Paris: 6 cheapo ways to catch the Christmas spirit

Posted in: Paris Sights


Paris skating Hotel de Ville
Skate at the Hotel de Ville for only €5. Photo ©

Paris will again transform into a winter wonderland as the holiday season kicks into high gear. This is possibly Paris as its best, with a cup of hot wine at one of the many outdoor markets or a stroll through the lights in the various shopping districts. It’s enchanting, it’s whimsical, and, above all, it’s not pricey to enjoy!

Here are six cheap ways to get into the Christmas mood in Paris this year:

1. Walk the sights for free.

From the lights at Place Vendome to the Champs-Elysées, the giant tree at Place de la Concorde, or the windows of the grands magasins, there is no shortage of sightseeing for the holiday seeker. The best bets are to walk the Grands Boulevards to see the lights and decorated windows at the Galeries Lafayette and the Printemps department stores. And heck, while you’re there stop inside to see their trees and holiday pizzazz.

This year’s Christmas tree inside the Galeries Lafayette. Photo: Jason Whittaker

Afterwards, take a stroll through the regal and festive Place de la Vendome on your way to “holiday central” at Place de la Concorde and the markets along the Champs-Elysées. Holiday cheer guaranteed for 0 euros.

2. Take in the Christmas markets.

Take a walk through the famed Christmas markets, inspired by a centuries-old German tradition, and take in the smells of cheesy tartiflette. Or have a sip of inexpensive spicy mulled vin chaud while browsing the oftentimes expensive merchandise. No holiday experience is complete without one, if not more, cups of this delicious hot wine.

For more on this, including market addresses, read my previous post on the best Christmas markets in Paris.

3. Stop for something sweet in the Marais.

To get some more tastes of the holiday season, you’ll need something sweet. Mazet de Montargis, in the Marais, has a variety of festive seasonal candies in addition to their signature almond-based praslines. Look for spiced chocolates and candied chestnuts among their other confections. (37 rue des Archives, 75004)

Shop for something savory (or sweet) at the Bon Marché’s Grand Epicerie. Photo: Antonia Hayes

4. Food shopping at the Bon Marché.

For something savory, think about picking up some foie gras, since this is the time of year when the French consume the most of it.

Consider taking a trip to the Bon Marché, the elegant department store, whose food section (called the “Grand Epicerie”) is a treat for gastronomes from any corner of the world. If you can imagine a food product for purchase, you’ll find it here, including both expensive and affordable treats. And on top of that, the store will be beautifully decorated, so it’s a two-for-one! (24 rue de Sèvres, 75007)

5. Take a spin on the “Grande Roue.”

This is the time of year to ride the Grande Roue, Paris’s enormous Ferris wheel at Place de la Concorde that overlooks the illuminated Champs-Elysées.  It’s open every day until midnight and it’s only €10 for one of the most unique and ephemeral bird’s-eye views of Paris.

Paris' Ferris Wheel

Take in great views from the Grande Roue, Paris’ Ferris wheel. Photo: Raissa B.

6. Go ice skating.

For the active, strap on a pair of skates and prepare your best double axel. The ice skating rink at the Hotel de Ville is a staple, and is free to enter with skate rentals only €5.

But this year, the Grand Palais is hosting France’s largest-ever ice skating rink under the gorgeous glass dome. For €12, you’ll get a pair of skates and the chance to glide around until the early evening. For more information, be sure to check the sporadic hours on the Web site.

Also in our guide: If you’re heading to Paris this holiday season, be sure to check out our reviews of the city’s best budget hotels. Our hotel picks have been inspected and approved by our editors. Read more in our Paris hotel guide.

Looking for suggestions on ways to save in Paris? Be sure to read our article on Paris budget tips.

How do you get into the holiday spirit in Paris?

Do you have a favorite holiday tradition in Paris? Share with us (especially if it’s “Cheapo friendly”) in our comments section below.

About the author

Bryan Pirolli

About the author: With his college diploma fresh off the press, Bryan Pirolli headed for Paris and four years later he’s still there. A journalist and a tour guide, his main M.O. is pursuing a doctorate degree in communications at the Sorbonne Nouvelle. Bryan regularly travels on a budget, experiencing the best of European culture while still trying to make rent.  So far, so good. You can follow his adventures on his blog:

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