Between purchasing festive food and shopping for presents, the festive season can get a little pricey if you let it. And if you’re also going on holiday around this time, then the costs can really start to add up even more! So, if you’re headed to Paris at Christmastime, then save yourself some money and enjoy these free Christmas activities in Paris:
Wander around the Paris Christmas Markets
Best seen by night, Paris’ Christmas markets really come to life when the sun sets over the city and the lights are turned up. The city’s Christmas markets are completely free to wander around, although you might want to make a purchase if something catches your eye! While there are many Christmas markets to see throughout the city, some of my favourites include that of Montmartre and the Christmas Market at la Defense- which is also the largest in the city.
Read more: Best Christmas markets in Paris.
Admire the Glittering Lights and Christmas Trees of the Grands Magasins
What better activity is there than partaking in a favourite Parisian pastime: Faire du lèche-vitrine? Otherwise translated as ‘window licking’ or simply ‘window shopping,’ wander around the large department stores (Galeries Lafayette, BHV and Printemps to name but a few), enjoy the beautiful Christmas displays and see the giant trees in each of the stores.
If you want to see the Arc de Triomphe while admiring the Christmas lights, then make sure you also take a stroll down the Champs Élysées! Of all the free Christmas activities in Paris on offer, wandering around the city and allowing my feet to take me where they please is easily my favourite thing to do!
Read more: Galeries Lafayette Christmas Tree.
Go on a romantic date in the city of lights!
The holiday season in Paris may well be the most romantic time of the year in the city of lights. Glittering with Christmas decorations, stroll down the Seine with your loved one, or soak up some history (and hide from the cold) by walking down one of the cities few remaining covered galleries.
Some of my favourite covered galleries to wander down include Gallerie Vivienne (right next door to Palais-Royal), Passage du Grand-Cerf (one of the least visited and offbeat of the passageways) and Passage des Panoramas (the oldest passageway, dating back all the way to 1799).
Attend a Seasonal Church concert
Of all the free Christmas activities in Paris running throughout the holiday season, attending a Christmas concert in a church or chapel may be the one activity that hadn’t even crossed your mind. While you’ll have to pay a pretty hefty fee to attend a concert at Sainte-Chapelle (though admiring the medieval glass while listening to choral music may well be worth the fee), other churches hold regular concerts which are entirely free to attend.
Some of the most popular venues include the Saint-Roch Church, the Louvre Oratory and occasionally the Madeleine Church. Attending mass on Christmas day or on Christmas Eve at Notre Dame is also free, though you’ll have to queue early if you want to secure a spot.
Take a trip out of the city and see some festivities in the rest of France
Although you’ll have to pay the price of a ticket to leave the city, many of the best Christmas activities and festive things to do in the pretty towns and cities surrounding Paris are completely free. Many of these small settlements around the city are filled with festive decorations and Christmas markets of their own.
Christmas day trip ideas from Paris:
Chantilly: Pretty and magical, Chantilly makes for the perfect chilly day trip from the city. Here, you’ll find a beautiful town to wander around, a castle to admire and lots of festive lights!
Provins: This well preserved medieval town is home to an annual Christmas market (just make sure to head there earlier in the day as the crowds can become quite large), lots of cobbled lanes and a basilica where Joan of Arc herself attended Mass.
Versailles: Of course everyone has heard of the Palace of Versailles, but did you know that the rest of the town is well worth a visit. The Gardens at the Palace of Versailles are pretty to visit during any time of the year- even in the winter- and are free to see! The rest of Versailles is filled with museums, small churches and cute coffee shops, making it the perfect day trip from Paris.
Ride on a merry-go-round (for free)
For the Christmas period only, free carousels will be erected throughout the city. And what better way for your inner child to celebrate the festive season than to go back to that time when you were eagerly awaiting Santa in the form of a favourite fairground activity? You can find more information about the opening times, as well as details on where to find these merry-go-rounds on the Paris info website.
Read more: Quirky and unusual Carousels in Paris.