Note: More events will be listed throughout the month, check back!
Christmas Villages, Ice Skating & Ferris Wheel
Through December 27
The largest Christmas Village in the region is the Marché de Noël de La Défense, on the Parvis de la Défense (line 1 metro), with over 350 wooden chalets, a small petting farm, a train (weekdays only), a Bavarian restaurant, and giant igloos housing créateurs...and don't miss the fabulous evening views over Paris! Open everyday, 11am-8pm (closed Dec 24th-25th)
Through January 8
The annual Christmas Village on the Champs-Elysées includes over 180 chalets selling holiday gifts, local specialties, mulled wine, warm hats and gloves, toys, jewelry and every kind of sweet imaginable. There is also a fun Olympic-sized ice skating rink, amusement park rides for kids and Santa visits. There's a hand-made 11-meter tall Eiffel Tower and a "Village des Artisans" dedicated to handcrafted items made in France. A great place to wander with an appetite and a Christmas shopping list! I made a Christmas Village video three years ago, but this year's is much better in terms of quality and variety. Open daily noon-midnight (until 1:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday).
Through January 3
The Jardin d'Acclimatation offers a great series of holiday activities, from 11 am to 6 pm, Monday-Friday (till 7 pm on Saturday). If you have kids too young for Disneyland, this is a perfect alternative.
December 14-January 2
The largest ice skating rink in Paris is opening once more under the glass dome of the Grand Palais des Glaces. Open 10am-2am (Christmas Eve and December 31st until 6pm); tickets €15-27 (depending on time of day) and €12 for kids.
December 15 - February 19
Skate on the Eiffel Tower! This year the ice skating rink on the first level of the Eiffel Tower is back, free for those who already have a ticket for the Tower, open daily 10:30am-10:30pm. Skip the line by taking the stairs, it will help you warm up, too! Skates size 25-47 (EU), sleds and scooters for kids, gloves are required. This year's theme is Ice Hockey, though it will be less brutal than the NHL!
Through March 1st
At the Place de la Concorde is the Grande Roue Ferris Wheel. Each enclosed "car" holds six people. €10 for adult, €5 for kids under 10, open daily 11am-midnight.
There's nothing like Christmas in Alsace, but if you can't make it to Strasbourg the next best thing is the Marché de Noël Alsacien on the square in front of the Gare de L'Est Train Station (10th), 9am-8pm. Pretzels, ginger bread, foie gras, vin chaud and many other regional specialities!
The annual Féeries d’Auteuil takes place at the non-profit children's organization Apprentis d'Auteuil (40 rue Jean de la Fontaine, 16th, M° Jasmin or Eglise d'Auteuil) with a Christmas market, food stands, flea market, concerts, vintage carrousel and nativity scenes, from 11am-7pm. Live singing performances on Sat-Sun at 5:30pm.
The Marché Noël de Montparnasse has 40 wooden chalets at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower, with gourmet foods, snacks and holiday gifts. Don't forget one of the best views of Paris is from the top of the Tour de Montparnasse, an excellent alternative to the Eiffel Tower for those who can't stand glass elevators and "open" platforms.
December 15-early January
All of the Manèges, aka Carrousels de Paris, in the 3rd through 20th arrondissements of Paris are free for children for the holidays (my favorite is in the Jardins du Trocadéro, but the lines are longest). See the full list here. Open daily 11am-9pm.
The Marché de Noël Notre Dame is across the river from the Cathedral on the Left Bank, in the little square Viviani (Quai Montebello, 5th). Chalets sell regional foods and crafts and artisan gifts. Open 10am-8pm, Fri-Sun until 9pm.
December 18-March 6
The ice rink at the Hôtel de Ville is unfortunately on hiatus this year. However, a similar rink is available at Montparnasse. Free entry, €6 skate rental, gloves or mittens obligatory. Tlll 10 pm daily.
December 26 - January 2
If you saw Midnight in Paris you'll recognize the Musée des Arts Forains, a private museum of antique carnival and fair rides and decor in a stunning setting, open by reservation only for the holidays, La Festival du Merveilleux. Guided tours of 2 hours by an elf, where you'll get a chance to go on the rides and attend a magical music show. Tickets €16, tours daily (including Christmas), in French with an English handout. 10am -- 6pm
Participate in Paris's take on the polar bear swim, La Coupe de Noël, on Christmas Eve in the Bassin de la Villette (19th). Up to 150 hardy swimmers can register for free (you need a medical certificate signed by your doc), and swim solo or with up to a team of 4. The 100-meter swim is for fun, not a race, so costumes are encouraged!
Shows & Concerts
December 4-January 8
Book your places now for the English production of 42nd Street at the Châtelet Théâtre, a musical based on the financial crash of 1929. Reviews have been excellent, so expect this to sell out quickly! Tickets starting at €25 up to €79. Note that the website is in French, but the show is in English with French surtitles (above the stage).
Winter is circus time in Paris! Lots of options--for example the Cirque du Soleil with this year's Varekai performance. At the Accorhotels arena (12e), seats from 37€ to 80€.
Until February 19
Quintessence -- another circus, at the the Alexis Gruss tents at the Porte de Passy (16e), from 20€ to 70€. Check out the teaser here.
See the complete list for other circus and circus-like spectacles.
Arts & Crafts & Markets
The Boutique Ephérmère is a market featuring 35 stands with 80 different designers from all over Europe who create unique gifts: stationary, jewelry, bags, and other fun accessories and gifts. Open December 3-4, 9-10-11, 16-17-18, and 21-22-23-24 from noon-8pm, At the Galerie Joseph, 7 rue Froissart, 3rd. Free entry.
The 12th annual Marché des Cadeaux Bio et Ecolo (Organic and Ecological Gift Fair) takes place this weekend at the Mutinerie Coworking (29 rue de Meaux, 19th, M° Colonel Fabien), €2 entry for adults, 30 different stands selling everything from handmade soaps and jewelry to home decor and gourmet food items. There will also be free workshops and live music.
The Grand Marché de Noël (indoors) at the Palais de Congrès Porte Maillot donates 100% of the profits to the charity Mecenat Chirurgie Cardiaque Enfants du Monde. There will be many well-known brands selling their clothing, accessories, decor, toys and gourmet foods at a discount price, a great way to stock up on some holiday gifts for a good cause. Open 10am-6pm, free entry, live music and a café.
The Carrousel du Louvre (the mall under the museum) is hosting the free Salon des Beaux Arts with 600 sculptors, painters, photographers, and other professional artists from around the world selected by the Société des Beaux Arts to participate.
December 9, 10 , 11
The antique, vintage and design boutiques of the Village St-Paul are hosting a brocante this weekend, shops and stands open 1:30am-7pm. Look for signs along the Rue St-Paul in the 4th.
December 10 and 11
Just two days for the Norwegian Marché de Noël at La Recyclerie (right outside metro Porte de Clignancourt, 18th), from noon-8pm. Free entry. There are stands for food, drink, decor, and music.
Shop for designer clothing, accessories and gifts at the annual Créateurs ont du Coeur (Designers have a Heart) event, where 200 have donated their items to be sold at 50-90% off their sticker price for the charity ARCAT (HIV/AIDES support). Braderie ARCAT, 11am-8pm (Saturday until 5pm) at the Bastille Design Center, 74 blvd Richard Lenoir, 11th, €2 entry.
The charity thrift store Emmaüs Alternatives is having its popular Vente au Kilo (Sale by the Kilo) of clothing and accessories at €10/kilo this weekend (Friday and Saturday) 10am-6pm at La Rotonde (Place de la Bataile Stalingrad, 19th).
Book your table at the Paris Shangri-La's monthly "100% Green" Gourmet Dinner served in the hotel's gorgeous Bauhinia restaurant, just €68/person (not including drinks), check out the vegetarian menu (PDF). This is an excellent mealeven if you're not vegetarian. I also recommend getting one of the "jars", a fresh fruit and vegetable smoothie cocktail (with alcohol in it) served in a mason jar.
Noël Gourmand takes place in the Carrousel du Louvre (99 rue de Rivoli, 1st) from 10am-8pm (Monday closes at 6pm), the €10 entry includes an engraved wine glass (and free tastings), but you can also download a free entry on their website, fill out the info and print. There are stands for wine, liqueur, cheeses, meats, seafood, chocolates, sweets, foie gras and all other kinds of French goodies.
Le Food Market is a monthly open-air food festival on Boulevard Belleville (between metro Ménilmontant and Couronnes) with over a dozen stands serving up tasty dishes of all kinds (kind of like a gathering of static food trucks, but without the wheels) from 6pm-10:30pm. Expect lines, it's a popular event! You can also check out the event on FB.
Daytrips from Paris
The town of Provins, with medieval ramparts making it a UNESCO listed village, hosts a two-day Marché de Noël Médiéval with a Living Nativity show in the church. You can easily catch the train from Paris to Provins for the day, but I should warn you it's pretty crowded! Two separate markets, one in the "upper" town that has a Medieval/Renaissance Fair style, and a more traditional French Marché de Noël in the "lower" town. In between is the Tour César, a tall dungeon tower that used to protect the city, and the church hosting the free Nativity Concert several times each day. There is no entry fee for the fairs, but there are long lines for the stands, especially the food, so be prepared with a picnic basket!
Through December 31st
If you want to see the best and largest Christmas Market in France, don't miss the Marché de Noël de Strasbourg, in Alsace-Lorraine, where the entire city is decorated with a dozen separate markets, the towering Cathedral, and countless events throughout the month of December. It's a doable daytrip (2:15hrs by TGV from Paris), but I recommend staying overnight if you can to have time to visit the museums and enjoy the streets after the daytrippers have left. Avoid weekends if possible.
Through January 3
The family-owned Château Vaux-le-Vicomte (the 17th-century palace that inspired Versailles) becomes a Christmas wonderland in December, decorated from top to bottom, each room in a different holiday theme, fireplaces ablaze, and holiday music playing. And at night the château facade and the gardens are lit with festive lights. It's a magical experience, not to be missed! There are even carriage rides on the grounds. Open the weekends of December 3-4, December 10-11, and every day from December 17-December 31 (closed Christmas Day and New Year's Day) from 10:30am-6pm. Entry €17.50 for adults, reserve in advance online (where you'll also find the schedule for the shuttle from Melun train station to the chateau).