Paris in the festive season can be absolutely spectacular. Parisians love nothing more than a big celebration to get into the party spirit, and Christmas is no exception. So, in the French capital, Christmas really starts in late November, with the opening of the Christmas markets throughout the city. What would a traditional French Christmas involve, though?
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The Lights of Christmas
Before you think about your traditional Christmas, you should probably take care of some business. Namely presents. The first stop on your Christmas stop is surely one of Paris' many Christmas markets.
The biggest (and also busiest) market in the capital is on the Avenue des Champs Elysées. Here, the market stretches for miles and offers a huge host of goods from mulled wine and gingerbread to homemade gifts, traditional Alsatian presents and modern goodies.
The two other biggest markets are at La Défense and Trocadero, and at the latter you can take part in that great winter tradition: ice skating. With the Eiffel Tower in the background, you can skate (and fall over, inevitably) until your heart is content. If you're looking for something a bit different, though, you can even skate on the first level of the Eiffel Tower itself!
If you don't find the perfect gift at a market, though, Paris' luxurious department stores and boutiques get into the Christmas spirit with their seasonal displays and Christmas opening hours.
Head down to the Rue St-Honore and its countless fashion labels for some truly upmarket shopping in the lead up to Christmas. Colette at No.213 is perfect for the latest trends and you can spend anything from 10 euros to 10,000! Then, the other famous stores, John Galliano, Patrizia Pepe and Roberto Cavalli are all close by, perfect for those extravagant Christmas gifts.
Even if you don't buy anything, it's also worth heading to the Galleries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussmann. Their Christmas decorations are amazing and well worth a look.
Otherwise, for something a bit more bohemian, the shops in the Canal St-Martin area are perfect for finding colourful artwork, books and fashion.
213 Rue Saint-Honoré
386 Rue Saint-Honoré
265 Rue Saint-Honoré
261 Rue Saint-Honoré
Parisians love celebrations. Getting together with friends and/or family, sitting round a table and eating a lot of good food together is pretty much heaven. So, if you're in Paris during Christmas, you're probably going to love it.
Traditionally, Parisians travel to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve to celebrate the coming of Christmas. Even if you have no religious bone in your body, Notre Dame at Christmas is a sight to behold. The famous cathedral is lit up beautifully for you to really feel the Christmas spirit.
After mass, though, is where the fun really starts, as Parisians traditionally head home to eat. That's right: you may have noticed that the French don't like going to bed early and Christmas is no exception. Immediately after mass comes the traditional meal, le Reveillon.
While most Paris restaurants will be closed for Christmas, there are a few to be found open and serving Le Reveillon. One of those is Lucas Carton, who offer a $299 menu, complete with wine. For a less extravagant choice, Les Ombres - with its view of the Eiffel Tower - offers a 170 menu, while there are a number of other bistros open, such as Au Clocher de Montmartre.
Lucas Carton was one of the first gourmet restaurants in Paris. The new head chef is Julien Dumas, after legendary chef and owner Alain Senderens stepped down this year. A bold new chapter has been opened in the restaurant's history, one that diners are loving.
Lucas Carton - 9 Place de la Madeleine - 75008
Les Ombres may be famed for its view, and while it is an amazing view over the Eiffel Tower, the food doesn't deserve to be overshadowed such. There also can't be many restaurants on top of a museum.
Les Ombres - 27 Quai Branly - 75007
Au Clocher de Montmartre has quickly gained a reputation as the best restaurant on the hill. Pretty much next door to the Sacre Coeur, the restaurant offers great views to go with its high quality food and reasonable prices.
Au Clocher de Montmartre - 10 Rue Lamarck - 75018
Traditionally, Santa brings presents to the children after midnight mass. He has a few more differences from the American Santa Claus, too. Usually called Pere Noel or Father Christmas, he leaves presents in the children's shoes and slippers next to the fireplace.
On Christmas Day, it's tradition to spend the day with family and the city will take on a magical quiet, especially compared to every day Paris life. Especially if there has been snow, the city has a real magical feel and you can head out for a post-Christmas dinner walk to clear that food lethargy and get yourself ready for an evening of Christmas fun and games.
For an alternative Christmas Day, you could try climbing the Eiffel Tower, or how about taking a boat ride on the Seine. If you've got kids with you, what could be better than Christmas Day in Disneyland! The RER will be running, so go exploring and enjoy something outside of your normal Christmas routine, something that will live with you forever.
Bringing in the New Year
Of course, after Christmas is over, you've got New Year to look forward to and in Paris you have a large choice when it comes to partying the year away.
There is the obligatory fireworks show and you can gather on the Champs Elysées to watch the Parisian fireworks on New Year's Eve. Other than that, it has become a modern tradition to take a cruise on the Seine, watching the fireworks while enjoying a glass of champagne to say hello to the New Year.
For the big party people out there, the Champs Elysées VIP New Year at Les Planches promises a bustling crowd of clubbers until 6 in the morning, while for a more refined evening, the Red Light District's most famous landmark could be right up your street.
The Moulin Rouge New Year's Eve parties are famed for their decadence and you can enjoy an extravagant dinner finished off with the famous venue's spectacular cabaret.
If you'd rather be outside for the evening, but want to avoid the hustle and bustle of the Champs Elysées, then Montmartre may well be for you. The street parties on the hill take on a more relaxed form than those down on the Champs Elysées, but the sense of revelry is still there and you get an amazing view over Paris. You also get the added benefit of being close to a host of Montmartre restaurants and their New Year's celebrations, including the aforementioned Au Clocher.
Probably the most famous cabaret in the world, the Moulin Rouge is the main attraction in Paris' Red Light District. Made even more famous by the musical and movie of the same name, the venue offers stunning shows most nights.
82 Boulevard de Clichy
Calendar of Events
Disney's Enchanted Christmas
November 9th - January 7th 2014
November 15th - December 24th 2014
Theatre Gerard Philipe
59 boulevard Jules Guesde
September 4th - December 31st 2014
International Automobile Festival
December 4th 2014 - February 1st 2015
Esplanade des Invalides
129 Rue de Grenelle
The Fééries d'Auteuil
December 6th - December 14th 2014
40 rue Jean de La Fontaine
The Studio and Apartment of Suzanne Valadon and Maurice Utrillo
October 1st 2014 - December 31st 2015
12-14 rue Cortot
Countess Greffulhe's Wardrobe
November 30th 2014 - January 31st 2015
10 avenue Pierre ler de Serbie
Jeff Koons exhibition
November 26th 2014 - April 27th 2015
Place Georges Pompidou
Boyz II Men
December 3rd 2014
Le Palais Des Congrés De Paris
2 Place de la Porte Maillot
December 5th 2014
Le Zenith de Paris
211 Avenue Jean Jaurès
Winter Camp Festival
December 9th - December 13th 2014
La Bohême (Opera)
30th November - 30 December 2014
Bastille Opera House
Place de la Bastille
Around the World in 80 Days
25 September - 19 December 2014
Théatre du Splendid
48 rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin
Cyrano de Bergerac
19 October 2014 - 29 December 2014
38 rue des Mathurins
Gucci Masters Jumping International
4th December - 7th December 2014
Parc des Expositions Paris Nord
82 avenue des nations
Zac Paris Nord 2
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