12 of the best things to do this Christmas in Paris
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Paris is dreamy at any time of year, but the city truly comes into its own in the festive season. We've rounded up a selection of the best Christmas events, festivals and activities in Paris in 2021.
Grab a steaming mug of chocolat chaud or vin chaud, and read on!
For more about the coronavirus situation in Paris and any restrictions, visit our articles all about Covid-19 in France. Many of the activities below will require showing a pass sanitaire, or health pass – more about this in our pass sanitaire guide.
1. Go Christmas shopping at La Samaritaine
After 16 years, one of Paris’ most iconic department stores has finally reopened its doors to shoppers. And what a treat it is! La Samaritaine is an Art Nouveau masterpiece and is worth a visit to marvel at its décor alone. It’s a temple of fashion and beauty, with high-end brands as well as products by lesser-known designers to peruse. There’s also a Cinq Mondes spa to soothe those aching muscles, plus a wide range of eateries headed up by Ernest, a modern brasserie, and stylish bar-restaurant Voyage.
The store is celebrating its first Christmas since reopening with a giant advent calendar unveiling a new surprise every day, revealed at 12:24pm.
La Samaritaine is open from 10am-8pm, Monday to Sunday. 9 Rue de la Monnaie, 75001 Paris
2. Entertain all the family at the Festival du Merveilleux
The fascinating Musée des Arts Forains, dedicated to fairgrounds, is one of Paris’ must-visit museums, with some of its vintage rides still in use for visitors. Their ever-popular festival, the Festival du Merveilleux, is back for its 11th edition from 26 December until 2 January and it’s the perfect post-Christmas tonic. Enjoy magicians, dancers, puppeteers and more, and take a ride on one of the museum’s century-old carousels – there's plenty for kids and big kids alike.
The Festival du Merveilleux is open from 10am-6pm, with last entries at 5:30pm. 53 Av. des Terroirs de France, 75012 Paris
3. Explore the city’s many Christmas markets
Since mid-November, chalets have sprung up across Paris as Christmas market season arrives in town. Each has its own distinct character – at the Gare de l’Est, for example, you’ll find an Alsatian-themed market brimming with goodies from eastern France, while the Place des Abbesses market in Montmartre is full of village charm. If choice of stalls is what you’re after, head to the market in the city’s business district, La Défense, which is one of the biggest in the region.
Visit the Paris tourist board's website for an excellent listing of Christmas markets in Paris.
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4. Enjoy a festive concert at Sainte-Chapelle
While Notre-Dame is being rebuilt, another beautiful church is stepping into the spotlight. Sainte-Chapelle is a Gothic beauty renowned for its enormous stained glass windows, each 15 metres tall. As Christmas approaches, reserve your tickets for one of the church’s popular festive concerts. Try one of the two Christmas Eve concerts for traditional carols and beautiful classical music in an unbeatable setting.
You can purchase tickets to the Sainte-Chapelle concerts on Ticketmaster. 10 Bd du Palais, 75001 Paris
5. Have Christmas dinner on a Bateau Mouche
Looking for a Christmas dinner in Paris with a difference? Book onto the Compagnie des Bateaux Mouches’ Christmas lunch cruise on 25 December, floating down the Seine through the heart of Paris. Enjoy festive French treats like champagne and the bûche de Noël while you see some of the city’s most spectacular sights from an unusual perspective. As well as this special Christmas cruise, the company run their regular river trips throughout December which are a great way to see the twinkling festive lights.
For another unusual dining experience, don't miss the Compagnie des Bateaux Mouches' rooftop restaurant, Mademoiselle Mouche. It's back open for the winter season and diners can pull up a seat in their ‘Bulles’, plastic bubbles with incredible views over to the Eiffel Tower.
Find out more about Christmas on the Bateaux Mouches.
6. See the Christmas decorations at Galeries Lafayette
The legendary Paris department store celebrates the festive season in sensational style, and its beautiful window decorations and Christmas tree are not to be missed. This year’s theme is “1, 2, 3, Christmas!” and among the celebrities helping to turn on the Christmas lights was Lupin megastar Omar Sy. The huge Christmas tree beneath the store’s iconic glass dome is covered in toys and accompanied by a floating Santa.
Galeries Lafayette is open from 10am-8pm from Monday to Saturday, and 11am-8pm on Sundays. 40 Bd Haussmann, 75009 Paris
7. Go ice skating at the Jardin des Tuileries
Throughout the festive season, there are many pop-up ice rinks to enjoy, whether you’re a seasoned skater or it’s your first time on the ice. A favourite patinoire is in the Tuileries Garden, where all the family can try the sport until 2 January 2022. It’s an open-air rink so wrap up warm!
The Tuileries ice rink is open every day from 10am-7pm.
8. See the Christmas light festival at the Jardin des Plantes
Evolution is the theme of this year’s stunning light festival at the Jardin des Plantes. Take a trip through time as you see more than 100 enormous light sculptures of dinosaurs and lesser-known creatures displayed throughout the park, all of whom are now extinct. The festival combines art, science and poetry for a fascinating night-time adventure for all the family to enjoy.
The Jardin des Plantes light festival is open from 6-11pm every day until 30 January. 57 Rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris
9. Enjoy Christmas dinner and dancing at the Moulin Rouge
Start Christmas with an all-dancing extravaganza at France’s most iconic cabaret. The Moulin Rouge’s resident show, Féerie, features some 80 performers including 60 Doriss girls from around the world, in their fantastic feathered costumes. Watching the Doriss girls perform the famous cancan is the highlight of the show for many, and the high-kicking high jinks earn rave reviews from the audience. From 20 December until 2 January (except 31 December) the Moulin Rogue puts on special Christmas evenings with a delicious festive pre-show dinner.
Find out more about the Moulin Rouge's Christmas evenings. 82 Bd de Clichy, 75018 Paris
10. See the Château de Versailles in its festive finery
This legendary palace is just a short hop from Paris and well worth seeing at the end of the year for its Parcours du Roi exhibition. As night falls from 11 until 30 December, visitors will experience a baroque Christmas hosted by a lively cast of musicians, dancers and actors. The whole family are welcome to enjoy this special show, which takes place in the Hall of Mirrors and Grand Apartments.
Find out more about Le Parcours du Roi. Place d'Armes, 78000 Versailles
11. Warm up with a hot chocolate at Angelina
Named after the founder’s daughter-in-law, this world-famous café has been based at 226 Rue de Rivoli since it opened in 1903. Marcel Proust and Coco Chanel have been among the esteemed visitors over the years. Pull up a seat in the tearoom, with a stunning Belle Époque décor, and try L’Africain, Angelina’s signature hot chocolate. If you’ve got room, you must order a Mont Blanc, too!
Angelina is open from 9am-7pm, Monday to Sunday. 226 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
12. Go on a winter horse ride with Horse in the City
See Paris from the saddle on a private riding adventure with the expert team at Horse in the City. Choose from rides in the grounds of the Château de Versailles, the Domaine de Saint-Cloud, the Bois de Boulogne or even a little further afield in the Haute Vallée de Chevreuse Regional Natural Park. Horse in the City’s well-mannered mounts and friendly guides make it the perfect way to see the area from horseback. To top it all off, your experience ends with a glass of something delicious and a tasting of some rural French specialities.
Find out more about Horse in the City.