6 Fantastic Ways to Celebrate Christmas in Paris

Notre Dame at Christmas time.
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  • 01 of 07

    Where to Find Holiday Cheer in the City of Light

    These white stands fitted with blue lights at the Champs-Elysees Christmas market in Paris add wintery cheer.
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    The season leading up to Christmas is a light-filled, festive time in Paris that can offer the ideal backdrop for a romantic vacation or a memorable holiday season with the entire family, kids included. Many people never venture to plan a trip here at this time of year, assuming it's cold, dark, and grim. But as we've pointed out many times elsewhere, December can be one of the most pleasant times to visit, and if you're not opposed to leaving home for the holidays, a family trip to Paris can be incredibly memorable.

    To ensure you make the most of it, we've compiled a list of all the goings-on around town that will make your holiday particularly special (and then checked it twice, of course). 

    Several events are well worth your time in 2018 and 2019, so bookmark this guide, and make sure to plan ahead to ensure a relaxing and memorable Christmas or Hanukkah. That includes booking restaurants, shows, or tours well in advance to avoid unneeded holiday stress. Oh, and like anywhere in the world, last-minute Christmas shopping isn't advised if you wish to keep your blood pressure levels under control.  Scroll down for our complete picks. 

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  • 02 of 07

    See Gorgeous Holiday Lights and Displays

    Festive lights in Paris
    Erasmus of Paris/Creative Commons 2.0

    Each holiday season, elegant holiday lights adorn several quarters and historical sites in Paris, bringing the town out of the November gloom. For the 2018-2019 holiday season, dozens of spots around town will be decoratively lit, including some incredibly festive holiday light displays and window decorations at department stores such as Galeries Lafayette .

    With changing themes every year, these bring delight, fun and seasonal warmth to visitors of all ages. They can also be incredibly artistic and creative, too-- particularly the department store window displays, that often include animatronics and elaborate designs. 

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  • 03 of 07

    Enjoy the Warmth of Traditional Christmas Markets

    Christmas Market on the Trocadero in Paris, France, 2014.
    Chesnot/Getty Images Entertainment

    One festive holiday tradition with roots in the Northern Alsace region of France is the seasonal marché du Noel (Christmas market.) 

    For a couple of months every year, several  outdoor Christmas "villages" spring up around town in numerous locations, with the warm wooden or snowy white stands offering gourmet treats like mulled wine and gingerbread, as well as original artisanal gifts, decorations, and other delights. Check out a complete list of Paris Christmas markets in 2018 and 2019 here, and make sure to get in on the old-world cheer.

    Many of these markets also have "Santa's Village" themes with games and rides that the kids will particularly enjoy, and one (at Trocadero) features an ice-skating rink. 

    Read related: Visiting Paris With Kids

    Sadly, the city's traditionally largest market on the Champs-Elysées has for the time being been cancelled due to a conflict between the city of Paris and the main vendor operating the market stands. But a new market near the Louvre museum promises to fill its wake. And plenty of other cheerful markets remain open this year, so travelers won't come away disappointed if they're looking forward to the warmth of a stroll through one or more markets. 

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  • 04 of 07

    Take a Wintery Whirl at an Ice-Skating Rink

    Ice skating can be a magical way to spend an afternoon in Paris.
    Mairie de Paris

    For a wintery treat that both adults and kids can enjoy together, this one can't be beat. Several ice-skating rinks are set up around Paris for the holidays-- with free entry and only 5 Euro rental for skates (kids are not charged for theirs).

    At some rinks around the city, sledding and other activities for kids offer additional wintertime fun and games. It's inexpensive and seasonally inspiring, so get those skates on and sail away for a memorable afternoon in the French capital. 

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  • 05 of 07

    Enjoy a Special Christmas or Holiday Meal

    Fresh oysters are a favorite Christmas staple on French restaurant menus.
    Ayustety/Creative Commons

    If you're visiting town around the holidays and don't have access to a kitchen or catering, you may want to book a special holiday meal.

    But with most of the city's restaurants likely to be booked full and many closed on and around Christmas day, your best bet is to try and reserve ahead for lunch or dinner on Christmas Eve. See our list of Paris restaurants open for Christmas here. 

    Looking for more foodie-inspired tips for the holiday season? Check out acclaimed food writer Clotilde Dusoulier's picks for a gourmet Paris Christmas at Chocolate and Zucchini.

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  • 06 of 07

    Bring in Christmas at Notre-Dame Cathedral

    Notre Dame at Christmas time.
    Filip Farag/Moment/Getty Images

    Whatever your spiritual beliefs and persuasions, visiting Notre Dame Cathedral for the Christmas eve service can be a memorable and peaceful occasion. The service, which often includes a stirring and inspirational midnight choir,  is open to everyone. Find more details about what's on this year by visiting the official website (in French-- you can use Google Translate where necessary).

    If a mass isn't your cup of tea, you can still enjoy taking in the sublime details of some of the most beautiful churches and chapels in Paris, from the light-filled Sainte-Chapelle to the mysterious, early gothic Abbaye St-Germain. 

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  • 07 of 07

    Enjoy the Holiday Spirit at Disneyland Paris

    Christmas at Disneyland Paris, 2009.
    Francois Durand/Getty Images

    Disneyland Paris is another way to soak up a little holiday ambiance during your stay in Paris--and this is another way to keep the kids entertained, too. From early November through early January 2019,  the theme park will be decked out for the winter season.

    Enjoy a full-fledged Christmas theme on Main Street, a holiday parade, and other festive events that should help you and the whole family bring in the holiday season with joy and fun.