I’d previously been to Paris in Spring and Summer, and to be honest I didn’t think it would be possible to beat how beautiful the city is in Spring. With pink blossom everywhere, the sun shining, but still cool enough to be comfortable walking around I was convinced that you simply couldn’t beat Spring. WRONG! Christmas time is definitely up there challenging for the perfect season to visit. As the hygge trend has 100% hit the UK this year, I can confirm that you can definitely get the hygge feeling in Paris in December. No question. Even the phrase Christmas in Paris just sounds festive, and if you don’t get all the feels from this then are you even human?
Paris Christmas Markets
I’ve spent a lot of time since November researching Christmas markets across Europe for work, but like most people if you’re bothering your arse to go to a whole other country instead of the likes of Edinburgh, York or Manchester, chances are you’ll probably go to Germany. So I didn’t really think about the fact that there would be one in Paris until a few days before I went.
Our first evening in Paris we got wrapped up to go and take a look at it – I even put trainers on. Heading straight across Place de la Concorde, the giant ferris wheel was lit up red, white and blue. I’ve never seen it there before so I’m assuming it’s there for the festive season. On crossing the giant square, you get your first glimpse of the market straight up the Champs Elysees with the Arc de Triomphe at the end. It was unbelievable, totally different to any market I’ve ever seen. Filling both sides of the Champs Elysees, and under all the trees decorated with Christmas lights it was huuuuuuge.
We took our time walking up, past the hundreds of stalls all themed and decorated, Christmas trees covered in snow filling the gaps between sections, and sheltered huts to stand under if you bought food or drinks and needed somewhere to stand. There was a full food village that actually branched off from the main market into a second area at one point and it was absolutely heaving. Christmas in Paris is not done half heartedly!
There were pop up proper restaurants that you could actually go in to for a sit down meal, as well as French, Dutch, German and Belgian stalls selling country specific snacks and food. We got a German hotdog each, and there was a full choice of toppings and sauces. Then there were the sweet stalls, traditional candy canes, slabs of chocolate, Belgian waffles, crepes and all sorts of sugary delights.
The clothes stalls actually looked pretty good quality, and on this particular freezing cold, but clear night they must have made a fortune. As well as all the stalls you could go on rides for all ages, shelter skelters, and both a kids and adult ice rink.
All this goes the entire length of the Champs Elysees, on both sides. The roundabout half way up was decorated with Christmas trees and toy soldiers, and there were about six giant spotlights casting bright white light into the air that formed an arch over the market.
When we went along to the Eiffel Tower, we saw what had been a Christmas market along there too, but it was being dismantled and must have closed for the year. I imagine that would have been an amazing sight as well under the glow of the Eiffel Tower, but I think we were just a few days late.
Shop Windows and Facades
As you near the top of the Champs Elysees it becomes more built up with shops, all decorated for Christmas and competing for the brightest and loudest window display. I would say that Cartier put the rest to shame!
On the way back down the other side, we came across a few others, but Abercrombie and Fitch definitely stood out. They have giant black and gold gates with Christmas wreaths hung up on each one, and the gardens inside that lead to the entrance were all lit up with fairy lights. But it wasn’t just the giant shopping streets and high street names that made the effort. In fact it was the tiny boutiques, and more discreet displays that I loved the most.
While Tiffany & Co. on the Champs Elysees had rows of turquoise Tiffany blue boxes making up wreaths the whole way up the building, the store near Place Vendome is much smaller and intimate. Their displays were a lot more tasteful, gently lit and very cosy looking. Their windows displayed tiny Christmas tables, and a doorway with a tree inside. Very cute.
Many of the other big name designers were decorated with simple green Christmas trees and white twinkly fairy lights. Louis Vuitton and Alexander McQueen were my favourites, as well as the Dior window with giant gold baubles. Even if all you can do is window shop, it’s the big names and expensive displays that definitely remind you that it’s Christmas in Paris.
Christmas in Paris – The City of Light
There were Christmas lights and decorations all across the city. Rue Royale looked beautiful at night with the Madeleine in the distance, and Le Village Royal nearby was lined with cactus shaped trees adorned with little red lampshades. In the middle of the courtyard were a cluster of Christmas trees all together, and a giant white polar bear statue peering out from the middle.
Place Vendome was I think my favourite Christmassy place in all of Paris. On both evenings we walked through this area at about 4pm, just as it was getting dark and the lights were coming on. In each of the four corners of the square there were two giant cone shaped Christmas eve, both with twinkly golden lights. All buildings, shops, and The Ritz that lines the square had joined in with the green and gold theme so it was simple and beautiful everywhere you looked.
I think every single street cafe were fully in the Christmas spirit too, with decorations spilling from the French shutters above and down the canopies draped over the tiny two person tables underneath. Many of them had side windows open with giant pots of mulled wine visible inside, that you could buy through the hatches. Angelina’s even had a little cart outside selling hot chocolate to passers by.
Every hotel we passed all had entranceways lit up, decorations lining the windows, and even Notre Dame had a solitary wreath. I’ve never been anywhere where Christmas has taken over so much, but really kept a quaint and tasteful charm about it.
It’s impossible not to feel festive and excited for Christmas walking among all the lights, and even the busy Christmas market on one of the busiest streets in Europe felt more like walking through a tiny French village in winter.
Read my other Paris posts – there’s plenty more to come too!
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