Christmas in Paris: Magical & Festive Things to Do in 2021

Christmas tree at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France.
Image by vic xia is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Christmas in Paris can be genuinely magical. From mid-November onward, the capital transforms into a wintery landscape: one festooned with dazzling lights that twinkle nonstop, as well as shop-window decorations and cheer-inspiring markets. Whether you formally celebrate the holiday or simply enjoy the seasonal festivities, there’s plenty to see and do at year-end.

Traditional Christmas markets, outdoor ice-skating rinks, and department-store windows glowing with fantasy-inspired holiday displays are among the delights that await those of you who visit the capital in late November or December. If you’re planning to celebrate Christmas or other winter holidays in Paris, keep reading for our tips on how to enjoy it to the fullest.

Read related: Why to Love Paris in December (& What to Do)

Holiday Lights and Window Displays

Holiday lights in Paris
Christmas lights on Avenue Montaigne/Image from TripAdvisor

At year-end, the City of Lights lives up fully to its name and the streets are illuminated with sparkling colors and extravagant decorations. Dozens of major streets, squares and other landmarks get the festive treatment.

And for those who can brave some crowds, heading over to the city’s main department stores is in order, too. All the historic grands magasins one-up each other with grandiose, often-animated window displays, one more magical than the next.

These are just a few of our favorite places to head this year (PLEASE VISIT LATER IN THE WINTER FOR FURTHER UPDATES AND MORE DETAILS ON 2021 EVENTS). For a full list, see this page at the Paris Tourist Office website.

Avenue des Champs-Elysées

Energy-saving, red Christmas lights on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, Paris
Image: Patricia De Oliveira

There is something magical about walking down one of the most famous avenues in the world on a crisp December night. At this time of the year the avenue gets flooded with lights all the way from the Place de l’Etoile and the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde.

This year, the trees lining the iconic avenue sparkle a soft, energy-efficient red and can be admired from 5pm to 2am, the perfect time for an evening stroll, with 200 scintillating trees lighting the way. They will be left on all night long on Christmas Eve (December 25th) and New Year’s Eve (December 31st). French singer Clara Luciani will preside over the inaugural lighting of the avenue on the evening of November 21st.

  • Metro: Franklin D. Roosevelt or Champs-Elysées Clémenceau
  • When to see them: From November 21st, 2021 through January 9th, 2022

Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré

Known for its high-fashion boutiques and Haussmanian buildings, the narrow and intimate Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré shines with festive decorations this season, including chandelier lights by crystal maker Baccarat in 2019.

The street, which is located in the 8th arrondissement, is a staple of Parisian luxury and glamor. On any given day, it is populated with wealthy tourists and Parisians window-shopping in search of a bit of the celebrated French chic.

For the winter holidays, it shines even more brightly, and the urge to enter its luxurious shops gets all the harder to resist.

  • Metro: Saint-Philippe du Roule or Miromesnil
  • Dates: From late November 2021

Place Vendome

Image credit: Patricia De Oliveira

The quiet yet classically elegant Place Vendome and its iconic bronze column is a must-see when in Paris. Nothing is more glamorous nor feels more grandiosely Parisian than to take a stroll around the magical square. At year-end, the Place is beautifully lit and decorated.

We recommend a stroll across the square in the evening, when all the lights shine in unison. Also don’t miss the Christmas chalet in front of the Ritz Hotel this year, open from early December through early January (precise dates have not yet been announced). In 2021, delicious sweet creations from pastry chef François Perret are highlights at the Chalet.

  • Metro: Tuileries, Concorde or Opéra
  • Dates: From late November 2021 through early January 2022

Bercy Village

Although Bercy Village is quite a ways from the city center, it can make a worthwhile stop, especially if you’re looking for a family-friendly spot.

This off-the-beaten track outdoor shopping and entertainment strip in Paris’ 12th arrondissement is home to cozy restaurants, a movie theater complex, and a great museum dedicated to theme parks.

Every year, a lot of work is put into turning the strip into a convivial and magical destination for the holiday season. It features a giant Christmas tree, a holiday market, and festive lights that should sate both kids and adults. Plus, it’s a great spot for last-minute Christmas shopping.

And if you’re visiting in January and are looking for some continued holiday cheer, the decorations here stay open through late in the month.

  • Metro: Bercy
  • Dates: November 18th, 2021 through January 16th, 2022

Avenue Montaigne

Not far from the Champs-Elysées, the elegant Avenue Montaigne (lined with opulent residences and high-end boutiques) gets decked out with holiday lights and decorations. The decorations stretch from the Avenue southwest to the equally elegant Place de l’Alma.

  • Metro: Alma-Marceau or Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Dates: From early December 2021 through early January 2022

Hotel de Ville (Paris City Hall)

In 2021-2022, the enormous square outside Paris City Hall (Hotel de Ville) will be decked out for the holiday season.

  • Address: Place de l’Hotel de Ville, 4th arrondissement
  • Metro: Hotel de Ville
  • Dates: early December 2021 to early January 2021

Galeries Lafayette

Christmas tree at Galeries Lafayette in 2019, Paris
The Christmas tree under the cupola at Galeries Lafayette in 2019. Image credit: Patricia De Oliveira

The famous department store near the Opera Garnier always has some of the most elaborate and imaginative window displays.

In 2021, the festive tree dims its main lights burst into a show of light and sound every 30 minutes, filling the stunning central cupola at the old department store with holiday magic. It’s complemented by an enormous santa figure who seems to float down from the cupola. Viewed from the iconic glass walk in the main hall of the department store, the tree offers an annual moment of enchantment. Watch the video below for a glimpse of this year’s tree, and the decorations in the central hall.

Meanwhile, the annual holiday window displays and illuminations at Galeries Lafayette (and nearby Printemps deparment store) were switched on on November 17th. This year at the Galeries, the theme for the holiday windows and “Christmas village” is “1, 2, 3, Noël!”, featuring a cheerful and enchanted cast of toys, dolls, Santa’s sleigh, and other colorful and animated figures designed by illustrator Léa Chassagne. In addition, families can enjoy seeing familiar characters from Disney, Pixar, and Star Wars coming to life in this year’s window displays.

Holiday windows/Christmas decorations at Galeries Lafayette in 2021/design by Atelier Bournillat /Courtesy of Groupe Galeries Lafayette
  • Metro: Chaussée D’Antin-Lafayette or Auber
  • Dates in 2021: November 17th through early January 2022

Other department stores worth checking out this season include nearby Printemps (also on Boulevard Haussmann), BHV Marais in the city center, and Le Bon Marché on the left bank, at the edge of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district.

Related: The Rebirth of Iconic Parisian Department Store La Samaritaine

All three of these stores have their own painstakingly designed, inspired window displays to enjoy. This is a genuine treat for kids.

Traditional Christmas Markets in Paris: 2021 Locations

Trocadero Christmas market in Paris/Jean-Pierre Dalbera/Wikimedia Commons
Image: Jean-Pierre Dalbera, Wikimedia Commons

There is nothing like mulled wine and roasted chestnuts to awaken the holiday spirit while fending off the crisp December cold. Traditional French Christmas markets are part and parcel of the holiday season in Paris; they’re the perfect place to sample some amazing food and get a sense of both local and regional Christmas traditions.

Marché de Noël at the Jardin des Tuileries

Christmas market, Jardin des Tuileries, Paris
Image: Patricia De Oliveira

In the heart of the Jardins des Tuileries, this Christmas market and funfair offers great products from all over the country. It’s a convivial space where visitors can get a taste of French gastronomy, including sausages and cheeses, roasted chestnuts and mulled wine. Santa Claus will be present for visits with kids. There’s also an ice rink in 2021-2022, not to mention the permanent onsite ferris wheel– providing a truly fun and enchanting family outing.

This is currently the most-visited Christmas market in Paris and with its wide array of fresh gourmet treats and gift ideas, not to mention the impregnable views over the formerly royal gardens, it’s easy to see why.

  • Metro: Tuileries
  • Dates: November 20th, 2021 through January 2nd, 2022; this market is typically open 11am-11:45 pm on weekdays; until 12:45 am on weekends

Marché de Noël de la Canopée des Halles

One of the newest but also largest Christmas markets in Paris, the Marché de Noël de la Canopée des Halles has a little bit of everything, from local products to international crafts; from traditional mulled wine (vin chaud in French) to raclette cheese with potatoes and roasted chestnuts.

With its 75 wooden cabins nestled around the monstrous, mostly underground shopping center, this market has a more modern feel, but it’s also vibrant and packed with delicious treats and festive gifts.

  • Metro: Les Halles or Chatelet
  • Dates: November-December 2021 (check back for specific dates)

Marche de Noël Alsacien at the Gare de L’Est

Image credit: Patricia De Oliveira

There are a few distinctive aromas wafting around the Alsatian Christmas market in Paris. It’s the smell of potato galettes, munster cheese, choucroute (a traditional Alsatian sauerkraut recipe), gingerbread, fresh pretzels and Kougelhopf , a yeasted bundt cake native to the region.

Located in front of Gare de l’Est, this is the ideal place to discover new flavors native to the Franco-German region– and get to meet some of the producers and artisans behind them. You’ll also find a variety of traditional toys, gifts and crafts at this beloved annual marché.

This one stays open for a shorter time than many of the other Parisian markets in 2021, so make sure to enjoy it while you can.

  • Metro: Gare de l’Est
  • Dates in 2021: From December 1st through 17th, 2021

Christmas Market at Notre-Dame Cathedral

Christmas market at Notre-Dame Cathedral in 2018.

After a tough few years for the beloved Parisan Cathedral, it’s survived the terrible fire that destroyed part of it in 2019 and is offering a warm and festive way to celebrate Christmas in 2021. A traditional market and giant tree is taking over the Parvis (square) outside the entrance from December 10th.

At the market, enjoy regional treats and gastronomic specialities from around France, enjoy performances from live musicians dressed in traditional garb, and take in the warm ambience from the Cathedral just beyond.

  • Metro: Cité (or RER Notre Dame-Saint-Michel)
  • Dates: From December 10th to 26th, 2021
Christmas markets in Paris are always festive

Eiffel Tower Christmas Village

In 2021, the traditional Christmas village is back at the Champs de Mars, beneath the Eiffel Tower. Enjoy a large variety of festive stands, food trucks selling hearty seasonal fare, gifts and more. In 2021, there’s a regional focus on the gourmet dishes and treats of the French regions Alsace and Savoie, and a large mulled wine stand.

  • Place: Champs de Mars lawns (pelouse)
  • Metro: Bir Hakeim or Trocadero
  • Dates: December 1st, 2021 through January 2nd, 2022

La Défense Christmas Market

Located just west of the city center, the sprawling La Défense business district hosts a large Christmas market most years, with some 350 festive stands and chalets, food trucks and seasonal decor lending a warm yet modern atmosphere. This is an ideal place to look for gifts, since there’s a large shopping center here as well. Christmas carolers, visits with Santa Claus, and other events round out this much-awaited event, which opens earlier than most markets in the capital this year.

  • Place: Parvis de la Défense
  • Metro/RER: La Défense
  • Dates: November 25th to Wednesday December 29th, 2021

Full List of Paris Christmas Markets in 2021

Looking for a more complete list? From vegan and African markets to ones focused on regional crafts and eco-friendly gifts, there are more choices than ever this year. See this full list at the Paris Tourist Office to find the right one/s. Sortir à Paris also has a useful and frequently-updated list here.

Stock Up on Classic French Desserts & Sweets

Image credit: Pauline Guillet

Spiced breads, fluffy yeasted cakes dusted with almonds and sugar, rich chocolate logs decorated with marzipan mushrooms and berries? These are all typical French desserts served on and around Christmas.

Image: Special edition bûche de Noël from Sebastien Gaudard

Stock up on some at one of the aforementioned holiday markets, at bakeries around town (see some of my favorites patisseries in Paris here), or at specialty food shops such as Galeries Lafayette, Fauchon, and the Grande Epicerie.

Ice Skating in Paris: Rinks Open in 2021

Ice rink at the Grand Palais, Paris

Going ice skating in Paris during the holidays is something of a cherished tradition. In 2019, several alluring outdoor rinks open their doors to the public, and put on some enchanting light displays.

They’re fun for pros and amateurs and make for a memorable family outing. In addition to the “patinoire” (ice rink) at the Jardin des Tuileries Christmas market (see more info above), there are two other possible places to get your skates on this year, although full details on when and whether they’ll open are not yet available. Check back in early December for updates.

Le Grand Palais des Glaces

After closing in 2020 due to the global health crisis, the Grand Palais ice skating rink will likely open its doors from sometime in December through early January. With its incredible 3,000-square-meter rink and exceptional light sets, food and drink stands, it’s a great place to bask in the cheer of the holiday season. The elegant Belle-Epoque rooftop in metal and glass offers a pretty unforgettable setting, too.

  • Metro: Champs-Elysées Clémenceau
  • Dates: December 2021 January 2022 (check back for precise dates)

Ice Skating Rink at the Eiffel Tower

Fancy skating 57 meters/187 ftabove the ground? The rink on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower will hopefully operate this year from late November or December through early January. The rink will be accessible for the price of a regular entrance ticket.

  • Metro: Trocadero
  • Dates: Check back soon for updates

Other Festive Activities for the Winter Holidays

The Buttes-Chaumont park is sublime year-round, but I prefer it in the winter.

Looking for other interesting things to do this season? Here are just a couple of ideas. You can also see our guide to cozy, quiet things to do in Paris during the winter for a more laid-back holiday season in the capital.

Holiday Tables & Dinner Cruises in Paris

Finally, if you’re interested in booking a table for a special, festive holiday dinner in the capital, you’ll have plenty of choices– but also quite a bit of competition for tables. See this guide for ideas on where to book.

You can also consider booking a dinner cruise on the Seine for a special year-end lunch or dinner.

See this page at GetYourGuide to browse a wide variety of Seine River dinner cruise packages. Make sure to reserve sooner than later to ensure you snag a table.

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link. While it comes at no additional cost to you to book products or services through it, it helps to fund more free, in-depth features here at Paris Unlocked. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

TOP