Paris in December is magical...the lights, markets, and sweets will put on you a holiday high! I'll show you where to find the best Paris Christmas markets, holiday lights, famous department store displays, ice skating rinks, delicious hot chocolate, and more!
Nothing beats spending the holidays in Europe. They know how to go all out when it comes to decorations, lights, Christmas markets, and holiday treats like gingerbread and vin chaud.
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 difficult as it’s so popular.
Because of this, Jake and I decided to nix Germany one year and visit London, Paris, Brussels, and Bruges. This trip was perfect and a nice contrast to other Europe Christmas destinations we have visited. We were able to book hotels and flights at a great price too.
London, Paris, and Bruges easily make the list of the best Europe Christmas destinations. Each city offers a different experience and does not disappoint when it comes to 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 and charming. The cafés and crepe shops were extra cozy. Outside of a few busy areas, the crowds were very light.
Paris at Christmas time really is magical. Follow this list of the best things to do in Paris in December to ensure your trip is a festive success!
Before we begin with the best things to do in Paris in December...
What's the weather like?
Paris temperatures hover in the mid-30s to mid-40s in December. It's one of the rainiest months of the year with an average of 15 rainy days.
It rained every day during our trip to Paris in December (much more than London). Not downpours, just light rain in spurts here and there. Because we dressed appropriately, it wasn't a problem.
What to pack for Paris in December
It rarely snows in Paris, but that doesn't mean it's not cold. It can be quite gray, sometimes wet, and very chilly this time of year. You'll want a proper winter coat.
A pea coat isn't going to cut it (Jake wore a down jacket under his thick pea coat). Insulation is key. Go for a down or down alternative coat. If you're always cold (like me), go for a thigh-length coat to help keep your legs warm.
I brought my heaviest, warmest winter coat and was very glad I did. We spent a lot of time outside walking from place to place, wandering the Paris Christmas markets, etc.
If you think you'll be traveling the same way, bring gloves, ear muffs or hats, and scarves.
Because I packed all the above, I was perfectly comfortable wandering around all day. If I hadn't, the trip probably would have been miserable.
If you run on the warmer side, you'll probably be fine in a hip-length down/down alternative.
As for under your coat, I stick to jeans (often black) with a sweater. If I want to bump it up a bit for dinner or a performance, I'll wear a long sweater dress (below knees) paired with thick, wool tights.
I opt for natural fabrics, like wool and cashmere, as much as possible because they are much warmer than synthetic materials. While cashmere can get quite expensive, Nordstrom has a crewneck and v-neck cashmere sweater that I love for $100.
This map shows everything mentioned in this post (Paris Christmas markets, lights, concerts, best spots for hot chocolate/pastries, etc). Click the icon in the very top left to see a list view of each pinned location. Click the top right button to enlarge the map. Click the star to save to your own Google Maps account. To access this map once saved (after clicking the star), open Google Maps (on your phone/computer/tablet), click the menu button, go to "your places", select "maps", and you will see this map listed.
- Green - Paris Christmas markets, lights, and ice skating
- Red - holiday shopping and department store Christmas displays
- Blue - top spots for hot chocolate, pastries, and holiday treats
- Yellow - Christmas concerts and performances
1. Christmas Lights in Paris
Paris in December means the streets and shops 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 decor 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.
If you’re tight on time or just want to enjoy the lights without all the guesswork and planning, consider booking a Christmas lights tour:
2. Paris Christmas Markets
Paris in December has no shortage of Christmas markets. You'll find 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
Paris at Christmas time means it's time 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 one of the most popular things to do in Paris in December. Prepare for crowds.
The spectacular window displays (typically geared towards children) have a different theme each year and are complete with music and moving figurines.
Go inside and see the multi-story Christmas tree which also changes theme every year.
Other stores not to miss are Le Printemps, Le Bon Marché (one of the best spots for unique gifts), and Le BHV Marais.
4. Outdoor Ice Skating in Paris
A visit to Paris at Christmas time 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 outside of Hôtel de Ville (Paris City Hall) is another iconic option as is the Jardin des Tuileries Christmas Market near the Louvre.
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.
Sadly, I've found Angelina to be extremely touristy with lines out the door. Their famous Chocolat Chaud Africain is no longer a thick, rich, melted chocolate, but instead, a watered/“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, and Maison de Chocolat.
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.
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 in 2023 with the reconstruction going on after the fire. Notre Dame is projected to reopen in 2024.
Luckily, Paris has several cathedrals that hold concerts (offering Christmas and other themes) throughout 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. Holiday Treats - The Best Pastries in Paris
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 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.
Some of my other favorites are Philippe Conticini Paris 7ème, Du Pain et des Idées for croissants and escargots (not the snail but a spiral pastry), and L’éclair de Génie.
Gérard Mulot and La Grande Épicerie de Paris are perfect for grab and go treats.
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, decor, 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 option in December. The hills might not be filled with bright greens or autumn yellows, but the crowds are at an absolute minimum this time of year.
You might get lucky like we did and have your 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.
Consider joining a tour:
I hope this post helps with your planning for Paris at Christmas time. Between magical window displays, festively lit streets, Christmas sweets, and visiting the Paris Christmas markets, you're sure to have a memorable holiday trip.