If you're lucky enough to be in Paris for the New Year, the city of light offers plenty of stimulating and festive ways to celebrate. In fact, the capital of France is one of the most colorful and exciting places to celebrate this holiday, whether you prefer clubbing the night away, a traditional French meal with a view, or a simple glass of champagne shared among a small group of loved ones.
You may think it's just a one-night affair. But in Paris, as in the rest of France, the New Year, or "St. Sylvestre," begins on January 1 and lasts throughout the month. French people wish each other Bonne Année and exchange bises (small kisses on each cheek) at the stroke of midnight on January 1. In the days and weeks that follow, mailboxes are flooded with greeting cards and gifts throughout the month. Don't be surprised, then, if you hear New Year's wishes all throughout January. And definitely feel free to return them—with the typical French greeting, of course.
New Year's celebrations for 2020 in Paris won't be the same as in other years. There is an 8 p.m. curfew in place throughout the country, which will be in effect on December 31, 2020. As such, the typical festivities are not taking place.
Drink Champagne or Sparkling Wine
Champagne and sparkling wine (not to be confused with each other) are both drinks of choice on New Year's Eve in the French capital. Whether you opt for real champagne (from the region of the same name) or a high-quality sparkling white wine like Crémant de Loire or Crémant de Bourgogne (hailing from the prestigious Burgundy wine region), a festive atmosphere is guaranteed. Vin chaud (hot wine) and alcoholic cider from Brittany are other popular drink choices in France. Of course, you can always celebrate with non-alcoholic libations, too, from juice to soda to sparkling non-alcoholic cider.
Celebrate Like a Local
Blend in and act like a local by participating in common Parisian New Year's practices. First, grab a traditional New Year's treat like papillottes. These chocolate confections pop like small firecrackers when you tear off the wrapping. Buy them in any Paris supermarket or confectioner's shop.
Adding to the excitement (and to the surprise of some), it's legal to purchase firecrackers and small fireworks in Paris. Celebrations often include the launching of small (and potentially dangerous) fireworks throughout the city. If you find this amusing and care to participate, do be vigilant.
Attend the Champs-Elysées Festivities
New Year's Festivities at the Champs-Elysées are canceled in 2020.
If participating in a New Year's Eve Countdown is your preferred style, several places around the city attract thousands of residents and visitors to uncork champagne to a chorus of Bonne Année! The Champs-Elysées is the center of this party. Starting around 9 p.m. on New Year's Eve, people flock to the famed avenue. Along the route, you can get a good view of the Eiffel Tower and its sparkling display, come midnight. There are also plenty of spots to dance or dine before or after the festivities.
Although the ambiance here is usually bon enfant (meaning "good child," or "harmless"), celebrating on the Champs-Elysées calls for a particular awareness of your personal belongings, as pickpocketing is common in large crowds. And don't make this your partying spot of choice if you're claustrophobic or crowd-shy. Also, be aware that alcoholic beverages are not permitted here or in other major areas around the city. Many people bring plastic flutes or disguise their bottles. Even still, you can technically be fined if caught doing so.
A festive (albeit quite overcrowded) New Year's parade proceeds down the Champs-Elysées, starting around 1 p.m. on January 1. During all festivities, the Champs is closed to automobiles starting on New Year's Eve until 6 p.m. on New Year's Day.
Celebrate at the Sacre Coeur
New Year's festivities in Montmarte are canceled in 2020.
The Sacré Coeur plaza in Montmartre is another favorite—and significantly mellower—place to bid farewell to the current year. Assuming the skies are clear, the knoll-top vantage affords spectacular views of the entire Paris skyline. While still crowded, the Montmartre street party is more laid back than its Champs-Elysées counterpart.
But that doesn't mean it's boring. There are still plenty of bars, cabarets, and clubs to explore in Montmartre and nearby Pigalle. If you're looking for a less conventional way to celebrate New Year's in Paris, partying in Montmartre may be the ticket.
Catch Dinner and a Show
All restaurants in France are closed until January 20, 2021.
Paris—one of the culinary capitals of the world—has its fair share of remarkable restaurants that offer special New Year's Eve menus. Some boast reasonable prices, while others are a bit steeper. The Flo Group is famous for its traditional French brasserie fare. Special New Year's Eve dining is offered at the Brasserie Floderer (Metro Chateau d'Eau, Line 4), the Bouillon Julien (Metro Strasbourg-Saint Denis, Line 4), and Brasserie Vaudeville (Metro Bourse, Line 3).
And do make sure you follow the dress code for individual restaurants, as it's not unusual for high-end venues to apply stringent rules against sneakers, jeans, or T-shirts. You don't want to be turned away at the door.
Attend a Cabaret Event
As of December 2020, theaters in France are closed down until further notice.
New Year's Eve at the Moulin Rouge is a classic—albeit extremely pricey—New Year's cabaret event in Paris. The evening includes a caviar, lobster, and champagne dinner; dancing and music with the Moulin Rouge Orchestra; and a post-midnight show designed especially for the New Year. The evening is topped off with a surprise gift for each person in attendance.
Lido—another iconic Parisian cabaret—offers a special New Year's Eve dinner and show, again at a hefty price. Located on the Champs-Elysees, the Lido New Year's Eve show includes a bottle of champagne, lobster dinner, a specially-choreographed show, and post-midnight festivities.
If these pricey options suit neither your budget nor your style, other New Year's celebrations include shows at less-touristy venues.
Enjoy a Dinner Cruise
As of December 2020, river cruises in Paris are not operating until further notice.
For a less expensive option than the traditional cabaret show, catch a riverboat and float along the Seine, soaking in the lights and festive ambiance. Bateaux Parisiens offers a New Year's dinner cruise that includes musical entertainment, a bottle of champagne, and other special treats. Yachts de Paris also offers gourmet New Year's Eve dinner cruises on the Seine.
This cruise lasts two hours, includes an aperitif, dessert, and coffee, and offers gorgeous views of some of the city's most remarkable sights, including Notre Dame Cathedral, Tuileries Gardens, and Place de la Concorde. In all cases, you'll need to book at least 24 hours in advance.
As of December 2020, night clubs in France are closed down until further notice.
If you want to dance away the year, you're in luck. Scores of clubs in Paris celebrate the occasion in style and all-night fun. Rex Club's sunken floors and techno-grunge vibe is perfect for young singles wanting that traditional London nightclub feel.
The Bus Palladium is another lively and cool place to head for a long evening that extends into the wee morning hours. And the Nouveau Casino features international artists and has a coffee shop attached, just in case you need a pick-me-up.