Christmas in Paris
“It’s the most wonderful time of year” is the song that always pops into my head as I begin to make plans for Christmas each year. This single, yet relatively short sentence evokes the promise of a magical winter and a joyous holiday season. Hearing it can conjure up the warmest of holiday spirits in most everyone — even Ebenezer Scrooge. Luckily, in Paris, Ebenezer is difficult to find. As with most of Europe, Paris magically transforms itself into a version of Christmas that family back home can only dream of experiencing.
Nicknamed “City of Light,” Paris dazzles with festive holiday illuminations to delight everyone, young and old alike. This is most noticeable as Paris’ famous landmarks slowly start to glow of yellowish light as the short days disappear into the night.
It’s nighttime that the true spirit of the season comes to life. From the Place de la Concorde stretching toward the Arc de Triomphe, thousands of lights sparkle during the holiday season. A must-see, the majestic Avenue des Champs-Elysées is flooded with fancy storefronts and unique lights that change hues. From this famous promenade, you can turn onto the Avenue Montaigne and find one of the most elegant light displays in the city. Known for its luxury boutiques, Avenue Montaigne is decked out in clusters of simple, yet diamond-like white bulbs. For na bird’s-eye view, make your way to Place de la Concorde and climb aboard the huge Ferris wheel for a dazzling view of the city light and you’ll soon understand how Paris earned its nickname.
As the celebrated date approaches, the city’s various quarters begin to line their streets and squares with holiday fare. Like tiny villages, the holiday markets of Saint Sulpice, Saint Germain, Champs-Elysées and Montparnasse, to name a few, offer Parisians and tourists places to browse for handmade goods and food specialties from every region of France. While you’re there, try a vin chaud — a warm red wine mulled with aromatic spices that would put a thaw on Ebenezer himself. Located right opposite the Eiffel Tower, the Trocadéro Christmas Village is ideal for kids, featuring more than 100 Christmas huts peddling holiday delights, and an ice-skating rink.
Christmas tends to bring out the kid in all of us, so whether or not you’re traveling with children, take a moment to enjoy all that Paris has to offer during the holiday season. Bring your family to the ice rink in front of the Hôtel de Ville, where you can skate for free. For a special treat, head to the Eiffel Tower for a skating adventure you will never forget. Yes, you can actually ice skate on the first level of the Eiffel Tower!
Modern to traditional
As with most major cities during Christmastime, there is a special energy about Paris with the hustle and bustle of shoppers, tourists and street vendors. Parisians seem to maintain a healthy balance of modern and traditional Christmas activities. Visitors can experience the best of both.If shopping is on your to-do list, there are plenty of retail stores trying to entice you with the latest must-haves from the world’s fashion capital. Much like the extravagant window displays at Macy’s and other famous stores in New York City, the glittering windows at Printemps and Galeries Lafayette are a magical part of Christmas in Paris.
If a more traditional Christmas appeals, Paris has another side, too. Many churches throughout the city celebrate Christmas mass - most notable are Notre-Dame, Basilique du Sacré-Coeur and Eglise de la Madaleine. All celebrate with large-scale services that include concerts and choirs. Ornate nativity scenes, or crèche, are an intricate part of the season and can be found at many churches throughout Paris.
You can easily catch the spirit of the season by a polar express of sorts. The Inter-City Express or ICE for short is the Bahn’s high-speed train from Frankfurt, via Mannheim, Kaiserslautern and Saarbrücken to Paris’ Est Station. For schedules, visit www.bahn.com/i/view/USA/en/index.shtml.
Should you find yourself in Paris at Christmas, be sure to bundle up and enjoy the atmosphere. The Christmas season in the city of light is a delightful one, infused with great food, music, lighting and decorations that are sure to lift your spirits. For details about Christmas events in Paris, visit http://en.parisinfo.com.