When trying to get into the holiday spirit at the darkest time of the year, naturally, the first thing I look for is lights. In my childhood, any car trip after dusk in November involved me staring out the back window, counting houses with christmas lights. It made me excited to see the lights multiplying as the days passed, like an electric advent calendar.
As an adult, walking around Paris it sometimes feels like Christmas is optional (which perhaps it should be, as not everyone celebrates it). Nonetheless, it still makes me smile to see the banners of holiday lights arching over the avenues in each arrondisement’s market areas. And, while it’s rare to see entire houses lit up for the holidays, my daughter has made a game of counting apartment lobbies that have sapins de noël in our neighborhood. I feel like you have to seek out the esprit de Noël in Paris. How festive you get is up to you. So, with that in mind, here are few places to visit if you seek holiday sparkle.
Jardin des Plantes, in the 5th Arrondissement puts on a show for the holidays that is more than just pretty lights, it’s educational. There are giant colorful sculptures representing the natural world. For example, last year’s theme was "L'évolution En Voie D’Illumination”, a brightly colored journey through the prehistoric periods that was a lot of fun. This year, the theme is “Mini-Mondes En Voie D’Illumination”. I suspect it’s giant bugs. Fun! Tickets range from 12-17€, with prices higher on the weekends. (57 rue Cuvier, 75005)
Lumieres en Seine, in St. Cloud is also calling me. From the ads I’m seeing, it’s an outdoor explosion of lights, decorations, and special effects. It looks like Vegas in a forest, if that’s what you’re into. Sometimes, over the top is exactly what’s needed. Tickets range from 16 to 20€, higher on weekends and during the school break. (Domaine National de St. Cloud 92210)
Jardin des Tuileries. When we first moved here, there was a Christmas Market stretching down the illuminated Champs Elysées, with endless kiosks of food, hot drinks, gifts and games begging for your money. Champs Elysées still sparkles, but in the past few years, presumably for safety reasons they’ve moved the festivities off the avenue, down to the Tuileries. It's basically the same carnival rides they have in the summer, with Christmas decorations and a fake ice rink. Nevertheless, getting a vin chaud and riding the ferris wheel at night, looking out over the illuminated city is something you really can’t do anywhere else. (Place de la Concorde 75001)
Grand Magasins. If you can brave the crowds, Galeries Lafayette is the go-to for classic holiday sparkle, both inside and out. The window displays are always awesome for kids, and there are vendors on the sidewalk selling crafts and christmas trinkets. But don’t sleep on the other department stores. Samaritaine, which is beautiful to look at any time, will be extra pretty and will feature dancing displays inside and out. Le Bon Marche features an art installation in its atrium as well as decorated windows. BHV Marais will be decked out, and inside the store, your kids can get a photo op with Santa, and they will offer supervised activities for your kids while you shop (!). Just across the street, l’Hotel de Ville will feature “une village de Noel'' with free animations for the kids, a visit with Père Noel, and a marché. (Galeries Lafayette 40 Blvd Haussmann 75009; Samaritaine 9 rue de la Monnaie 75001; Le Bon Marche 24 rue de Sevres 75007; BHV Marais/ Place de l’Hotel de Ville 75004)
Parc des Princes. Due to the World Cup going on, Parc de Princes is empty through the end of the year. So, for the first time, they’ve got a Marché de Noel at the stadium. The football minded can visit the inside of the stadium, consume chalet cuisine like raclette, fondue, vin chaud and do faux ice skating and curling. Paris est Magique! (24 Rue du Commandant Guilbaud, 75016)
About the Author:
Rachelle Chapman is the mom of Camille (11) and Message Paris Blog Manager. Originally a Chicago native, she has been living in Paris since 2014.
All photos in this article taken by Rachelle Chapman.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of Message.