5 Reasons to Visit Paris at Christmas

December 10, 2015 (Last Updated: August 17, 2021)
by Carolyn
Eiffel Tower Christmas decoration

Does anyone ever need an excuse to visit Paris?  Certainly not me!  Whilst I usually visit Paris during the summer, I have enjoyed a few days in Paris in the lead up to Christmas and it is a magical time to be in the French capital.

1/ Christmas lights and illuminations

Paris is known as the City of Light and at Christmas time, she shines her brightest with many streets and monuments illuminated in celebration of the season.  One of the most famous displays is on the Avenue des Champs-Elysees where the plane trees lining the avenue twinkle.

For the best views, head to the top of the Arc de Triomphe or join a one hour Paris illuminations cruise (click here for current prices) to see the city’s major monuments lit up in all their Christmas glory as you cruise the Seine.

Champs Elysees Paris Twinkling Christmas lights make a pretty sight along the Champs-Elysees. Photo © Dollar Photo Club / TTstudio

2/ Christmas displays

You’ll find magnificent Christmas displays at Paris’ major department stores – Printemps (on Boulevard Hausmann), BHV, Le Bon Marche and of course, at Galeries Lafayette. 

Each year’s display is eagerly awaited and is a fantastic reason to time your visit to Paris to coincide with Christmas!  And then there’s the shopping of course!

Christmas decorations at Galeries Lafayette, Paris Each year Paris’ department stores try to outdo each other with their Christmas displays. Galeries Lafayette puts on a impressive display each festive season.

3/ Christmas markets in Paris

Three major Christmas markets are held annually in Paris.  These are located in Montparnasse, La Defense and on the Avenue des Champs-Elysees.

Wooden chalets sell Christmas decorations, festive items and regional produce, amongst other things.  You can also try mulled wine, roasted chestnuts and delicious crepes.

Christmas market on the Champs Elysees, Paris There’s nothing like a wander along the Christmas market stalls on the Champs-Elysees.

4/ Nativity scenes

Each year, three of Paris’ major churches display nativity scenes to celebrate Christmas.  Visitors can view these moving displays at Madeleine church, Notre Dame Cathedral and Basilique Sacre-Coeur.

Make sure you also check out the enormous Christmas tree near the main entrance of Notre Dame.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris Try to include an evening visit to Notre Dame Cathedral to see her Christmas tree lit up. Photo © Dollar Photo Club / gary

5/ Fun and entertainment for the whole family

Young and old alike will be entertained with a host of activities organised for the festive season.  Paris’ Big Wheel in Place de la Concorde will operate over the Christmas period and there are free merry go rounds in almost every arrondissement of the city.

The Hotel de Ville’s (town hall) popular ice skating rink is also in full swing.

  Ferris Wheel Paris You can enjoy wonderful views of Paris’ Christmas lights from the Big Wheel. Photo © Dollar Photo Club / laurent davaine

As you can see, there are many reasons to spend some time in Paris in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  All the major museums and monuments are open, although some have reduced opening hours so check before you visit. 

As always, I strongly recommend purchasing skip the line tickets to Paris’ major attractions before you arrive.  Don’t think that just because it’s winter there won’t be any tourists.  Queues to purchase entry tickets can still be extremely long and you don’t want to be waiting in line when it’s cold!


Would any of these reasons encourage you to visit Paris at Christmas?

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