It may well surprise many visitors to the French capital city, but the best Christmas market is not actually to be found within the confines of Paris proper. Instead, those who wish to experience the best of the festive spirit must head to the end of metro line 1. Here’s your complete guide to La Défense Christmas Market (official name: Le Village de Nöel sur le Parvis de la Défense).
Christmas market dates 2019: Thursday November 21 to Sunday December 28, 2019
Hands down the largest Christmas Market in the Île de France region, the second being that of the Jardin des Tuileries Christmas Market, La Défense event boasts some 350 wooden chalets. Head to the market during opening times and you can expect to find a wide array of artisanal goods, plenty of vin chaud (including ‘artisanal vin chaud’ and ‘Cuban vin Chaud’ as well as white wine vin chaud), and lots of delcious savoury and sweet eats.
Worth noting is that prices are significantly less at La Défense than at Jardin des Tuileries. For example, while a small vin chaud at Tuileries is €5, a similar size at the Périphérique festive event is just €3. Similarly the food, while still more expensive than those of the Christmas markets, is still much cheaper than at Tuileries.
Highlights of the stalls include one selling Christmas Trees (Sapins de Noël in French) which start at €10 a tree, another purely selling nativity figures, and many selling winter attire (think onesies, warm hats, fluffy slippers, and all the gifts you could ever imagine buying). Of course, there are also the more ‘commercial’ stands vending the likes of Paris souvenirs like magnets and t-shirts.
Situated in the shadow of the Grand Arch of La Défense (one of five arches in Paris, the most famous being that of the Arc de Triomphe), the decorations are numerous. In 2019, highlights include an 18m high light tree and overhead lights illuminating above the main strip of the 400m squared Christmas Market space.
In a bid to be more eco-friendly, all of the Christmas lights at the market are LED. Otherwise, specifically family-friendly attractions at the La Défense Christmas Market include the ‘chance to meet Santa Claus’, many toy stands, and a miniature animated village.
Nearby, head inside one of the shopping malls and you’ll soon discover thousands more twinkling lights illuminating the area. Visit La Défense in 2019 and you can also expect to discover one of the best ice skating rinks in Paris. After all, there’s one at the top of the Grand Arch itself!
How to visit La Défense Christmas Market
The easiest way to reach La Défense is by taking the métro. After all, the modern and financial and business district is around 8 km from the centre of the city and traffic is often pretty heavy, meaning that the most convenient, fastest, and cheapest way is by taking the underground transportation system. However, you should know before you go that metro t+ tickets are only valid on the line 1 and not on the RER A as La Défense is technically outside of Zone 1.
Though the best view from Paris and, of course, the Arc de Triomphe is from the Esplanade de la Défense (where there are also a number of sparkling Christmas light displays), the Christmas Village itself is to be found on the last stop of the line, i.e. La Défense.
For the best view of the market from a bird’s eye perspective, be sure to head up the stairs of the great arch itself. It’s also worth noting is that if you’re in search of a good place to sit and enjoy a raclette or other Christmas Market food away from the confines of the market
We personally visited on a Saturday evening, which meant that the market was incredibly crowded and busy (not to mention that this was the first weekend that the market had been open to the public!) For the best photos, I highly recommend going mid-week and during the day if possible.