What’s up in Paris for Christmas and New Year holidays? – Meanderings through France
As we are nearing the heart of winter with its cold weather and days getting shorter it feels good to see Paris sparkles with millions of lights and coloured decorations. All over the town you can see illuminated arches, Christmas trees or monuments changing the face of the city and making it look more welcoming and cheerful.
Along the Champs Elysées, Rue Montaigne, Place Vendome or in Montmartre district hundreds of trees are decorated with thousands of strings of fairy lights. There are no less than 1 million LED hung on the 200 plane trees of the Champs Elysées from Charles de Gaulle square, also called Place de l’Etoile, down to the Concorde square. From the top of the Arc de Triomphe this 50 meters high arch built in 1806 to celebrate Napoleon’s victory in Austerlitz you will get a wonderful view of these illuminations. I would suggest you to be there at 6.30 pm to see the daily ceremony, taking place under the arch. An unknown soldier dead during WW1 was buried there in remembrance of this tragic war and an everlasting flame is rekindled every day. Afterward you’ll be able to get to the rooftop and it will be dark enough to enjoy the light show.
At the other end of the Champs Elysées, on Concorde square a big Ferris wheel is installed every year for wintertime. For 10 Euros you will slowly rise into the air first discovering the square with its antic Egyptian obelisk from Luxor, its gold-plated point shining in the night, and the two beautiful fountains at its foot. Going up you will then enjoy the view over the Seine, the Louvre and the Champs Elysées. From your seat perched 65 meters above ground level it is a unique experience!
A totally different way to enjoy Paris at Christmas time is to get on board a City Vision bus for a night special “Open Tour”. This night tour called “Illumination de Paris” will take you during 90 minutes through the streets to discover the main places of interest of illuminated Paris: the Opera, Place Vendome, Concorde square, the Champs Elysées, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral… Don’t be afraid to get cold on this double-deck bus: a hot drink and a small blanket are given to each passenger. The bus leaves every day at 6.30pm from Rue Auber close to the Opera until January the 5th 2015.
To have fun and meet people in a merry atmosphere and a beautiful decor several ephemeral skating rinks are open throughout Paris as on the City Hall Square or in the middle of the Champs Elysées Christmas market… But the most spectacular one surely is in the “Grand Palais”. This Belle Epoque building located at the eastern end of the Champs Elysées is not to be missed this year. Under the huge glass roof you will be able to skate on the largest indoor skating rink of the world. It will be open everyday from December the 14th until January the 4th 2015, at 10 am with music, light shows, food and drinks. At night disc jockeys take control until 2 am and it’s time for dancing on the huge icy dance floor in a whirl of music and lights!
Of course shopping is not to be forgotten. Since the 1990’s there are several Christmas markets in Paris, on the Champs Elysées, on the Butte Montmarte or in Saint Germain des Prés district…Children will love watching the shop windows of the big department stores especially decorated for them. Monsters await them at the “Galeries Lafayette” where a big Christmas tree hangs upside down under its high dome. At “Printemps” a “Magical Journey” set by Burberry will take them from London to Paris.
Being in France shopping wouldn’t be complete without talking about food! The “Salon Noel Gourmand”, the Gourmand Christmas Fair, will be open for only 4 days from the 19th till the 22nd of December but if you happen to be in Paris at that time don’t miss it. The fair takes place in the Palais Brongniard, still known as the “Bourse”, a Greco-roman building that used to be the Paris Stock Exchange in the 2nd district. It is the first Christmas Food Exhibition dedicated to French gastronomy and it gathers the top of the range food and wine makers. It will be hard to make a choice among the amazing variety of produce on display but you will be able to taste many of them. Truffles from Perigord or Provence, snails from Burgundy, organic Occitan saffron, chilli from Espelette, French caviar, sea urchins and elms from Ré Island, oysters and smoked salmons from Brittany, delicatessen from Alsace, Basque Country or Corsica, foie gras from the Landes, Perigord or Bearn, lamb meat from Aveyron, poultry from Bresse, cheeses, chocolates and sweets from the best French makers… And of course wines from almost all the French vineyards. When paying your entrance fee you will be given an engraved glass with which you will be able to taste several wines. All these produce are chosen from the very best made in France and are packaged to make it easy to take back home. What a treat for Christmas or New Year’s Eve!
At last to meet again with the Christmas spirit go to “Notre Dame de Paris” cathedral to admire the crib. This year it comes from the Czech Republic. Made of walnut wood, it was carved in 1989 by a Czech artist, Jiri Netik. And through the years many new sculptures were added to it. Next to the crib you will see a big box where anyone, believer or not, can put a message of peace. You can also send your message through the cathedral’s website.
And wherever you are, have a wonderful Christmas!
For more information: www.parisinfo.com
For the skating rink: www.legrandpalaisdesglaces.com
For your message of peace: www.notredamedeparis.fr
Text © Annick Dournes
Photos © Frederic de Poligny