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A Holly Jolly Guide To Paris During the Holidays

Parisian and tour guide Milan shows us the top seasonal spots in the City of Light.

Hi, I'm Laurel!

Laurel Steele is an Istanbul-based writer from Michigan with work published by Turkish Airlines, Urban Travel Blog, and numerous websites not worth mentioning. She's lived and traveled overseas since 2010 and currently divides her time between Turkey, Guatemala, and friends' couches. She stays busy practicing Ashtanga, watching K-Dramas, and redesigning the house for her semi-adopted street cats Kimchi and Baykuş. She occasionally posts on Instagram and sends out a newsletter.

Although born just outside of Paris, living for many years in the French capital has made tour guide Milan a pur jus Parisian. However, after spending several years working abroad as a photographer, he returned to Paris ready to “fully absorb the energy of [his] city and share it.”

Milan has run a private tour that highlights the best things to do in Paris at Christmas for the past four Decembers. He carefully crafted this holiday-themed tour of Paris to showcase the “good vibes” and “good energy” that only come once a year.

From the “rooftop view from [the] legendary department store” Galeries Lafayette Department to the cheery winter markets, twinkling lights, and Christmas concerts, you can expect a distinctly Parisian winter wonderland. Here’s his advice for enjoying holly jolly Paris during the holiday season.

What makes Paris great for the holidays

The Galeries Lafayette is known for its annual Christmas lights and display.
The Galeries Lafayette is known for its annual Christmas lights and display.Foto: Matej Kastelic / Shutterstock

Say ooh la la at the holiday lights.

Cozy storefronts, historic side streets, and expansive boulevards illuminated with Christmas lights make the City of Light even brighter during winter months—don’t be surprised to see Pere Noel (Santa Claus) ringing a bell on a street corner.

Meanwhile, festive interiors of department stores, like Galeries Lafayette, delight shoppers and tourists with their holiday displays and towering Christmas trees. The main attraction on Milan’s tour is quite rightly the Christmas markets (Marches de Noel), though. Here, you’ll find charming booths, mulled wine, and an unrivaled “spirited ambiance,” plus great views of the Champs Elysées and Arc de Triomphe from the famous Ferris wheel.

Where to try Paris’ top holiday sips and snacks

Mulled wine (*vin chaud*) is a popular treat during Christmas in Paris.
Mulled wine (*vin chaud*) is a popular treat during Christmas in Paris.Foto: NeydtStock / Shutterstock

Feast on festive French classics.

You can’t visit Paris during the holiday season without enjoying a glass or two of mulled wine (or vin chaud). The festive combination of sweet red wine, brown sugar, citrus, and half a dozen spices encapsulates Christmastime in a glass. The hot beverage is easy to find at any Paris Christmas market, including La Magie de Noel aux Tuileries, and at cozy cafés, such as the Maison Sauvage in Saint Germain de Prés.

Another French winter classic is cheese fondue. You can devour some of the best at Pain Vin Fromages in the Marais district, which also serves cold-weather favorites including chocolate fondue and raclette.

Related: Around France in 15 Dishes

Where to go Christmas shopping in Paris

Stroll through a Parisian Christmas market for some holiday finds.
Stroll through a Parisian Christmas market for some holiday finds.Foto: Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock

Shop for chic French holiday gifts.

Visiting a Christmas market should be at the top of your list of things to do in Paris during the holidays. You can pick up handicrafts, French sweets, hot chocolate, and holiday ornaments. Milan suggests La Magie de Noel aux Tuileries, Marche de Noel de Notre-Dame, and Village de Noel de l’Hotel de Ville. If you like shopping indoors, fancy department stores such as Galeries Lafayette Haussmann are great for expensive gifts.

Where to stay in Paris this Christmas

The Ritz is a fancy hotel and hosts a number of events in December.
The Ritz is a fancy hotel and hosts a number of events in December.Foto: EQRoy / Shutterstock

Say bon nuit somewhere fabulously festive.

When deciding on accommodation, Milan suggests you stay near the center of the city, within the first eight arrondissements (districts). Place Vendome on Place Vendome offers a number of things to do in Paris at Christmas, including a pastry-making masterclass, pop-up Christmas chalet, Champagne tastings, holiday dinners, and a New Year’s Eve party.

Similarly, the Plaza Athenee on Montaigne Avenue offers decadent wintertime meals, and events fit for royalty. With an interior dripping with decorations and Christmas lights from mid-November, staying here during Christmas in Paris is bound to capture the spirit of the holiday season, Parisian style.

Top holiday activities in Paris

The Tuileries Gardens (Jardin des Tuileries) are one of the most festive things to do in Paris at Christmas.
The Tuileries Gardens (Jardin des Tuileries) are one of the most festive things to do in Paris at Christmas.Foto: Mo Wu / Shutterstock

Experience the City of Lights at its most luminous.

Milan believes that the distinct mood of the Parisian holiday markets is unmissable. For maximum festivity, he suggests stopping by the Tuileries Gardens (Jardin des Tuileries), where you can enjoy an ice skating rink, Ferris wheel, and carousel. For a cozy winter experience, check out the elaborate holiday lights and displays at department stores such as Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, and BHV Marais.

Or, for some live holiday entertainment, Milan recommends a show at one of Paris’ iconic cabarets—the Moulin Rouge, Crazy Horse, or Folies Bergère.

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