Parisians will be celebrating the holidays with the usual selection of Christmas markets, holiday lights, and other special events starting mid-November through the beginning of January. This is the tentative schedule as of November 1st, check back in December for the full list!
Check out the Holiday Lights and Decorations
Despite inflation and skyrocketing energy prices, The City of Lights isn’t going dark during the holidays, but instead is relying on LED lights and shorter hours (ie turning off all of the lights before midnight) to maintain the usual festive light displays throughout the city, but especially the Champs Elysées (best seen after 10pm when most of the shops have closed and the crowds of shoppers have disappeared). You’ll also see decorations on many pedestrian market streets such as Rue Mouffetard (5th), Bercy Village (12th), and Rue Montorgueil (2nd). You can also check out the elaborately decorated shop windows of the Grands Magasins (department stores): Printemps and Galeries Lafayette (on Boulevard Haussmann, 9th), BHV (across from Hôtel de Ville, 4th), La Samaritaine (Rue de Rivoli, 1st), and Le Bon Marché (near St-Germain-des-Près, 6th) are usually worth a peek, and they even have little wooden platforms for the kids to see better. I also highly recommend the Covered Passages (Galerie Vivienne, Passage Jouffroy, etc), which are magical during the holidays.
Christmas Sightseeing & Activities in Paris
- Nov 23-Jan 2
The historic Grand Rex Cinema (1 Blvd Poissonnière, 2nd) is putting on its annual laser-light-water-jet-pop-music show (you have to see it to believe it…), Féérie des Eaux. €12-€16 (€14 for students under 26), includes the show followed by the feature film Le Chat Potté 2 (French dubbed version of “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish”). You’ll want to be on time for this, people line up early! If you want to splash out a bit more cash, €35 gets you a Carré d’Or ticket with your own priority line, a special goodies box from the snack bar, and the best seats reserved just for you. Note that all Féérie des Eaux screenings are in VF (dubbed in French).
- Nov 14-Jan15
The Jardin des Plantes (5th) is hosting another evening illuminations festival in their gardens over the holidays. This year’s theme is “Mini-Mondes: The Enlightening Evolution” featuring more than a hundred light structures representing the fabulous world of insects. “Meet the little beasts that inhabit the meadows, ponds and forests of France, or even inhabit our bodies. Discover species that are sometimes familiar – centipedes, woodlice or glowworms -, sometimes more mysterious , such as springtails, diplouras, or the astonishing tardigrade.” You can see them for free in the daytime during regular garden opening hours, but will need tickets to see them lit up at night, from 6-11pm. Tickets €12-€15, AVAILABLE ONLY ONLINE here.
- Throughout December
For carnival rides with a holiday spirit check out the Jours de Fête à la Villette (Place de la Fontaine aux Lions, 211 avenue Jean Jaures, 19th) with 60 rides and stands. Free entry, ride tickets from €2-€10. Open Sunday-Thursday 2-9pm, Fri-Sat 11am-11pm.
- Throughout December
The pedestrian-only Bercy Village (Cour St-Emilion, 12th) is decorated with a sparkling canopy of 1200 white umbrellas and a giant Christmas Tree for the holidays, and each weekend there are free jazz concerts, Gospel singers, activities for kids, and Père Noël with his elfin assistant. Check their website for specific times for the events, or just hang out at the shops, the large cineplex, or heated sidewalk cafés for the ambience.
- Dec 15-Jan 1
“Lumières!” lights up the Parc de la Villette again this year, using LED lighting, low-power lasers and eco-compatible materials to create several luminous works – some of which were created for La Villette – and playful installations for a nocturnal journey. “Strolling from work to work, walkers discover artistic worlds that combine visual illusion, hypnotic installation, immersive work and interactive experience.” Free and open to the general public each evening.
- Dec 3-Jan 2
The esplanade in front of the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall, 4th) will once again be decorated with an “enchanted forest” of pine trees that come from sustainable nurseries in the region, and will either be composted in Parisian gardens or reused next year (the ones still in pots). A holiday light show will be projected onto the façade of the building, and there will be a free merry-go-round, a “snow mountain” for kids to climb or sled down, and a small handful of chalets selling products “Fabriqué à Paris” (made in Paris) and mulled wine and warm pretzels. Free entry, open 11am-9pm.
- Dec 3-26
The pedestrian area of the Place de la Bastille will also have an “enchanted forest” decorated with holiday lights, a few wooden chalets selling sweet and savory treats, a free carrosel for the kids 11am-9pm, and visits from Père Noël on Wed, Sat, Sun 1-7pm (daily during the school holidays).
- Dec 26- Jan 2
The Musée des Arts Forains (Carnival Arts Museum) at Les Pavillons de Bercy (53 Avenue des Terroirs de France, 12th) is a private museum of carnival rides and decorations usually closed to the general public (the venue can be hired for private events). It’s exceptionally open for the holidays for the annual Festival du Merveilleux, decorated in winter wonderland style, with antique merry-go-rounds, carnival games, automatons, and live magicians and jugglers. Check back on their website in early December for advance ticket purchase to secure your spot!
Christmas Markets in Paris
Christmas Markets, aka Marchés de Noël are traditionally found in the French region of Alsace (the most famous is the Strasbourg Christmas Market), but Paris has quite a few Christmas markets of its own, some small with just a few wooden chalets, others huge affairs with rides and entertainment. All of them sell a selection of holiday gifts and decor, mulled wine and other gourmet goodies. The latest trend is seeing a lot more emphasis on unique themes, sustainability, quality and artisanal products made in France, and markets supporting charities. This isn’t an exhaustive list (see the Paris Tourism Office for that), but it includes many of the ones worth crossing town to visit, as well as special holiday sales benefitting local charities. Note that these markets are usually closed on Christmas Day and close early on Christmas Eve.
Markets For Shopping & Eating
- Nov 19-Jan 8
The biggest Christmas Market in Paris is in the Tuileries Gardens (1st), which combines the same carnival rides you see over the summer (but decorated with Christmas garlands), a Ferris wheel (enclosed, €12), a smallish 500m² skating rink (€10 for adults, €6 for kids, everyone mixed in together), live music, and a village of 100 wooden chalets selling decorations, toys, gifs, and gourmet treats. A special food market sells plenty of hot food and drinks to enjoy seated at picnic tables or as you walk around. They are supposed to focus on quality and products made here in France (there are even craftspeople making their wares right at the market), but double-check before spending. Free entry. Open Sun-Thurs 11am-11:45pm; Fri-Sat until 12:45am (11am-8pm on Dec 25th and 31st).
- Dec 3-Jan 8
The annual Marché de Noël de Saint-Germain-des-Près (Place St-Germain-des-Près, 6th) is a series of little wooden chalets along the Boulevard in one of the poshest shopping districts of Paris. It’s a nice little market to visit if you’re in the neighborhood anyway, open daily 11am-8pm.
- Nov 23-Dec 24
The 27th edition of the annual Marché de Noël de La Défense on the esplanade of La Défense, overlooking Paris (end of metro line 1) will have 350 chalets with all of the standard Christmas decorations, gifts and regional foods, with a focus on local artisans from the Hauts-de-Seine department. Open Sun-Thurs 11am-8pm, Fri 11am-10pm and Sat 10am-8pm. Free entry.
- Nov 30-Dec 16
The annual Alsace Fête Noël market at the Gare de l’Est train station is open all day long, 9am-7:30pm (from 10am Sunday), featuring all of the traditional Alsatian specialties like pretzels (or “bretzels” in France), Pain d’Epices ginger bread, Gâteaux de Noël (Bredala), and regional wines. I would certainly not cross town for this one (besides, every Christmas market has an Alsatian stand or five), but if you’re catching the train or meeting someone at the Gare de L’Est, it’s a nice little detour.
- Dec 10
Wecandoo is hosting a Marché de Noël Artisanal at the Viaduc des Arts (111 ave Daumesnil, 12th), featuring 15 different artisans of the collective, demonstrations of ceramics, jewelry, leather goods, screen printing, and workshops to prepare your Christmas table, tree and gifts. From 10am, free entry but reserve on the FB event page.
- Dec 9-26
Although the reconstruction scaffolding can be seen where the roof used to be, Notre Dame Cathedral is still a magnificent backdrop for the Marché de Noël Paris Notre Dame across the river in the Square Vivani (5th), with two dozen artisan stands selling crafts, décor, gifts, and gourmet foods (see them listed here). Open 10am-8pm (until 9 pm Fri-Sun).
- Throughout December
Although smaller than others, there are also Marchés de Noël at the Place des Abbesses in Montmartre (18th) and at the foot of the Eiffel Tower along Quai Branly (7th).
Christmas Markets for a Good Cause
- Dec 10
The Super Noël d’Emmaüs Défi toy sale for charity takes place this year on December 10th at 40 rue Riquet, 19th (open 10am-6pm) and Le 104 (5 rue Curial, 19th), open 1:30-6:15pm). There are thousands of new toys and boardgames available at rock-bottom prices: €1, €2, €5, and €10. Get there early for the best selection! All proceeds help Emmaüs’s mission to help those in need with clothing, housing and finding employment.
- Dec 3-11
Les Féeries d’Auteuil (40 rue Jean-de-La-Fontaine, 16th), is a Christmas Market in the gardens of the Fondation d’Auteuil that welcomes carefully selected exhibitors, craftsmen and designers from all over France, as well as a choir, puppet shows, food stands, and a flea market. Open 11am-7pm daily, all proceeds support the foundation’s child protection services and teen training programs.
If you’re looking to volunteer for the holidays, check out Serve the City, or the American Cathedral (specifically, they do an annual Love in a Box project). And more opportunities (in French only) at the Secours Populaire and on these sites that group multiple calls for volunteers: Jemengage.paris.fr and FranceBenevolat.org. You can also check out the updated information in the article, “Volunteer Opportunities in Paris: Get Involved!”
Christmas Markets for the Planet
- Dec 9-10
The MAIF Social Club (37, rue de Turenne, 3rd) is hosting another Marché de Noël, a different kind of Christmas market which brings together the creations of “socially engaged” entrepreneurs. “During these two days, come and meet the creators who carry out socially committed projects and hear their convictions. Participate in numerous workshops and conferences to understand their concepts. Looking for ideas for your gifts? Drinks, food, games, books, zero waste cooking, beauty etc.” Open Friday 2-8:30pm and Saturday 10am-7pm. Free entry.
- Dec 10-11, 17-18
Bundle up and get out into nature for the Marché de Noël Ecologique et Solidaire two weekends at the Fondation Good Planet (Domaine de Longchamp, 1 carrefour de Longchamp, 16th, Bois de Boulogne). Gourmet food, toys, décor, fashion, zero-waste, travel and beauty products, all chosen for their eco-friendliness and commitment to social inclusion. Free entry, open 11am-7pm.
- Dec 12
Le Hasard Ludique (128 Ave St-Ouen, 18th) usually hosts several weekend holiday markets with different themes (last year there was a vegan market, for example). The stands stretch along the covered terrace of the Petite Ceinture railway tracks. Check back in December for the schedule!
Christmas Markets that Celebrate Diversity
- Le REcyclerie (83 blvd Ornano, 18th) usually hosts several themed Christmas villages in December promoting responsible, ethical, and multi-cultural shopping. So…not your usual Christmas markets! Check back in December for the full schedule.
Ice Skating in Paris
Ice Skating is a popular activity in Paris, but locations tend to change every year (Eiffel Tower, Hôtel de Ville, Champs-Elysées…). So far for 2022, aside from the smallish skating rink mentioned at the Tuileries Marché de Noël, the only other one we know about is at the esplanade of the Hôtel de Ville de Vincennes, but check back in December for the latest updates.
Christmas Concerts usually take place in the city’s many churches throughout the holiday season, but there are also a few big holiday concerts in concert halls. You can find most of the listings on the ticket sites like FNAC: https://www.fnacspectacles.com/ , ClassicTic: https://www.classictic.com/ , and Musique Sacrée de Notre Dame de Paris (currently at St-Sulpice): https://musique-sacree-notredamedeparis.fr/
Midnight Mass in Paris
Most Catholic churches in Paris celebrate midnight mass on December 24th. Sadly, there will still be no public service at Notre-Dame Cathedral. Alternatives include St-Sulpice (6th) and Basilica Sacre-Coeur (18th), both with services at 11pm and midnight mass; and St-Eustache (1st) at 10pm. All will be filled completely and may be standing room only if you’re not there early.
Eglise St-Paul St-Louis (99 rue St Antoine, 4th) at the intersection of rue de Sévigné, is a beautiful church worth visiting. This 17th-century church was built when the Marais was the heart of aristocratic Paris, very much in the bright style of Versailles. Mass at 11pm.
You can find a short listing of other Christmas services and Nativity Scenes (“les crèches de Noël”) on the Paris Tourism website.
Christmas Activities Beyond Paris
- Every Weekend from Nov 26-Mar 5
The Cité Fertile, a “Third Space” in the Parisian suburb of Pantin, transforms into La Cité des Merveilles every weekend through March at their massive space dedicated to sustainable living. On the program of this fun fair are sweet and savory street-food stands, different eco-responsible Christmas markets every weekend in December (see the schedule here), live music, a labyrinth, games and attractions for young and old, and a magical atmosphere where tree-huggers have a good time! Free entry (tickets for the flying chairs ride sold separately), open Sat noon-1am and Sun until 8pm.
- November 19 – December 31
The family-owned Château Vaux-le-Vicomte (the 17th-century palace that inspired Versailles) becomes a Christmas wonderland in December. For the 17th year of “Vaux-le-Vicomte en Lumières”, the château pays homage to Molière for his 400th birthday, where the château is transformed into a Palais d’Art with thousands of lights and holiday decorations. This year will also have a 360° projection recounting the Ceremony of the Turks from the “Bourgeois Gentilhomme”, to the music of Lully. Every night ends in a sound and light spectacle projected on the façade of the château. Dress warm, and don’t miss the roasted marshmallows! Open Wed-Sun 10am-6pm from November 19th to December 17th, and every day from December 18th-31st (closes at 4:30pm Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve). Entry €22 for adults, reserve in advance online, €17.50 just for the gardens alone, €16 for kids 6-17 years old. TICKETS MUST BE PURCHASED ONLINE IN ADVANCE, NO ON-SITE PURCHASE IS ALLOWED. More info here.
- Nov 12–Jan 8
Disneyland Paris celebrates Christmas each year with holiday decorations, a huge Christmas tree on Main Street, and a holiday parade for Disney’s Enchanted Christmas, as well as a New Year’s Eve party when the park is open past midnight. There are special shows on the different stages, Disney Christmas souvenirs (of course), and a Christmas Market at Disney Village (open free to the public, no park tickets required). Tickets from €59 for the Enchanted Christmas. See some photos from previous years here: http://www.secretsofparis.com/heathers-secret-blog/disneyland-paris-for-the-holidays.html
- Nov 25-Dec 26
Strasbourg is the uncontested Capital of Christmas, a magical town where every street is hung with illuminated garlands, every façade covered in decorations, and every square hosting its own special Marché de Noël. It’s a bit of a hike from Paris on the TGV, doable in a day but so much more enjoyable (and affordable) if you stay a night or two to enjoy all the activities, sights and tastes of Alsace. For more info read Heather’s “Daytrip to Strasbourg Christmas Market”
How Do the French Celebrate Christmas?
Even though France is a staunchly secular country, Christmas celebrations are still a big deal, much like in the US, with special food, gifts, decorations, and a bearded guy in a red suit. There are, however, a few big differences you’ll notice if it’s your first time in France for the holidays. Parisian transplant Alysa Salzberg wrote a very comprehensive article “These Are the Surprising Differences Between Christmas in France and Abroad” which also includes some useful holiday greetings vocabulary, information on New Year’s Day and Hanukah, and gift suggestions for French friends. Another handy article that fills in some of the gaps is A Guide to 25 French Christmas Traditions.
And if you’re in the mood for a different kind of Christmas story, gather around the fire with a mug of mulled wine (or two) and read Heather’s classic holiday tale: “Santa was a Pirate”