City Breaks

Christmas in Paris

I asked two Paris local travel experts for suggestions on the best holiday activities in the City of Lights.  The first selection of ideas is from Marlys and Michael Schuermann, the team behind @ParisBuFF. Parisians by adoption, they offer budget tips to Paris and beyond. Michael is the author of the book Paris Movie Walks.

The second selection is from ParisKid, a kid- focused company offering tailor-made art museum visits with workshops and fun themed historical tours for non-French speaking children ages 6-12 accompanied by a qualified bilingual ParisKid guide.

These are fantastic suggestions, thank you!

Place de La Concorde ferris wheel. Photo by Marlys and Michael Schuermann

Christmas in Paris by @ParisBuFF

Paris is just bursting at the seams with festive offerings for its visitors—ice skating and skiing, giant ferris wheels and merry-go-round rides. And because it’s Christmas, many of them are free! The entire family will be able to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of Paris as they get themselves from one delightful venue to another.

Giant Ferris Wheel/Avenue des Champs-Élysées

Start off at the Place de la Concorde. Take a spin in the Giant Ferris Wheel (La Grande Roue) and then walk down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to enjoy the big Parisian Christmas Market. Buy a toy souvenir or taste some of the French yummies on offer like Crepe Breton, Canele, mulled wine and more.

Avenue des Champs-Élysées lights. Photo by Marlys and Michael Schermann

There is no charge for enjoying the site of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées regaled with lights at this time of the year.  One indoor event also near the Champs-Élysées and not to be missed is the Jours de Fêtes inside the Grand Palais, where you can enjoy carnival rides from December 19-January 1 except December 24th and 31st.

Notre Dame Tree, Circus Tricks, and Ice Skating

Next, hop off to the Cathedral of Notre Dame to see a giant Christmas Tree erected there until February 2nd.  Nearby is the department store BHV (Bazar Hotel de Ville). Bring the kids over to learn a circus trick or two. Circus workshops are open every Wednesday and Sunday until December 22nd.

Not far away, you can go ice skating in the open air in front of the Paris City Hall or Hotel de Ville. Entry is free but you need 5 Euros to rent ice skates, available from December 17 to February 27. Alternatively, you can go straight to the Eiffel Tower where you can also go ice skating on the rink set up on the first level of the Tower.

Parisian Piste

If you’re more into skiing, the Parisian piste is at the Stade Charlety (99 Blvd. Kellermann 75013 Paris). It’s free for everyone, from 6 years old upwards starting December 20 until December 31 from 1 pm). To get there, take the RER-B train to Cité Universitaire or hop on bus no. 21/67.

Window Displays of Grands Magasins

A Christmas visit to Paris is really only complete if you’ve seen the window displays of the Grands Magasins (Galeries Lafayette and Printemps) with mechanical dancing dolls and bears. No purchase required.

The City of Paris has also designated carousels or merry-Go-Rounds to offer free rides to everyone, young and old alike starting from December 19th to January 2nd. Find them in this list.

If you are still around on the night of Reveillon (New Year’s Eve), Paris will regal the whole family with a big fireworks display at the Eiffel Tower. If you want a front seat, be at the Trocadero as early as 10pm.

Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris

Christmas in Paris by ParisKid

Ice Magic

Visit this exhibition of ice sculptures on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées where twenty artists have sculpted more than 450 tonnes of ice into wonderful monuments, buildings, historic figures and imaginary scenes and creatures. Runs from November 20th through January 3rd.

Christmas Mass

In France, Christmas is celebrated on 24th December and traditionally begins with Midnight Mass with Choirs. The best choirs and services are:

Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris

December 24th schedule:

4:30pm Christmas mass.

6pm: Family Mass with the Maîtrise Notre-Dame de Paris and the Children’s Choir, led by Lionel Sow.

8pm: International mass with the Maîtrise Notre-Dame de Paris and the Adults’ choir, led by Lionel Sow.

1pm: Christmas Eve with Christmas carols by the Children’s and Adults’ choirs from the Maîtrise.

Midnight: Midnight mass with the Maîtrise Notre-Dame de Paris and the Children’s and Adults’ choirs, led by Lionel Sow

La Basilique du Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre

December 24th schedule:

10pm Organ concert 10pm

11pm and Midnight Mass

December 25th schedule:

Christmas Mass 7am, 11am, 6pm, 10pm. Christmas songs 4pm

Christmas Markets

Champs-Elysées: The street is lined with log cabins, offering crafts, gastronomy, Christmas decorations and toys.

République/Bastille: This exhibition-sale offers creations by artisans in the 11th arrondissement: leathers and fabrics, sculpture, goldsmiths’ art, calligraphy, aluminium engraving, lace, porcelain, jewellery, photography and a wide range of gifts.

La Maison de l’Alsace: A 100% Alsatian Christmas market with Christmas decorations and baubles, marquetry, jams, gingerbreads, table cloths, Hansi decorations, books, bredele, baerewacke, chocolates, artisanal pottery, earthenware and crystal, fabrics, Alsatian wines, foie gras, and more.  Hot Alsatian wine tasting, Christmas tea and gingerbread!

La Villette/Belleville/Canal Saint-Martin: Discover a large choice of Alsatian food: pretzels, gingerbread, chocolates, pâtés, foies gras, and an Alsatian delicatessen.

Designer Christmas Trees (for older kids!) at the Intercontinental Hotel

30 fir-trees designed by students from the Fashion department of the Ecole Mod’Art International will be presented under the InterContinental Paris Le Grand Hotel’s glass roof. These avant-garde creations are based around the theme “Wild Christmas”.

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte

For the end-of-year celebrations, the Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte is transformed into ” Sleeping Beauty’s Castle”: a snowy forest full of animals, magical characters, fairy lights, sparkling gardena—and offers performances of the “Beauty of the Sleeping Wood” by the Thalie Théâtre Company.

Playmobil FunPark Christmas Festivities

On the programme at the Playmobil FunPark is: photo (€1) with Father Christmas (Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday then every day from 18 December), creative workshop for personalizing gift cards (every day, 10.30am-1pm and 2pm-5.30pm. All participants leave with a Playmobil FunPark 2011 calendar!

Disneyland Paris Magic

The Disney Christmas magic begins with the arrival of a new princess: Rapunzel, heroine of the new Disney film. Come and see the magnificent Christmas tree in Town Square; Sleeping Beauty’s castle transformed into a crystal palace, thanks to thousands of lights; the Belle Christmas Village; the Disney Dreams Parade; the evening Disney Fantillusion parade; the “Mickey and the Magic of Winter” ice-skating show.

Relevant Links:

Ciao Bambino recommended Paris family hotels

Christmas in Paris traditions by Why Go France

Christmas in Paris guide by Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau

EuroDisney Enchantment: A Magical Christmas Experience

Christmas in London with kids

Christmas in New York City with kids

Christmas markets in Europe

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