Home » Featured Events » Christmas in France
Featured Events Paris Sightseeing

Christmas in France

Holiday Decorations
Ave des Champs-Elysées
Façades on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées

Traveling to France is exciting anytime of the year, but going for Christmas is a vacation you won’t soon forget. Paris and all of France dresses for the occasion with lights and decorations which transforms the cities and shopping areas into nothing short of a magical winter wonderland. Having just spent two weeks visiting Paris and Strasbourg, I can say my own decorating skills pale in comparison; the French know how to do it up big!

Christmas decorations Paris
Christmas decorations in Paris
holiday lights
Holiday lights on the Ave des Champs Elysées
Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe at Night

My Christmas journey began in Paris and took me through the decorated cobblestone streets where the shopkeepers put on their best look for the holiday. I visited several churches to see the Nativity scenes, and then strolled through Luxembourg Gardens. They’re sleeping until spring, but the Medici Fountain is a still beautiful even in the throes of winter.

Notre Dame Cathédral
Eglise St-Etienne-du-Mont, Paris
Palais du Luxembourg
Palais du Luxembourg (French Senate)
Medici Fountain
Medici Fountain in Luxembourg Gardens

I have been to Paris before and each time I stood UNDER the Eiffel Tower but never could convince myself to go up into it. This time I decided I would see what all the fuss was about. I highly recommend taking the elevator up because unless you carry an extra pair of legs with you, it will be a long way up and quite a muscle workout. The view from the tower – even just the second level — cannot be beat: all of Paris is at your feet!

Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower
Ice rink on the Eiffel Tower
Ice rink on the Eiffel Tower

There is a growing anticipation, I am told, every year when the private Musée des Arts Forains (aka Museum of Carnival Arts) opens to the public for the holidays. I was there when the doors opened and I can understand the enthusiastic crowds because this was one man’s collection of antique carnival rides, memorabilia, statues and fun games of chance (which you can play).

Museum of Carnival Arts
Decorations at the Museum of Carnival Arts
Museum of Carnival Arts
Rabbit on the Museum of Carnival Arts carousel
Museum of Carnival Arts
Pipe organ at the Museum of Carnival Arts
Peninsula Hotel
The Peninsula Hotel, Paris
Peninsula Hotel
Christmas Afternoon Tea at The Peninsula Hotel
Fouquet's
Fouquet’s on the Champs Elysées

The main draw of France for me was the idea of visiting the many Christmas markets that are everywhere, filled with regional foods, mulled wine, pastries and those coveted ornaments and decorations that you just can’t find anywhere else. I browsed through quite a few in Paris, including the large one along the Champs Élyseés with its magical lights and people going about their gift shopping. But the ultimate destination was to Strasbourg for three days of shopping, sightseeing and soaking up the Christmas atmosphere.

Strasbourg, France
Petit-France Village, Strasbourg
Strasbourg
Petit-France Village, Strasbourg
Strasbourg Cathedral
Strasbourg Cathedral

Strasbourg is called the Capital of Christmas, and for good reason: the very first Christmas Market opened there in 1570. Today there are actually 11 markets spread out throughout the town, and in between them every single inch of the town is decorated with lights and ornaments, including the streets, alleyways and buildings. In the main square is the largest Christmas tree in all of Europe! Standing watch at the center of it all is the magnificent Strasbourg Cathedral. If you are a brave soul and want to experience the town and all the surrounding landscape, you can walk up the 333 steps to the top of the cathedral’s tower and enjoy the view.

View, Strasbourg Cathedral
View from atop Strasbourg Cathedral
Christmas Decorations, Strasbourg
Christmas Decorations, Strasbourg
Christmas Decorations, Strasbourg
Hotel Cour du Corbeau, Strasboutg
Hotel Cour du Corbeau, Strasboutg
Hotel Cour du Corbeau, Strasboutg
Hotel Cour du Corbeau, Strasboutg
Traditional Alsatian Christmas
Traditional Alsatian Christmas

While in Strasbourg, I visited the Strasbourg Historical Museum that told the story of the region from the Roman times through the Middle Ages and the French Revolution. A newly opened section highlights the struggle the Alsatians endured when they were annexed to Prussia in 1871 and then occupied in WWII by the German Army. I also visited the Alsatian Museum of Art and Folk Tradition, which shares the unique heritage of the Alsatian people. I highly recommend seeing both of these.

Strasbourg Christmas Market
Strasbourg Christmas Market
Strasbourg Christmas Tree
Strasbourg Christmas Tree
Christmas Lights Strasbourg
Christmas Lights at Strasbourg Cathedral
Christmas Market in Strasbourg
Christmas Market in Strasbourg
Chateau Vaux-Le-Vicomte
Chateau Vaux-Le-Vicomte

I also took a daytrip one hour south of the city to the Chateau Vaux-Le-Vicomte, an absolute must see on your Christmas itinerary. There is nothing to compare the exquisite decorations in each and every room. If you’re looking for inspirational holiday decorating ideas for your own home, this is the crème de la crème. The current owners live on the grounds in a different part of the château and as I toured the gardens and the rooms I couldn’t help but envy them for living in such a magical place.

Chateau Gardens
Gardens of the Chateau Vaux-Le-Vicomte
garden statues
Garden Statues at the Chateau Vaux-Le-Vicomte
Christmas Decorations
Christmas Decorations in Chateau Vaux-Le-Vicomte

Even with the chilly, wet weather, both Paris and Strasbourg are worth a visit during the holidays when they’re full of Christmas cheer in every shop, restaurant, museum and outdoor market. Come with your warmest mittens and an appetite for mulled wine and foie gras!

Christmas Decorations in Chateau Vaux-Le-Vicomte

Sharon Autry lives in Gettysburg, PA, where she takes photos of the historic battlefields for her website Gettysburg Beat.

Read more about Christmas in Paris

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

Have something to say? Join the conversation!

Secrets of Paris Newsletter Zero Ads & Zero Fluff Since 1999

Get the free Secrets of Paris Newsletter for the best insider tips delivered directly to your inbox each month.