Paris is a city in thrall to electric light. From the sparkling stars that flicker nightly on the Eiffel Tower to the atmospheric globe lights that line the banks of the Seine, a evening stroll at any time of year is sure to charm. All that goes up at notch in the weeks before Christmas, when festive Marchés de Noël appear along some of the city’s most iconic boulevards. Selling vin chaud, sweet gingerbread and handmade trinkets and decorated with a thousand twinkling bulbs, if you’re in the French capital in the lead up to the big day you should definitely make time for a market or two. Here are some of the most magical Christmas markets in Paris to help you on your way.
La Magie de Noël, Jardin des Tuileries
For the first time in 2018, you’ll find a Christmas market in the Tuileries garden. This new event, called La Magie de Noël (the magic of Christmas) replaces the iconic Champs Elysées that was cancelled last year after a dispute between the city and the market organisers. Never fear, this new version promises to be more spectacular than ever. Expect traditional carved carousels, an ice rink and over 100 different chalets selling wine, food and hand carved tree decorations. If you find yourself wandering here, stroll up the nearby Champs Elysées to marvel at their display of Christmas lights.
La Défense - one of the biggest Christmas markets in Paris © kavalenkava/Shutterstock
Marché de Noël, La Défense
In the shadow of the impressive Arche de la Défense in Paris’ financial district, this annual market is remarkable for its scale alone. There’s usually some 250 chalets selling regional goods, wooden toys, mulled wine and more. The contrast of the twee wooden chalets against the hyper modern skyscrapers presents a unique twist on the annual tradition. For younger visitors, the market has festive figures in costume strolling through the crowds, and “Santa’s phonebooth” where kids can call in their wish lists to the big man himself.
Pavillon des Cadeaux, Quai de la Loire
If you’re in Paris on a mission to complete your Christmas shopping, don’t miss the Pavillon des Cadeaux on Quai de la Loire in the city centre. The market is dedicated entirely to unusual Christmas presents and includes wine from artisan producers, toys and jewellery among other things. And don’t forget that all the top department stores – from Galeries Lafayette to Printemps – decorate their windows with festive displays and often have special offers for shoppers in-store.
Notre Dame Cathedral at Christmas © Petr Kovalenkov/Shutterstock
Marché de Noël, Cathedral Notre Dame
For one of the most festive Christmas markets in Paris, the event at Notre Dame Cathedral is hard to beat. Set in the picturesque Square Viviani, just across the bridge from the iconic church (and next to Shakespeare & Co), it’s the usual mix of food, drink and gifts with one difference. There’s a focus on gastronomy when it comes to the food stalls, which should please the dedicated foodies among you. Make sure you keep an eye out for the huge decorated tree in the main cathedral square too.
Nordic Christmas Markets in Paris
Do your tastes skew towards the Scandi? Then make a beeline to the Norwegian Market at La Recylerie near Porte de Clignancourt metro. You’ll find everything you need for a hggye celebration, from sweet wooden horses to cosy candle holders and impossibly stylish advent calendars, all created in a palette of red, white and cream. Alternatively, head to the Swedish church in Paris, for the annual Christmas market, usually held the first weekend in December. You’ll find traditional gravadlax on sale, along with lingonberry jam, chic greetings cards and kitchenwares. All highly giftable, and it certainly beats going to Ikea!
Lingonberry jam is a staple of Swedish cuisine © Linus Strandholm/Shutterstock
Atelier des Artistes, 59 Rivoli
If the idea of decorated chalets and festive tunes makes you shudder, how about this for an alternative? 59 Rivoli – on Rue de Rivoli, one of the city's most famous shopping streets – is a former squat turned into legitimate artists' studios. Formed when three artists called Kalex, Gaspard and Bruno, or KGB for short, claimed an abandoned Crédit Lyonnais building in 1999. For years it operated without the city’s consent, but in 2006 the city took over to make the building safe. Reopened in 2009, the space is free to visit and houses a collection of contemporary art studios. Visitors can still feel the revolutionary spirit that made the place famous, and pick up works from emerging artists.