Happy Thursday Hidden Gem Travel community! How was your Thanksgiving weekend? If you celebrate Hanukkah, I hope you enjoyed the first nights with your loved ones. The holiday season is upon us – is it your favorite time of year? This December will look a little different for me this year as I’m heading off on another scouting trip. The destination and experience will be revealed so stay tuned!
While I love being home during the holidays, I equally adore seeing my favorite destinations decked out for the season. My partners at Decouvertes in France shared a list of how to make the most of Christmasttime in Paris and its environs, and I thought I’d share it with you as we start the holiday season. As you would expect, the “City of Lights” offers decorations, festivals, and much more during the month of December. Read on for the scoop!
Stroll the Store Christmas Windows
Stroll the beautifully decorated store windows around Paris. Spectacular animated scenes with shimmering lights, festive holiday music, Christmas trees, toys, teddy bears, and elegantly wrapped presents adorn the windows.
Five stores with decorated windows not to be missed are Printemps Haussmann, Galeries Lafayette, BHV Marais, Bon Marché, and La Samaritaine.
The windows can be seen starting in early in November, just as the city begins to glow with Christmas lights and other decorations. Teams of artists and decorators work for a year to create the charming holiday scenes.
Attend a Christmas Concert
Hear a classical performance while seeing one of Paris’ most magnificent churches.
The concerts staged in the majestic Sainte-Chapelle are perhaps the most striking. The Church, located on the Ile-de-la-Cité, has one of the world’s most extensive collections of 13th century stained glass. The combination of excellent classical music and refracted light flowing via colorful glasses creates a beautiful ambiance. Two other top recommendations for a Christmas concert are Opéra de Paris Bastille and Opera Garnier.
Explore the Christmas Markets
Paris is stunning all year round, but in winter, the air is filled with the scent of spiced delicacies and vin chaud (mulled wine), which drifts over from the various Christmas markets.
A few stops for visitors should include:
La Magie de Noël, Tuileries Garden – La Magie de Noel (“The Magic of Christmas”) has risen from the ashes of the Champs-Elysées Christmas Market, which closed some years ago. It now sprawls throughout the immense green expanse of Tuileries Garden. Around 100 vendors offer every Christmas trinket conceivable, as well as abundant food to keep the elves, Santa, the reindeer, and the whole North Pole occupied all year. Roasted mulled wine, chestnuts, an ice rink, a massive Christmas tree, and even an entire fairground with ornately adorned carousels are part of the festive experience.
Marché de Noël, Notre Dame – This Christmas market is found near Notre-Dame Cathedral. Visitors will see the oldest tree in Paris, which dates from the 17th century by the Square René Viviani. The market itself is charming, and the several artisan booths make it an excellent place to get mosaics, stationery, and raku (special Japanese pottery).
Go Ice Skating
During the Christmas season, there are a variety of outdoor and indoor ice rinks for skating in Paris.
First, visit the Le Grand Palais indoor ice rink. This gorgeous landmark has the world’s biggest skating rink, which transforms into a spectacular light and music display at night, making it a must-see!
Then the outdoor rooftop ice-rink at La Défense would offer a 360-degree panorama of Paris.
Finally, take a spin on the classic ice rink next to Paris Town Hall, situated in the center of the city.
Christmas at Château de Versailles
You may have visited Chateau de Versailles in the summer with throngs of tourists, but Versailles is well worth visiting in December for a baroque take on the holiday season.
Beyond the many decorations, a visit to Versailles during the holidays is fun for all ages. Visitors enjoy seasonal concerts, a Christmas market, an ice skating rink, and even a meeting with a Baroque Santa Claus in the Battle Gallery!
Midnight mass on Christmas eve at the Royal Chapel is a must-do experience for travelers who celebrate.
Less than an hour outside of Paris, 16th-century Vaux-Le-Vicomte is festively decorated for the holidays each year with lights, illuminations, and elegant ornaments. Every room of the castle is decorated in a distinct color scheme and has several surprises, turning a visit to this enchanting castle into a world of wonder.
This year, the French celebrate the 400th birthday of beloved poet Jean de la Fontaine, the castle’s holiday decorations will honor characters from his charming fables. The castle will offer an immersive 360-degree illumination experience in the Grand Salon, and magical light projections on the exterior of the main building. The outbuildings, courtyards, and gardens will also reflect the season.
At night, the gardens light up with thousands of lights making the topiary and plantings sparkle
Inspired? If you’re ready to plan a trip to Paris, schedule a consultation at www.hiddegemtravelconsulting.com/contact.