Christmas in Paris is a always magical time, but it's even better this year following months of staying at home and dreaming. Store windows are aglow with colorful Noël displays, patisserie shelves virtually groan with seasonal delights, while restaurants create special holiday menus filled with the bounty of the season — fresh oysters from Brittany, foie gras, truffles, chestnuts and champagne.
In 2021 — again and at last — all of Paris will be joyeuse for Christmas. To make certain you have what you need to plan, we'll be sure to keep this planning information updated with the best things to do, what's open, and the greatest ways to explore and enjoy the city we love. Be sure to check back often as new dates and times are announced. And, consult our updated December calendar for the latest Paris news.
Step aboard one of the luxurious boats of Bateaux Parisiens to immerse yourself in the winter beauty of Paris while you enjoy a memorable holiday dinner, prepared on board by a team of French chefs. For two and a half hours you sip a festive Champagne aperitif, enjoy live music, and dine on a gourmet five-course meal as you take in the best views of Paris.
Operated by premier dinner cruise service Bateaux Parisiens, this is a Covid-aware, safety-conscious activity. Choose the 8:30 PM sailing and the Service Privilege option for the best seating, the best menu, and the ultimate experience aboard the comfortable, glass-walled boat. Available most evenings in December.
It's le plus merveilleux time of the year, especially if you're celebrating on an all-glass river boat floating down the Seine, dining on a classic French meal as the sights of Paris float by. When you're presented with champagne and foie gras you know you're in for a memorable evening. Seating is limited so you must book early for this cruise that sets sail from the quai at Musée d'Orsay,
The 9:15 sailing is available on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, December 24 and 25.
Here's another special holiday dinner cruise sailing that departs at 6:45 PM on Christmas Eve only.
You travel the royal route when you visit Versailles this easy and relaxing way. Your driver picks you up at your Paris address for a quick trip directly to the palace, where you arrive refreshed and ready to explore. Breeze past the long lineups at Versailles for a small-group tour through the chateau's stunning interior.
There's plenty of time before lunch to stroll around the beautiful gardens and fountains. Take dejeuner (lunch) at a restaurant next to the Grand Canal before heading to the Grand Trianon, a marble-clad palace surrounded by its own gardens. At the end of a full and satisfying day your driver is waiting to take you back to Paris.
You. In Paris. At Christmas. On the Seine River. Do we have your attention? The night begins on the banks of the Seine where you'll board your floating dinner cruise. Over the course of three leisurely hours you sip French wine while enjoying course after course, all the time watching the illuminated monuments of Paris slowly drift by from a table on the glass-sided boats of Bateaux Mouches.
For the best seating, the best meal, and the ultimate experience we suggest you book the slightly more expensive Excellence package. Available most evenings in December.
It's hard to imagine anything better than cruising along the Seine during the holiday period, made even better if you're having lunch! We love this casual and affordable lunch cruise on a boat from the river dining specialists at Bateaux Parisiens. This is one of our readers' most popular daytime activities and the perfect break in the middle of a Parisien day.
When you're booking, the Privilège Service option ensures a window table (a necessity!) while the Premier Service secures a table at the front of the boat, surrounded by glass for an unrestricted view of the Paris sights. Available most days in December.
When you're in Paris, a cruise on the Seine is an essential activity and that's doubly true during the holiday season when the city is decked with Christmas illuminations. And if you're like us, you'll want to combine your boat ride with a guided champagne tasting led by an expert sommelier.
It all starts with priority boarding onto the bateau, where you are escorted to a private tasting room at the front of the boat for the best views of Paris. And, of course, there's lots of champagne. Your sommelier takes you through a flight of three champagnes — Brut, Demi-sec and Rosé — as the best of Paris slowly drifts past. Thursday through Saturday in December, including (currently) Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
We love the lights of the city of Paris on any night, but especially on festive evenings like New Years Eve, and especially when seeing them from a boat cruising along the Seine. And especially when we're served a traditional multi-course French dinner on board the Bateaux Mouches.
On this night of nights, you board the boat at 8:30 PM for an unforgettable 5-hour dinner cruise that's followed by a Paris party to celebrate 2021. Champagne is included, of course, and wine with dinner. The dinner cruise is relatively affordable, given that it's a multi-course dinner on a glass-walled river boat on New Years Eve. Currently (and oddly) the calendar shows availability only on Thursdays, including (and this is the odd part) December 30. Oh, yeah: also bookable for Christmas Eve Friday. Stay tuned for updates!
Create a spectacular holiday-in-Paris memory with Christmas dinner and a show at the historic Moulin Rouge. Sip champagne and dine on a traditional five-course Christmas meal while the dazzling show takes place on the stage in front of you.
This special Moulin Rouge festive activity is showing availability almost every day in December, including most of Christmas week. Chose the option called "Dinner and Show at the Moulin Rouge and Interactive City Tour of Paris" for the late show and the best experience. But, book as soon as possible!
The Eiffel Tower is very popular, and there are always very long lineups. We don't like to stand out in the cold in a Paris December. For that matter, we don't like to wait in line, period. So we always book a skip the line tour.
To our way of thinking, the best aerial views of Paris are from Level 2 (the middle level) of the Eiffel Tower. It's like seeing a human-scale model of Paris. But, it you want the full experience of seeing Paris like a bird, book a tour that takes you to the very top, the summit, Level 3. Whichever your choice, these tours sell out quickly, so book early. Also see, Big List of Eiffel Tower Tours…
So far this Christmas we've got you out on the river, fed you lunch and dinner, shown you a cabaret at the Moulin Rouge, and viewed Paris from the Eiffel Tower. What's missing? A visit to the world's most famous art museum, of course. You certainly need to see the historic and important art found at the Louvre, but you also don't want to wait in a long line. (Do you?)
Luckily, these priority-access guided tours of the Louvre get you past the line-ups and directly to the most famous works of art. Even better, once the tour is over you can spend as much extra time inside the Louvre as you want. These tours are available three times a day, every day in December except Tuesdays and Christmas Day, when the Louvre is closed.
On this day-long adventure you experience the best of Versailles in the best way. You travel from Paris by luxury Eurovan, then skip past the long entrance lines at Versailles with a priority-access ticket. The tour takes you to the State Apartments, the Hall of Mirrors, and then explores the gardens of Versailles, beautiful even in the winter.
Take a break for a 3-course lunch near the Grand Canal, followed by visits to the Grand Trianon and the Queen's Hamlet. Tours run Tuesday through Sunday in December except Christmas Day. Also available as a private tour for just you and your guests.
Another good option for visiting Versailles is this morning tour that also includes priority access with an expert guide. It's a small group with transportation from central Paris. This health and safety conscious guided tour is operated by our trusted partners at Paris City Vision.
Paris is the perfect starting point for a day trip to the Loire Valley and this full-day activity is what we call a win-win. You explore the Renaissance castles of the Loire plus sample delicate wines produced in this lush valley, all in a day trip from Paris.
It starts with a leisurely drive to the most famous castle of them all, Chateau de Chambord. Then, lunch is served at another nearby chateau with a cornucopia of fresh, local ingredients and a tasting flight of the best wines of the region. The last stop is Chateau de Chenonceau, the loveliest of the Loire castles. This small-group activity is available on Tuesdays and Saturdays in December.
"I am drinking stars," the champagne monk Dom Perignon said upon tasting the first glass of a sparkling wine. Or so the legend tells us! Now it's your turn to taste stars in the legendary Champagne Region of France during a Christmas sojourn from Paris. Your senses will be on overload as you wander through the Roman chalk caves, see how champagne is made, and taste the bubbly in elegant salons of Grand Maisons de Champagne .
The day begins with your driver/guide whisking you off through rolling hills towards Reims, the Birthplace of Bubbly. A 3-course lunch is included and the small group size ensures you get enough champagne!
During the holiday season you can hook up with the special Christmas edition of this very popular chocolate and pastry walking tour. As we said, Christmas in Paris is all about food, and chocolate is perhaps the best example. Everyone's in the holiday mood as they pass out plenty of samples! This is one of the most popular food activities and, hence, likely to sell out.
Visit hidden Paris in a special cheese aging cave underneath a top fromagerie in the Marais. You'll get an Insiders view, led by a Master Affineur, on how cheese is aged to perfection before it is ready to sell. You will taste the most famous cheeses of France, while you soak up the stories of how cheese is made, and how to pair them with the perfect wines. This small-group tour has instituted health and safety measures.
If you've never to Paris during Christmas you're in for a treat. Take a culinary journey through the charming Marais — the best part is, since it's December, you'll get a chance to sample holiday delights. This very popular small-group food tour takes you from the oldest food market in the city and then zig-zags through the historic neighborhood to sip and nibble the best seasonal tastes at cheese shops, boulangeries, chocolatiers and patisseries. This small-group tour has instituted health and safety measures.
Picture this — a certified wine sommelier leads you on a tasting tour of the top French wines as you sample artisanal bread, French cheeses and cured meats. And it all takes place in a wine cellar in central Paris.
You can choose from a basic one-hour tasting or a longer tasting with cheese and charcuterie, but we prefer the even-longer tasting experience with champagne, six grand cru wines, and le grand cheese and charcuterie platter. Available daily in December except for Christmas Day.
In Paris, La Saison Des Fêtes, the holiday season, is all about great food. On this small-group walking tour of the City of Celebration, you delve deep into the world of seasonal goodness — and you sample heartily! The tour starts at the renowned Christmas market on Place Saint-Sulpice, right in front of the magnificent church, and wanders through Saint-Germain. Bonnes Fêtes ! Available Monday through Saturday in December.
Bundle up warm and go out exploring to see how the French celebrate Christmas. Every year seasonal Christmas markets spring up in many quartiers of Paris. It's where Parisians shop for crafts, decorations, and other seasonal specialties. From the middle of November to early January you can find Christmas Markets at these locations —
Notre Dame at Christmas, in better days
Despite the tragic fire of April 2019, the annual Notre Dame Christmas market, held in the place in front of the church, is scheduled to be open from mid-December to early January, 2021, but we'll keep you updated on any changes. The giant decorated Christmas tree should continue to be one of the most-recognized beacons in Paris during the holidays. So, grab a mug of mulled wine as you wander through the chalets, shopping for artisanal gifts, nibbling on roasted chestnuts.
From mid December to the beginning of January the place in front of the Paris city hall will celebrate Christmas. For the holiday season in 2020 the team at Hotel de Ville decided to stage a Christmas market rather than the annual skating rink, and we're waiting to hear more about the 2021 plans.
Paris lights up for the holidays and you find light displays in shop windows and on streets throughout the city. But the most famous light show, and perhaps the most spectacular, is on Champs Elysées. In late November each year a celebrity has the honor of turning on the lights, kicking off the holiday season at the ceremony alongside Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo. The lights will be turned on between 5:00 PM and 2:00 AM and will stay on all night on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve.
Called patinoires in French, the festive skating rinks dot the Paris landscape from mid-December to late January. No need to bring your skates, rentals are available. For the 2021 holiday season we can't yet predict which of the rinks will be open, or when
Each holiday season the Grand Palais has been transformed into a winter wonderland for the Christmas holidays. (See photo above.) Set beneath the iconic glass roof, it's been officially the biggest skating rink in France. The Grand Palais is now closed for renovations, and there's no word yet if a skating rink will be installed in the temporary space, the Grand Palais Éphémère on the Champ de Mars (in photo above).
"What's open on Christmas Day in Paris?" readers ask us. So, for the lucky visitors who will be here on December 25, we've compiled the best things to do.
Most shops, museums and many restaurants will be open. Although Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve are not official holidays in France, the train stations will be packed as Parisians head out for their Christmas getaway.
But be warned — chocolatiers, fromageries and anywhere food and wine are sold will be jam-packed with locals stocking up for Christmas and New Year celebrations. Make sure to stock up yourself as most everything will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year's Day. If you plan to dine out, make reservations well in advance around the holidays.
The good news is that the Eiffel Tower is open 365 days a year.
As you'd expect, at all the historic churches and cathedrals of Paris there are plenty of religious services during Christmas in Paris. Traditional Midnight Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral will not be held this year due to the damaging fire. However, here are some other options. The only way to secure a seat for mass is to to arrive early — we recommend you show up an hour early.
Founded back in 542 AD (remember those years?), this Left Bank Paris church has history. Noted for its wonderful acoustics, it's an ideal destination for Christmas mass. Check their website for more details. (In French only).
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Although a church has been on this site since 1213, the first stone of the current church was laid in 1532 by Francis I. Fun fact — Saint Eustache's floor-plan and structure will remind you of Notre Dame, with a nave flanked by double aisles and chapels.
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Nestled in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower the immense Russian mega-spiritual center with no less than five gleaming onion domes opened in 2016 and has become a popular religions destination.
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Celebrate Christmas at the famous snow-white basilica set on the highest point of Paris. There is a Christmas Eve organ concert at 10:00 PM and an 11:00 PM vigil and Midnight Mass. On Christmas Day there is Mass at 7:00 AM, 11:00 AM, 6:00 PM & 10:00 PM. It's recommended to arrive at least 30 minutes before the service.
• Sacre Coeur Christmas Schedule …
Just kitty-corner from the Pantheon, Sainte-Etienne features stained-glass windows that date from the 16th and 17th centuries. By the way, the steps on the northwest side of the church were used as a location for Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris !
Place Sainte-Genevieve, 5th Arrondissement
Set in the 8th Arrondissement close to Parc Monceau, this was the first Orthodox church in France, (established in 1861). Pablo Picasso and Olga Khokhlova were married here in 1918.
12 Rue Daru
This historic monument is a a center for English-speakers in Paris. 23, avenue George V, 8th.
This was the first American church established in Paris, in 1814. It's located on the left bank of the Seine between Pont d'Alma and Pont des Invalides.
65 Quai d'Orsay, 7th.
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