Ahhh. Une Christmas vacation à Paris is sheer bliss.
No tourists and no lineups, just the pure joy of living as Parisians do. Watching as they go about their Christmas and daily shopping, while an ex-pat, student or secretive Parisian lover or outsider lives amongst them. The only real visitors in town appear to be citizens of France doing their Christmas shopping in the glowing and twinkling City of Lights.
Paris’ Spectacular Holiday Window Displays
In early November, the historic department stores of Paris unwrap their highly anticipated holiday window displays with sparkling lights, magical soundtracks and animated characters. These unveilings are perhaps one of the best parts of spending the holiday season in Paris and no further evidence than in the famous Christmas windows of the Galleries Lafayette Haussmann. Start your shopping day outside of the store with a private viewing of each animated window: last season’s spectacular splendours featured hand-made, animated paper polar bears and penguins, sadly leaving their global warming environments to join in the Christmas fun at the Galleries Lafayette. This season, for the Holidays, Galeries Lafayette Haussmann prepares a “bee’-utiful, buzzing Christmas! This year’s theme is a bright and colourful Christmas beehive, whose buzzing, soaring tree climbs to the very top of the store’s famous stained-glass dome. Their windows on Boulevard Haussmann invite us to discover 14 characters over 11 seasonal scenes, inspired by a buzzing beehive of worker bees. In the Light Show, Queen’s Banquet and the Winter Garden, follow the buzzing bees as they help create some Christmas magic while prepping their own buzzing Holiday Party. Sponsored by top brands such as Dior, Evian, Gucci, Canada Goose, and Hermes they are guaranteed to put you in a festive mood.
Christmas in Paris Shopping Tip Number 1: once inside continue your festive shopping experience with the VIP Treatment and indulge your Christmas luxe with the store’s Personal Shopper experience that includes a separate waiting area and luxurious individual fitting, change rooms and luxurious pampering not to mention bubbly flutes of champaign!
Be prepared to invest a minimum of €6000 in your indulgent extravagance, though! Take a break with a fantastic view from your own private, clear ‘igloo’ on the tellement chic rooftop Ice Cube Bar or a festive shopping lunch on the first floor of the Galleries Lafayette Dome at the gilded Angélina, one of her eight Paris locations.
A Paris Christmas Brunch at the Jacquemart-André Museum
When you step into the Jacquemart-André Museum, you are crossing the threshold of the private residence of a “Couple of Collectors.” Edouard André spent his vast fortune on acquiring works of art which he exhibited in his new mansion, built on Boulevard Haussmann and completed in 1875. In 1881, he married the well-known artist Nélie Jacquemart, and the two devoted their lives to collecting the extensive works of art now on exhibit in their residence. Sunday brunch at their ‘home’, one of the essential meeting places in Paris for a delicious brunch, is a beautiful Parisian-filled nosh in a historic gilt and tapestry-filled setting. Try and arrive by 11 to avoid the brunch line as the café does not accept reservations. Afterward, view the many rotating exhibits of this petit musée, or see the private collection of this famous Parisian couple. We so enjoyed the exquisite The Alana Collection Masterpieces of Italian Painting exhibit, there until 20 January 2020.
A Paris Wine Tasting at De Vinis Illustribus
A personal favourite and a must-visit, whatever the season, is at Lionel and Dominique’s De Vinis Illustribus, a fabulous wine cellar established by Lionel in 1994. With a treasure trove of rare and vintage wines, this Left Bank wine cellar showcases Lionel’s passion for vintage wine – the oldest bottle dates back to 1811, and will regale you with stories of estate auctions and unique wine tastings. Lionel and Dominique offer wine lovers, (including this one!) a one-of-a-kind, personal experience including tasty tastings (Mailly Champagne and an old Comté cheese), expert wine advice from a superb selection of vintages, to entirely curated dinners with tastings in their authentic cellar in the heart of Paris’ Latin Quarter. During my last visit to Paris, I sampled Lionel and Dominique’s extraordinary hospitality and purchased bottles. Looking for the perfect, unique Christmas gift for that oenologist on your list? Consider one of Lionel’s “anniversary wines,” a vintage wine corresponding to the year the person was born.
More Paris Sparkle
Consider a guided tour of the Illuminations de Nöel on the Champs-Élysées and surrounding streets including the uber-glam Avenue Montaigne with a tour of Paris with Discover Walks. And while you are there, the terribly touristy Avenue des Champs-Élysées is worth the hustle and crush of crowds if only to view the magnificent cavalcade of Christmas lights that nightly caresses this grand shopping boulevard. Try and grab a picture from the top of the Arc de Triomphe, which believe it or not, we have never been to on our countless trips to Paris! There is also a full-on, ticky-tacky Christmas Market close to Place de la Concorde to satisfy that small Christmas takeaway or to quaff down some Christmas-mulled cider or munch on some cream-filled waffles. And Paris is full of Christmas Markets during the holiday season, so make sure to stroll through at least one in your arrondissements while visiting.
Christmas in Paris Shopping Tip Number 2: take a break and refresh at Ladurée, where you can enjoy a coffee, une tisane and sample their incredible pastries and macaroons. A Paris must.
A Paris Christmas off the Beaten Path
Off the beaten path and worth a visit is the wander-full Les Passages Couverts de Paris. Many have fallen under neglect, but they are definitely worth a stroll through to view the unique shops, wine bars, petits-restos, and libraries anciens that were initially designed to give nineteenth-century Parisian’s protection from mud and horse-drawn vehicles. There is an extensive network that runs from the Rue St-Marc, which includes Les Passages des Panoramas all the way up to Le Passage Verdeau on the rue de Faubourg Montmartre.
Keep your eyes open as their entrances are easy to miss, and many are closed nights and on Sundays.
Our quaint studio rental, situated in the Passages des Panoramas, gave us a quiet, calm respite from the hustle and noise of Le Grands Boulevards and all the seasonal shoppers just outside.
A must stop if you have never been to Paris should be at the Musé Carnavalet where you can view the entire history of the city from medieval times, through the Revolution and on to the Second Empire. And while in the ‘hood, visit the Place des Vosges, Paris’ oldest square and perhaps the most typical example of Parian life and history that remained untouched by Haussmann or the Modernists. Christmas in Paris shopping tip: while at the Place des Vosges, check out the fine men’s clothing and accessories at Emile Lafaurie on rue Birague.
Joyeux Noel mes amis from Paris!
World Traveler, Writer, and Blogger, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the followsummer.com travel blog. A former Actor, current shower-singer, and non-hipster foodie. Loves his week-end house in St Marys, Ontario. Dad to Sophia, Ariel, and Hastings three of the best cats in the world.