Vin Chaud, twinkling lights, and all the Christmas markets: there is perhaps no time of year quite as magical as Paris in December. Here’s a complete rundown of the best of the City of Love this month; including where to go, what to see, and all of the must-attend events you won’t want to miss!
Paris weather in December
Though Christmas markets are open and the city is illuminate, it must be said that the least charming aspect of the City of Light during the winter is easily its temperamental weather! With average temperatures ranging between 3 and 7 degrees Celsius, and rain and ice an often occurrence, you’ll need to be prepared for some rainy days! Snow is always a possibility, though this is more likely later in the winter (i.e. during February).
Why visit Paris in December?
Imagine strolling along the Champs Élysées under the glow of a thousand twinkling lights. Picture yourself sipping on a vin chaud while admiring the architecture of the Louvre Museum. Or perhaps envision getting together with friends and warming up with a hot chocolate as day turns to night.
Well, though it’s ‘never a bad time to visit Paris,’ there are certainly some times of the year when it’s more fun to visit than others… and Paris in December is most definitely one of those times! You see, with a festive vibe in the area, markets pop up across the city and there’s no better excuse than shorter days than to indulge in some fantastic French cuisine!
Just a word of warning in advance: before visiting Paris in December, you should know that despite what you may expect, winter in the city is not actually low season! As a result of the many dazzling events, sparkling light displays, and of course, the many Christmas markets held throughout the Parisian region, the French capital draws in crowds from far and wide.
As such, travel to and from Paris in December, as well as overnight accommodation tends to be much more expensive than what you might have expected. For the best prices, avoid December and instead look for deals in January and February when fewer people typically book to visit the city.
What to wear in Paris in December
Wrap up warm and be sure to bring along several pairs of waterproof and comfortable shoes. While you might not want to traipse around the city in walking boots, a pretty pair of boots like these ones which can be paired with a nice outfit would not go amiss.
When it comes to staying dry, you’ll need to pack an umbrella, or at the very least a waterproof coat. Similarly, you’ll want to pack a warm hat, scarf, and gloves. Easy to layer clothes are musts when it comes to packing. After all, while it may be cold outside, the interiors of many shops, restaurants, and, of course, the metro, are all pretty warm!
This way, you can stay warm while wandering around outside and remain comfortable when exploring indoor locations which are often much hotter than you might expect (museums, the metro, bistros, and the like). Otherwise, must bring along essentials include a simple phrasebook like this one and a travel adapter like this one so you can charge all of your electronics during your stay!
What to do in Paris in December
Enjoy a chocolat chaud
One of the best things about visiting the French capital at the end of the year means that it’s the perfect opportunity to enjoy a hot chocolate and warm up in between exploring the streets of the city. Some of the best places to enjoy a chocolat chaud include Carette (at Place des Vosges) and at Lindt (near the Palais Garnier Opera house).
Warm up with a vin chaud
And while we’re on the subject of warming beverages, depending on the time of day, you may also want to enjoy a vin chaud. Though most cafés in Paris sell these during the month of December, the best place to enjoy a mulled wine is at one of the many Christmas markets in town. For those looking to recreate the Christmas markets wine at home, here’s my perfect mulled wine recipe!
Admire the Galeries Lafayette Christmas Tree
Each and every year, the stunning art nouveau stained-glass cupola of the chain’s flagship store is home to a massive Christmas tree. All sparkling lights and twinkling bright, it’s well worth a wander inside! In 2019, the Galeries Lafayette tree’s theme is that of ‘the hive’.
For the best photos of the tree, head to the third floor, where a 9 metre long suspended glass walkway will allow you an entirely new perspective of both the cupola and the tree. You should know that, while free to visit, only 15 people are allowed on the walkway at a time. This means that at busier times of the day, you may have to wait a little while before being allowed on!
Spy the Christmas lights in Paris
If you want to see the illuminations in Paris, then a wander around any part of the city will allow you to enjoy sparkling lights and twinkling sights. With that being said, some of the best places to see the lights in Paris include Rue Saint Dominique, Place Vendome (where sky-high trees are erected on an annual basis), and the Champs Elysées.
The pedestrian street of rue Montorgueil (where you’ll find the likes of the oldest patisserie in Paris, as well as a smattering of fantastic cafés and bars) is always a good location to wander along, and Village Bercy (once a wine producing area of the city) is decked out with twinkling light displays on an annual basis.
Go ice skating
All around the City of Light, you’ll find pop-up ice skating rinks. Though entrance to the rinks is free, you’ll need to pay around €5 for skate rentals. Some of the best ice skating rinks in the city include that of Trocadero, Hôtel de Ville, and around the Eiffel Tower. As of 2019, festive season enthusiasts will be delighted to discover that there’s now a skating rink on the rooftop of the Galeries Lafayette flagship store!
Visit the Parisian Christmas Markets
For those looking for plenty of vin chaud and a festive ambience, it’s worth checking out at least one of the Christmas markets dotted around Paris. Some of the most popular include that of the Jardin des Tuileries, the large one held at La Defense, and the traditional event in Montmartre.
In times gone by, the most popular market was that of the Champs Élysées. However, a dispute between the event organiser and the city means that the market has since been relocated to Tuileries. Other spots in the city where Christmas markets are held include at Châtelet Les Halles and in the Square René-Viviani of the Latin Quarter.
See the window displays of the Grand Magasins
From BHV in Le Marais to Printemps to the Galeries Lafayette flagship store, take place in a French pastime, that of ‘faire du lèche-vitrines’. Literally translated as ‘window licking,’ but in fact meaning ‘window shopping,’ take the time to enjoy the extravagant festive displays in each and every store window. For more information, here’s a guide to the Printemps Christmas windows of 2019.
Coffee shops and cafés I’m loving this month!
The Broken Arm (12 Rue Perrée, 75003 Paris, France)
Located in Le Marais, an area which was once a former marshy swamp but has since been transformed into one of the quirkiest areas of the city, The Broken Arm is a clothing store complete with an adjacent café. Home to some of the best coffee in the city, you can sip your beverage inside, or brave the cold and opt to drink it outside on the little tables in front of the shop!
fringe (106 Rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris)
Though a little on the pricier side of things, fringe coffee shop is an absolute delight in Le Marais district of the city. Popular among visitors and locals alike, be sure to arrive earlier in the day so as to get the best of the seating (which is by the window). Wander in to this 11th arrondissement café during opening hours and you can expect to find an extensive list of speciality coffees and cakes.
Circus Bakery ( 63 Rue Galande, 75005 Paris, France)
Opened in autumn 2018, one of the best places to find cinnamon buns in the city can be found in the form of Circus Bakery. Located in the Latin Quarter, not far from the world-famous Shakespeare and Co. bookshop, Circus serves incredible coffee (latté or espresso), and a wide range of baked goods from Friday through to Monday.
Secret spots you’ve never heard of to visit this month in Paris
Fake Medieval Door
One stroll through the tourist-filled Ile de la Cité, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that there are no more secrets left to discover. However, this is simply not the case! For example, 1-3 Rue des Ursins is home to a pretty wooden door that looks medieval, but actually only dates back to the mid 1900s! If you’re looking for other quirky destinations close to Notre Dame, then check out my guide to the best secret spots in Île de la Cité.
While everyone knows about La Maison Rose and Le Clos Montmartre are always worth a visit, fewer still know about the beautiful street of Villa Leandre. Filled with art-deco houses, this English-inspired street is cobbled and makes for a perfect photo spot! Head to No. 10 and you’ll even find a rather humorous sign which reads ‘Downing Street,’ in reference to the Prime Minister’s offices in the UK.
Alleged to be the oldest passageway in Paris, the Anchor Passage dates back for centuries and also happens to be home to the oldest umbrella repair shop in the city, Pep’s. In operation for close to fifty years, you’ll find this little store tucked away among leafy vines and along the little cobbled lane…
Passage des Panoramas
If you’re looking to shop undercover and want to escape the cold, then the passages couverts are early 19th-century shopping arcades filled with all manner of boutiques, shops, and little restaurants. However, it has to be said that my favourite of all is that of Passage des Panoramas. Along the arcade, you’ll find Prins Patrick, a vendor of vintage postcards for as little as €2 each!