Christmas in Paris is certainly a magical time. Shops glow with colorful Christmas displays, patisserie shelves groan with seasonal delights. Restaurants create special Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Eve menus that are filled with the bounty of the season — fresh oysters from Brittany, foie gras, truffles, chestnuts and champagne.
150,000 Christmas lights adorn the Champs Elysées and intricate window displays entertain children and parents alike at the Grand Magasins. Christmas concerts are performed throughout the city at some very famous venues: La Sainte Chapelle, Notre Dame, Palais Garnier, and Opera Bastille. Remember that Christmas activities tend to sell out early. If you can't get a December 25 booking, why not try dates just before or just after Noël?
|Christmas Dinners & Cruises||An Evening in Paris||Top Activities for Christmas|
|Day Excursions||Christmas Music & Ballet||Food & Wine Activities|
A perfect way to celebrate the season — high on the Eiffel Tower dining on a 3-course French meal at restaurant 58 Tour Eiffel. You get a birds-eye view of the city, with the Champ de Mars and the river Seine in the foreground while, in the distance, you see Les Invalides, Montparnasse Tower, and Montmartre. Wine is included, of course.
Most dates in December for the Eiffel Tower Gourmet Dinner (above) are already sold out. But there's an even better way to dine on the Eiffel Tower, while gazing at the lights of Paris below. For those who want the best experience, and an evening you will never forget, book at Le Jules Verne, Alain Ducasse's one-star restaurant up on the second level of the Eiffel Tower, twice as far above the ground as restaurant 58 Tour Eiffel. The views are spectacular and so is the food. It's only by using the link below that you can be sure to get a window table.
Here's another river cruise + dinner we think you're going to like. Once again it's a combination of two iconic activities, creating a magical winter night in Paris. Enjoy the panoramic views of Paris Christmas lights in the distance from the 58 Tour Eiffel on the Eiffel Tower itself — the best vantage point in the city. The restaurant itself is styled like the airships of an earlier era and imparts a nice nostalgic feeling, but with really good food!
Your evening's not over yet. After dinner you stroll to the nearby banks of the Seine for a one-hour illuminations cruise. The evening includes pickup from your hotel and return at the end. Tours are available throughout the Christmas season, but you must book very early! Seriously.
The evening begins when the Bateaux Parisiens driver meets you at your hotel and whisks you to the river. There you board your dinner cruise boat, specially designed for great viewing and great dining. Then it's three hours of magical cruising along the most famous, and most beautiful, river in the world. (At least that's what we think!)
We recommend you select the Service Privilege option where a table is reserved for you close to a window, and with extra appetizers, aperitifs, and liqueurs. Reservations are available most days through December, but (once again) you must book early!
We love this all-in-one activity that combines the Eiffel Tower, French cuisine, the Seine River, and the world's most popular cabaret — the winning ingredients for a special evening out in Paris. The night begins at the 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant, with views overlooking the Seine and Trocadero, with a 3-course meal. After dessert, cruise on the river to admire the Christmas lights before departing to Moulin Rouge for a lively performance at the historic cabaret. This combined activity is available most days in December, but you must book early! Includes hotel pick-up and return.
This complete holiday evening in Paris shows you the City of Lights in three ways. First, cruise along the Seine River to view the illuminated landmarks and bridges of Paris. Next, a city tour takes you down tree-line boulevards past more monuments and seasonal lights. You end the evening at a restaurant it the tony 8th Arrondissement for a classic 3-course French dinner. Perfect.
This popular activity is definitely going to sell out during the holiday season, and with good reason! It's a fun evening at the Moulin Rouge that includes a 3-course dinner, wine, champagne, and the famous cabaret show, Feerie. Pick-up and return to your hotel, as well.
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 look for a skip the line tour.
This is one of the most popular tours in Paris, and no wonder — it's the fast-track way to get up the city's most famous monument. You meet up with your guide at the base of the tower and are escorted past the long line to the Priority Entrance. As you ride the elevator to the 2nd level, your guide regales you with stories and history of the tower. Spend as much time as you want viewing the City of Light spread out around you, and then take the elevator up to the tippy-top for an even more amazing view. This activity has available times from 11 in the morning until 9 at night. But you have to hurry — the dates around Christmas are selling out quickly!
Skip-the-line tours of the Eiffel Tower tend to sell out and schedules also tend to change. Be certain to consult the linked list of ET tours. To go to the very top, choose a "summit" tour; other tours go only to the second level, though there's nothing wrong with that view!
The Louvre is something you don't want to miss when you're in Paris. But, 10 millions visitors a year means the tickets lines are always long. To avoid waiting for hours, we like this guided tour that takes you past the lines and directly to the Mona Lisa. (And other great works, of course!) Don't worry, you'll have plenty of time to wander.
French perfume is one of life's luxuries. Since you're in Paris, we say, sign up for an Insider's workshop conducted a professional parfumier to learn the intricacies of scent making. You also get the chance to blend your very own perfume to take home with you.
Paris is magical in December, and the magic continues beyond the city gates. There are so many wonderful experiences to be had on day trips from Paris. And this is the our top recommendation for a day-long excursion.
You experience the best of Versailles in the best ways. Travel by luxury caravan, then skip past the entrance lines with a priority-access ticket. See the State Apartments, the Hall of Mirrors, and then explore the Gardens of Versailles, beautiful even in winter. And then there's the 3-course lunch by the Grand Canal, followed by visits to the Grand Trianon and the Queen's Hamlet. Includes hotel pick-up and return, a definite plus.
"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 your Christmas sojourn in 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 meeting you at your Paris address then whisking you off through rolling hills towards Reims, the Birthplace of Bubbly. A 3-course lunch is included and the group size is limited to 8 people to ensure you get enough champagne! Small-group tours available Monday, Wednesday, Friday in December. A private version of the tour — just you and your friends — can be booked on any day you choose.
Travel in a luxury sedan with a private driver to this magnificent estate. A picnic basket of champagne and macarons await as well as a private golf cart to tour the gardens. We've done this tour, and it's amazingly pleasurable and just a tad decadent! Available December 26 to December 31.
In Paris, La Saison Des Fêtes, the holiday season, is all about great food. And, 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 !
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 Eve & Christmas Day.
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.
Shop, cook, eat — that certainly makes for a great day of Christmas fave food activities. Visit an open-air market, shop for lunch, and then move to the cooking studio where you learn, hands-on, how to turn your purchases into a fabulous holiday meal.
We can't think of a better musical way to celebrate the holiday season than a classical concert at the stunning Gothic church on Île de la Cité. La Sainte Chapelle, the 14th-century personal chapel of the kings, has just undergone a restoration with extensive cleaning and repairing to the structure's famous stained-glass windows. Experience the royal chapel with works by Bach, Henry Purcell, and Corelli.
The story follows Kitri and Basilio, two lovers who see each other despite parental disapproval. The ballet has a Spanish flair with choreography inspired by Marius Petipa (you know, the father of modern ballet) showcasing the virtuosity of the dancers. At Opera Bastille.
• December 11 to January 6
This timeless tale focuses on the struggle between artist and poet in a materialistic world. In the end, love, art transcends tragedy and death. Puccini's four-act opera premiered in Turin, Italy in 1889 and since then it's become one of the most performed operas. At Opera Bastille.
December 1, 4, 10, 16, 18, 23, 26, 29 & 31.
1791, Mozart was commissioned to write the coronation opera for Leopold II, king of Bohemia. He put The Magic Flute on hold to write the two-act opera. It would be his last opera before his death at 35 years old. It premiered on September 6, 1791 in Prague. At Palais Garnier.
December 3, 5, 8, 11, 17, 21 & Christmas Day
In addition to lights, goodwill and lots of good food & wine, Christmas in Paris means music, music, music. Not just in the modern concert halls, but also in the historic churches and cathedrals of Paris. A Christmas concert at one of these historic venues is something you will never forget. More concert events will be added as the festive season nears, so be sure to check back in autumn.
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 —
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.
If you're lucky enough to be in Paris in mid-November, you can watch the Christmas lights be turned on by celebrities and French dignitaries in a ceremony that kicks off the holiday season.
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.
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 New Years 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. If you're planning on attending Notre Dame Cathedral for Christmas Eve, our advice is to arrive early. On both days the cathedral opens at 7:45 AM and the first mass begins at 8:00 AM. English Mass begins at 2:00 PM, French mass at 4:00 PM with the final mass at 6:15 PM to 7:00 PM. The cathedral closes at 7 PM.
• Calendar for Christmas Events…
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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