The 15 best things to do in Paris in December 2023
What to do in Paris in December?
Sunlight may be in short supply, but there’s no end of joy to find in Paris in December. C’est Noël, joie sur la terre! The boulevards and avenues light up with decorations, Christmas markets pop up, and ice skating rinks energize public spaces. If that’s not enough, the month is capped by the exuberant parties for the Réveillon de Nouvel on New Year’s Eve.
It’s a fun time to visit the City of Light, especially if you can find time to do a few things from our pick of things to do in Paris in December.
The 15 best things to do in Paris in December
Admire magical Christmas Lights in ParisEvent in Paris
The City of Light earns its name at Christmas, with many of its best-known destinations decorated with dazzling festive lights.
The showcase display is on Avenue des Champs-Elysées. Which makes sense. It is packed with Christmas shoppers in December and will host the main New Year’s Eve event. The decorations (1 million bulbs or more) are meant to be a showstopper.
Elsewhere, Butte Montmartre is a charming place to see Christmas lights. The village-like neighborhood looks especially welcoming in December. While you’re there, take a trip to the top of Montmartre to see the city sparkling below. It is a different kind of light show, but one of the best.
Feast on warm wine and gingerbread at les Marché de Noël (Christmas markets)Market in Paris
Christmas markets in Paris are cozy escapes from the urban grind. Inspired by the markets of Alsace, they bring warmth and merriment to grey public spaces.
Numerous small fairs are dotted around Paris, feeding cravings for warm wine and chi-chi (sugary churros.) But the Christmas market below Notre-Dame cathedral is particularly romantic. If you had to pick one, head there. The atmosphere is just right for festive
There are plenty of other great Christmas markets. Here are our favorites:
- La Défense esplanade, in the heart of the business district, is hugely popular.
- Catherine de Medici’s Tuileries Garden hosts a more understated yet very picturesque market.
- Saint Germain des Prés pulls out the stops with an entire Christmas village in the chic district.
- Les Halles is an indoor market and perfect for rainy days.
Join the Réveillon du Nouvel An (New Year’s Eve) party on the Champs-ÉlyséesHolidays in Champs-Elysées & Grands Boulevards
Revelers converge on the wide spaces of Champs-Élysées to see in the new year. The street is pedestrianized and lit up with festive lights. A 15-minute projected countdown clock and fireworks mark the occasion with a bang.
300,000+ people join the street party, and all eyes are on the Arc de Triomphe to count down the final seconds. There are plenty of parties in bars and clubs around the city, but nothing to match the scale of France’s premier new year gathering.
Hunt down the perfect Bûche de NoëlEat & Drink in Paris
A chocolatey yule log is a tradition shared across the Atlantic. There are no half-measures with gâteaux in France, and many pâtisseries strive to create delectable artworks that look as good as they taste.
Different flavors can be found as pâtisseries flex their creative skills, with each pâtisserie offering its signature version. Popping into a pâtisserie or three to find flavors you like is part of the festive fun in Paris. Although, traditionalists need not worry: there will usually be a classic chocolate confection on sale too.
You can often buy single slices. But that can only lead to regret as you crave a second slice. And then a third. But the most compelling reason to buy the whole bûche is to have a mini work of delicious edible art for your own Parisian Christmas celebration.
Where? Pâtisseries all across Paris in the days leading up to Christmas Day.
Light up shopping trips by heading to stores with the best festive displaysShopping Tip in Paris
Christmas is the best time to shop in Paris. The big department stores go all in on the festive decorations, and nearly every independent shop gets a festive makeover. It’s the incentive you need to get that Christmas shopping list checked off.
Hunting down the sparkliest festive displays is one of the top things to do in Paris in December. If you’re unsure where to go, here are a few retail destinations where you are guaranteed to find an impressive display:
- Le Village Royal – a covered passageway filled with chic boutiques and pretty lights.
- Galeries Lafayette Haussmann – the flagship of the famous department store chain and home to a towering sapin de Noël, Christmas tree.
- Printemps Haussmann – iconic store, iconic Christmas display.
- BHV Marais – (75004) the window displays are the star at this venerable department store opposite the Hôtel de Ville.
Enjoy the twinkling sights with a nighttime dinner cruise on the SeineCruise in Paris
The City of Light sparkles in the depths of winter. A fine dinner and cruise is the smoothest way to dodge the cold and see major sights along the Seine. Floor-to-ceiling windows, a singer to enrich the ambiance, and a steady stream of well-made food and wine. All the ingredients for an unforgettable night.
Check out the Bateaux Parisiens gourmet dinner cruise. They’re the biggest name in the game and know how to make a Seine river cruise special.
Take an evening stroll through festive lights at Parc de la VilletteCruise in Paris
Most of the prettiest lumières de Noël are found in stores or major thoroughfares. But not all of them. The Christmas lights in Parc de Villette are impressive too.
The Villette lights add a festive ambiance to the green space by dressing trees and pathways around Canal de l’Ourcq with lights and lasers. Perfect for an evening stroll.
Get your ice skates on at fabulous settings around ParisSports Event in Paris
Ice skating returns to Paris in the run-up to Christmas, and rinks (patinoire) pop up all over Paris. They mostly appear in landmark locations, making it one of the most popular things to do in Paris in December.
There’s usually an Alsatian-inspired Christmas market nearby for mulled wine, gingerbread, and those curious craft gifts that only appear at Christmas fairs. Don’t forget your gloves, they are obligatory.
With the lights of the Eiffel Tower adding a touch of romance, the Champ de Mars Christmas Village is a favorite location. Another idyllic spot is the pretty Jardin des Tuileries.
Sledding in Parc des Buttes ChaumontPark in Quartier du Combat
Okay. This last entry is conditional on it snowing in Paris, which is extremely rare. But it is possible in December, and if you happen to be there at the right time, you might want to join the snowy fun.
Aside from the gorgeous photos you’ll capture, you can get involved in snowball fights at parks across the city. But the inner child will probably want to go sledding. Do like the rest of Paris and head to Parc des Buttes Chaumont in the 19th.
Arguably the prettiest park in Paris, it is even more beautiful under a carpet of snow. There’s a lake, a suspension bridge, and an abundance of trees creating a magical winter wonderland effect. Most importantly, there are slopes steep enough for proper sledding.
The catch is that half the city will be there at the first hint of snow. But that creates a carnival atmosphere, making it one of the rarest and most unusual things to do in Paris in December.
Soak up the energy of cabaret for New YearDinner show in Quartier des Grandes-CarrièresOur highlight
Cabaret is an utterly Parisian experience that distills the magic of the Belle Époque into a vibrant and risqué spectacle. The dance and song spectacular is one of the most uplifting things to do in Paris in December, with the color and energy quickly banishing any festive blues.
If you’re unsure what to do for New Year’s Eve, a cabaret show might be the answer. Cheap seats need early booking, and tickets can easily top €100 at the most popular venues. But it’s a night to remember, and you’ll probably get out in time to join the midnight countdown celebrations. If there is any place to visit at the last day of the year, it has to be the Moulin Rouge – We can’t ignore the most famous Cabaret. The Red Windmills (and the art of Toulouse-Lautrec) did wonders to promote the red-light legend. Home to the original can-can dancers, it’s still a crowd-pleaser.
Head out to Saint-Cloud for a light-show spectacularFestival in France
The Lumières en Seine is an annual tradition that fully merits the 30-40 minute train journey from the center of Paris. It is a next-level light spectacular that invites you to follow a 1.2-mile (2km) trail at night through artistic sculptures and inventive displays. The setting was already picturesque, but is richly enhanced with luminous wonders that are one of the festive highlights in Paris.
Take your kids to see Père Noël and deliver their wish listEvent in Paris
If you’ve traveled to Paris with children, and they are worried that Santa Claus will not find their chimney this year, there are (ahem) many places you can take your kids to meet him personally.
Finding a jolly Père Noël is easy: follow the lights and the enticing festive scents. You can find Santa chalets at Christmas markets and often at department stores, boasting the brightest festive displays.
Santa and his little helpers only appear when local schools are closed: Wednesdays, weekends, and throughout the Christmas vacation. Kids will be pleased to know that Santa wishlists are happily received in any language.
Savor the graceful beauty of ballet at Opera BastilleEvent in Paris
Opera Bastille is the primary home of opera and ballet in Paris. The modernist building was designed to host the prestigious Paris National Opera, which used to perform at Palais Garnier. You can catch ballet shows in both opera houses nowadays, although the principal ballet in December is at Opera Bastille.
You won’t be disappointed: whether you know ballet or are looking for fresh things to do in Paris in December, those in the know will attest that the ballet in Paris is world-class.
Shops for seasonal sweet treats at Marché de MontorgueilEat & Drink in Paris
You don’t need an excuse to sample the delectable pastries and desserts found all over Paris. But if you do, a Parisian Christmas is surely the best time to indulge.
There are top-class pâtisseries everywhere in Paris. But there’s an enticing concentration around the colorful market on Rue Montorgueil.
Rue Montorgueil is lined with purveyors of gourmet delights, including a couple of amazing pâtisseries. Grab a Bûche de Noël or a baba au rhum from the famous Stohrer before exploring the bustling marketplace. Tell yourself you deserve all the irresistible treats you’ll end up buying. It’s Christmas, after all!
Here, we answer the most frequently asked questions to prepare you perfectly for your trip to Paris in December!
Are there any annual holidays in Paris in December?
Public Holidays (Jours Fériés)
25th – Jour de Noël (Christmas Day)
What to pack for Paris in December?
You should be prepared for December in Paris, because it can get a bit icy. Hat, scarf, and gloves are in any case the basic equipment. At Christmas in Paris, it’s normal to wear some fancier clothes, so find something in your closet that is both warm and elegant.
How cold is Paris in December?
The dazzling lights of Noël make it easy to forget that winter has arrived in December. Average highs are just 45 °F (8 °C) and may occasionally drop to zero. Rainfall is ever-present in Paris (14–15 days on average). If you’re lucky, you may see a sprinkle of snow transform the city into a romantic winter wonderland. But don’t count on it; December only sees an average of 1.8 days of snow.
What to wear in Paris in December?
The motto for December in Paris is the proven onion look! The casual dresscode in Paris is quite fancy, and you can wear high boots and elegant cloths as an everyday look.
What to do in Paris in December?
There is so much to explore and discover during winter, especially during December in Paris: romantic ice-skating, hot beverages on the fuzzy Christmas market and amazing boat cruises under a beautiful night sky are only some of the highlights!
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