From mid-November, Paris is preparing for Christmas. Those amazing days are filled with joyful anticipation of the winter holidays, and the city turns into a magic fairy-tale. All central streets light up with colorful garlands, facades and trees are dressed in bright lights, small Christmas trees are planted, whose fresh coniferous smell spreads through the streets, and cozy wooden chalets open in central squares with mulled wine and hot chocolate. Paris is a moveable feast, but it is during this Christmas time that you understand why Paris is called the "City of Light".
Christmas illumination gives a truly magical charm to Parisian boulevards, and millions of tourists come from all over the world to enjoy this fascinating decoration of the city.
The recipe for a festive mood is simple. Walk along the dazzling central streets, admire the animated vitrines of the Grands Magasins, go ice skating, drink spiced mulled wine at a local Christmas market, make a wish at the main Parisian Christmas tree, find the most beautiful evening dress and voilà, inspiration and a light joyful mood is here!
If you plan to be in the French capital for the winter holidays, be sure to visit the main Christmas attractions to have a true Paris Christmas.
During the winter holidays, Parisian department stores become a center of attraction for Parisians and tourists, and not only for buying gifts. Legendary stores such as Galeries Lafayette are dense with a festive atmosphere, and you can visit them just to taste the joyful mood. Not only the interior is beautifully decorated, but also the facades of the department stores.
In the oldest department store in Paris, Galeries Lafayette, luxury and elegance reign year in, year out, as golden light floods its luxurious halls. A huge mosaic dome always catches the eye. Galeries Lafayette is the epicenter of Parisian Christmas: it is here that the main city Christmas tree with a height of 21 meters is installed every year. This year, all the Christmas decorations of the department store revolve around the theme is 1,2,3… Noël (1,2,3… Christmas). The Christmas tree is adorned with iconic toys and an astronaut Santa Claus who flies under the Coupole.
To get a better view of this magnificent Christmas tree and take a coffee break, you can go to Café Coutume on the 3rd floor. Every 30 minutes, the lights go out to give way to a sound and light animation during which the toys come to life.
On the 4th floor of the Galeries Lafayette, you can find for the first time the "Roller Dance". It's free and accessible to all from December 1st to December 23th, 2021,
You can rent beautiful skates and all pieces of equipment for free and enjoy the playground.
On the rooftop of the Coupole building, you can find a check-in point "1,2,3.. NOEL" with a view of the city and Eiffel tower. Don't forget the Galeries Lafayette Gourmet while crossing the street, where you can go crazy with an abundance of French delicacies, wines, desserts, and sweets. Here you can buy everything you need for Christmas as well as New Year's Eve dinner, which in France is called réveillon.
Do not forget to show our free coupon at the information desk you can get special gifts for any purchase over 50 euros, and get a 12% tax refund for purchases starting from 100 euros.
Each year, on the eve of Christmas, the vitrines of the Grands Magasins are transformed into an amazing puppet theater with animated figures. Magical performances unfold, showing scenes from fairy tales. All dolls and animal figures are handmade. A large team of designers, artists, and marketing specialists is involved in the preparation of the animated vitrines. They are real works of art and can be a perfect Christmas gift from these department stores for their small and big visitors.
The Christmas atmosphere lives on in all main Parisian department stores until the onset of the sales season in late January.
The theme of Christmas continues in colorful display cases in the windows of the Galeries Lafayette.
Walking outside under the bright lights, looking at the magical windows, you can already feel the festive atmosphere.
Another Parisian department store that is the locals' favorite is BHV Marais across from the magnificent Hôtel de Ville. It is well worth visiting, not least because of its fabulous animated vitrines. This year, the main theme of vitrines decorating rue Rivoli is the famous Christmas Market in Strasbourg, the capital of French Christmas. The main characters are forest animals. A gorgeous owl flaps its large fluffy wings and watches cozy wooden chalets with gifts, a little fox reaches for sweets on the counter, and an elk quietly rests in the middle of the fuss.
The original idea of the creative team of BHV is that along with animated showcases to have real wooden chalets as if they had been brought from Strasbourg. Here you can try Alsatian specialties (bredeles, stollens, manneles), spiced mulled wine, Liege waffles of the Belgian chocolatier Pierre Marcolini, Mariage Frères tea - you will have a great choice how to keep warm.
The magic continues inside the department store. On weekends, a real Christmas choir sings here, and from Wednesday to Sunday there are photoshoots with Père Noël, the French Santa Claus. Pre-holiday shopping turns into a magical journey.
Save our free coupon to get a 15% discount for all products. With a total purchase amount of more than 100 euros, you can get a tax refund and a voucher for a free drink and pastry at the Marlette cafe.
It is no secret that many come to Paris on winter holidays not only for the beauty of the city illumination and the festive atmosphere but also for a unique shopping experience in the world capital of fashion. All the main shopping streets of Paris are decorated with stunning illumination designed by the best design companies. The most spectacular illumination is on the Champs-Élysées, Avenue Montaigne known as the street of luxury boutiques and Place Vendome. It is also worth visiting Rue Faubourg-Saint Honoré and the Village of Bercy, decorated with chandeliers from Baccarat crystal.
The same well-known French and world brands, but with prices reduced by 50% or more, are concentrated in one unique place - the boutique village La Vallée Village. This is an open-air shopping mall 40 minutes from the center of Paris. more than 110 designer boutiques of clothes, shoes and accessories offer their products 2-3 times cheaper than in the center of the capital. Here you will find a New Year’s dream evening dress, a coat that you have long dreamed about and much more. All the winter months, La Vallée Village is decorated with delightful Christmas illumination. While all shops in Paris are closed on Sunday La Vallée Village is open seven days a week from 10 AM (9 AM on the weekend) to 8 PM.
Download a VIP voucher by clicking here and get 10% additional discount, benefit secret sales up to 70 % from 10th of December to 17th of December and a gourmet break at Ladurée at La Vallée Village.
The best places for Christmas shopping are the traditional and ever-popular Christmas markets, Marchés de Noël, opening in November. In small wooden chalets, where an atmosphere of coziness and fun reigns, one can find Christmas decorations, holiday accessories, delicatessens from different regions of France and a variety of handmade products. It is here that you can get the best decoration for the Christmas tree, buy original gifts and find excellent treats for the New Year and Christmas table.
Previously, the largest and most popular Christmas market was located on the Champs-Élysées, now relocated to the Tuileries Garden. Its area is perfect for stalls and Christmas decorations. Most of the souvenirs are made in France. In addition to buying gifts and enjoying a warm festive atmosphere, you can ride on a Ferris wheel, a traditional Parisian carousel, and other attractions.
Large Christmas markets are also traditionally located in other areas of Paris: near the Eiffel Tower, at the Great Arch of La Défense, at Notre Dame Cathedral, at Saint-Lazare station, at Saint-Germain Cathedral. Festive Christmas villages will open at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower and the Church of Saint-Sulpice. The working period, schedule, and addresses of the main Parisian Christmas fairs can be found here.
At any Christmas market in Paris, you can try numerous traditional French wintertime dishes and warming drinks. Where else can you find so many delicacies, hot drinks, cheeses, and sausages in one place? Real Christmas in Paris can never do without these treats.
One of the universal ways to treat yourself and keep warm on a frosty December day is to drink a cup of thick sweet-scented hot chocolate. In winter, there is a real cult of chocolat chaud in Paris, and many famous pastry shops compete whose drink is the best: moderately sweet, hot and with the discreet aftertaste of cocoa beans. There are many well-known pastry shops and cafes where hot chocolate is a signature drink, and its serving is almost a ritual in itself. For example, you can drop by Un Dimanche à Paris (in the 6th), a luxury chocolatier concept store with a huge selection of sweets.
It is difficult to imagine a more traditional Christmas drink than mulled wine (or vin chaud in French). The tradition of drinking hot spiced wine in winter came, logically, from the North. It was served to keep warm at German, Austrian and Alsatian Christmas markets. Its main ingredients are wine, spices (cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, star anise) and fruits (orange and lemon).
At any Christmas market in Paris, you will find several stalls with a large pot of fragrant, spiced hot wine, which is scooped up with a large ladle and poured into cardboard cups. The holiday begins after a few sips of this magic drink!
At any Paris Christmas market, you will find delicious bunches of pretzels - salted cracknels with caraway seeds. For most of us, they are primarily associated with German cuisine, but it is also one of the symbols of the northern French region of Alsace. Bretzel has German roots, you can eat them as a separate delicacy, or as an appetizer for beer.
Tarte flambée is another popular mouth-watering dish of Alsatian cuisine. This is a thin crunchy open cake, reminiscent of pizza. The traditional filling of tarte flambée is white cheese (similar to soft cottage cheese) or sour cream, onions, and slices of bacon. In Alsace nowadays you can try it with a variety of fillings, like chicken, fish, seafood, and also sweet ones with fruits.
In the Alsatian dialect, its name sounds like “flammekueche”. The literal translation is “flaming cake”, which says that traditionally this tart is baked in an oven with an open fire.
One of the most beloved winter dishes by the French is raclette. it is best to try in a cozy place by the fireplace somewhere in the Alps, but they can be found in any corner of France in the cold season. Originally it is a Swiss dish, but it's rare to have a French family without the device for making raclette, even if well hidden in a distant closet. This device is for melting cheese and roasting meat. It usually comes with six or eight spatulas, where you put the cheese for melting (fromage à raclette). While the cheese is melting, you lay on the hot surface some meat on top - ham, dried pork, beef or sausages. Whole potatoes are boiled in advance, and then mixed with toasted meat and on top comes the melted cheese. It is quite caloric, hot and insanely tasty and satisfying!
Most importantly, eating raclette is a social thing, for the whole family to gather.
The team of O'bon Paris wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Let it be full of inspiring travels, exciting discoveries and extraordinary adventures! Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année !
Words and photographs - O'bon Paris team