Nothing is so beautiful as Christmas in the City of Lights. If you’re contemplating a winter holiday in Paris, rest assured that it’s an unparalleled delight! There are a couple of extra challenges, but the special events and sights offered only during Christmastime more than compensate. So here’s your handy Paris Christmas guide!

Transportation: The metro and RER are both open during the holidays, even Christmas Day, so no worries there. Cabs will also be running, although you can assume a lesser number will be out-and-about. I suggest jotting down the number of a cab company “just in case.”

Closures: Most closures for major sights will be on Christmas Day, December 25th. You may also find some things closed on the 26th, which is likewise a holiday. Smaller restaurants are likely to shut down on these dates, but you’ll never have any problem finding food in the major tourist areas. 

Special Attractions

Christmas Market StallChristmas Markets:  From the end of November to Christmas, outdoor markets pop up all over the city. Stalls feature handmade crafts, ornaments, and all sorts of delightful seasonal gifts. When it gets closer to the end of November you should be able to find a list of markets on the offical Paris Tourism website (just search “Christmas Markets”). Alternately, just ask around – they’re everywhere!

Outdoor Ice Skating: In the wintertime, the front of the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) is transformed into a giant outdoor skating rink. Très romantique!

Midnight Mass: Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur both have midnight masses. To clarify, that means the midnight that ends the 24th day and begins the 25th. Notre Dame also has other masses and events, notably a concert on Christmas Day. You can see the schedule for Christmas as well as any other day on the Notre Dame website. Although there is a English color-code for the type of event, the schedule itself is in French – so if you need help with anything specific let me know and I’ll check it out. Although less informative, Sacre Coeur also has a website

Tea House: This isn’t specifically a Christmas event, but it comes highly recommended from one of our travel advisors. She says, “My favorite tea house, Angelina, is right across the street from the Louvre. Their hot chocolate (Chocolat Africains) is something you’ll never taste again in your life. It is a wonderful and very French experience!” 

Address: 226 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
Phone: 01 42 60 82 00
Directions: Near Jardin de Tuileries west of Louvre next to the Hôtel Meurice on the r. de Rivoli, around the corner from the r. de Castiglione.
Métro: Concorde or Tuileries

The Usual Suspects: Here are holiday-season days and times for a few of the major attractions.

The Louvre: Open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except Tuesday and the following holidays: January 1st, May 1st, November 11 and December 25, 2008. The permanent collection and temporary exhibitions will close at 5 p.m. on December 24 and 31, 2008 (Wednesday). Louvre website.

Musee D’Orsay: Open from 9.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, except Mondays; late night on Thursdays until 9.45 p.m. Last tickets sold at 5 p.m. (9 p.m. Thursdays); museum cleared at 5.30 p.m. (9.15 p.m. Thursdays); closed on January 1, May 1 and December 25. Musee D’Orsay website

Versailles: Closed on Christmas, and perhaps the day after.  Open from 9:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Versailles website

Tour Eiffel: Open every day! Hours are 9.30 a.m. to 11.45 p.m., and the last ascent starts at 10 p.m. Eiffel Tower website.  

Of course, in addition to all of these things, Paris will also be filled with – what else? – lights. Christmas trees will be everywhere. Everyone will be in a festive mood, and the chilly weather will be perfect for a hearty winter meal, a stroll down the Champs-Élysées, or a cup of hot cocoa shared with your significant other. 

Joyeux Noël!