Paris never looks more beautiful than during Christmas, when its boulevards, monuments and facades are lit by thousands of twinkling lights. Jennifer Wallace, Direct Marketing Manager for the HEC Paris MBA, shares her favorite festive activities in the capital for the holiday season.
Department Store Decorations
All the major department stores in Paris have dazzling window displays and interior decorations. The most famous is probably Galeries Lafayette (9th arrondissement), which hosts at the center of its beauty department a 25-meter Christmas tree that stretches all the way to its stained glass ceiling. Other stores which are worth checking out are the BHV Marais (4th arrondissement), Printemps (9th arrondissement) and Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche (7th arrondissement).
The elegant Place Vendôme in the 1st arrondissement (home of the swanky Ritz hotel) always dresses to impress during the festive season and this year the organisers have promised a “forest of glittering firs” to light up the square. All around the 8th arrondissement there are beautiful Christmas lights too, like on the Champs Elysées, the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré and the Avenue Montaigne.
The Champs Elysées Christmas Market may have been cancelled this year but there are a wealth of other markets to visit in the capital. Cosy Christmas villages have popped up at Châtelet (in the 1st arrondissement), on the esplanade at La Défense (just outside the city), and for a picture-perfect Instagram shot, look no further than the Marché de Noël de Saint Germain in front of the church in the 6th arrondissement. There are also many specialised markets that run for one weekend only, you can find an interactive map of them here.
If you are itching to get your skates on for the winter season then the biggest indoor ice rink is at the Accor Hotels Arena, Bercy (12th arrondissement), which is open to the public most afternoons and late nights too. The most spectacular skating location this year is right under the Eiffel Tower on the Champs de Mars. If you are there in the evening, the Eiffel Tower sparkles above your head once per hour until midnight.
If there is one thing the French truly excel at for the holidays, it is sumptuous seasonal delicacies. If you are looking to blow your budget on a special holiday meal, you can dine like royalty in the Eiffel Tower restaurant Le Jules Verne, or in 5-star hotels like Le Bristol and Le Meurice. For mid-range meals with friends and family, traditional Parisian brasseries like Le Bofinger, Au Petit Marguery and the Opéra Garnier restaurant serve set menus for Christmas and New Year. If you are on a budget then the legendary Bouillon Chartier (with its gorgeous Art Nouveau interior) is always a crowd pleaser.
Finally, if you are looking for a sweet treat to take to a gathering, then a bûche de noel is the perfect choice. Parisian patisseries all try to outdo one another for the most creative and beautiful bûche, so it seems only fair that you sample as many as possible for effective judging!