christmas market in paris

5 Festive Activities to Celebrate the Holidays in Paris

If you’re in Paris for the holidays, you’re in luck! The City of Light does it up right in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and there are lots of ways that you can get in on the celebrations.

1. Go to A Christmas Market

Christmas markets are a tradition that you’ll find all over Europe, and Paris plays host to over a dozen options. A full list of the Christmas markets that will be open in Paris this season is available here, but be sure to check out some of our favorites:

  • The new Christmas market at Les Halles has just become the biggest in Paris, with 70 individual cabins selling goods from all over the world. Families with children will love meeting “Père Noël” here.
  • Montmartre is one of Paris’ most picturesque neighborhoods, and when it’s all decked out for Christmas, it’s even prettier! Montmartre is home to two different Christmas markets: one by the Abbesses métro stop and the other just below the Sacré Coeur Basilica. Take an afternoon to stroll through both.
eiffel tower

Image care of Majunznk

2. Go Skating at the Eiffel Tower

Paris isn’t known for white Christmases, but the city does its part to make up for the lack of snow with artificial skating rinks. Usually, the Eiffel Tower puts a patinoire on the first floor of the tower, but this year, big changes are afoot.

While the first story of the tower is still home to a winter wonderland, complete with a family of giant (3-meter-tall) penguins and a Cocoa Corner, the skating rink is located on the ground, within the Champ de Mars Christmas village, making it accessible whether or not you decide to climb to the top of the tower. Entry into the village is free, and it costs 6 euro to access the rink (skate rentals included!)

Champs elysées

Image care of David Monniaux

3. Take a Ride Up the Grande Roue

The Grande Roue or Ferris Wheel overlooking Concorde has graced Paris for years, but due to ongoing negotiation problems, it’s possible that this will be the last year you can get this view over Paris. While the roue is open day and night, consider timing your trip to coincide with the Eiffel Tower’s nightly shimmering lights, which  sparkle every hour on the hour for five minutes. There’s perhaps no better way to take in the City of Light lit up in all her splendor.

galeries lafayette

4. Check Out the Decorations at the Grands Magasins

Paris’ department stores do things right for the holidays, with window displays and interior holiday decorations galore. The Bon Marché (24 rue de Sèvres) and Printemps (64 boulevard Haussmann) are both good options, but our absolute favorite is the Galeries Lafayette (40 boulevard Haussmann), complete with a tree stretching towards the 19th century ceiling and a rooftop view (just take the escalators all the way to the top – no purchase needed!) over the city.

notre dame

Image care of Theud-Bald

5. See the Christmas Tree by Notre Dame

Paris may not rival New York’s Rockefeller Center in terms of tree size, but the sapin on the parvis in front of Notre Dame Cathedral is nothing to spit at. Pay it a visit one evening to see it all lit up, and then enjoy one of the regular free concerts taking place at the cathedral itself in the days leading up to Christmas.

Top image care of Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

arc de triomphe

Top 5 Delicious Treats for Warming up in Paris

vin chaud - mulled wine

Image care of Jameson Fink

Winter has arrived in Paris, and that means lots of twinkle lights, Christmas markets, and, yes, rapidly falling temperatures. Luckily, Paris has just the thing to take the chill off.

1. Vin Chaud

Vin chaud is called mulled wine in English (a better term, in our humble opinion, than the direct translation of “hot wine”). A combination of red wine, fruit, and warm spices, vin chaud can be found at nearly every outdoor Christmas market in Paris. But if you want to try a truly exquisite version of this wintertime classic, head over to Chez Georges, a bistro and wine bar that cooks up our fave vin chaud in the capital.

Chez Georges – 11, rue des Canettes, 6th arrondissement

angelina hot chocolate

Image care of Angelina

2. Hot Chocolate

If you’d like a warm beverage with a bit less of a kick than vin chaud, you’re in luck: Paris, as home to some of the best pastries in the world, is also home to some of the best hot chocolate. There’s no contest for our favorite: the exquisite African hot chocolate at Angelina. The legendary cocoa here is served with a side dish of unsweetened whipped cream – ostensibly to temper the nearly impossible richness of the brew. If you’re traveling with friends, consider ordering one African and one white hot chocolate – the latter is served with a chocolate whipped cream instead.

Angelina – 226, rue de Rivoli, 1st arrondissement

fondue savoyarde

Image care of Varaine

3. Fondue and Raclette

These two Alpine specialties are classics of après-ski or after-ski dining: the former is a bubbling cauldron of melted cheese and a touch of white wine into which you dip croutons of crusty, day-old baguette. When you order the latter, meanwhile, you’ll be brought an apparatus featuring a half-wheel of melty raclette cheese which you heat and scrape (racler, in French) over a plate of potatoes, cured meat, and pickles. To satisfy all of your cheesiest dreams, Le Brasier is the place to go.

Le Brasier – 58, Avenue des Ternes, 17th arrondissement

french onion soup

4. French Onion Soup

French onion soup was originally invented in the Paris Les Halles market: market vendors would throw a hodgepodge of leftover veg into a pot and cook it up for a nighttime snack. While Les Halles has since shuttered (and Parisian markets these days take place during the daylight hours), you can still find excellent soupe à l’oignon in Paris.

A perfect French onion soup is a labor of love, with deeply caramelized onions and a rich beef broth topped with a generous handful of gruyère cheese before being gratinéed under the broiler. While some still seek it out at holdover restaurant Au Pied de Cochon, located a stone’s throw from where Les Halles once stood, we prefer the slightly less touristy dining room (and even better soup) at Bistrot des Vosges.

Bistrot des Vosges – 31 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 4th arrondissement

roasted chestnuts

5. Roasted Chestnuts

If you want to warm up but you don’t want to slow down, Paris has a solution! For just a few euros, nearly every street corner affords the opportunity to get your hands on a paper cone of freshly roasted chestnuts, which you can snack on as you walk to your next adventure. Bon appétit!

paris

Meet Your Paris Uncovered Guides

The brains (and the brawn) behind Paris Uncovered are Randa and Emily: two American expats who fell head-over-heels in love with the city and decided to make it their permanent home.

We’ve made a career out of showing visitors to Paris the ins and outs of our adopted home via walking tours, but we have a few little tips and tricks to share with you via this blog, too! So without further ado, it’s time to meet your guides.

RandA

When and why did you first move to Paris?

Having had short stints living abroad in Lyon and London, I fell in love with the experience of discovering a new city and culture. While I loved my years discovering Chicago, I was ready to explore another city and tackle a new challenge. In January 2011, I dove head first into my next chapter: studying at the Sorbonne, making new friends from around the world and attempting to master the French language!

What’s your favorite Paris neighborhood?

The Marais (both north and south) has always been a favorite and continues to be thanks to its blend of old and new Paris. You have it all: gorgeous views of gardens, medieval-to-renaissance-to-haussmannien architecture, cozy cafes and innovative restaurants. Whether you want to wander, shop or sit and people-watch: it’s perfect for any mood! A close runner-up would be the canal district -excellent for a long meandering walk.

What’s your favorite period of French history to discover?

I’ve always been intrigued by the French Revolution and it’s many cultural implications. When you dig beyond the famous “let them eat cake!” and “off with your head!” phrases, you find a story about human rights and the human spirit that has impacted France (and maybe, the world) in many ways beyond the guillotine. Although, the guillotine certainly makes for a dramatic element to that part of history!

What’s your favorite thing to eat in Paris?

It’s so hard to choose! The first to pop into my head: either a croissant aux amandes or jambon-beurre. A croissant aux amandes is a croissant that’s filled with almond paste, covered in almonds, then baked and covered in powdered sugar (its honesty more dessert than breakfast!) A jambon-beurre sandwich is the edible form of “less is more”: a slice of ham and smear of butter on a crunchy baguette. Both can be found at nearly any boulangerie, but they are not all created equal, so be careful!

What’s one thing you wish visitors to Paris knew about Parisians?

Pride in our city and culture is a universal trait around the world – and Parisians are no different. Showing your appreciation for their city, culture and language can help you make friends fast. A simple “bonjour” when greeting someone, and a “merci” to thank them can go a long way!

Emily

When and why did you first move to Paris?

I first moved here in 2007, and it was a total accident. I had been studying abroad in Cannes, and when push came to shove, I wanted to stay. There was no way for me to transfer my university credits to the French system, so I moved to Paris to attend the American University here, thinking I’d stay 18 months to finish my degree. That was eleven years ago.

What’s your favorite Paris neighborhood?

There are so many that are close to my heart: in fact, wandering Paris’ neighborhoods was one of the things that convinced me that I wanted to make the city my permanent home. I spend a lot of time in the 5th and 6th, where my favorite bookstores are located, but I have a lofty dream of someday living in Montmartre. When I’m not giving tours with Paris Uncovered, I’m also a food journalist, which means that these days, I spend a lot of time in the 10th and 11th, around République, where many of the innovative restaurants are.

What’s your favorite period of French history to discover?

I kind of feel obliged to say the 19th century, because that’s the period I specialized in when I was getting my Master’s degree at the Sorbonne. I love the post-revolutionary period and the way in which the French tried, failed, and tried again to create a sustainable republic. I think this period, wrought with difficulty, shows us a lot about what defines the French as a people.

That said, I’m also very interested in Les Années Folles (the “crazy” years, also known as the Roaring Twenties) and the Occupation of Paris and the French Resistance during World War II. I think what I love so much about French history (or history in general!) is that it’s just a chain of cause and effect, so if you delve deep enough, all periods of history are linked in one way or another (and there’s no better place to see how and why than Paris).

What’s your favorite thing to eat in Paris?

I’m a huge cheese lover – give me your smelliest piece, and I’m sold! But I’m also loving the return to truly artisanal bread these days. I have a few favorite addresses in the city for hand-made, slow-fermented bread (which goes very well with cheese, I must say!)

Other than that, I’m really digging the small plates revolution that has (finally) come to Paris. Market-driven menus are my jam, and there are a lot of them popping up in the capital.

What’s one thing you wish visitors to Paris knew about Parisians?

That the “rude” stereotype is a total misunderstanding! I come from New York, and I know that we’re painted as brusque and kind of mean, but both New Yorkers and Parisians love their city and want to help you out – we just want to be asked politely and appropriately. In the case of Parisians, that means starting every interaction with “Bonjour ! Parlez-vous anglais ?” (Hello! Do you speak English?) Most Parisians do, and when they hear that you’re trying (and that you’ve started your sentence with bonjour), they’ll be more than happy to point you in the right direction.