Image of the Eiffel Tower juxtaposed with a tree branch covered with snow in the foreground

The famous Eiffel Tower is a magical sight in winter. [Photo Credit: Shutter Stock]

Christmas is best spent in the City of Lights where the shops light up with festive decorations unlike anywhere else in the world. The holiday season brings about infectious cheer and merriment as Paris gets all decked out with dazzling displays while setting up various markets, shows and activities around the city. Best of all are the special Christmas foods, unique to France, that are a must-try for any visitor. If you plan to visit Paris during winter, for a short vacation or to stay for the season, you are in luck! Read on for a list of things to do in Paris during the most magical time of the year.

Admire City Lights and Christmas Displays

Christmas lights and festive decorations are the highlight of visiting Paris at Christmastime. With the displays getting bigger and better each year, it is a must-see for any traveler to Paris. We recommend visiting these top spots where the most beautiful displays and Christmas lights are set up every year.

Alt Text: Image of the Avenue des Champs-Elysées with trees draped with Christmas lights lining both sides of the road and a large Ferris Wheel in the middle.

Christmas lights on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées brighten up the night sky. [Photo credit: David Monniaux/Wiki Media]

First on our list is the beautiful Avenue des Champs-Elysées. Wander along the avenue to see the row of over 300 trees lit up. This is the first time ever that the lights have been tinted red and should not be missed. The lights will be shining from 5pm to 2am each day, starting on November 20th and ending on New Year’s. To celebrate the special occasions, the lights will be lit up all night long on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. We advise visiting the majestic Arc de Triomphe first, before walking down the Avenue des Champs-Elysées towards the Palace de la Concorde.

Image of the living room of vacation rental PA-4729 with an elegant white sofa in the foreground with two doors leading to the balcony at the back.

Stay close to the Arc de Triomphe in this elegant 2-bedroom apartment (Rental ID: PA-4729)

This furnished vacation rental near the Arc de Triomphe is perfect for those planning to take a stroll along the Avenues des Champs-Elysées. Much like the Christmas lights all around Paris, the apartment exudes an air of luxury with glass-paneled doors leading to balconies in every room. With this well-located apartment, you can visit all the major attractions located nearby or travel further and try one of our recommended day trips.

Image of the glass Coupole in the Galeries Lafayette flagship store with a towering Christmas tree and presents hanging down from the domed roof.

The iconic glass Coupole of the Galeries Lafayette flagship store is beautifully decorated for Christmas. [Photo Credit: Lámande/Flickr ]

It has been a long standing tradition for Parisians to decorate department stores with stunning embellishments and intricate theatre sets. These magical Christmas window displays often follow a certain theme and feature animated characters that bring the festivities to life. It is a sight that you will not want to miss out on!.

The Galeries Lafayette is one of the department stores with an extravagant Christmas display. Located on Boulevard Haussmann, their flagship store has an impressive Art Nouveau glass Coupole that rises to a height of 43 meters. Come Christmas time, both the inside and the outside of the building are decked out in stunning lights and decorations. Make sure to check out the giant Christmas tree set, which has a unique theme every year, under the beautiful glass dome.

Image of Christmas window display of animated figurines in an icy wonderland with Santa Claus figure in the middle surrounded by presents.

Festive window display at Printemps Haussmann department store. [Photo Credit: Jérôme LÊ/Flickr]

Just beside the Galeries Lafayette is the Printemps Haussmann department store. With over 25 floors within three buildings, Printemps is definitely worth visiting. This year, the theme is about a little Londoner, fully clothed in Burberry apparel, arriving to Paris to celebrate Christmas. Printemps uses fashion to seamlessly pair two famous cities, London and Paris. Besides the stores on Boulevard Haussman, we recommend checking out BHV Marais and the Bon Marché Rive Gauche for their Christmas window displays and decorations. The Christmas windows in BHV Marais is set to the theme ‘Strasbourg’ and has a mini Christmas Market in their store while the Bon Marché Rive Gauche has a natural ‘mon bon sapin’ (Christmas tree) theme.

Image of the Place de la Concorde with a ferris wheel, fountain and Christmas tree setup.

Stunning Christmas setup at one of the major public squares, Place de la Concorde. [Photo Credit: Cécile Leducq/Flickr]

Paris is known for its beautiful architecture and sights around the city. Naturally, these attractions become ten times more magical when illuminated with festive lights. Include these scenic, insta-worthy spots on your bucket list!

  • Place de la Concorde
  • Bercy Village
  • Champ de Mars Christmas Village
  • Place  Vendôme

Paris Christmas Markets

Christmas Markets, also known as marchés de Noel, can be found all around Paris. These traditional Christmas markets sell a wide variety of food, arts and crafts, decorations and local products. Out of all the different markets, we recommend you visit these top ones – that have some of the best food and things to buy.

Image of chalets displaying food items and products to sell in a Christmas Market with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

Shop at one of the many Christmas Markets with a view of the majestic Eiffel Tower. [Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/Flickr]

Add the market in La Defense, one of the largest Christmas markets, to your bucket list of places to visit. With over 350 chalets that sell crafts, decorations and mouth watering food, you will be spoilt for choice! Being one of the bigger markets, there are many specialty stores that sell items such as seasonal fruits, hand-made leather goods, and fine paintings that are harder to find in smaller markets.

Another popular market is the Champs- Elysées Christmas Market. Up to 200 authentic chalets line the streets of the famous avenue from the Rond-point to the Place de la Concorde. The smell of freshly baked food along with the warm Christmas lights and decorations illuminating the Champs-Elysées Christmas Village is a one-of-a-kind experience for visitors to Paris.

Last but not least is the Christmas market at Montparnasse Tower. This market may be smaller but it has a great selection of French delicacies and quality gift items. At the center of Paris’ southern hub, the Marché de Noël de Montparnasse Tower is easily accessible from the Gare Montparnasse train station.

Image of the living room in the 1-bedroom furnished rental PA-4706 that has an orange sofa and chairs and a balcony pictured on the right side.

Stay near Les Invalides in this inviting 1-bedroom furnished apartment. (Rental ID: PA-4706)

Not far from Montparnasse is this 1-bedroom rental in Invalides. Just 11 minutes by train to the Gare Montparnasse station, you have easy access to the Marché de Noël de Montparnasse Tower. The accommodation has a spectacular view of famous landmarks such as Invalides and the Eiffel Tower, which can be seen from the large balcony in the living room.

Ice-skating rinks

Ice skating in winter is one of the best family activities that is fun for all ages. Skate at these ice-skating rinks, many of which are next to scenic views like the Eiffel Tower or the Grand Palais. If you are visiting Paris with family, this is one thing you need to check off your bucket list.

Image of people ice-skating at the foot of the Eiffel tower.

Skate with your family at this ice rink at the Eiffel Tower! [Photo Credits: ErasmusOfParis/Flickr]

Skate at the foot of the Eiffel Tower at the Ice Rink that opens annually during winter. This unique rink offers an incredible view over the capital and has food stalls that sell waffles and hot chocolate to warm you up after you skate. If you want to do more than ice-skate, you could visit Charlety Stadium “Snow Park” which opens late December. The stadium is transformed into a beautiful snow park with a rink made from synthetic ice. Best of all, entry and the various activities are free, the perfect place for young enthusiasts.

Image of large blue Christmas tree set up at the Grande Arche, Paris

Admire Christmas decorations like this magical Christmas tree set at the Grande Arche. [Photo Credit: Jacob Szypulka/Flickr]

Another beautiful place to skate is the ice skating rink on the Grande Arche rooftop. Enjoy a panoramic view of the Paris cityscape while skating at the top of the Grande Arche. The rink may be small but it is worth going up to see the amazing view. For avid ice-skaters that require a bigger space to skate, visit the ice rink at the Grand Palais. The ice rink is the largest in the world with a magnificent glass roof overhead. For an outdoor experience, the giant ice rink at the Champ de Mars is the place to go. Enjoy over 3,000 square feet of ice with your family and friends while admiring the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

Image of vacation rental PA-4727 showing the wooden dining table with a traditional floral artwork at the back.

Make this 2-bedroom vacation rental your home for the holidays. (Rental ID: PA4727)

Located next to the Champ de Mars is this charming 2-bedroom vacation rental. The apartment is right at the entrance to the Champ de Mars, the park that contains the iconic Eiffel Tower. If you cannot get enough of seeing the majestic Eiffel Tower, we definitely recommend considering renting this place that is only 70 meters away from the famous landmark. Beautifully furnished with classic wooden furniture and floral accents, this quaint apartment is perfect for travelers. The apartment is close to other lesser known attractions in Paris like the Quai Branly Museum.

Christmas shows

Another family activity to add to your bucket list is watching a Parisian Christmas show. There are many different concerts and shows available in Paris during Christmas, some of which include food and drinks as well. Whether you are into musicals, concerts or cabaret, you will find an amazing range of Christmas shows here in Paris.

If you love classical music, you are in luck. The Orchestre Symphonique de la Garde Républicaine is hosting a classical Christmas concert featuring great masterworks from famous composers. The concert is located in the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, an entertainment venue that is home to many famous orchestras.

Alt Text: Image of the Sainte Chapelle during a concert with colorful lights shining from the stage towards the audience.

Amazing lights illuminate the beautiful La Sainte Chapelle during the classical Christmas concert. [Photo Credit: Pxhere]

One of the most popular holiday concerts is the Christmas concert at La Sainte Chapelle. The La Sainte Chapelle is a sight to behold itself with its breathtaking stained glass windows that reach the ceiling of the exquisite Gothic church. The royal church will be holding classical music performances from 20-23 December and 27-30 December. You can purchase combination tickets as well that include a delectable dinner paired with organic wine that you can enjoy before the concert.

Image of furnished rental PA-4608 with white furnishings and yellow accents.

Live in this beautiful 2-bedroom furnished apartment for easy access to La Sainte Chapelle. (Rental ID: PA-4608)

Located near Sainte Chapelle is this 2-bedroom furnished rental in the heart of Marais. The neighborhood is known for its medieval streets, bohemian vibe and upscale residents and is a favorite for both Parisians and tourists. Live like a local in Le Marais with our guide to the neighborhood. The apartment is within walking distance from attractions like the Sainte Chapelle and Le BHV Marais, just to name a few.

Besides Christmas concerts, Paris also has cabaret performances that are not to be missed. The illustrious Moulin Rouge is at the top of our list as it transports you to an extravagant world of dance. Immerse yourself in the exhilarating atmosphere and take in the sights of the flamboyant decor while dining on quality French cuisine. The Moulin Rouge was even an inspiration for an award-winning cinematic film of the same name. Coming a close second to the extravagance of the Moulin Rouge is the Lido in Champs-Elysées. Watch the Bluebell girls in action with their flamboyant costumes and multiple scene changes.  You might want to check out the Crazy Horse which features 12 dancers and combines elements of shadow play. Alternatively, you could visit Paradis Latin on rue du Cardinal-Lemoine that stars Iris Mittenaere, former Miss France and Miss Universe 2016.

Special Christmas Foods

Alt Text: Image of a stall which sells pretzels and vin chaud. The pretzels are displayed and hung all around the stall.

Be sure to try pretzels and vin chaud at the Christmas markets! [Photo Credit: Vincent Desjardins/Flickr]

Vin chaud is a warm, mulled wine or spiced wine cocktail that is a staple at Christmas markets all over France. What was once a drink only for special occasions has gained traction and become more popular with Parisians. The warm drink made with cinnamon, orange, and other spices is the perfect pick-me-up during cold winters. The traditional French drink is just heavenly when paired with baked goods like pretzels or baguettes. So don’t hesitate to celebrate like a local with this holiday tradition unique to France.

If you prefer something sweet, we recommend getting hot chocolate at these famous stores:

  • Jean-Paul Hévin‘s salon de thé,
  • Jacques Genin‘s cozy Marais salon de thé or
  • the Maison de Chocolat.

Image of a chocolate Bûche de Noel surrounded by pine cones, leaves and gold Christmas decorations.

This beautifully decorated Bûche de Noel looks too good to be eaten! [Photo Credit: Delphine Jankowski/Flickr]

Satisfy your sweet tooth with a Bûche de Noël, a traditional yule log cake that is served near Christmas. Bûche de Noël is a flourless chocolate cake that is rolled with chocolate whipped cream and shaped to look like a log. There are many different variations of this dessert but all of them are splendidly decorated to match the festive Christmas season.

Image of the Rue Montorgueil street showing shops on either side with Christmas decorations lighting up the path above.

Shop at the Rue Montorgueil, a cobbled market street lined with restaurants, bakeries and produce stands. [Photo Credit: ©Patrice Koch/Flickr]

Rue Montorgueil offers plenty of bakeries and pastry shops where you will find Bûche de Noel. One of the oldest markets in central Paris, the street is an enchanting food market where Parisians socialize while doing their daily shopping. Stay near this popular street market in this Montorgueil 1-bedroom furnished apartment. With the city’s best produce and grocery right at your doorstep, you can try all the delicious Christmas food and specialty items easily!

The City of Lights has lots to offer during Christmas and has something for everyone to do. From admiring the beautiful decorations to watching Christmas concerts, Paris is full of unforgettable experiences. At New York Habitat, we connect you to the best apartments to make your time in the city more magical.