Magical Christmas in Paris: Champagne on Champs-Elysées
Illuminated arches, department store windows dressed to the nines, carousels and Christmas markets — Paris celebrates Christmas with élan and flair! Set in its 19th-century cityscape, crisscrossed by boulevards and the River Seine, the festivities extend beyond the landmarks of the Eiffel Tower, the 12th-century Gothic Notre-Dame cathedral, and the designer boutiques on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Here are our picks among the most-anticipated and the biggest attractions of the season.
Feast on window displays Parisian stores called the Grand magasins, like Printemps and Le Bon Marché, are famous for their whimsical and magical window displays, which are truly works of art. The greatest of them all is at the 70,000 sq m department store, Galeries Lafayette. This year, the store called on two well-known marionette artists to design mechanical characters for the window display, with the theme of an early-1900s Paris funfair called ‘Spectacular, Spectacular’.
I got lost in the love story of Pierre the pigeon, and Coco the dove, in the window displays and admired the spectacular Christmas tree made of a thousand stuffed animals and balloons under the beautiful Neo-Byzantine cupola, built in 1912. From fashion to accessories, beauty to home décor… this is a great place to pick up Christmas gifts.
The store even has a simulated roller-coaster ride, which you can ride. Have a look at the special looks created by 60 designers, and sneak previews of their summer collections. Don’t forget to have a cup of the special chocolat chaud at the Angelina Tea room on the first floor.
Top Tip: Visit the Ice Cube bar on the terrace, complete with heated domes that look like igloos.
Go museum hopping
With more than 130 museums in the city, there are some special experiences at this time of the year. Catch the Dior exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs celebrating 70 years of Christian Dior — browse through more than 300 Dior costumes, alongside perfumes and accessories.
From his ‘New Look’ celebrating the hourglass look, to special outfits like Elizabeth Taylor’s 1961 Academy Awards dress, this collection is aesthetically curated. Follow it up with a visit to the Musee Marmottan Monet, for a visual feast of art from the Impressionist era. Get a glimpse of some of Berthe Morisot’s works (one of the very few women Impressionist painters) and some of Monet’s greatest works including “Impression”, and “Sunrise”.
Step into church
If a traditional affair appeals to you, there is no better way to ring in the celebrations than to attend the Christmas Eve service at the Notre Dame Cathedral — the most historic place of worship in the city, with Alexander III having laid the first stone here in 1163. The service, which often includes an inspirational midnight choir, is open to everyone.
The Gothic cathedral also hosts an enormous, lavishly decorated tree on its main plaza. Other favourites are the Sacré-Coeur Basilica of Montmartre, and the Church of Saint Eustache, who have great choirs and concerts. Their beautiful scenes of nativity are worth a dekko too.
At Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte
As you enter the compound, seeing the chateau with its trees and topiaries all lit up, it does feel like you’ve falling into a page of a fairy tale. This 17th century chateau is said to have been the model and inspiration for the Palace of Versailles, and today, it’s the largest private estate, listed as a historic monument.
With crackling wood fires, and different Christmas displays in the 17th century salons, state rooms and even the Carriage Museum, this oozes a festival vibe. Pink Christmas trees, reindeer and mechanical bears that move, mountains of gourmet candies, chocolates and confectionary, over 200 Christmas trees in the garden — the show-stopper is the large Grand Salon, creating a Narnia world — an enchanted forest iced with frost.
Admire the light displays
The city is awash in strings of colored bulbs, glittering arches, and show windows. Take a ride in Paris’ answer to the London Eye — the great big Ferris wheel, with 42 heated compartments that take you high above the Place de la Concorde, for a floodlit view of Paris. Follow that up with a vintage carousel ride, and admire the zillion kinds of trees in the city.
For trees with a twist, catch the tress created by some of the biggest couturiers and designers for charity. Walk along the Champs-Elysées to see the 200 chestnut box trees lining the avenue scintillating with lights and “shooting star” effects. Besides this, there are more than 125 streets around the city, all lit up. I enjoyed a stroll down the chic Avenue Montaigne with designer boutiques, near the Champs-Elysées.
Catch an opera or ballet
In the city of art and culture, a unique X’mas experience is to catch a concert at the Royal Chapel, at the Versailles palace, built in 1710. This building, with a vaulted ceiling and large glass windows, has an antique pipe organ.
Another venue here is the stunning Royal Opera house, built completely in wood. Inaugurated in 1770, during the reign of Louis XV, since 2009, it’s the venue for concerts and ballets. This fine example of neo-classical architecture has great acoustics with the classical theme of the décor being Apollo and the Olympian deities.
Other places in Paris to catch concerts are the Opera Garnier, and the Opera Bastille — choose from Mozart to Puccini. Cruise the Seine in a glass boat Paris at night, especially in Christmas time, is a must. And what better way to see it than from the water? The Bateaux des Parisiens offers various dinner-cruises from 145€to 220€ depending on the seating, and dinner options.
Take in glittering views of the Eiffel Tower with a glass of champagne in your hand. With huge bay windows and glass ceilings, it’s an unforgettable evening — to pass under numerous bridges of the Seine, looking at the stunning skyline from the Musee Orsay to the Eiffel Tower and the National Library.
Parisian Show at Crazy Horse
The iconic cabaret is an aesthetic experience, which has been visited by celebrities from Madonna and Beyoncé to John F Kennedy. There are two shows a night with lithe, slim women, always wearing pairs of shoes designed by Christian Louboutin.
Most of the performers are classically trained ballet dancers, and the magic is in the bewitching kaleidoscopic lighting effects, the use of mirrors, projections and music. Some viewers might detect the distinctive refinement that separates this show from others like the Moulin Rouge.
Dig into Christmas goodies
’Tis the season to be jolly — so, load up on the sweet goodies, specially crafted for this season. Choose from limited edition cakes, macarons, pralines and bon bons. Buy chocolates from the classy La Maison De Chocolat. Try a Yule log from Paris’s oldest patisserie called Stohrer. Have a Sunday brunch at the train station that’s been turned into the restaurant La Gare.
For a meal with a view, try Restaurant 58, Tour Eiffel, located on the first floor of the Eiffel tower. In the various X’mas markets around town, you will find treats like mulled wine, gingerbread and roasted chestnuts.