Although it is typically very cold in Paris at Christmas (see below for the average temperatures!), it is also a magical time to experience the ‘City of Light’. In this article, we recommend some fun and interesting activities you can enjoy in Paris during the Christmas season, from Christmas concerts to ice-skating to exploring our many world-class museums!
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Weather in Paris at Christmas
But first, a few words about the weather! Wrap up warm if you’ll be in Paris at Christmas time, because the average temperatures are normally between 4-8°C/39-47°F. There are also around 9 days of rain throughout the month of December, so be sure to bring an umbrella and warm, waterproof clothing and footwear in the winter season. You don’t want to be exploring Paris with cold, wet feet!
See the Dazzling Christmas Lights Along the Champs-Élysées
Every year from mid-November through January 7th, more than a million lights twinkle along the Champs-Elysées avenue, lighting up thousands of gorgeous decorations and 200 trees that line the avenue.
Other places in Paris where you can enjoy the Christmas lights include Avenue Montaigne (8th Arr), Place Vendôme, Bercy Village, Viaduc des Arts and Montmartre. To experience the spirit of Christmas away from the biggest tourist crowds, take a stroll along Rue Montorgueil, one of the most traditionally Parisian streets in Paris!
Enjoy Luxury Shopping & See the Christmas Tree in Galeries Lafayette
Paris’s biggest department stores don’t do anything by halves when it comes to Christmas! On the Boulevard Haussmann, Galeries Lafayette has perhaps the most spectacular Christmas window display in Paris.
If you go inside and head to the Art Nouveau domed roof, you’ll see an amazing centerpiece - usually a stunning giant Christmas tree - which the store unveils every year. Head to the glass walkway to admire it up close - it’s 50 feet tall!
Once you’ve finished admiring the Christmas tree and decorations, this is the place to do your luxury Christmas shopping.
Check out the Best Christmas Window Displays in Paris
Once you’re done in Galeries Lafayette, take a stroll along the rest of Boulevard Haussmann and admire the other window displays.
In 2023, Le Printemps Haussmann department store has a poetic paper and owl themed display, including a giant paper Christmas tree inside the Atrium. .
The 2023 ‘enchanted forest’ themed display at BHV department store in Le Marais district is also worth seeing.
If you cross the river and head to the 7th Arrondissement on the left bank, you may continue your shopping at Le Bon Marché and see the animated window display, where the 2023 theme is teddy bears!
Immerse yourself in Art at Paris’s Museums
Winter can be a great time to visit the most popular museums in Paris, as there are fewer tourists than in the summer. It’s also a great way to escape the cold!
Some of our favorite museums in Paris include:
One of the most famous museums in the world, there are more than 35,000 pieces of art housed in the Louvre, including the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. You won’t be able to see them all in half a day, so go on the Louvre’s website beforehand and select the exhibitions or masterpieces you most want to see. Then plan your visit around these.
Audio guides are available to hire, and if you book a self-guided tour of Paris with us, we’ll either recommend a whistle-stop tour that includes the most famous pieces, or arrange for a private guide to accompany you.
The building housing the Musée d'Orsay was once a train station (look out for the huge glass clock overlooking the River Seine!). Nowadays, you’ll find hundreds of masterpieces by many of the greats, including Renoir, Monet and van Gogh. Check out the current exhibitions at the Musée d'Orsay.
You can see modern and contemporary art pieces by artists such as Frida Kahlo, Marc Chagall, Robert Delaunay and Vassily Kandinsky at the Centre Pompidou. As you approach the museum, you can’t miss its inside-out design or the colorful pipes running up the outside walls. Be sure to check out the panoramic views of Paris from the top floor.
If you’re a fan of Impressionism and of Claude Monet in particular, head to the west of the city and see some of Monet’s water lily paintings, and pieces by other Impressionists at the Musée Marmottan.
Musée de l’Orangerie
A visit to this museum is an absolute must if you like Claude Monet, and particularly if you plan to visit his house and garden in Giverny on one of our tours of Normandy. Monet’s huge water lily canvases fill the walls of the two curved rooms, so you feel like you’re already in the middle of his garden. The museum also has pieces by other well-known artists like Picasso and Renoir, and at the time of writing, there’s a Matisse exhibition running at the Musée de l’Orangerie until January 15th, 2024.
If you're interested in the life and work of Claude Monet, we can include a stay in Paris and his home town of Giverny in our tours of Normandy.
Explore Auguste Rodin’s sculpture garden in the heart of the city, and then go inside the museum, located in a stunning mansion, to see more of his work.
L'Atelier des Lumières
This digital art exhibition space features floor-to-ceiling moving images of some of the world's greatest works of art. Past exhibitions have included Klimt, van Gogh, and Dali.
In 2023, the exhibitions feature Marc Chagall, Tin Tin, and Paul Klee. From January 2024, the featured artists will be The Orientalists, including Delacroix, Gérôme and Ingres.
Go Ice-Skating and Experience ‘The Magic of Christmas’ at the Tuileries Garden
A short walk from the Louvre is the Tuileries Gardens, which is transformed into a magical festive wonderland, ‘La Magie de Noël’ (‘the Magic of Christmas’) in December.
While we don't think the Paris Christmas markets are comparable with the more authentic Alsace Christmas markets, the Christmas market at the Tuileries Garden is good fun if you're looking for things to do in Paris at Christmas.
As well as its Christmas market and theme park with rides and rollercoasters, there's a very fun ice rink, with Christmas music and lights! It can get very busy, so we recommend going early or wrapping up warm and being prepared to wait your turn!
Browse our Alsace tours to experience a more traditional kind of French Christmas magic!
Wander through ‘Le Village de Noël’ Christmas Market at La Défense
Another fun Christmas market to explore if you’re near La Défense is ‘Le Village de Noël', normally open till just after Christmas. Around 180 wooden chalets bring this part of Paris to life with food and gifts for sale, and a carousel!
Stop for a Hot Drink in One of Montmartre’s Cafés
If you get off the metro at Abbesses in Montmartre, you’ll find a small Christmas market with a few chalets selling food and mulled wine. But if you want to escape the cold and sit down for a hot drink, try Sylon for an excellent cup of coffee and some nice food options. Then go for a wander through this beautifully hilly arrondissement.
There’s a lovely view along the Rue de l’Abreuvoir up to La Maison Rose, and from Rue du Mont-Cenis. At Place du Tertre you’ll find many artists offering portraits and selling their art - the square was once popular with artists like Renoir, van Gogh and Picasso. Then you may stroll along to your next stop, the Sacré-Cœur Basilica.
Enjoy Some Serenity Inside the Sacré-Cœur Basilica
After admiring the hilltop views across Paris from outside, you may like to take a seat inside the basilica and take in the 5,100 sq ft mosaic of Christ in Glory. It stretches across the Sacré Coeur’s domed roof and is one of the largest mosaics in the world.
If you would like to attend mass, you may check the times on the Sacré Coeur’s website.
Marvel at the Magnificent Stained Glass Windows in Sainte-Chapelle (Gothic Splendor)
Sainte-Chapelle is a picture of Gothic splendor and a UNESCO World Heritage site. You’ll never forget the 16 huge stained glass windows encompassing the chapel. Along with Notre Dame Cathedral, Sainte-Chapelle stands on the “Ile de la Cité” and was once where the French royal family and the protector of precious relics worshiped.
Be sure to book your tickets for Sainte-Chapelle in advance (we can do this for you if you book one of our Paris tours) as it is very busy at Christmas. There are Christmas concerts at the chapel in December, but these will need to be booked further in advance. Alternatively, we can arrange for you to visit another lovely church that most tourists don’t know about - you can enjoy a concert and then meet the musicians after!
In addition, if you’re heading off on one of our Loire Valley tours after Paris, we can recommend some lovely chapels off the beaten track which were modeled on Sainte Chapelle.
Discover more of France's UNESCO World Heritage sites
Take in the Best Views of Paris at the Montparnasse Tower
For the best 360-degree views of Paris that include the Eiffel Tower, take an elevator up 56 floors to the observation deck of the Montparnasse Tower. To enjoy the views over a romantic dinner, book a table (well in advance) for the tower’s Le Ciel de Paris restaurant.
Planning to visit Paris at Christmas? We invite you to browse our self-guided tours including Paris. Tell us what your dream trip to France would look like, and we’ll craft the ideal itinerary - just for you!