There’s so much more to Paris in December than the Christmas Markets!
It’s early October, and the ideal time to start planning your Christmas trip to Paris. Just like the McCallisters, we think that Paris is the perfect December destination. (Unlike the McCallisters, though, we don't plan on forgetting anyone.) And it's not because of the famous Champs Elysées Christmas Market that we think Paris is the best place to go in December. In fact, we explicitly recommend steering clear of that one. The “local travel” ambassadors at Theatre in Paris have come up with a few recommendations for you to visit Paris in December like a local, and not like a tourist. So get your pipes warmed up for some carolling en français, and put on your warmest winter peacoat because you’re about to have the best Christmas ever in the City of Lights!
1. Paris Entertainment in December
And seriously, have you ever seen anything so cozy as this 16th arrondissement theatre, built on a former chateau? Theatre in Paris subtitles numerous shows in gorgeous theatres, the majority official historic sites. There's no better local Parisian activity than a French play or musical in a breathtaking Parisian venue.
Cyrano and the Miser are playing at the Théâtre Ranelgagh September through January. Browse shows!
What's more, last Christmas (we gave you our hearts! Ahem, sorry...), we subtitled a show that was so popular with international audiences that it sold out for new years within just a couple of hours. It was Oliver Twist, playing at the opulent Salle Gaveau. This year, we have something just as spectacular: Grease the Musical at the Theatre Mogador! Don’t risk missing out on our December shows playing in Paris this year- book now before it’s too late!
2. Paris Christmas Market Alternatives
The Christmas Markets in Paris are so overcrowded and have become insanely commercialized. We recommend, obviously, going elsewhere. Instead, try rue Vieille du Temple in the Marais , which is lit up and lined with quaint cafés with heat lamps under which you can enjoy a hot chocolate, café crème, Irish Coffee, or whatever other hot beverage your heart desires.
Perhaps our **favourite place** for the holidays is the Notre Dame Cathedral. In the fifth arrondissement on Ile de la Cité, the breathtaking Notre Dame Cathedral has its own lavish decorations, and in our opinion, much more pleasing to the eye than the Christmas markets: an enormous, opulent Christmas tree right in the front square. The decor generally appears in mid-November to early December. Now, there may not be tiny stands with (cheap) gifts right beside it BUT we have something better: just a short walk away near St Germain is Mariage Frères Mariage Frères, a tiny Parisian tea house. Their sachets of Marco Polo are a much more authentic alternative to touristy souvenirs and gifts.
On the other end of the city, at Bercy Village, you’ll find fewer tourists and more 30 something Parisians. What’s unique about Bercy Village is that it looks like a market all day long, and all year round, with bite sized shops in cabin-like buildings, near some of the coolest cafés in Paris as well as a cinema. In December, it gets lit up and decorated for the holidays, so you’ve got all the Christmas charm, without the bustling tourists and the mechanical dog sellers.
3. Paris Christmas Shopping
In December in Paris, you’ll be tempted to go to Printemps and the Galeries Lafayette for the luxurious window displays. We don’t blame you- they are impressive. But might we suggest going there for window shopping, and making your actual purchases elsewhere?
Nothing fares better as a Christmas gift than a good book you can curl up with by the fire (or the radiator in your Airbnb- whichever! Head -earlyish to avoid the crowds- to Shakespeare and Company for a wide selection of books in English, and reward your generosity with a coffee and a muffin at the Shakespeare and Co Café afterwards! Conveniently located near Notre Dame and Mariage Frères.
If you’ll be opening gifts in Paris, might we suggest something even better than a physical gift? An experiences, in our opinion, is the best kind of present for making lasting memories. Purchase a gift card with Theatre in Paris by following the link below.
If you’re looking for something to bring home, steer well clear of the tourist shops (everything is made in China!) and opt for a truly Parisian brand instead: try concept stores like Merci in the Marais, or Collette on rue st Honoré!
4. Paris restaurants to visit in December
Paris is known for many things, but not its charming winter weather in December. Therefore, you’ll need a restaurant to warm you up. We have just the place. In the 16th arrondissement is a restaurant called Le Chalet on rue de la pompe. True to its name, it is cozy and quaint, and offers traditional French cuisine. The best part about this café is that it’s pretty off the beaten tracks- it’s conveniently located a short walk from Trocadero, but even more conveniently hidden from tourists. You’ll find a lot of Bourgeois couples eating here, with their incredibly well-behaved children, sagely eating their green beans and steak tartare (but child sized).
Another gorgeous restaurant in Paris is La Gare Restaurant, also in the 16th. This Parisian restaurant is decorated in December and is actually a former métro station transformed into a café. The waiters are well-dressed, the menu varied but not too much, and the wine selection diverse. Not a bad place for a Christmas meal before a trip to see a subtitled show at the Théâtre le Ranelagh (just a five minute walk away from the café)!
While these restaurants may be in the more posh 16th arrondissement, their prices are reasonable compared to the tourist-packed cafés near Trocadero for example, with a quality that doesn’t match the prices.
5. Going out in Paris at Christmas Time
Depending on the temperature, you might want to opt for cozier bars rather than the famous terrasses of Paris which are better for warmer weather. Although many of them have heat lamps and closed in patios, you’ll still have to keep your coat on.
Some bars with cozy and spacious interiors include the Comptoir Général with their many sofas and (random) pirate ship, the Cat Café with their comfy couches and kittens galore (honestly ideal for a cold rainy Parisian day!), or the Candelaria, an intimate speakeasy with a “chaleureux” decor, hidden by a Mexican restaurant!
Let us know what you plan to do in Paris this December for your Christmas holidays!