The decision to be in Paris at Christmas wasn’t hard after our amazing Valentine’s Day trip to Paris. I know I keep saying this, but Paris in the winter is the best kept secret in travel. Tom was really excited about another trip to Paris, and I was convinced after watching his youtube videos of the Christmas window displays and the Champs Elysées Christmas lights. When SAAver fares opened up over the holiday season, I knew that we would start our winter 2019 trip in Paris without any reservations.
December in Paris is a lot like Venice is at Christmas. The city was absolutely magical, especially the area around Place du Vendome. Could there be a more picturesque view in Paris during Christmas time? I don’t think so. I preferred it to the Champs Elysees and the Place du Concorde. Both of those areas are beautiful in their own right, but they really didn’t compare to Vendome, in my opinion. Beyond the beauty of the holiday decor, the tourists were mostly gone. The locals were out and going about their holiday business. And, everyone was in a good mood.
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Things to Do in Paris at Christmas
I’ll cover the Paris Christmas markets in a bit of detail below, but there are so many things, both indoor and outdoor that are enjoyable during the holiday season in Paris. I found the days to be fairly temperate. Yes, sometimes the winds got up at times, but a good down coat and boots will keep you warm. (Take your boots to a local cobbler and get them weatherproofed. This works wonders for me.) I didn’t actually need my thermals at all. It did rain more in December than it has on our previous trips, but we would use those days to take advantage of the myriad of indoor activities available to us. And, it didn’t rain all day.
Galeries Lafayette Christmas Displays & Rooftop Ice Skating Rink
I thought the holiday displays in New York City were amazing, and then I went to Galeries Lafayette. It’s beautiful at any time of year, but is absolutely astounding at Christmastime. However, don’t stop at the department store. Head to the rooftop for the ice skating rink and incredible views of the Eiffel Tower and the back of the Opera House. If outdoor ice skating on a rooftop doesn’t appeal to you, head to the Grand Palais for one of the world’s largest indoor ice skating rinks.
Try Bûche de Noël
Spending Christmas in Paris means that you can try the famous Buche de Noel dessert. The Buche de Noel (yule log) is a traditional chocolate roulade dessert. Since I missed out on booking a cooking class and learning to bake one, I was desperate to find it on a menu. A magazine in the hotel spa profiled the famous pastry chef at the Ritz Paris and his chocolate hazelnut take on this traditional dessert. Did you say chocolate hazelnut? SOLD. We had dessert and a nightcap at the Bar Vendome on their (covered) terrace under the stars. It remains one of our favorite Christmas experiences and one we are eager to repeat. It’s a splurge worth making, but make a reservation. (Read more about my experience taking a pastry class at the Ritz Escoffier and put it on your Paris Christmas wish lit!)
If Bar Vendome isn’t in your budget, there is a small chalet in front of the Ritz that sells pastries and warm beverages. I recommend on splurging on one of their sweet treats. They have tables where you can enjoy the view of the Place du Vendome and your sweet treat. You can also hit up the Ritz Comptoir Pastry shop that opened in 2021. (I love to pick up cookies for the flight home!)
If you want to try your hand at some of these delicious recipes at home, Francois Perret’s Ritz Pastry cookbook is incredible… just like his pastries! This book kept me inspired when we couldn’t travel and it’s made an excellent gift, too!
Paris Museum Tours
One of the best things to do in Paris at Christmas is to take advantage of the museums! Paris museums are so much quieter in the winter. The Musee d’Orsay is one of my favorite museums in the entire world and I’ve visited numerous times throughout the years, over the years, but it is always fairly busy. We booked a tour of the Musee d’Orsay on Saturday morning, and we basically had the museum to ourselves both during the tour and afterwards. The tour was incredible and provided a great introduction to both the museum and the impressionist artists. It provided a great historical framework of what was going on both in Paris and in the art world. Later on this trip, when we took a walking tour of Montmartre, we were able to learn more about how the artists worked in Paris, specifically. (This free tour starts at Moulin Rouge and ends at Sacre Coeur, so you’ll get the entire scope of the neighborhood frequented by the Impressionists!)
Another tour I recommend is a night tour of the Louvre. There is just something about being in the Louvre after hours that gives it a sense of mystery and magic to this daunting museum. This evening tour made the museum feel less daunting and more intimate. It covers many of the famous paintings and sculptures, so don’t worry about missing the Mona Lisa. The Louvre collection would take a lifetime of visits, but this is a good tour to start with, especially on a cold or rainy evening.
Paris Museum Pass
If you aren’t a guided tour person, I still recommend purchasing a Paris Museum Pass. While you might not need the skip-the-line capabilities in the winter, it provides the ultimate flexibility in terms of visiting 60 major Paris museums and attractions. You can also use it to go to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle. This would be a great way to see the lights from above, too. Make sure that you check the closing dates and purchase the appropriate number of days. For example, most sites are closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so you could buy a 4 day pass instead of a 6 day pass, depending on your arrival date.
Don’t Miss: Musee de l’Orangerie – This small, manageable museum is in the running for one of my favorite museums in Paris. Monet’s work is truly incredible. Go when they open or late in the day to have the lilies to yourself.
Don’t Miss: Musee de l’Armee – A fascinating look at France’s military history. A must-see for anyone who wants to better understand Napoleon or appreciates military uniforms. The Paris pass doesn’t cover special exhibitions, but it’s worth looking into seeing what is on exhibition.
Don’t Miss: Sainte-Chapelle – One of the most breath-taking churches I’ve ever been in. Go on a sunny day to really appreciate all the stained glass and the beautiful colors.
Learn to Make French Pastries
If you really want to appreciate French pastries, take a croissant and baguette baking class in Paris. It’s incredible how labor intensive these pastries are – and it’s amazing how inexpensive they are! (The pastry dough takes 3 days!) Just as an FYI, if you don’t speak French, Chef Didier will likely use an interpreter. You’ll learn exactly how a French bakery works (like clockwork, truly) and learn how to make croissants, pain et chocolat, and different types of baguettes. You get to take your baguettes (and the recipes) home with you!
Read More: The Best Paris Food and Wine Tours We’ve Taken
Food Tour of the Marais
This Marais food tour is one of the best way to try different flavors in Paris and France. The tour starts at the Le Marché des Enfants Rouges with a cheese and wine tasting and winds through the Marais for numerous tasty stops. We tried the delicious choux pastries filled with cream, marmalades and jams, macarons, falafel, chocolate, olive oils, balsamic vinegars, and other specialties from Provence, and Corsican specialties. This tour is a great way to shop for Christmas gifts and souvenirs to take home, too. We actually visit one of the stores and bring things home every time we go to Paris now!
I would love to try a chocolate and pastry tour of Saint Germain des Pres and the Left Bank. We wandered through there on our last trip to Paris and there are so many delicious looking shops! This neighborhood is directly across the Seine from the Louvre, if you are looking for somewhere to explore that is a little less high end than Vendome.
Marchés de Noël // Paris Christmas Markets
There are approximately 15-20 Christmas markets that pop up all over Paris throughout late November and December. We made it three of them during our six day trip to Paris. (There is just so much to do in Paris, especially at Christmas!) When we go back, I would love to do this Paris Christmas market food tour to see more of them and learn more about the local foods and traditions. The Paris Visitors Bureau will have the most up to date information on the Christmas markets throughout the city. One thing that I think is really neat about Paris is that they have a lot of country-specific markets throughout December. Much like the Tuscany Christmas markets, you have to plan your trip around the specific dates, but what a great adventure!
2022 Paris Christmas Market Dates
- 11/19/2022 – 01/08/2023 – Tuileries Christmas Market
- 11/26/2022 – 01/01/2023 – St Germain Christmas Market
- 11/30/2022 – 12/16/2022 – Alsace Christmas Market at Gare de l’Est (That is, if you can’t make a side trip to Alsace, which I highly recommend. The Christmas markets in Alsace are amazing.)
- 12/16/2022 – 01/02/2023 – Eiffel Tower Christmas Market
- 12/9/2022 – 12/26/2022 – Notre Dame Christmas Market
Louvre / Jardin du Tuileries Christmas Market
Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived, so we headed out on a walk. We walked through the Tuileries Christmas Market on our way to walk along the Seine. I couldn’t wait to come back and check it out when I was hungry. This Christmas market is very family friendly with carnival games, rides, and food for everyone. This market runs from mid-November until early January, so you’ll still get to enjoy it, even if your travels take you to Paris after Christmas!
Similar to the Santa Croce Christmas market, there is a very international flair to the food stalls. From the French raclette and vin chaud, to Spanish paella to German sausage and beer, you can go on a tour of Europe without ever leaving Paris. We actually had one of our dinners at this Christmas market because everything smelled SO good! Check out this post before you go and make a list of the best foods to try in Paris!
Notre Dame Christmas Market
The Notre Dame cathedral is still closed for restoration, so I didn’t know if the Christmas market would still be happening. On our way to dinner in the Latin Quarter, we found it right across the Seine. While it is a lot smaller than the Louvre Christmas market, it is just as lively and local. My favorite part of this Christmas market were the local musicians. It added so much ambiance and warmth to an otherwise cold and rainy evening. If you’re looking for local, high-quality gifts, this is your market. (Excuse the quality of the photos – it was pouring down rain!)
Hotel de Ville Christmas Market
Of course the Paris city hall has one of the most magical Christmas markets in Paris. The first time we saw it was when we were walking from our hotel to Bastille for dinner. The city hall was awash with blue light, there was loud and lively music, and a carrousel for the kids. It was packed! We decided to save it for a morning when it was a little less busy. It looked like all the wooden stalls were selling French products, including fresh crepes, raclette, vin chaud. This market is a lot smaller that the Tuileries Christmas market, but it is larger than the Notre Dame market. (I feel like Goldilocks describing these markets!)
Where to Eat in Paris at Christmas
While I’ve posted about some of our favorite restaurants in Paris, I thought I would highlight a few restaurants for a cozy meal. These are places that we enjoyed for their ambiance and delicious food. It is not meant to be an exhaustive restaurant guide for Paris. If none of these recommendations appeal to you, Le Fooding and its app are a great place to start Paris restaurant research.
Bistrot Richelieu (1st arrondissement)
Bistrot Richelieu is a classic Parisian bistro experience. Recently remodeled, it has a lot of character and romantic ambiance. It is a great place to enjoy a leisurely meal or happy hour before heading out to dinner. Our kind waiter made tasty recommendations on everything from drinks to the dinner menu. It is where we ordered our first French onion soup and a traditional entrecôte with shallot sauce. Tom found a French beer that he really enjoyed, but he’s still disappointed that he didn’t try the duck. They do take reservations by phone and email.
Sacree Fluer (18th arrondissement)
This is absolutely my favorite steakhouse in Paris. We’ve never had a bad meal here. You will want a reservation for Sacree Fleur, a tiny restaurant near Sacre Couer. We got the last table of the night and watched them turn many people away, even in the low season. This cozy restaurant in perfect for carnivores to try all the French specialties, including snails, frog legs, duck, and steak served with blue cheese, shallot, and peppercorn sauce. We had the homemade chocolate cake for dessert, and it was delicious. (If you visit in the summer, you must try the apple sorbet and Calvados.)
East Mamma (11th arrondissement)
East Mamma is listed in one of my favorite Paris guide books and I saved it for our honeymoon. We didn’t make it there. When I read about it on Mackenzie’s blog, I knew we had to try it. We walked from Vendome to Bastille (and back) for this meal. Thank goodness for the walk because the food was incredible. Everything was incredibly rich, so the walk was a nice way to walk it off. Their famous truffle pasta is worth it. Tom was suspicious so he ordered a pizza, but when we go back, we will both be ordering the truffle pasta. We ordered two desserts, but we should have only ordered one. Both the profiterole and the nocciola pizza are delicious, but they are both big enough to be split between two people.
This is probably the most trendy restaurant that I have recommended. It doesn’t take reservations, so you’ll want to be there when they open. We arrived about 15 minutes before they opened and a line was already starting to form. I would expect it to be even busier during other times of the year.
Gambino (1st arrondissement)
Gambino is super close to the Park Hyatt, so on our first couple trips to Paris in the winter, we generally had our first dinner there. It’s the best bet for an easy meal to beat jet lag. The service is always incredibly friendly, even on Valentine’s Day (with no reservations)! The food is unique and absolutely delicious. I recommend their raviolini with prosciutto, asparagus, and truffle cream sauce or pizza Genovese. Truthfully though, everything we’ve ordered at Gambino has been good though.
Best Place to Stay in Paris at Christmas
Park Hyatt Paris (2nd arrondissement)
We’ve stayed at the Park Hyatt Paris on five or six (I’m losing count!) trips to Paris and it’s been incredible every time. The room that we had over Christmas in 2019 is my favorite though. It was on the 6th floor with vaulted ceilings. Not only was the room huge, but it was an incredible and efficient use of space. Though the room only had one small window, it did not feel dark and it was incredibly well lit. (Check out my post about the different rooms at the Park Hyatt Paris!)
While there are less expensive hotels in Paris, there are a few things that keep us coming back to the Park Hyatt. The first one is the spa. At the end of a long day, there is no better way to relax and recharge than in the spa and the sauna at Le Spa. I’m a huge fan of their Le Mer facials and body treatments, but the massages are also amazing. We get so much use out of the spa when we stay at this hotel. During our Christmas trip, we started going in the mornings, as well as the evenings, which felt truly luxurious, especially considering how much we had to walk. (More on that below.)
The second one is the location. The Park Hyatt is close to several metro stops, but it is also ideal for walking to most attractions and restaurants. We have been in Paris for the transportation strikes and the yellow vest protests. We would not have been able to see as much as we did if we had not been within walking distance of the main attractions. We stayed near Etoile on our honeymoon and it was a trip to get anywhere. Fortunately, we had the metro at our disposal, but we also relied on cabs quite a bit more, too. Staying near Vendome means that we can walk to any of the main sights, although the Eiffel Tower feels a bit far, at times.
Third, it’s the best place to indulge the holiday spirit. Vendome is the perfect place to stay in Paris at Christmas because of how beautiful the area is. The Champs Elysees has nothing on Vendome. Our entire street was decked out with Christmas trees, Christmas lights, and the Place du Vendome was magical. It’s also a very short, scenic walk to the Tuileries Christmas market at the Louvre. A lot of the expensive shops have beautiful displays. The Louis Vuitton store had the most magnificent starburst when we were there. Just stunning.
Hotel du Louvre Paris (1st arrondissement)
The Hotel du Louvre is the perfect place for sightseeing and museum hopping. You walk out, cross the street, and you’re in the Louvre and the Tuileries Christmas market. If you cross the Seine, you’re at the Musee d’Orsay. If you need to get around, the Palais Royale metro stop is right outside the hotel. From there, you can travel along the Seine, or travel a few spots to Chatlet / Les Halles and connect anywhere in Paris!
I always request a quiet room when we travel to Paris, so we typically receive rooms that overlook interior courtyards. In this case, we stayed in a junior suite on the 5th floor. This suite isn’t large, but it is very well designed. We loved having a sitting room where we could enjoy an in-room picnic separate from our bedroom.
The room details feel very luxurious and high end. Our room had two small built-in closets, which weren’t ideal for long dresses, but I was able to make it work. The built-in closet drawers meant that they didn’t have more furniture than necessary in the room. It worked really well for us.
The bathroom is definitely on the smaller side, however the walk-in shower is actually quite large, especially for Europe. It offers both an overhead shower and a hand shower. Perfect for winter and cooler Paris temperatures, I loved the warm bathrobes and slippers. The Fragonard bath amenities were perfectly branded and fit the aesthetic of the hotel.
As an arrival gift, we received madeleines and a bottle of lemonade. The previous occupant had left his arrival gift, a bottle of red wine, so we enjoyed that, too. The Hotel du Louvre does offer free breakfast for Hyatt Globalist members in its restaurant. We didn’t take advantage of it, but I’m sure it’s delightful. Everything about this hotel was perfect.
I first found out about this hotel from Heather, who stayed her with her large family, so I know it has room for everyone if you’re planning a large family trip to Paris at Christmas. There were a lot of families with young children staying at the hotel when we were there. That being said, I believe it is perfect for a romantic getaway to Paris as well. Paris luxury hotels are expensive and many run more than $1,000 per night. If that isn’t in your travel budget, the Hotel du Louvre is still a luxurious romantic experience. If you’re looking to maximize your ROI with Hyatt points, the Hyatt Paris Etoile is a great option. We had a great stay there in 2023.
Read More: Full review of the Hotel du Louvre after two stays!
Hotel Dress Code Paris (9th arrondissement)
After doing a lot of hotel research, I was really excited to find Hotel Dress Code, which is just steps from the Place Vendome and the Ritz Paris. It is an incredible hotel at a great price point. We spent a week here and really enjoyed the location. It is on a quieter street than both the Park Hyatt and Hotel du Louvre with easy access to the metro.
One thing that stood out about Hotel Dress Code was how welcoming the staff was. They were always quick to check if we needed anything or if they could help. We had a really tight train connection and were having difficulty finding a cab, and they immediately sprung into action to help make sure we were able to make it to the train station on a busy Friday afternoon.
The rooms at Hotel Dress Code offer a lot of color, chic details, and gorgeous fabrics. The rooms are individualized and you book based on size of the room. I booked a medium room, which was classified as a superior room. Like most hotel rooms in Paris, the rooms here are on the smaller side. That being said, they are efficiently and expertly designed. Our room had a small desk, a queen bed, and a decently-sized bathroom with a large walk-in shower. Our window opened up to an interior courtyard, which was very quiet. I loved the soft pink and gray accents in our room. The white marble bathroom was gorgeous with stunning tile work in the shower. It was very cozy and romantic.
The hotel offers both breakfast and an honor bar on site, and the lobby has plenty of work space during the day. You can book a private visit to the hotel spa on the lower level. They have a sauna and pool.
As far as getting around, the Madeline and Opera metro stops are a short distance from the hotel. You can easily walk to the Louvre, the Tuileries, and beyond from this hotel. If you’re wanting to stay in, there is a small grocery store next to the hotel. We ended up with fresh, warm baguettes on our first night in Paris, which made for a perfect apertivo before heading out to dinner. (More detailed review of Hotel Dress Code and what is nearby!)
I should note that the Paris transportation strikes had been going on for a few weeks when we arrived. We were seeing a lot of reports of restaurants and stores suffering as a result of it. While we experienced some disruption when getting from the airport to our hotel, overall, we did not let affect our trip.
We took the RER B to Gare du Nord and then took a taxi to our hotel. It took us over an hour to get a taxi. Uber wait times were similar. In retrospect, it would have been more efficient to book car service from the airport to the hotel, but we weren’t in a hurry.
When we flew from Orly to Rome on Christmas Eve, we had our hotel arrange a car in advance because we didn’t know how difficult it would be to find a taxi, given the challenge we had when we arrived. We also weren’t sure how the traffic would be around rush hour.
Beyond that, we used our own two legs to see Paris. It did result in us not seeing as much or covering as much ground as we would normally do, but we didn’t feel comfortable utilizing transportation during rush hour for sightseeing. We wanted to respect the spirit of the strike and ensure that the locals were able to get to and from work in the way that they needed to.
What to Pack for Paris in December
Since Paris in winter is temperate (compared to our winter trip to Prague and Vienna’s Christmas markets), I didn’t need my cuddleduds very often, if at all. I recommend taking at least one pair on every winter trip though. I tend to pack an assortment of cashmere sweaters that I can dress up or dress down. They keep me warmer than cotton sweaters, don’t require thermals like wool sweaters do, and generally don’t wrinkle. Last Call by Neiman Marcus has great sales on cashmere throughout the year. I tend to buy my sweaters on clearance. I packed a pair of Wolford velour leggings, which have a suede look and look more polished than my J. Crew Factory Gigi pants or J Brand Maria jeans.
I have a knee-length Pueterey down coat that is perfect for winter anywhere. As far as shoes go, I purchased a pair of flat Stuart Weitzman 50/50 boots and they have served me well thus far in terms of being both stylish and comfortable. If you are heading to colder destinations, I recommend lined Ugg boots (with thick socks) to keep your feet warm! (I bought mine on clearance and they have lasted more than 8 years!)
Paris weather in December is fairy gray and a bit more rainy. We always pack a set of study umbrellas that fit into my day bag. The Park Hyatt offers them when you leave, if rain is in the forecasted, if you don’t want to travel with your own. We just find it is easier to carry the smaller ones.
Listen, Learn & Read More
If you want to skip guided tours, Rick Steves offers free audio tours of Paris. The Rick Steves app offers snippets of his radio show. One of the most interesting episodes on Paris (to me) is the Eat Like a Parisian episode. This helped us understand why we would want to seek out separate shops to make our picnic, rather than relying on Monoprix. Monoprix does not have good bread. Eric Kayser, easily found throughout Paris, has good bread and I prefer his pastries to Paul. There is always a line for lunch and thing sell out, so stop by earlier rather than later.
There is not a singular complete guide to Paris, in my opinion. I don’t think there’s a single guide (or blog post to anywhere). I like to take a little bit from this, a little bit from that, and pull things together to create our trip itineraries. Currently, the most helpful guides have been Paris Day by Day and Top 10 Paris. These small books fit easily into my day bag. Tom prefers the Rick Steves Paris book for the walking tours, though I find the Day by Day book has some good walks in it, too. We also love the Frommer’s 24 Great Walks book and Paris City Walks cards.
I quit reading blogs before our Valentine’s Day trip because so many people said winter was such a miserable time in Paris. (They were wrong.) That said, Mackenize offers some great hotel and restaurant recommendations. Gail has a list of the top 10 foods to try in Paris, which we are steadily working our way through! Brooke offers a comprehensive list of the pastry classes you can take in Paris. There are plenty of blogs that offer a lot of different tips for Paris, and I’ve started a pinterest board just for Paris because I think we’re going to be going back again and again. Catch me over there if you can’t find what you’re looking for below!
Until next time, au revoir!