The festive season is coming and you are looking for inspiration and ideas to spend Christmas and / or New Year in Paris? No worries, with family or friends, Paris offers endless possibilities. We have gathered a selection of activities and things to do in order to help you experience the magic of the holiday season as it should be.
1) Watch the Christmas Lights and Decorations
Paris, the city of lights, never wears its name better than during the festive season.
From the Champs-Elysees to Montmartre through Place Vendome, you’ll be able to admire the sparkling magic offered by the capital city thanks to its illuminations and the great shop windows specially decorated for the occasion.
Each year, the Avenue des Champs-Elysées puts on a dazzling cloak unveiled during a great ceremony at the end of November.
The decorations and windows of the Galeries Lafayette or the Printemps Haussman are eagerly awaited at this time of the year.
Bercy Village also lights up for your viewing pleasure.
So, you’ll have the opportunity to walk around the city’s streets and to be taken away by the enchantment that the site offers.
Additionally, you can opt for an open-topped bus tour special “Christmas lights” (Illuminations de Noël in French) that will enable you to admire illuminated monuments and streets through a definite route.
2) Shop at a Christmas Market
Among the many Christmas markets in Paris, some are unmissable, such as the Christmas market of La Défense and the one at Les Tuileries.
The Christmas market of La Défense is located on the forecourt of the Défense and is the biggest market of Paris, with more than 200 exhibitors every year. All through the aisles of those markets, your senses will be more alert than ever.
Not only will your eyes be amazed by the wonderful decorations, but your taste buds will also be satisfied.
Indeed, you will be able to taste and buy French and foreign specialties thanks to exhibitors coming from all around the world.
Whether it is thanks to the famous “vin chaud” (mulled wine), the popular onion soup, or a still unknown specialty, you will be enchanted to visit the Christmas villages.
There are also plenty of other smaller Christmas markets scattered all over Paris (Les Halles, Champs de Mars, Notre Dame, Abbesses, etc). Here is the complete and updated list.
3) Enjoy the Holiday Activities
After spending your evening admiring the lights or wandering through the markets on Christmas Eve, you can also enjoy the spectacular animations offered by the Mairie de Paris (city hall).
On New Year’s Eve, you can take part in the biggest activity that will take place. Since 2014, Paris has been organizing a show on the Champs-Elysées, in which a combination of images is projected on the front of the Arc de Triomphe, followed by fireworks. There, you can share an amazing countdown and celebrate the New Year with strangers.
Then, you can go see the parade of January 1st at the beginning of the afternoon in the Avenue des Champs Elysées, where corteges and brass bands will meet.
4) Visit Christmas Cribs and Masses
For the festive season’s biggest fans, Christmas goes hand in hand with cribs and masses. Indeed, from a religious point of view, the Christmas celebration symbolizes Jesus’ birth, which explains the Christmas cribs in some religious places or even under the Christmas tree for some people.
You will be able to discover a whole universe in Paris through exhibitions of cribs throughout the capital.
You will be able to see a unique crib in the Saint Luc chapel of the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur, where a new creation is presented each year, or even a crib representing Jesus’ birth in the Eglise de la Madeleine.
Many other beautiful cribs are exhibited all over Paris, you can click this link (in French) to check the ranking of the most beautiful Christmas nativity scenes.
Numerous places of worship will also open their gates so you can attend Christmas masses on December 24th and 25th, among which is the famous Midnight Mass.
5) Check Out Disneyland Paris Wearing Christmas Colors
Disney’s universe is never more magical than when Disneyland puts on its Christmas clothes and opens its doors to celebrate Christmas and the New Year.
For the enjoyment of young and old alike, Disney characters let Santa Claus invade the park every year from the middle of November to the start of January.
You can come with your family, a group of friends or even as a couple, to enjoy the attractions, shows and other performances given by the magical characters. Whether it is for Christmas or New Year’s Eve, you can admire the Christmas decorations, meet Mickey, Minnie and Santa, attend shows specially organized for the occasion and contemplate the famous Christmas parade.
Numerous restaurants are also open, which will allow you to have dinner on Christmas or New Year’s Eve, and you can stay in the hotels of the park in order to fully enjoy the experience.
A Christmas Eve and a New Year’s Eve events are organized each year so you’ll be able to enjoy the animations and meet your childhood heroes.
Transportation: RER A Marne-la-Vallée ou Chessy
Book your tickets to Disneyland Paris
6) Treat Yourself to an Different Restaurant
If you decided to take a break and not cook during the holiday season, Paris offers you a wide selection of restaurants that will allow you to appreciate a good meal without getting tired preparing it.
You can choose something original and go on a dinner cruise (check here our detailed comparison of the 7 best dinner cruises) to enjoy a fabulous trip on the river Seine.
The Marina de Paris offers a 350€ evening for New Year’s Eve and a 100€ dinner for Christmas Eve.
For New Year’s eve, most boat companies offer various dinner cruises on the Seine river from 119€ to 499€. So, you can let yourself go on the Seine from the Eiffel Tower with a glass of champagne in your hand.
Dinner cruises are not just for New Year’s Eve! At Christmas, you can enjoy a nice meal on the Seine for an unforgettable New Year’s Eve, such as in the Capitaine Fracasse boat, or the Paris en Seine cruises.
If you prefer heights, you can have dinner at the Ciel de Paris, on the 56th floor of the Tour Montparnasse for Christmas Eve, with a special menu with champagne included for 250€ per person. Gaining altitude to enjoy the view of Paris and the Eiffel Tower over a good meal is a must.
The Ciel de Paris also offers a New Year’s Eve in the sky with a 450€ menu, champagne included, in order to welcome the New Year above Paris.
7. Enjoy a temporary exhibition
Among the many cultural activities you can enjoy in Paris during the winter season, you may find a large number of temporary exhibitions. There are multiple topics and everyone can find something they like. There are always nice outings around Christmas and New Year’s.
Right now, the Picasso Museum has a double exhibition about Maya Ruiz-Picasso, the daughter of Pablo Picasso.
You can visit these two exhibitions until December 21st of 2022. They show the touching relationship between a father and his daughter that we can often see in Picasso’s work, like in the famous series of paintings called Maya with Doll.
You can admire the nine beautiful paintings of the Maya Ruiz-Picasso collection which were gifted to the country.
Moreover, the price of the ticket includes access to the permanent collections of the museum.
At the Paris Atelier des Lumières, the atmosphere is completely different.
Until January 2nd, 2023 you can come and discover the works of famous painter Cézanne in a way you definitely have never seen before.
The exhibition “Cézanne, Lumières de Provence” (Cézanne, Lights of Provence, site in French) offers an immersive experience all about colors, lights and brushstrokes. On all the walls, Cézanne’s paintings, sketches, watercolors and drawings of Provence will be projected in motion for a unique artistic experience.
In addition, the ticket price includes admission to the two other immersive exhibitions Kandinsky and Recoding Eutropia.
8) Don’t Miss Out on a Cabaret Experience
If you feel like it, the greatest cabarets of Paris open their doors and welcome you to attend shows; each more astounding than the one before.
You can go to the very well-known Moulin Rouge and enjoy an evening full of elegance and glamour. The program includes a menu prepared for the occasion, a show and a DJ spinning records to make you dance. From 500€, the price of the evening can extend to 1000€.
If you want to have a crazy night out, dancers from the Crazy Horse will be thrilled to welcome you on New Year’s Eve. You can attend shows specially organized for the festive season from 170€ to 210€ for the evening.
Finally, the famous Paradis Latin, rebuilt by Gustave Eiffel, will welcome you with its world-famous French Cancan and will allow you to savor a dinner specially cooked for the nighttime. So, you can enjoy this show on New Year’s Eve for 500€. Put on your best shoes and join the marvelous dancers on the dance floor.
Remember to book in advance, tickets go quickly.
9) Go Clubbing
The festive season obviously involves dancing!
It’s the time of the year when you’re advised to go out and have fun twice in less than two weeks. After a Christmas Eve full of festivities, you can go out to nightclubs in the whole town.
You can also enjoy the dancefloor of the very coveted Club Haussmann under glitter and confetti.
If you want to follow the rhythm of the seasons, the Ice Kube Bar was made for you. With its atmosphere worthy of an ice palace, this bar sculpted in ice will allow you to live a quirky experience and enjoy the atmosphere of a club at the same time.
Le Duplex, ideally located at the Arc de Triomphe, offers a special New Year’s Eve party including a buffet and an Open Bar Champagne from 8 pm to 11 pm from €120.
Paris is a festive city where you can find a place to go dancing according to your taste, so don’t hesitate to seek adventure in many clubs throughout the same evening and have fun. Though, you should remember that some clubs are very popular and it might be necessary to book in advance.
10) Don’t Forget the Ones in Need
It’s the time of celebrations, forgiveness, generosity and fresh starts. So, why not spend the evening doing something for someone else? You can put your sense of sharing to good use and offer a beautiful evening to someone in need.
The charity les petits frères des pauvres allows you to keep company with old people who are on their own during the festive season. You can propose activities, share a meal or even offer them presents if you feel like it.
If you’re more into helping people in need, you can help the Secours Populaire to collect toys for children that Santa might have forgotten. You will also get the chance to help the Armée du Salut (Salvation Army) that calls for volunteering every year for the holiday season in order to increase their activity.
Help cook dinner with the Mie de Pain and offer homeless people a worthy meal. If you want to do a good deed, it is a perfect time.
Make Christmas and New Year’s Eve as magical for others as it is for you.
11) Go to a Show
Winter is the perfect time of the year to treat yourself to an unforgettable outing. Paris has a rich cultural program, especially around Christmas and New Year.
This year, many shows are on the list for this period.
Let yourself be tempted by a memorable musical with The Lion King at the Mogador theater, or 42nd Street at the Châtelet theater which will take you to the world of Broadway.
To celebrate New Year’s Eve in a magical atmosphere, come and see the circus show Les Folies Gruss (site in French) on December 31st by the Alexandre Gruss company for an unforgettable equestrian and acrobatic experience.
To make the eyes of both young and old shine bright, you can attend many ballets in different opera houses in Paris, such as the famous Swan Lake at the Bastille Opera House, or The Snow Queen at the Champs-Elysées Theater.
A show is an ideal opportunity to discover magnificent performances to end the year with style.
You now have all the keys in hand to have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
Disclaimer: Prices indicated in this article can change.
I aim to share my tips and recommendations for the beautiful country of France. My goal is to help you plan your next adventure, whether it’s a weekend getaway or a once-in-a-lifetime trip. From finding the best hotels and restaurants, to discovering unique activities and sights, I’ve got you covered!