Things to Do in Paris during Christmas

Those spending the holidays in Paris have scores of festive activities awaiting them. But how to best plan one’s time? Our offbeat picks below for ways to spend Christmas in Paris.

Christmas in Paris: Christmas at la cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. Photo credit: Hervé Bry, Flickr.
Christmas at la cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. Photo credit: Hervé Bry, Flickr.

Christmas in Paris: Take in a Concert

For many North Americans, seeing the Nutcracker is a time-honored holiday tradition. The ballet (called Casse-Noisette in French) is less popular in France; instead, Christmas in Paris means holiday music concerts, often held in extraordinary venues. Notre Dame de Paris has a number of performances scheduled for the 2017 holiday season, as does the nearby Sainte Chapelle. Take in Handel’s Messiah at the Eglise de la Madeleine, or even participate in a Messiah sing-along with the english-speaking Paris Choral Society!

Christmas in Paris: Shop!

Bien sûr you’ll want to head home armed with unique gifts for your loved ones (or yourself…). Although the Christmas-themed display windows of the grands magasins are a site to behold, we recommend forgoing the department stores (and their international brands) in favor of independent boutiques. We love shopping around Pigalle, where you’ll find dozens of small shops and their carefully selected inventories. Some favorites: Magasin, specializing in simple Scandinavian trends; Sept-Cinq, a concept store devoted to Parisian designers; Lekker, another spot showcasing local designers; Le Rocketship, for small gifts and design items; and Myrtille Beck, for her Vogue-acclaimed jewels. Looking for something really specific? Organize a personalized Paris Shopping Tour with one of our experts, focusing on anything from fashion, design, art, quality cooking accessories…

Christmas in Paris: Eat!

From the bûche de Noël (yule log) to oysters, Christmas in Paris brings no shortage of decadent treats. To that end, our chefs and food experts have conceived of a Paris Christmas Market Tour. Visit with some of the city’s best sweet and savory vendors, learning about specific Christmas food traditions and ogling creatively-designed holiday chocolates and pastries (OK fine, we taste them too). Who could resist wandering one of the Left Bank’s traditional Christmas markets, a nod to France of yore?

Christmas in Paris: Christmas Carousels

In Paris’s most iconic squares (Hôtel de Ville), you might just find a vintage merry-go-round, temporarily installed in honor of the season. Step further back in time with a visit to the Musée des Arts Forains, a quirky museum with a collection of antique carnival and funfair relics. Their Festival du Merveilleux runs from December 26 2017-January 7 2018 with special holiday shows. Normally open only by special reservation, the museum has open doors during the festival.

Christmas in Paris: Christmas at Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte. Photo: Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte.
Christmas at Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte. Photo: Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte.

Christmas in Paris…or Out of Paris

Just thirty-five miles beyond the city limits lies the baroque Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte. Known for inspiring Versailles (it’s said the King became so jealous of this château’s lavish design that he had its owner imprisoned), Vaux-le-Vicomte is today a shining example of jardin à la française. Indeed, it was a career starter for landscape architect André le Notre, who later was commissioned by said King to redesign the Versailles gardens. Vaux-le-Vicomte is normally open only in high season, but exceptionally welcomes visitors during Christmas, when it offers special events (and decorations!) for the holidays.

For additional info on holiday ideas, check out Secrets of Paris‘s comprehensive events calendar which is updated monthly, and boutique apartment rental company Haven In‘s informative blog. For more holiday cheer, see our guide on where to spend Christmas in Italy.

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