Live Like a Local: How to Spend the Holidays in Paris

It’s holiday time in Paris and the festivities are gay and happy. The city is awash in holiday cheer with lights, decorations and dozens of fun activities. Here are some of our top picks.

Ice skating is a national pastime in France and is royally represented in Paris with a rink in the Eiffel Tower. Enjoy the breathtaking views on the first level while you tear up the ice with your figure 8s. The rink is also offering ice hockey lessons four times per week from coaches of the French national ice hockey federation. Another popular ice skating venue is the Grand Palais, the 1900 World’s Fair exhibition space, which has been transformed into the largest rink in France accompanied by an extravagant light show. 

Speaking of ice, the Four Seasons George V Hotel has created an arctic wonderland, The Ice Lounge. Inside the courtyard garden of the hotel stands a tiny hut made of ice with blue lighting, carved ice bar and ice sofas with fur throws. Temperatures hover around the chilly 5 degree range Fahrenheit, so before you enter, the hotel has a kiosk which provides FUSALP parkas to insulate you in the Ice Lounge. The hotel chefs Christian Le Squer, David Bizet and Simone Zanoni have designed a special cocktail and light food menu including fresh crepes and, of course, hot chocolate. 

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The holidays wouldn’t be complete without Christmas markets and Paris has them in spades. The Champs Elysees market is the most popular, stretching from the Place de la Concorde to the Champs Elysees roundabout. Lined with cute Swiss-like chalets, the market features toys, regional food and holiday decorations and ornaments. The Gare de l’Est train station features an Alsace food market with yummy specialties from the region including pretzels, gingerbread men, Christmas cookies and wine. A small picturesque arts and crafts market of 28 stalls graces the square in front of Notre Dame.

The department stores have upped the holiday ante this season with dazzling windows and in-store displays. Le Bon Marche goes whimsical with its funny mechanical snowballs with webbed feet parading around the windows. A family of Polar bears, hand cut from white paper, goes on a journey to find new ice packs in the windows of Galeries Lafayette. Inside, there’s a magnificent floor to ceiling white paper tree in the atrium designed by artist Lorenzo Papace. At Printemps the theme is Christmas Dream, the magic fairytale voyage of Jules and Violette, illustrated by Peter Diamond. Travel along with them as they discover the fashion brands Jimmy Choo, David Yurman and Bonpoint. Other windows include perfume, footwear, crystal, gourmet food and fashion displays. 

A most special way to ring in the holiday season is to attend a Christmas concert at Sainte Chappelle. Concerts this season include Masterworks of Sacred Music with interpretations of Ave Maria by Schubert and Gounod plus music by Verdi and Mozart and Vivaldi's “The Four Seasons”, Pachelbel’s Canon and Vitali’s Chaconne.

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