Printemps and Galeries Lafayette, two of the most famous, are located next to one another, which makes the French practice of “faire du lèche-vitrine” much easier.
Printemps: At Printemps this year, windows designed by Laëtitia Casta follow two characters, Jules and Violette, through various magical landscapes including a perfume land of butterflies and roses, an underwater world of sparkling gemstones, and a tundra filled with polar bears.
Galeries Lafayette: The windows of Galeries Lafayette take the viewer through fantastic worlds smattered with luxury goods and clothing. The displays are gorgeous and whimsical, but inside is the biggest treat of all. In the center of the store, nearly reaching the top of the 140 foot art nouveau domed ceiling, is this year’s Christmas tree made from sparkling wire structures.
BHV: This year, BHV, a left-bank department store in the Marais, features window displays based on the upcoming “Mary Poppins” film starring Emily Blunt.
Le Bon Marché: Also on the left bank, Le Bon Marche is home to La Grande Épicerie, a one-stop shop for all things food and drink-related. They also offer a special Christmas section with ideas and necessities for your holiday table.
Rue St. Honoré: One of the most glamorous streets in Paris, Rue St. Honoré is fully decked out for the holidays. Hung wreaths, twinkling lights, and plenty of beautiful window shopping await you on this fabled rue.
Champs Elysées: This major shopping street is a special treat at Christmas. Trees covered in twinkling and colored lights line the avenue all the way from the stunning Arc de Triomphe to Place de la Concorde.
Place Vendôme: this square, home to the Ritz and several other up-scale Parisian hot-spots, is decked out for the holidays with all the trimmings. Take a spin around the courtyard and enjoy the beautiful decorations.
Food & Drink
Ladurée: One of Paris’ most famous confectioners, Ladurée features delicious Macarons and sweets of all kinds. At Christmas, the beautifully decorated store also sells holiday advent calendars, chocolate and a limited edition box of 8 specialized Christmas macarons.
Galeries Lafayette: On the rooftop of Galeries Lafayette, along with a breathtaking view of the city, you can find a small, pop-up restaurant serving lunch and dinner throughout the holidays. The restaurant is enclosed by two large plastic bubbles and makes you feel like you’re dining in a snow globe.
Pierre Hermé: For a famous French tradition, stop in to Pierre Hermé for a delicious Bûche de Noël. Try one of their innovative flavors like Rose, Raspberry & Litchi or Hazelnut Shortbread. Delicious!
Oysters: Another French tradition at the holidays is oysters and dry, white wine. Check out Le Bar à Huitres at Dorr Paris or head just across the street to Le Dome, a famous Montparnasse institution, for their custom seafood selection.
Gluhwein: A staple of the infamous Christmas markets, gluwhein, or mulled wine, is a delicious cold-weather treat that can be found in abundance at the markets and many restaurants. For kids, spiced apple cider is an excellent alternative!
Ballet: Le Ballet de l’Opéra National de Kiev is performing “Caisse-Noisette,” also known as “The Nutcracker” at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. They will be performing this beloved holiday tale from December 23 – January 6, so get your tickets now!
“Espèces en voie d’illumination” at Jardin des Plantes: From November 16th – January 15th, the Jardin des Plantes is home to an incredible night-time light festival. The exposition features monumental sculptures of various flora and fauna lit in vibrant colors. Buy tickets ahead of time to save money here.
L’Hôtel de Ville: the City Hall of Paris turns its large courtyard into an ice skating rink during the holidays. Take a spin around the beautiful square and enjoy a hot beverage to warm up afterwards.
And last, but certainly not least:
The clusters of wooden chalets that pop up around Paris in December are synonymous with the holiday season. The markets are all throughout Paris and offer plenty of opportunity to eat, drink, shop and stroll. Some of the more famous markets in the city are below!
Christmas Village at La Défense
Christmas markets and ice rink at La Tour Eiffel
Louvre/Tuileries (featuring a giant ferris wheel as well)
and the Montmartre Christmas Market near Sacré Coeur