Inevitably, to talk about the month of December is to talk about Christmas. In Paris, and in cities all over the world, this holiday marks the whole month. But it is certainly not a negative thing. Thanks to Christmas, the so-called city of light shines brighter than ever and looks more beautiful and spectacular than during the rest of the year.
It also gives us the opportunity to enjoy events and activities exclusive to this month. Seeing the illuminations, visiting the typical Christmas markets or ice skating in some of the most spectacular places in Paris are just a few examples of what we can do. If you want to find out more in this post I share with you the best things to do and see in Paris in December.
1. See the Eiffel Tower in snow
Snow is quite likely to make an appearance in Paris in December. Seeing the city in snow more than makes up for the cold weather. And the best way to enjoy the snowy French capital is from its best-known vantage point. From the Eiffel Tower with its magnificent views.
The tower has three viewpoints, one on the first floor, another on the second floor and the last one at the top at an altitude of over 300 metres. From these you can see monuments such as the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame. The price of the ticket depends on whether you go up on foot or by lift, among other factors. Here is all the information you need to know to buy your tickets for the Eiffel Tower.
2. Attend an opera show to keep out the cold
In December there are always alternative plans to keep out the cold. One of the best options is to visit the Opéra Garnier and attend one of its shows. The spectacular building can be visited to learn the secrets of the opera and what goes on behind the scenes. Doing so will surprise you with its beauty and make you want to go to a show.
Tickets can be purchased from the website or from the box office, but given the high demand, I recommend you buy them online.
3. Take a break from the Christmas season and the cold at the Louvre
So much Christmas and so much cold can be tiring for some people. If you want to escape from both, what better way to do it than to see some of the best works of art in the world. The Louvre Museum allows us to spend a day away from the hustle and bustle of the Christmas streets and under cover while we see works of art such as the Mona Lisa, the Victory of Samothrace or the Venus de Milo|element, among many others.
We won't even have to go out to eat, as there are several restaurants in the Louvre.
And if you have Christmas shopping to do, don't miss the Louvre shops, as well as the official museum shop. The latter is ideal for art gifts. The museum is closed on 25 December.
4. A fairytale Christmas at Disneyland Paris
Who hasn't dreamed of living a Christmas like in the Disney films? Well, in Paris you can do it if you visit Disneyland. During the Christmas season, Europe's most famous theme park is decked out in spectacular Christmas decorations and holds events and activities exclusively for the festive season with its most iconic characters.
It is one of the most special Christmas experiences you can have, especially for the little ones. In addition to meeting Mickey and company, in the park's shops you can find the best gifts for the children of the house. Disney has everything to make Christmas magical.
5. See the city of light at its best with the Christmas lights
Paris is known as the city of light as it was the first European capital to install electric lighting. Since then it has gained a reputation that does the city justice, especially at Christmas. Paris at Christmas is one of the best cities in the world for lovers of Christmas and Christmas lights.
Some of its streets are the most beautiful in the world in this respect and millions of tourists travel to the French city just to admire its illumination. The Champs Elysées, Avenue de Montaigne and the Montmartre district are the best places in Paris to see the city at its best.
Obviously, it's at night when it's at its best. My recommendation is to hire a Paris sightseeing bus that will take you on a tour of these and other streets famous for their illumination. You can't miss the lights on monuments like the Eiffel Tower or Notre Damme either.
6. The best time to see the Sacré Coeur, the Madeleine Church or Notre Dame
Paris is also known for the beauty of its churches. A beauty that at Christmas time is enhanced by the special lighting of some of them. The most recommended at this time of year are:
- Sacré-Coeur Basilica: The church that crowns the hill of Montmartre and offers one of the best views of Paris is illuminated on Christmas nights in a unique and spectacular way.
- Church of the Madeleine: Near the Place de la Concorde is this neoclassical church that receives a large number of visitors at Christmas time thanks to its famous Christmas crib.
- Notre Dame: Although the interior of NotreDame cannot be visited after a fire in 2019, the illumination of the cathedral's façade and the market in its square make Paris' most famous church one of the city's main Christmas attractions.
7. Visit the traditional Christmas markets
Another of the traditions linked to Paris in December are the Parisian Christmas markets. In many of the city's emblematic places and squares, these markets have been set up since the beginning of November, where you can buy all kinds of items.
French gastronomic products, handicrafts, winter clothes and Christmas items of all kinds can be found at these markets. And where are the main markets located? Well, get out a pencil and paper and make a note:
- On the Champs Elysées (the most famous).
- Inthe Tuileries gardens next to the Louvre.
- In the square of the Hôtel de Ville (Paris City Hall).
- At Notre Dame Cathedral.
- In the Champ de Mars (under the Eiffel Tower).
8. Ice skate in some of the most emblematic places in Paris
Parisians love ice skating when winter and Christmas are approaching. It is also a highly recommended activity for tourists. So much so that it has become almost a tradition and the city council installs ice rinks all over the city. Some of them in very special locations:
- The rink at the Grand Palais des Glaces, the largest in France and the third largest indoor ice rink in the world.
- In the Fields of Mars, under the Eiffel Tower.
- And in the Eiffel Tower itself. An ice rink is installed on the first floor at a height of 57 metres.
- On the Champs Elysées.
- On the square of the Hôtel de Ville, the city's town hall.
9. Visit the Galeries Lafayette
One of Paris's long-established Christmas traditions is a visit to the famous Galeries Lafayette. Located next to the Opéra Garnier, this department store is famous for its glass dome and architecture.
Added to this is a spectacular Christmas decoration that invites visitors to buy their Christmas presents. Although that's an added bonus, it's worth a visit alone. In the centre is a huge interactive Christmas tree with lights and figures, and the shop windows are a showcase of Christmas spirit.
10. Shopping in the Champs Elysées
Speaking of shopping, where is the best area in Paris for it? Well, there are plenty of options, but at Christmas time I'd go for the Champs Elysées. If you're looking to buy the best Christmas gifts, this famous two-kilometre-long avenue is home to many of the world's most famous shops and brands.
Throughout the year its shop windows and shops attract the attention of any visitor, but at Christmas this is multiplied thanks to the spectacular Christmas illumination of this avenue that starts at the Place de la Concorde and ends at the Arc de Triomphe. Shopping is not always a pleasure, but if you do it in what for many is the most beautiful street in the world, it's a different story.
December temperatures in Paris
December is the coldest month of the year in Paris, but it is the second coldest month of the year after January. Temperatures range from a high of 7 degrees Celsius to a low of 2 degrees Celsius. Rainfall is also frequent and December averages between 15 and 22 rainy days.
But rain doesn't come alone, and snow is also likely to make an appearance. Although it's unusual, it's not unusual for it to snow a couple of days a month. So if you're going to Paris in December, bundling up is a must.
Tourist crowds in Paris in December
There are countless things to do and see in Paris. However, in December there are two opposing elements. The intense cold in the capital and Christmas. The cold weather may make some people think twice about visiting Paris at this time of year, but Christmas wins the battle more often than not. Paris looks especially beautiful in December and is enough of a lure to attract millions of tourists.
As a result, the number of tourists is very high. At the beginning of December, tourism is moderate, but as the Christmas season approaches, it increases considerably. Hotels and restaurants are booked up well in advance for the last few days of the month and are often sold out. This also drives up prices in the city.
But it is a price to pay for visiting one of the most beautiful cities in the world at a time when it is at its best.
What to pack for a visit to Paris in December
The cold weather will undoubtedly be a major factor in packing for your trip to Paris in December. Take a large suitcase as winter clothes take up a lot of space and you'll want to leave some room in case you buy a Christmas present. In your suitcase you should definitely pack:
- A heavy coat. Better if it's waterproof.
- Thick jumpers or knitwear.
- Waterproof clothes for rain and possible snow.
- Winter accessories such as gloves, hat or scarf.
- Comfortable, waterproof footwear. And if snow is forecast, boots with good grip.
- Thick socks are a must if you don't want to freeze your feet.
- Take a large suitcase for winter clothes and, if you plan to do your Christmas shopping in Paris, an extra one.