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Unique Winter Experiences in Paris

Why Visiting Paris in December or January is a Great Idea
Christmas window displays at Galeries Lafayette.
December 13, 2019
Although you might think that spring or summer is the best time to enjoy the City of Light, winter can be a magical time to visit Paris. Tons of fun, cold-weather activities are offered around the city and there are always beautiful Christmas lights and illuminations to be seen.

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Although the French capital is lovely in all seasons, winter in Paris certainly offers something a little extra special. Be it sparkling lights, winter activities, or just that festive buzz — this city does it so well. Here are a few of my favorite things to do in Paris in December, January, and February.

Ice Skating in Paris

In winter, ice rinks pop up in the most scenic parts of Paris. You can even skate on top of the Eiffel Tower, well not exactly the top, but on the first floor. Glide around under the gigantic metal structure and look down without getting vertigo.

Or go skating under the great glass roof of the Grand Palais in the daytime or at night for a one-of-a-kind nightclub experience. Or right in front of the Hôtel de Ville. Each of the venues rents out skates, so no need to bring your own!

Reservations are required for skating at the Grand Palais –

Ice skating rink on top of the Galeries Lafayette
Ice skating rink on top of the Galeries Lafayette Haussmann in 2020

Nativity Scene at Notre-Dame

Reminding us what Christmas is actually about, the nativity scenes in Notre Dame Cathedral are always stunning. On display throughout December until February, they are worth seeing a few times. The three kings, for example, aren’t added until Epiphany, in January.

Window Displays of the Grands Magasins

Paris department stores Printemps and Galeries Lafayette deck out their windows each year for Christmas, and every year it seems to get better and better. Magical displays inspired by children’s stories or styled around specific sponsors make it fun to stand and watch while the crowds push past.

For 2022, Galeries Lafayette’s holiday decorations recount the adventures of Nordmann the Christmas tree who’s come to us from the planet Elato.

Christmas window displays at Galeries Lafayette.

Lights at Place Vendôme

Yes, the lights on the Champs Élysées are famous, but the ones leading up to Place Vendôme are, in my opinion, much more stylish and beautiful. Maybe it’s the setting but walking around the column really does make it feel like Christmas.

Here are few more of the best places in Paris to see holiday lights

Skiing below Sacré-Coeur

When it snowed in Paris in early 2018, people skied down the slopes in front of Sacré Coeur. But even if you didn’t bring your skis, it’s magical to see the hill covered in snow with the white basilica standing behind it.

Sacré Coeur in the snow.

Nutcracker Ballet

A Christmas must-see, The Nutcracker ballet is being performed at the Palais des Congrès from December 27, 2022 to January 8, 2023. There are still tickets available on sites like Ticketmaster, but you’d better hurry. It tends to sell out quickly!

Shop at Galerie Vivienne

If the weather isn’t cooperating but you’d still like to walk around and enjoy the seasonal atmosphere, head straight to Galerie Vivienne.

Always dressed up to the nines with twinkle lights galore, the shops inside make for ideal present shopping, while the cafés and restaurants at either end will keep up your energy levels. You’ll stay warm and dry while wandering this beautiful glass-roofed passage.

Entrance to Galerie Vivienne in Paris.

Looking for more ways to enjoy the French capital in the cold? These authentic Parisian experiences are sure warm you up!

Editor’s note: Article originally published December 5, 2018. Last updated November 25, 2022 to reflect current decoration themes, event dates, and locations.

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