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Paris at Christmas time

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Questions for those of you who have been to Paris at Christmas time...

 

1.  We are thinking of going from Dec 24th - Jan 2nd due to our daughter’s college break (she can not miss any days like we were able to when she was in high school).  How is Paris during this time of year?  Is it extremely crowded?

 

2.  We would love to visit a Christmas market - any suggestions of ones you loved and would recommend?
 

3.  Any special things that you enjoyed during the holiday season that you recommend we do?

 

4.  Any hotel you would recommend for a family of 4 - 2 parents, 2 teens?


3 of us were in Paris in the summer of 2017 when it was 100+ degrees so this will be a much different experience being that it will be cold.

 

Thanks in advance for any information you can provide.  I know this is all dependent on what happens with Coronavirus, but I figured we can start planning the trip and then book it once we know it is safe to travel.

 

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Posted (edited)

I spent 4(?) nights in Paris for Christmas about 3 years ago followed by 4(?) nights in London.  I arrived in Paris on the morning of December 24th.  Christmas Eve is the big family gathering event of Christmas from what I've read, so things close down early on the Eve.  I spent this first day mostly exploring outside sights and walking around.  I did have pre-purchased tickets to go to the top of Eiffel Tower at 4:00pm (I think).  By that time, I was so tired from jet lag that I went back to my hotel and slept through the night after climbing the tower.  On Christmas Day, not much was open, so again, it was a day of external sightseeing.  I went to Montmatre and explored that area and went inside Sacre-Coeur during Christmas Mass.  It was very crowded and I couldn't see much since I was stuck in the back.  But it was memorable to hear the service in French with chorale singing.

 

The Metro system was open and I used it extensively to get around town (with a LOT of walking too).  My Fitbit measured 11 miles of walking on Christmas Day.

 

On December 26th, the city was pretty much back open for business.  I don't recall any tourist sights being closed.  Lines were quite long to get in the museums.  I had decided to not focus on museums this trip and didn't pre-purchase any tickets.  In hind sight, I wish I had, because I had time and interest to go in the Louvre or the d'Orsay, but the lines were very long and I didn't want to spend time in them.  So, yes, it is crowded.  But not "summertime crowded", I'm sure.

 

The weather was fine.  I think it rained a little one day.  It was chilly, but not overly cold.  Maybe in the upper 40s/low 50s.  I did not take a heavy coat.  I wore layers and a fleece sweatshirt type jacket and was fine.  Since I did so much walking, I was keeping myself warm.

 

There are several Christmas Markets around town.  A big one is along the Champs-Elysees and well worth the visit.  It was very crowded once it opened in the evenings.  There was a smaller one near my hotel in Saint Germain area.  That was enough for me to visit!  One of the things I loved most was seeing how little squares or traffic triangles all over the city were decorated with a few Christmas trees or something ornamental.  Lots of smaller streets have lights hanging across them.  You should definitely check out the area around the Hotel de Ville and the rest of Le Marais.  

 

Also, don't skip the Christmas window displays at the large department stores (I think it was Printemps and Galeries Lafayette).  Very large crowds walking past them, but well worth the visit.

 

Go. Just walk around.  See some sights.  It's a good time and the family will love it.  

 

Consider splitting your time with London and taking the EuroStar train under the English Channel to get there.  For me, that was a bucket list item.  I found London was still largely in Christmas mode when I arrived there on the 28th (or 29th) and just as memorable as Paris.  

Edited by MeHeartCruising

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MeHeartCruising,

 

Thank you so much for all of the detail you provided and the suggestion for London too.  I really appreciate the time you took to share all if the information.  I’m really hoping that travel will be back to normal and we can make this trip happen for our teens.

 

Thank you!

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The Christmas market in Champs Elysees has been discontinued a couple of years ago (MeHeartCruising it's possible you were at the last edition). The main Christmas Market is now in Tuileries, but it's not 100% guaranteed it will happen again this year. There are some smaller markets around town usually.

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Note:

Christmas Markets will close usually early on the 24th of december; as the main business is to sell Christmas presents and therefore no use after that date for them (and shop owners themself like to celebrate Christmas as well)

The only things which will still be there are the decorations and the departments stores...

 

Paris is always crowded and the time in between Christmas and New Year is pretty much everywhere school holidays. Paris is a very popular city destination among Europeans.

 

And it can be very cold...

 

As for hotels; the "Mercure Gare de Lyon" is pretty and central...

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The fire works at the Eiffel Tower on New Years are amazing!  Just beware the restaurant prices that evening are astronomical!  It is cool and can be rainy or even snow.  We took silk long underwear and it was great for under our clothes.  We actually got snowed in at the airport several years ago as flights were cancelled.

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