The temperature outside has steeply declined, the days are shorter and shorter, and free time is spent indoors avoiding the biting winter cold. Of course, the début of winter isn’t so dreary; in fact it’s a time for celebration. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or are just in the holiday spirit, the Parisian marchés de Noël are a must, at least for one annual visit. Here are six reasons to visit a Christmas market in Paris:
1. Get in the spirit. Yes it’s cold outside, but a cup of vin chaud (mulled wine) or hot chocolate and a little festive cheer will warm you up. Besides, it’s about time you went outside. Taking in the sights, smells and sounds of the holiday season will make you jolly like Santa.
2. Admire the lights and decorations. Try to walk through a Christmas market without humming the lyrics to Winter Wonderland. Admittedly the decoration may be a little kitsch, but aren’t the holidays about warmth and colour anyhow? It’s difficult not be in awe of the splendour of the Champs-Elysée’s sparkling lights or the charm of the market at Saint-Germain-des-Près.
3. Try some of the good-but-bad-for-you fare. Imagine if carnival food were made with better quality ingredients and based on regional specialties; that is pretty much what you can expect to find at the marchés de Noël. Crêpes, waffles, doughnuts, sausages and plenty more to keep your belly warm.
4. Support local artisans. From homemade conserves, to arts and crafts and everything in between. You’ll find local artisans from the Ile-de-France presenting their wares at many of the markets like Montparnasse, La Défense, and Saint Sulpice.
5. Meet Père Noël in the flesh. Children (of all ages) will have an opportunity to meet Saint Nick in person at the markets in Montmartre and Saint-Germain. Santa’s sled can also been seen flying above the Champs-Elysées, looking out for children naughty and nice, naturally.
6. See Paris from above. If you don’t suffer from vertige, why not take a ride on the Grande Roue at Place de la Concorde? Enjoy the views of the Champs-Elysées all aglow and perhaps share a moment with a special someone. If you prefer to get your kicks on the ground, ice skating is another great option for couples and families alike.
If possible, try to visit the markets closer to the opening or closing hours especially on weekends if you want to avoid major crowds. For more practical information about the Christmas Markets in Paris, check out the ParisInfo website or if you’d like to learn more about French Christmas culinary traditions you can sign up for Context Travel’s Holiday Market Walk.