A Magical December in Paris

Baby it’s cold outside but if you’re lucky enough to be in Paris right now there are plenty of things to do and see to warm the cockles of your heart. December is an enchanting time to visit, when the City of Light transforms into a magical winter wonderland and Christmas is just around the corner. 

  • Rug up, take an evening stroll through the streets and marvel at the Christmas trees that twinkle from apartment windows and foyers.  Grab a warm crêpe sprinked with lemon and sugar and soak up the festive atmosphere as you pass plush hotels – their doors and archways showered with tiny lights, and chocolate shop windows laden with Santas and sleighs. The Champs Elysées is particularly spectacular and renowned for its illuminations, and I always like to take a peek at the elegant Place Vendôme, home to The Ritz.
  • Sip a goblet of vin chaud (hot spiced wine) on a heated café terrace and watch the world go by. Some cafés even offer lap blankets in winter – probably a consequence of smoking being banned inside cafés!


  • Don’t miss the fantastical, animated displays in the department store windows on Boulevard Haussmann; a must-do Christmas activity and especially magical in the evenings when the crowds have thinned and darkness brings the windows to life. Inside, the giant Christmas tree that sparkles under the splendid cupola in Galeries Lafeyette will take your breath away.


  • Ogle the window displays at Le Bon Marché too, the chic department store on the Left Bank. Downstairs in the enormous food hall, La Grande Epicerie, you will find all the trimmings for a decadent French Christmas. Beautifully boxed produce and gourmet gifts from France and beyond sit next to bottles of Bordeaux and boxes of premium Champagne.
  • Take a whirl on the patinoire (ice-skating rink) set up in front of l’Hôtel de Ville during the winter months. You can hire skates for a modest fee and afterwards, ride the antique carousel.
  • There’s nothing better than a delicious chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) to warm you up on a cold winter’s day.  One of the best in the city is at Jacques Genin’s beautiful tea salon & pâtisserie in the Upper Marais. It’s a bit of a detour but so worth it. The pastries are pretty spectacular too.
Paris Brests at Jacques Genin

Paris Brests at Jacques Genin

  • Take a wander through the warren of covered passageways in the 2nd and 9th arrondissements (they are marked on city maps), beautifully decorated for the festive season. You will be swept back to a 19th century Christmas.
  • A number of Paris churches and cathedrals open their doors to classical music and in December you will also find Christmas concerts and choirs singing carols to put you in the festive mood. It’s a heart-warming way to remember famous buildings such as Sainte-Chapelle, Madeleine and Notre Dame de Paris. Inside Notre Dame you will find an impressive Christmas crèche (nativity) while a magical tree twinkles out the front. Concerts are listed in Pariscope entertainment guide, available from news stands.


  • Peek into florist shops where armfuls of flowers are being arranged and wrapped to adorn the apartments and restaurants of Paris for the festive season. Outside, pretty wreaths and winter bulbs brighten up the footpath; branches painted silver and gold shiver in the cold and rows of freshly cut Sapins de Noël (Christmas trees) wait to be carried home and dressed.


  • Visit an open-air merchant street to get a feel for a traditional French Christmas feast. Open till 7 pm, lights twinkle down the length of the streets as locals rattle past drums of roasting chestnuts and fill their trolleys with freshly shucked oysters, winter cheeses and the plump, white sausage, boudin blanc. Half-plucked turkeys and long-necked geese hang from la boucherie, and among the fruits and vegetables are sacks filled with luscious dried fruit and nuts.
  • Slip in from the cold for a hearty, classic boeuf bourguignon, mopped up with crusty baguette.


  • Sample a bûche de Noël, a Christmas log cake covered with chocolate buttercream, dusted with icing sugar to resemble snow and stabbed with a Joyeux Noël sign. These traditional logs can be admired in most pastry shop windows at this time of the year and come in a variety of sizes. It’s the perfect Christmas treat to take back to your hotel or apartment and enjoy with a coffee or glass of Champagne.
  • Lisa Johnson
    December 16, 2013

    While I was reading this I was listening to Michael Buble’ singing ‘I’ll be home for Christmas”…………must put ‘ticket to Paris’ on my christmas list!!! Paris feels like home to me….Excellent reading , thanks, hope you all have a great Christmas x x x

    • janepaech
      December 16, 2013

      Joyeux Noel to you and your family too Lisa. A ticket to Paris would indeed put even more magic into Christmas!

  • Anne Green
    December 23, 2013

    Hi Jane, I was referred to your blog by Chris McGuire & Tonia. I am just starting out on a food blog venture myself so was very interested to hear about yours. Love this post on Paris in Christmas. I was there once for Christmas some years ago and it took me right back, it’s just as you describe, absolutely magical. I remember the lights along the Champs Elysees and a wonderful Christmas concert I went to at Notre Dame, after which I got hopelessly lost going home, but it was worth it! Regards Anne Green … when I finally get my website launched I’ll mention your site.

    • janepaech
      December 23, 2013

      Hi Anne
      Good luck with your food blog. It’s a lot of fun!
      Love to Chris and Tonia and thank you ‘en avance’ for mentioning knife and fork in the road.

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