We rarely touch on “things to do in Paris” beyond our neighborhood guide series as this blog is mainly for expats who live in Paris or people who hope to one day become an expat who lives in Paris.
You don’t really need a list of things to do when you’re in a city long term — you hear about them from your friends, signage in the métro, social media, and the like. Most Parisians aren’t looking for advice on the best places to go. They go where their friends are and would never think twice about meandering through throngs of tourists to see the Eiffel Tower, etc.
But, when the Christmas season rolls around even the grouchiest Parisians like to peruse the stalls of a good market while enjoying a vin chaud. There are quite a few to choose from. Here are our favorites.
Village de Noël de Saint-Germain-des-Prés
This is one of my personal favorites as I love the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood. In fact, I used to live there when I was studying in Paris for my semester abroad. I think that’s why I like the area so much — it reminds me of my earliest days in the city when I was only 20 years old and had never lived away from my hometown.
Here you’ll find around 15 different vendors selling their wares, which range from gourmet food products to handmade decor, clothing, and jewelry.
When you’re done browsing, pop into Café Flore or Deux Magots and pretend like you’re a tourist. Try not to balk at the price of a café au lait.
Where? Boulevard Saint-Germain
When? Monday-Friday 11am-9pm, Saturday-Sunday 10am-9pm until January 1
Marché de Noël des Tuileries
If you come to Paris during the winter months you’ve likely already visited this Christmas market. It’s one of the most popular and has been around for decades.
In addition to the 80 vendors selling French foods from every region, artisanal creations, and plenty of hot wine, there are also other attractions. Amusement park rides, an ice skating rink, and games for children are just a few. Go in the evening and make a night out of it, just remember to dress warm.
Where? Jardin des Tuileries
When? Everyday 11am-11:45pm until January 7
Village de Noël de Paris La Défense
If you’re willing to ride Line 1 until its terminus at La Défense, a financial district located just beyond Paris’ borders, you’ll find the largest Christmas market in the city. Okay, it’s not technically in Paris, but La Défense is a part of the “Grand Paris” you may have heard of (another article for another day!).
Here there are 150 vendors, including individuals who sell nativity scenes from Provence, fois gras, cheese, and honey, as well as products from Savoy, Alsace, and beyond. If you have children, there’s a petting zoo, puppet shows, and Santa Claus.
La Défense isn’t my favorite part of Paris — I once had a French course there and I really disliked making the trip — but even I have to admit that the Christmas Market there is one of the best, especially for kids.
Where? Paris La Défense
When? Monday-Thursday 11am-9pm, Friday 11am-10pm, Saturday 10am-10pm, Sunday 11am-9pm until December 27
Marché de Noël Alsacien
Alsace, a northeastern region of France, is known as being a winter wonderland in and of itself so it’s not surprising that there is an Alsatian Christmas Market in Paris. Strasbourg, one of the major cities in the region, has an incredible market throughout the holiday season — if you can’t make it there, this is a good substitute.
The stands sell Kougelhopf, a traditional Alsatian cake, gingerbread, brioche, potato pancakes, and Munster cheese, among other regional delights. This Christmas market is quite shorter than the others, so you may want to head here first.
Where? In front of Gare de l’Est
When? Monday-Saturday 9am-7:30pm, Sunday 10am-7pm until December 18
Le marché de Noël de Notre-Dame
While the Notre-Dame may still be closed to the public (it makes me wonder if it really will open in time for the Olympics next year!), you can still visit the Christmas market that’s set up in the small park that is located just across the street from the cathedral. If you’ve already visited the infamous bookstore Shakespeare and Company, it’s practically next door.
There are 30 vendors, each selling their unique wares. I suggest you go at night so that you can see the Notre-Dame lit up in splendor.
Where? Square René Viviani
When? Monday-Thursday 10am-8pm, Friday-Sunday 10am-9pm until December 25
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