It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... in Paris!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hourra! It's finally December.

Chestnuts have been smelt on every corner for weeks, throngs of people have packed the footpaths along the Grands Magasins night after night to view the festive window displays, and Wednesday last week Diane Kruger pushed the button to light up the most famous street in the city. And, yet, it hasn't felt like Christmas.

Image credit: Sophie Robichon / Mairie de Paris
Until today!

Nothing beats being in Europe for the lead up to Christmas and the city of Paris puts on the best Christmas show around. Here's why...

Street Lights
Rue du Bac and Rue des Batignolles

By now over 130 streets spread all over Paris, including the aforementioned Champs-Elysées, are glowing with Christmas spirit courtesy of the business owners' associations of each quartier.
From nightfall until midnight in the main streets and central squares of the city until the beginning of January.
The Champs-Elysées' lights will be continuously lit through the entire night of December 31, and will stay on display until January 9 until 2am in the morning.

Christmas Markets
Gingerbread-cookie decorations at the Christmas markets

This Christmas Paris plays host to 18 - count them, eighteen! - Christmas markets scattered all over the city, including an enormous gathering of chalets at La Défense. Pick up a hand-crafted tree decoration or child's toy, chocolate and sweets, wine, gingerbread biscuits and cakes, winter wares and the obligatory cup of vin chaud!
Here's just a selection of the best..

Christmas Village on the Champs-Elysées
200 + stalls, plus meet Santa in his sled.
Open everyday from 10h - 23h, Fri and Sat 10h - 24h.
Until January 6.

Santa's Christmas Village at St-Germain-des-Prés
30 stalls, around the grand St Germain des Prés church.
Open everyday from 11h - 21h
Until January 2

Christmas Village at Trocadero
100+ stalls plus an ice rink, all themed to celebrate the countries of Europe.
Area opposite Pont d'Iena
Open every everyday 11h - 20h
December 13 until January 6

Christmas Village at Montparnasse
40+ stalls selling gastronomic delights.
Monparnasse Tower forecourt
Open everyday 10h - 20h
December 5 until December 30

Christmas market at Notre Dame
30+ plus stalls organized by the artisans of Paris selling their hand crafted wares.
Square Viviani
Open everyday 10h - 20h
December 15 - December 23

La Defense
350 stalls selling everything and anything Christmas.
Esplanade of La Defence
Open Sun-Thurs: 11h - 20h, Fri: 11h - 21h, Sat: 10h - 21h, Christmas Eve: 10h - 18h
Until December 29 (Closed Christmas Day)

Alsace Christmas markets 
Small selection of stalls offering the best from Alsace, close to the German region where the Christmas market originated.
Gare du l'est train station forecourt
Open Mon-Sat 8h - 20h, Sun: 9h - 19h
Until December 15

Skate rinks
Image credit: www.legrandpalaisdesglaces.com
Ice skating at Christmas time - actually ice skating at any time - felt like such a foreign concept to this girl who grew up by the beach. Now winter time isn't complete without a few wobbly turns around an ice rink. Or around a palace, as the Grand Palais for the first time will be the venue for the biggest and grandest ice rink in Europe.

In front of the Hôtel de Ville
Situated on the forecourt of the grand Paris Town Hall, this outdoor venue boasts two rinks, one for the adults and one for the kiddies and beginners (ahem, me).
Open Mon - Fri: noon - 22h, Sat, Sun, Public Holidays: 9h - 22h
December 21 until March 17, 2013
Rink access free, skate hire 5€. For matters of safety, gloves are mandatory.

On the Champs-Elysées
A skate rink measuring 20 metres wide, but 60 metres long, has been set up along a section of the most celebrated street in the country.
For those that are not a fan of going around in circles.
Open Mon - Fri: 11h - 23h, Sat - Sun: 11h - midnight
Until January 6
Adults: 7€, kids: 5€ (includes skate hire)

Trocadero ON ICE
Set up around the fountains of Trocadero, under the lights of the Eiffel Tower, where one stare at the city's most famous monument - if you're game to stare and akate at the same time - to music played over the square.
Open everyday 11h - 21h
December 13 - January 6
5€ (includes skates hire)

In the Grand Palais
For the first time in history it is possible to skate inside the Grand Palais under the largest glass ceiling in Europe. For the occasion there will be various events held on the rink, television and radio broadcasts, and a DJ Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights to test your dance skating skills.
Open Sun - Wed: 10h - 21h, Thurs - Sat: 10h - 2h in the morning.
Adults: 12€, kids: 6€ (includes skate hire). Tickets can be purchased online here.

Carousels and Ferris Wheels
Image credit: François Grunberg / Mairie de Paris
As a Christmas present to the kids of the city, the Paris city council will set up carrousels in every arrondissement (except the first and second) and they will be completely free.
The Christmas Carousels
Everyday 10h - 19h
December 22 - January 6
Locations can be found here 

The Grande Roue
Each and every year the grand undertaking of setting up the 'Big Wheel' happens at the Champs-Elysées-end of the Jardin des Tuileries. Created in 1999 for France's millennium celebrations, it returns each Christmas time to give revellers  unparalleled views of the Champs-Elysées' Christmas lights.
Place de la Concorde
Open everyday 10h30 - midnight
Until February 17
Adults: 10€, -10yrs: 5€

I blame my mum for this lateness in getting into the spirit of things; as children we were itching to get the house all 'sparkly and bright' as soon as the stores started blaring Christmas carols down the isles (i.e. mid-October). But my mother always told us "not before December", and so it feels unnatural to get swept up into any festive spirit before today.
There's a lot of catching up to do!

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