Paris in December is nothing short of magical. The lights, vin chaud (hot wine), sweet treats, and Paris Christmas markets will put you on a holiday high! Many flock to Germany during the holiday season as this is where the Europe Christmas markets began. This can make finding deals on flights and hotels a bit difficult as it’s so popular. Jake and I chose to spend time in London, Paris, Brussels, and Bruges. This trip was perfect as we were able to score awesome deals on flights and hotels and the crowds were not overwhelming. London, Paris, and Bruges easily makes the list of the best Europe Christmas destinations. All three places had a different feel and did not disappoint in holiday cheer.
Paris was the second stop on our trip after London. These two cities contrasted each other beautifully. Where London had bigger than life displays with its giant Christmas trees and over the top lights, Paris in December was quaint with a simpler, but charming feel. The cafés and crepe shops were extra cozy and the lighter crowds made this a perfect holiday getaway.
Christmas in Paris really is magical. If you’re thinking of visiting the city of lights during the holiday season save this list of the 10 BEST things to do in Paris in December to make sure your trip is a festive success!
Continue reading 10 BEST things to do in Paris in December or save it for later!
NEED MORE CHRISTMAS IDEAS?
1. Christmas Lights in Paris
December in Paris means the streets and shops will glow with twinkle lights. It won’t be hard to find a festively lit street as the city illuminates over 150 streets in 70 neighborhoods from mid November to early January. If you’d rather plan ahead and map out which streets to see depending on where you'll be that day, check out this website. It lists the streets that will shine bright with holiday décor and conveniently organizes them by arrondissements.
Some of the best Christmas lights in Paris are on Champs Élysées showcasing over 150,000 lights, Avenue Montaigne, Place Vendôme, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Bercy Village, and Rue Vieille du Temple.
This is one of my personal favorite activites on the list of 10 BEST things to do in Paris in December as I love to just wander and take in the surroundings.
If you’re tight on time or just want to enjoy the lights without all the guesswork and planning, consider doing a Christmas lights tour.
2. Paris CHRISTMAS MARKETS
Paris in December has no shortage of Christmas markets and offers a wide variety of sizes and themes (English, Swedish, Vegan, Nordic, etc.). It's definitely one of my favorite things to do in Paris in December. The biggest is the Christmas Village on La Défense esplanade. Sip hot cider or mulled wine as you stroll past 300 chalets filled with crafts, specialty foods, and gifts. Other markets to note are The Magic of Christmas at the Tuileries Gardens complete with an ice skating rink and Ferris wheel, the Christmas market at City Hall, and the charming Christmas Market at Notre Dame Cathedral. See the full list of Paris Christmas markets here.
3. Christmas Shopping in Paris and Famous Department Store Displays
December in Paris means it's time for some over the top store displays. Gaze upon some of the best window displays and department store decorations you have ever seen in the L’Opera neighborhood. This area has some of the best luxury shopping with decorations to match. Here you will find the Galeries Lafayette department store and beautiful shopping squares like Place de la Madeleine and Place Vendome. The holiday displays alone earn Paris a spot on the list of the best Europe Christmas destinations.
Paying a visit to Galeries Lafayette is easily one of the TOP 10 things to do in Paris in December and will have the crowds to prove it. The spectacular window displays usually have a theme and are complete with music and moving figures and geared towards children. Go inside and see the multi-story Christmas tree which also changes theme every year.
4. Outdoor Ice Skating in Paris
A visit to Paris in December would not be complete without some outdoor ice skating and Paris has plenty of options. The most memorable will be at the Champ de Mars Christmas Village with the Eiffel Tower in the background. The rink outsite of Hôtel de Ville (Paris City Hall) is another iconic option.
5. The Best Hot Chocolate in Paris
Paris at Christmas time may be chilly, but nothing beats a warm cup of hot cocoa on a cold winter day. Easily one of the most delicious things to do in Paris in December. Lucky for you, Paris is known to offer some of the best hot chocolate.
Many people will probably recommend Angelina. It’s a beautiful atmosphere and also has some amazing desserts, but unfortunately the quality has suffered in recent years. When I visited last year I found Angelina to be extremely touristy with lines out the door. Their famous Chocolat Chaud Africain was no longer a thick, rich, melted chocolate, but instead a watered, or “milked” down version.
To try some of the best hot chocolate in Paris that is top quality, head to Jean-Paul Hévin (I recommend the Vendome location at 231 rue Saint-Honoré), Jacques Genin, Maison de Chocolat, and Cyril Lignac’s Chocolateries. Ladurée also offers some delicious chocolat chaud and the Rue Bonapart location in the Saint-Germain area is beyond cozy.
6. Cathedral Christmas Concerts in Paris
Visiting a famous cathedral is a stunning experience in and of itself. Add some live music and twinkle lights to brighten the dark arches and you’ve got one memorable experience and one of the top 10 things to do in Paris in December.
Jake and I attended the Christmas concert at Notre-Dame in 2018 and it was magical. Something I will never forget. Sadly, Notre-Dame will not be offering any concerts with the reconstruction going on after the fire. Luckily, Paris has several cathedrals that hold concerts (offering Christmas and other themes) throughout the month of December. Église Saint-Sulpice, Saint Germain des Prés Church, Eglise de la Madeleine, St. Séverin Church, and La Sainte Chapelle are a few notable options. Visit classictic.com to see a list of concerts during the dates of your visit and be sure to get tickets in advance.
7. Pastry Tour - The best pastries in Paris
Spending Christmas in Paris would not be complete without all the sweet treats. We all know that Paris is famous for its delicious and beautiful pastries. Pastry chefs spend as much time making sure your delicate treat is almost too beautiful to eat as they do perfecting the recipe. Try a sampling of Paris’ finest offerings from simple chocolate croissants to flakey layered millefeuilles and colorful macarons.
My absolute favorite place that offers some of the best pastries in Paris is the the Ladurée on 21 Rue Bonapart in the Saint-Germain neighborhood. The upstairs salon is warm and cozy, decorated in dark velvets. The Chocolat chaud Ladurée is rich and the assortment of pastries will please any taste bud. The atmosphere and quality are reflected in the prices, but it’s well worth the splurge.
8. The Nutcracker
Nothing says Christmas like attending the Nutcracker in a regal Parisian setting. Attend the traditional performance at Théâtre des Champs Elysées or head to Palais Garnier where performances of the Iolanta opera and Nutcracker ballet are combined into one performance.
9. Disneyland Paris
I’m not usually one to recommend something like Disneyland, but if you want to awaken your inner child (or have children in tow) during the holidays, Paris Disneyland will do just the trick. Disney’s Enchanted Christmas goes above and beyond when it comes to a dazzling display of holiday flare. The lights, décor, and themed festivities are quite magical. Disneyland Paris should definitely be on your list of the TOP 10 things to do in Paris in December if you have kids.
10. Day trip to Reims – Champagne Region
A half or full day trip to Reims is a wonderful day trip option in December. The hills might not be filled with bright greens or autumn yellows, but the crowds are at an absolute minimum during this time of year. You might get lucky like Jake and I and have your booked group tour turn into a private tour! We were the only ones on the Veuve Clicquot tour, which I highly recommend.
Reims is an easy 45 minute train from Paris and the town center is easily walkable. Uber is available here and many champagne caves are a quick 10 to 15 minute ride away. The Reims cathedral is stunning and has a worthwhile Christmas market surrounding it. Visiting the Champagne region made for a quick and easy getaway from Paris.
This is a must and easily one of the top 10 things to do In Paris at Christmas time if you are a wine and champagne lover.
Consider taking the Chunnel to London. See my UK posts to help with the planning!
Have you spent Christmas in Paris? What do you think are the 10 BEST things to do in Paris in December? Let me know in the comments below!
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