The 10 best things to do in Paris over the winter holidays

Here are a few of my favorite things to do in Paris over the winter holiday season:

  • Go ice skating. Ice rinks pop up all over the city. How about skating on the Eiffel Tower? For the price of your ticket you get free access, skates included, to the 190m2 ice rink installed on the first floor, 57 metres above ground. A pop up café serves hot chocolate or hot wine for skaters, or those who just prefer to watch. Open until the end of January. Note that the Eiffel Tower is open on Christmas day!
  • Go and check out the window displays in the big department stores. The Parisians take their children every year. My favourite ones are at the Bon Marché on the left bank.
  • Drop into the Galeries Lafayette and take a look at their amazing Christmas tree in the dome.
  • Take a walk up the Champs Elysées after dark and enjoy the magical Christmas lights, then climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe for wonderful views across the city, including a bird’s eye view of the Eiffel Tower lit up (remember she sparkles on the hour every hour for 5 minutes).
  • After a stroll in the Tuileries Gardens head to Angelina on the rue de Rivoli and enjoy a cup of delicious hot chocolate, the best in the city.
  • Visit a church and see a traditional nativity scene. Households all over France prepare their own, using traditional ‘santons’ or clay figurines made in Provence in the South of France.  You can collect an entire village full of colourful, traditional Provencal figures, we buy one or two new ones every year to add to ours. If you want to take some home and start your own collection, there is a small shop called Georges Thuillier on Place St Sulpice that sells them, otherwise look out for them at the Christmas markets. The most famous ones are made by Carbonel, Fouque or Escoffier.
  • Take a ride on one of the city’s traditional carrousels. Many are installed all around the city for the Christmas period and they are free throughout the holiday period. Try the Hotel de Ville (by the ice rink), the Tuileries or Montmartre. Many more pop up across the city, so keep your eyes open or check out this map.
  • Go to one of the big department stores food halls, I suggest the Grand Epicerie at the Bon Marché or Lafayette Gourmet across from the Galeries Lafayette. The French take Christmas and New year eating very seriously. It’s a chance to indulge in all sorts of delicacies, and the food is always both delicious and incredibly beautiful. Look out for the Bûches de Noel, or Yule logs.
  • Religious or not, go to midnight mass at Notre Dame on 24th December, the service is beautiful and it’s a very special way to see the cathedral.
  • Walk around the city. On a clear day Paris is amazingly beautiful in the winter, and less crowded than the summer months. Wrap up warm, take a map and just stroll around the streets. There are plenty of cafés to drop into when you need a rest or warming up, the major museums are open (except for 25 Dec and 1 Jan) and although the days are shorter, the Christmas lights across the city more than make up for it.





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