Christmas in Paris is a fabulous affair. The entire city becomes a giant canvas. Artists and designers go to work, inspired by the holiday season spirit. They create magical Christmas displays and transform the city into a festive fantasy land.
What you’ll get here:
A step-by-step self-guided Christmas walking tour taking in,
- 6 of Paris’ best spots to see stunning Christmas lights
- 3 addresses for the best Christmas window displays
- 1 of Paris’ best cocktail bars for a warming beverage
… and a whole lot more
With the holiday season, Paris goes all out to excel it’s reputation as the City of Light. It throws on a spectacular show of Christmas lights, decorations and shop window displays. Traditional Christmas markets abound, too.
The Festive Cheer in Paris at Christmas Time
In Paris, you’ll experience some of the best Christmas cheer to be had anywhere in the world.
More than 130 streets, avenues and town squares sparkle and glow with Christmas lights. Decorated Christmas fir trees stand tall. The best boutiques and stores compete for the most stunning window displays.
And of course, French bakeries, patisseries and gourmet stores fill with delicious seasonal specialties. Chocolate makers sculpt elaborate Christmas statues in golden brown and white chocolate. Parisian restaurants, bistros and cafés turn out their special seasonal menus.
Christmas is the perfect time to visit Paris. And it’s the best time to do so outside. Let yourself wander. Let Christmas in Paris enrapture you.
Christmas in Paris Is Made For Walking
Every year, I can’t wait to go out on my own customary Paris Christmas discovery walk. I slip on my favorite walking shoes and put on a warm coat and hat. In the early evening, I step outside and begin to wander the streets, soaking up the Christmas atmosphere.
Of course, there are the local spots where I do my Christmas shopping.
Local Parisians have their own quiet corners to enjoy their own brand of authentic Parisian Christmas. There are popular boutiques for cakes, chocolates, and gifts of all kinds to discover in local neighborhoods.
And there’s also the big Christmas attractions we all love. Parisians and tourists alike get a huge thrill out of the top Christmas attractions. They draw in millions every year. The Champs Élysées alone expects more than 26 million visitors by the end of the holiday season.
Just the other night, I took a walk to see the most spectacular sites. And today, I want to share with you a little of what I experienced.
Along the way I couldn’t stop snapping photos. Now I admit, I’m no photographer. But I think you’ll enjoy seeing my own little slice of our Paris Christmas experience. Plus, I’ll share the step-by-step itinerary I took to discover this year’s Christmas spectacle.
So let’s get started on your self-guided Paris Christmas walking tour.
Start Your Paris Christmas Walk Itinerary at Boulevard Haussmann
Each year, I always make a pilgrimage to see the displays at Paris’ top department stores. They all compete to be the best at adorning their facades, windows and interiors. And this year, the competition is fierce. All to our betterment and greater Christmas cheer!
As is a long standing tradition, the big battle is usually won along Boulevard Haussmann. Each year, Printemps and Galeries Lafayette throw on a fabulous Christmas show. And this year is no exception.
Getting there is easy. Take the Metro to Station Harve-Caumartin. It’s served by Metro lines 3 and 9. Prefer to take a taxi or Uber? Tell your driver you want to go to Printemps or Galeries Lafayette. That should be enough. They’re both on Boulevard Haussman in Paris’ 9th arrondissement.
When you get there, you’ll the displays right away. The decorations are so big and obvious.
You’ll want to see all the window displays at both stores. They’re amazing animated scenes featuring automated puppets.
Also move inside the stores to see the interior designs. Definitely don’t miss the centerpieces – the huge Christmas trees under each stores’ copula.
This year, Galeries Lafayette wins the day in my opinion. The Christmas tree, ferris-wheel and cable car under the store’s central dome is magnificent. It’s made of white paper. It’s enormous. And it’s lit by thousands of sparkling fairy lights.
Christmas Windows At Printemps …
Start at Printemps and progress along the Boulevard to Galeries Lafayette. This year, Printemps’ theme is “Printemps’ Christmas Dream”.
It’s a fairytale atmosphere that permeates the store inside and out.
Printemps’ window displays depict a sequence of adventures with two characters, Jules and Viollette.
The first five windows celebrate the store’s iconic departments. You’ll notice the themes of perfume, footwear,crystal, gourmet food and fashion.
Two other windows feature interactive digital displays, making you a part of the fun.
Printemps’ displays are the creations of brands Jimmy Choo, David Yurman and Bonpoint.
There are also illustrations by Peter Diamond featured.
And Christmas Windows At Galeries Lafayette …
It’s personal, of course, but this year I think Galeries Lafayette takes the prize. What’s your pick?
This year, Galeries Lafayette celebrates a magical arctic Christmas. It champions an environmentally conscious theme, too.
Galeries Lafayette partnered with NGO Wild-Touch.
The artistic project aimed to bring us all closer to the Arctic world.
It features a family of polar bears, raising awareness of biodiversity.
Follow the adventures of a family of polar bears who escape the melting North Pole ice.
They’re all made out of white paper.
The craftsmanship is magnificent. A total show of beauty, crafted with delicacy.
The best time to visit …
In my opinion, the best time to go is early evening. It’s true, it will be busy. Shoppers and families will still be about. The crowds will be large. It adds to the atmosphere. It’s always a delight to see the thrilled reactions of the children.
Kids get first row, of course. Raised platforms give them prime viewing. And the crowds move with fluidity, so you’ll have little trouble getting a good look.
For quieter viewing, head later in the evening around 8:30pm, when the stores close. By then, the shopping and family crowds begin to melt away.
Walk on to Place Vendôme via Opera Garnier
When you’re done at Printemps and Galeries Lafayette, it’s time to move on to Place Vendôme.
First, we’re going to head towards Opera Garnier. It’s just across Boulevard Haussmann. Put your back to Galeries Lafayette, facing Place Diaghilev. Then cross Boulevard Haussmann.
With Opera Garnier on your right ride, start walking along rue Gluck.
In a few meters you’ll come to the intersection of rue Gluck, rue Halévy and Places Jacques Rouché.
There you continue on along Places Jacques Rouché with Opera Garnier on your right.
Keep going until you come to Place de l’Opera.
In the center of Place de l’Opera you’ll get a great view of the facade of Opera Garnier. It’s wonderful.
Then, with your back to Opera Garnier, walk to your right. Cross Boulevard des Capucines and continue for a few meters along Place de l’Opera.
A few meters more and you’ll enter rue de la Paix. Take this street. It’ll take you right into Place Vendôme.
From Galeries Lafayette to Place Vendôme takes approximately 10 to 20 minutes on foot.
In rue de la Paix look out for the stunning ribbon and bow in red fairy lights adorning the facade of the Cartier store.
Continue on until you come to Place Vendôme, Paris’ most exclusive address. It’s home to the world’s most prestigious and exclusive jewelry houses.
This year, Place Vendôme shines with a forest of Christmas fir trees. They’re decked out with delicate and sparkling lights.
In the center is the impressive Colonne Vendôme. Go up close and look at it’s exquisite detail. It’s also lit in perfect balance with the architectural marvel that is Place Vendôme.
And the best attraction of all in my opinion is the luxurious window displays at N°18 Place Vendôme. That’s the exclusive address for Chanel’s Haute Joillerie, the legendary label’s high-end jewelry boutique.
In keeping with the Chanel theme, perhaps it’s the perfect moment to take a break. Maybe you’d like to head indoors in 100% style and luxurious refinement? For that there’s nothing better than another exclusive address in Place Vendôme.
Time For Refreshments At The Ritz Paris
The Ritz Paris is of course one of the world’s premier hotels. It was also the home of Coco Chanel for many years.
Through its doors, many of the greatest names of the 20th century have moved. Many have spent large swathes of their time in the Hemingway Bar.
So why don’t you joint them?
Sit down and indulge a cocktail at the Hemingway Bar. Head Barman Colin Field is world renowned for creating some of the finest drinks. Many of his creations are references for cocktail lovers the world over.
This is where Cole Porter spent up to 9 hours a day sipping and creating. F Scott Fitzgerald, Gary Cooper and, of course, Ernest Hemingway were regulars.
The Hemingway Bar is legendary. Experience it at least once in your life.
Then when you’re done, stroll through the Gallery of the Ritz. It runs through the heart of the hotel. It connects Place Vendôme with rue Cambon. It was Coco’s regular route each morning from her Ritz apartment to her workshop at 31 rue Cambon.
Still today, N°31 rue Cambon is the flagship store for the Chanel empire. It’s where Chanel creatives work on their new season of high-end fashion. There Karl Largefeld creates his wonderful designs for the legendary house of Chanel.
In the Ritz Gallery you’ll also want to spent time window shopping. The exclusive boutiques include Tasaki, Reza, Maison Ullens, Colombo Via della Spiga and Heroes. There 95 showcases presenting luxurious items for sale. There’s even a concept store dedicated to the essentials of travel and Parisian keepsakes.
As you would expect, the Ritz is also decked out in fine Christmas decorations. Take a peak into the Grand Jardin via the Gallery.
It’s a perfect time to visit the Ritz. Recently renovated, you’ll see the refined new interior designs. There’s also an exhibition of stories and legends revisited running until 9 January 2017.
Continue Your Christmas Walk To Place de la Concorde
Next stop on this self-guided Paris Christmas walking tour is the majestic Place Concorde.
To get there from the Ritz, return to Place Vendôme. With the Ritz at your back, turn right and continue to the end of Place Vendôme.
Walk down rue Castiglione until you come to rue de Rivoli. In front of you is the Tuileries Gardens. Turn right along rue de Rivoli.
Right way you’ll not help but see the rising mass of the great ferris-wheel lit in white, blue and red. It’s known in Paris as la Grande Roue de Paris (the Big Wheel of Paris). It’s 70 meters high (230 feet).
Take a ride for 10€. You’ll get breathtaking views. From the top, the panorama is second to none. Look down on the architectural beauty of the city. Take in a spectacular perspective over the Champs Elysées.
Place de la Concorde is awash with Christmas lights and festive colors. The Luxor Obelisk is over 23 meters high and flanked by two magnificent fountains. All are lit to perfection.
Walk On To The World Famous Christmas Lights On The Champs Elysées
Circumnavigate Place de la Concorde on the right hand side to find the entrance to the Champs Elysées. This is where you’ll get the best view up the mythic avenue.
Take in the full impact of the massive Christmas light and decoration spectacle. This is where some 26 million people will pass this holiday season. It’s Paris’ premier Christmas tourist attraction.
The Champs Elysées is Paris’ jewel in its Christmas lights and decorations crown. The site is a dazzling display combining traditional lighting and modern Led technology. There are thousands upon thousands of them. It’s like moon dust glowing and sparkling the full length of the Champs. It’s a remarkable effect.
The City has gone to great lengths this year to reduce energy consumption. Energy use this year is 97% less than consumption levels in 2006. And 100% of the energy used on the Champs Elysées comes from France’s solar farms.
Give yourself time to marvel at the pure spectacle. Look out for the Arc de Triomphe in the distance, at the end of the Champs. Then walk up the Champs Elysées towards the Christmas market.
And The Champs Elysées Christmas Market
I chose to walk up on the left hand side. Soon after entering the Christmas market I came across an open air ice-skating ring. How romantic. Imagine skating on ice on the world’s most famous avenue!
The Christmas market on the Champs Elysées is more of a fairground affair. The more traditional Christmas markets you’ll find elsewhere in Paris. But it’s still a lot of fun.
Taste fresh roasted chestnuts. Sip a mug of spiced hot wine. Munch on delicious chocolate covered churros. Even take a ride on the haunted house railway.
For a more traditional ride, there’s a carousel (merry-go-round) further up. Just to the left of Franklin D Roosevelt square, you’ll find it.
And here’s a good spot to make a decision. You can continue up the Champs Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe and then return on the other side. There are plenty of fabulous things to see along the way. Impressive shop windows line the Champs.
Or you can do as I did. From Franklin D Roosevelt square, I turned left into Avenue Montaigne.
Turn Into Sparkling Avenue Montaigne
Explore Avenue Montaigne for A Delux Parisian Christmas Experience
Now if there’s one address for the high-end fashion fan, this is it.
Avenue Montaigne is home to the world’s leading labels in high-end fashion. Naturally, the window shopping in Avenue Montaigne is pure luxury.
And the street lighting and decorations are second to none.
The Avenue Montaigne Committee gets together each year to commission the designs. This year, Julien Septanil created the avenue’s Christmas spectacle.
Avenue Montaigne sparkles and glows with enchanting, festive and particularly chic illuminations. It’s refined. It’s luxurious. And it mirrors the refinement of the surrounding high-end fashion houses.
This is home to top labels like Chanel, Vuitton, Fendi, Dior, Gucci and more. Strolling and window shopping after hours is, alone, well worth the trip.
Along the avenue, thousands of tiny sparkling lights adorn facades. Neat trimmed Christmas trees line the sidewalks.
Take your time to walk along Avenue Montaigne. Look into the windows of Chanel at N° 51. Don’t miss Saint Laurent at N°53 or Fendi at N° 51.
Continue on to see the displays at Louis Vuitton, N° 22. And the masterpiece at Christian Dior hanging over N°30 – a sensational Christmas chandelier.
There’s so much to take in.
When you reach the end of Avenue Montaigne, it won’t be over. Cross to the other side of Avenue New York.
Finishing With The Lights of The Eiffel Tower
Enter the Pont d’Alma and walk out over the River Seine. Take in the panorama of Paris.
What better finish that a sparkling view of the Eiffel Tower.
And look down to the right of the Pont d’Alma. You’ll see the Flamme de la liberté statue. It’s a gold-leafed torch built to commemorate American and French friendship.
And with that, I leave you to your own liberty.
Perhaps you’ll decide to head home. Metro station Alma / Marceau is just a few meters away. On the other side of the Pont d’Alma is RER train station Pont d’Alma. .
But then, perhaps you’ve caught the Parisian condition by now …