16 Dec Holiday season – Your guide in Paris
There’s a chill in the air every morning now and there isn’t a leaf left on the trees. Sunrise sparkles on the frosted cars as winter comfortably settles in to Paris. But nobody hibernates in this beautiful city that comes to life even more at this time of the year. If you’re not attending a Christmas party or some seasonal event, you’re out there ice-skating or strolling through the holiday markets – this is probably one of the best times to visit Paris!
We’ve highlighted what we think are some of the most interesting and fun events across the city in this blog post and we’d love to hear back from you in the comments section below!
Paris on ice!
Paris has always been known for its outdoor ice-skating, or at least since King Louis XVI brought this wonderful winter activity to Paris during his reign. We’ve chosen our favourite 3 addresses for you:
It’s not just the architecture and the atmosphere, it’s also the fact that it’s completely free! The 1,600 square-meter ice-skating rink in front of the Hôtel de Ville is simply wonderful. It is centrally located and surrounded by the characteristic architectural beauty of old Paris. You can rent ice skates if you haven’t got your own with you and if you’re only a beginner (or you have a child), there’s a smaller rink reserved for you!
From now until early January, Charlety sur neige sees Boulevard Kellermann turn its stadium field into a wonderful ski park with fabulous hills and slopes. There’s even a snow garden with attractions and games.
If you enjoy the atmosphere of bars, cafés and the artistic left bank of the Seine, then we’d recommend that you head down to the ice-skating rink of the Montparnasse Tower. It isn’t as well-known as the other rinks, which is good news as that means less people queueing to skate!
And when you’re done skating, you might want to get out there and buy those last-minute Christmas presents! Well, in Paris, there’s no need to panic! This is a romantically relaxed city at this time of the year, so wrap up well and enjoy a stroll through the Christmas markets of the capital, each one as special as the next. Here are a few we’ve tested for you…
One of the most memorable streets in Paris has to be the Champs Elysées and there is no better time to visit it than at this holiday season. It’s one of our favourite stops during our History Bus tour of the capital! The Champs Elysées is home to a spectacular Christmas market that has 100 chalets from the Vosges region of France. You’ll be spoiled for choice with its renowned arts and crafts, its gifts and its seasonal food, such as mulled wine and crepes. It’s open now and runs until January 4. It is of course beautifully lit at night and it is overlooked by Paris’ dizzying Ferris Wheel (more on that later…).
On the west side of Paris, amidst the skyscrapers in the heart of La Défense, the Grande Arche stands proud. It was built in the late 80s as a monument to celebrate humanitarian ideals. Every Christmas, it lights up above what is probably the largest market in the capital with almost 350 individual stands. It’s open every day from 11 in the morning to 8 in the evening until December 27.
When you’ve seen the seasonal street lighting in the Champs Elysées and the towering Grande Arche, the next logical step is over to the magical window displays and intricately elaborate decorations of the stores around Santa’s Village in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. It’s open already, so make sure to get in a visit before it wraps up on January 2!
It may not be a gigantic structure, but the Christmas Market of Montmartre is neatly and comfortably located in Place des Abbesses. There are around twenty wooden chalets dedicated to seasonal and traditional foods. With champagne, wine, truffles, foie gras and so much more, you’ll have all your last-minute gifts wrapped up in one go!
The bells, the bells!
If we’re lucky enough to have snow this Christmas Eve, there’s nothing more magical than taking a stroll to the ancient cathedral of Notre Dame. Such twinkling awe, such frosty white wonder… You can feel a supernatural tingle in the air! The service held in the cathedral on Christmas Eve is even beamed out onto screens in the square as so many flock here for the sense of reverence and grace that the monument inspires. You’ll even spot the odd tourist here and there, glancing up to what was once Quasimodo’s humble abode, under the watchful eye of the gargoyles.
It’s not just a great tune from the music group U2, it’s also what you might feel if you take your courage in both hands (to faithfully translate a great French expression) and hop on a ride on the magnificent Ferris Wheel in the Place de la Concorde! It’s so central that it’s really easy to get to and, being right in the heart of Paris, its view is simply breath-taking. And don’t worry, you won’t freeze up there as each of the wheel’s capsules is fully enclosed and adequately heated.
King for a day
The Jours de Fête Au Grand Palais, translated as “Party Days in the Large Palace” is a wonderful indoor funfair with unlimited access to over fifty different attractions for both children and adults. This fair, that was originally reserved for royalty, runs from December 21 until January 5. Well worth the visit, especially for a fun-filled family trip.
Lights and more lights
Two department stores that really go to town to deck every staircase, wall and column with lights, tinsel, garlands and santas are Printemps and the Galeries Lafayette. When you walk through their doors, you are transported into another dimension, like a parallel Christmas Universe. You’ll have to shake yourself back into reality when get back out into the frosty December air or you’ll be seeing Father Christmases everywhere!
Don’t forget Mickey!
There’s a certain look that comes across a child’s face when you tell him or her that you’re all off to visit Mickey Mouse in Paris, but you should see that face when you announce that you’re going to celebrate Christmas with him too! If your child is a Disney fan then we’re only too happy to let you know that Disneyland Resort Paris proposes Disney’s Enchanted Christmas from November 9 to January 7. It’s another way to celebrate Christmas and if the reviews are anything to go buy, it’s as memorable as it is magical.
Ring in 2015!
There is no other New Year’s Eve party like the one that can be had on the Champs Elysées! The avenue simply comes alive with people from every walk of life coming together for that common celebration that rings in the New Year. It’s worth braving the cold to feel that togetherness, that sense of a world community, the Global Village celebrating hope and individual resolutions to be a better person, to make a better life for us all! It might be worth organising your ride home though as the metro closes up just after midnight!
Who’s the king?
In France, there is a wonderful pastry tradition associated with the festival of Epiphany called the “Galette des Rois”. This aptly named “cake of the kings” is made of flaky puff pastry layers with a dense center of frangipane almond filling. Bakers hide tiny figurines in the filling of each cake and whoever is lucky enough to get the slice of cake containing the figurine is duly declared King or Queen of the Feast!
Soldes means Sales!
France’s laws on sales may be quite different to what you are used to. If you’re only here for the Christmas season and won’t have left before January 8, well, you’re in luck. Though you may have missed the summer sales, there’s no need to fret – the one and only other sales season in Paris every year is the January sales, running from January 8 to February 12. It’s a wonderful time to grab yourself some of great deals. Almost every store across the capital gets involved, so make sure you’re out there bright and early to get the best bargains!
I hope we’ve been able to give you a few activity ideas for your Christmas trip to Paris. We welcome your comments and wish you a wonderful festive stay!