On the whole, Christmas in Paris tends to be a rather low-key affair.
The stores are not mobbed with shoppers frantically searching for last-minute Christmas gifts. Nor are you bombarded with Christmas carols in every store and elevator you enter. And only rarely do you see homes wreathed in fairy lights or lit up with kitschy Santa Claus displays. For some people, this may be a welcome relief from the crazy commercial scene that Christmas can be. For others, however, the season might not feel ‘right’ without a few carols, fairy lights, and a couple of hours of shopping mayhem. Here’s how to get your Christmas fix in Paris.
1. Take a Stroll on the Champs-Elysées at Night
You can’t help but feel festive on the Champs-Elysées at Christmastime. Every year, the trees lining the “most beautiful avenue in the world” are swathed in thousands of sparkling blue lights infusing the street with a magical feel. In addition, many stores create special red-carpeted entrances to their establishments, complete with white awnings adorned with pine branches or white fairy lights, to celebrate the season. The lower half of the Champs- Elysées plays hosts to a vast Christmas market, and at the very foot of the avenue (Place de la Concord) rests an enormous, brilliantly-lit Ferris Wheel. If you’re not afraid of heights, be sure to end your walk by taking a ride on this huge wheel – it offers an unforgettable view of the city.
2. Shop at the Galeries Lafayette
If you’re missing the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, you’ll get your fill at the massive department store, Galeries Lafayette. The store has everything you could wish for, from designer clothing, jewelry, and cosmetics to gourmet food, electronics, and home furnishings. What’s more, if Christmas spirit was based solely on the extravagance and beauty of Christmas decorations, you couldn’t deny that Galeries Lafayette is bursting with Christmas spirit. The exterior of the store is covered with thousands of softly colored lights such that the building is transformed into several magnificent stained glass windows. The interior is just as stunning, and features a glittering Christmas tree so enormous that it seems to rise all the way to the top of the store’s elegant glass dome roof.
Galeries Lafayette, 40, boulevard Haussmann 75009 Paris – galerieslafayette.com
3. Browse the Christmas Markets
At the beginning of December, Christmas markets begin to pop up all over Paris. Each market has dozens of cozy wooden stall wreathed in pine branches and fairy lights that can’t help but make you feel cheerful. Stroll around the market and contemplate potential purchases while sipping on vin chaud (hot red wine spiced with cinnamon), or munching on pain d’épices (French-style gingerbread), both of which will surely be available at whatever market you visit. Handcrafted items feature big at these markets, and you may come away with some handmade wooden toys, hand-painted Christmas ornaments, or even a homemade knit sweater or two. You’ll also find plenty of French delicacies, including foie gras, chocolates, fresh honey, and jam, which comes in unexpected flavors such as “milk” and “caramel.”
Christmas Markets can be found at:
- Place St. Germain-des-Prés (6th arrondissement)
- Place St. Suplice (6th arrondissement)
- Avenue des Champs-Elysées (8th arrondissement)
- Gare de l’Est (10th arrondissement)
- Place de la Nation (11th arrondissement)
- Gare Montparnasse (14th arrondissement)
- Place des Abbesses (18th arrondissement)
- Paris de la Défense (La Défense, line 1 metro, just outside of central Paris)
4. Attend a Church Service
With all the fuss relating to presents and decorations and Santa, a person can almost forget about the religious basis of Christmas. If you want to get back to the origins of the holiday (and sing a few Christmas carols), there are plenty of Anglophone churches in Paris that will be celebrating Christmas. Check out the following churches’ websites for their Advent schedules.
- American Cathedral of Paris (Episcopalian): americancathedral.org
- American Church in Paris (Interdenominational): acparis.org
- St. Joseph’s Catholic Church: stjoeparis.org
- St. George’s Anglican Church: stgeorgesparis.com
Great Paris Hotels near the Champs-Elysées
- Hotel Warwick Champs-Elysées – 4-star hotel – room price: €230
- Hotel Christal Champs-Elysées – 4-star hotel – room price: €260
- Hotel Residence Lord Byron – 3-star hotel – room price: €130
- Hotel Sofitel Paris Champs-Elysées – 4-star hotel – room price: €201
- Hotel Marignan Champs-Elysées – 4-star hotel – room price: €203
“The Wonder of Christmas in Paris” picture by CharlesFred