I once thought that it would be impossible to beat visiting Paris in the Spring, but over the last few years I’ve been during all seasons, and as much as Paris is unforgettable at any time of year, going to Paris in December is up there as being pretty special. Just like my previous travel Blogmas post on Amsterdam, save this for when we can travel again, but there’s no harm in planning or dreaming of your future visit to Paris in December now.
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by The Voyageurs Collection.
I’m focusing specifically on Paris in December rather than an overall winter post, as the Christmas lights and some of the experiences you can have during December aren’t there in the other winter months. The anticipation of Christmas really adds to the entire trip, so I’d definitely recommend aiming for the first two weeks of the month. You’ll hit all the festivities in full swing, but won’t be among the really busy time for travel out of Paris the closer it gets to Christmas.
Of course a trip to Paris is magical whenever you visit, and to really make the most of a trip to the French capital take a look at The Voyaguers Collection – who create tailor-made holidays to Paris where every detail is curated to you and your needs.
Again this post isn’t aiming to cover everything there is to do in Paris, a few days just isn’t enough for that but it will give you tips to make a December trip the best it can be.
Where To Stay & Getting Around Paris In December
I genuinely believe that where you stay in Paris will have a huge impact on how much you enjoy your trip. Some cities it doesn’t really matter, especially if you aren’t central, but for Paris I think it’s important, and the more central the better. Obviously people love the idea of an Eiffel Tower view, but don’t immediately rush to book that area.
I find it better to stay slightly further away and use part of your stay to go over to where the Eiffel Tower is. It’s so big that you can get Eiffel Tower views from quite far away, if you’re prepared to pay double or treble the price for it!
In general, staying in the 1st, 2nd or 8th Arrondissemont is where I would choose to be, as a lot of the main sights, attractions, and excellent shopping and restaurants are within walking distance. Place de la Concorde is a central point and there are many hotels nearby that are great. The metro is right there too, but in Paris the last place I’d want to be is underground, when it’s so beautiful above ground, so walking is a much better way to get about.
The Batobus in Paris is also a good option for key tourist sights and is a much more scenic way of getting about. There are a number of stops on the Seine in any of the Arrondiseemont’s I’ve mentioned.
Specific hotels I’d recommend are the Hotel Saint Honore or the Sofitel Faubourg, both very close by to each other, and I’ve also enjoyed a stay in the Chess Hotel which is a bit further from the river, close to the Palais Garnier. Some Paris hotels can be old and not great, so it’s worth doing your research and if I’m being honest – paying a bit more for it.
Winter Weather in Paris
I’ve mostly been lucky in Paris, especially in winter where I’ve had very cold but clear weather, and I once even got snow. Seeing it covered in snow was pretty special, but it does make it slightly harder to get about. If it does rain, don’t worry too much as it won’t dampen your trip at all, but be prepared in case it does.
The main thing I’d say for Paris is layers to wrap up warm in, especially if you stop frequently at the fabulous little cafes although they do have heaters, and comfortable shoes.
Indoor Activities in Paris
There aren’t too many specifically indoor activities in Paris, but here are a few.
As I said in my Amsterdam post, I’m not really too much of a museum fan, but the museums of Paris of course hold treasures you may want to see. The Mona Lisa is housed in the Louvre, and Whistler’s Mother is in Musee D’Orsay. Thousands of works of art accompany them, but personally I find that the museums are works of art in themselves, as the buildings are incredible.
Indoor entertainment could also include visiting the Palais Garnier if there is a performance on to your taste, and there are many other theatre’s close by. Up in Pigalle close to Montmartre you could spend an evening at the Moulin Rouge, either for diner and a show or just the show.
You can also go inside some of the tourist spots that attracts millions of visitors, like Sacre Couer, and previously Norte Dame although I don’t think that will reopen for a while yet.
The Galeries Lafayette are the giant luxury department store in the centre of Paris, and you could spend a long time inside. In December the Galeries Lafayette Christmas tree is one of the most photographed spots, I was lucky enough to be there for the light switch on last year. I’ll mention more on this later in the Christmas shopping section.
I wouldn’t say Paris is the type of place to spend too much time indoors, so as I said be prepared and dressed for being outside.
Outdoor Activities in Paris In December
A much better way to spend your time in Paris, with all the fabulous things to see and do is spend it outdoors. The way the city is designed makes it a pleasure to walk around, with beautiful facades, unique features to each neighbourhood, and an iconic sight around almost every corner. In December there are a few extra things to do, starting with the Paris Christmas markets.
Paris Christmas Markets
Being such a big city that attracts so many tourists, and is home to millions, there are many Christmas markets in different parts of the city. The Marche de Noel set up in the following spots across the city. They’re obviously mostly closed this year due to Covid but are set to return next year.
Champs Elysees Market, now in the Tuileries Gardens by the Louvre.
This is the market I attended when it was still on the Champs Elysees, but due to land agreements it moved to the Tuileries last year. I’ve been to both locations and as much I loved it being on the Champs Elysees, it was so much busier so I preferred it in the Tuileries.
It felt a bit more atmospheric rather than a bustling busy street, as it had more space and the backdrop of the gardens, the Louvre and even the Eiffel Tower depending on the direction you look. There was also no traffic, so it was a lot more relaxing than being moved along by the crowds which was the case up the Champs Elysees.
Hotel de Ville Christmas Market
The City Hall can be found along the Rue du Rivoli, and is a beautiful spot for the Christmas market that sits in the square. A light show dances on the front of the building, and lit up trees are dotted among the stalls. The carousel is also found here.
Marché de Noel Notre Dame
As the name suggests the Notre Dame market is just across the river from the Cathedral, in Square Vivani, a picturesque little square on the left bank. Under the looming towers of Notre Dame overhead you can browse the stalls, or dip out and do some shopping at famous bookstore Shakespeare & Co, close by.
Place des Abbesses
This is where you’d get off the metro to head up to Montmartre, and it’s so picturesque around here it’s worth a visit even when the market isn’t on.
There are also markets in Saint Germain, and I’ve seen one stretching out in front of the Eiffel Tower too, but I’m unsure if that one is still there as I haven’t seen anything about it for a few years. Saint Germain is likely to be a good one as it will be a lot less touristy and more for the locals, there are some amazing cafes nearby too.
What can you expect from the Paris Markets?
I have a whole post on the Tuileries Christmas market from last year, which you can read here, but in summary it had a definite French feel to it. Grab a glass of Vin Chaude, some roast chestnuts, or a crepe as you wander round admiring or shopping from the French goods stalls. Go ice skating under the Louvre, meet Santa Claus, and sample the macarons in all flavours.
If you’re brave enough have a ride on the giant Ferris wheel, for the incredible views over the city in all directions if nothing else. You will come away feeling very festive, and they’re a different experience when you visit in the daytime and the evening once it gets dark.
Paris Christmas Lights
Known as the city of lights anyway, all the iconic architecture is always lit up beautifully at night, from the Arc de Triomphe, to the sparkling Eiffel Tower, Place de la Concorde and Palais Garnier. In December everyone seems to join in with the decorations.
The Champs Elysees is one of the brightest and most beautiful streets to visit, with big names like Cartier, Laduree and Tiffany going all out with their Christmas displays.
This big open square is one of my favourite spots in Paris, with the Ritz on one side, and Chanel, Cartier and Louis Vuitton as the neighbours. Giant Christmas trees with fairy lights are put up in each corner, and the Ritz and fashion houses match them with trees outside of their doorways too. It’s a very traditional but classy spot.
Swap the heaving Champs Elysees for Rue Royale and you won’t be disappointed. This street runs from La Madeleine straight down to Place de la Concorde, and it too is lines with some very big names that come with beautiful Christmas window displays. Gucci, Chanel, Ralph Lauren and Dior to name a few.
The street is stunning in itself with ornate lampposts and beautiful buildings, but Christmas street lights hang overhead in December, making it one of the brightest streets in the city. It really is beautiful and I much prefer it to the Champs Elysees. The little Laduree here is also much more quaint and not as packed.
Le Village Royale
Just off Rue Royale is Le Village Royale, an adorable little courtyard that is worth dipping in to as they always have fabulous displays on. It was where the umbrella canopy was last spring, and last Christmas they had these gorgeous bears holding red balloons, and red lamps along the wall.
See the Sights
As well as the markets of course there are all the typical Paris sights to see. They keep them quite understated for Christmas, but they’re impressive year round so don’t need to go too over the top. If you’re short for time here is my 24 hour whirlwind tour of Paris, which will help you see as many of them as possible.
If you’ve been a fan of Emily in Paris then you might also like to have a read of this, the locations from the program worth visiting, as well as my thought on the show itself.
Paris Cafe Culture
What Paris is known for, you can’t beat the curb side cafes for a coffee and croissant. My favourite is the one in Le Village Royale, that goes by the same name. Their breakfasts are great, but it’s also a good spot for a glass of wine in the afternoon too.
There are many cafes around Paris, some of the typical ones you expect tourists to visit are Cafe de Flore, Les Deux Magots, Maison Rose and Le Consulat. I personally love Maison Sauvage as it’s always packed with French people, and the food is amazing – get the Camembert.
The restaurants in Paris are naturally incredible, but avoid any on the Champs Elysees – they’re touristy and overpriced. My favourite by far is Flottes. Where possible eat outside at all of them, as it’s a great way to experience real Parisian dining.
Paris Winter Walks
Despite being a city, Paris has some beautiful outdoor spaces and parks for a walk. Of course the streets themselves are a pleasure to wander, find some of the prettiest here, but big parks like the Tuileries, and Jardin du Luxembourg are great for a big open space and pretty gardens.
Christmas Shopping in Paris
A fashion hotspot in general, Paris has unlimited shopping options some of which I’ve already mentioned. Place Vendome, Rue Saint Honore, Rue Cambon and Rue Royale all have big luxury brands, as well as Champs Elysees which has the flagship Louis Vuitton.
Galleries Lafayette is the department store, complete with seasonal window displays worth visiting, but I have to say it was so busy I didn’t really enjoy it that much.
The little boutiques, arcades and street stalls are some of the best places to do your shopping. The street artists near Notre Dame, along Rue de Rivoli, and on the square behind Sacre Couer are amazing, I have so many beautiful prints from them.
If you need a hot chocolate and French fancy to finish off your day, then head to Angelina’s, you’ll just have to be prepared to queue as it’s so popular.
Here’s to future Christmas travel, and I hope you’ve been inspired to consider Paris in December sometime. I’m desperate to go back I was so surprised how much I enjoyed it, and I don’t think it’s the first place that springs to mind when booking a Christmas market trip. People tend to look at Germany, smaller French cities or elsewhere in Europe, but I promise Paris in December is very much worth it.
And remember to take a look at The Voyageurs collection for their help and expertise in creating an unforgettable trip, custom built around your dream Paris desires.
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by The Voyageurs Collection.
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