Top 10 Things to Do in Paris with Kids at Christmas
There are places that can’t help but get you into the Christmas mood, and Paris is one of them, with hundreds of illuminated trees all over the city, gorgeous festive displays in shop windows, free carousels and ice-rinks galore. We share some of our favourite things to do with kids in Paris in winter.
• Hop on an Open-top Bus Christmas Lights Tour
Put on your hat and scarf and prepare to be dazzled as you see Paris’s festive illuminations from the top deck of an Open Tour bus. Highlights of the 90-minute jaunt are Place de la Concorde (where you can stop off for a ride on the sparkling Roue de Paris big wheel) and the Eiffel Tower in all its twinkling glory. The recorded commentary includes festive songs, and there’s a blanket and a warm drink to keep you snug. Kids’ rates are available for ages 4–11.
• Take a Boat Ride Along the Seine
Bateaux Parisiens are one of the loveliest ways to see the ‘City of Lights’ at its prettiest time of year, whether it’s aboard a sightseeing cruise or on a trip including lunch or dinner. Most magical of all are the evening dinner cruises, when you get to see the riverside sites lit up while you enjoy refined cuisine including the likes of scallops and roast duck, accompanied by live music. There are special rates for under-12s.
• Browse the Department Stores
Paris’ famed grands magasins are not only about Christmas shopping – admiring their magnificent festive window displays is a tradition in itself. Galeries Lafayette is particularly glorious – inside you’ll find a vast Christmas tree beneath the soaring Art Nouveau dome and a Santa’s grotto.
• Drink Hot Chocolate
Galeries Lafayette is also home to a branch of the city’s iconic tea-room Chez Angelina – a must stop-off for its famous chocolat chaud, poured thick from a jug. There are also éclairs, macarons and other sweet treats for those who can handle the sugar rush.
• Ice Skate on the Eiffel Tower
There are several ice rinks around Paris, but by far the most exciting has to be one 57m above the ground on the first level of the Tour Eiffel, with fantastic views over the city. You can also try out ice hockey and refuel at stalls selling soup, waffles, mulled wine and more. Afterwards, head to the nearby Cour d'Honneur des Invalides for carol concerts and Christmas themed trails for kids. Or there's another ice rink with city views on the Terrasse de l'Observatoire Panoramique de la Tour Montparnasse.
• Explore the Château de Versailles
The gilded royal palace is worth visiting year round, whether to tour the sumptuous state and private apartments or to catch a performance in the Royal Opera or Royal Chapel. Christmas also sees the grounds transformed by the Voyage d’Hiver art exhibition, with contemporary artworks placed in such a way as to ‘dialogue’ with works commissioned by Louis XIV, adding to the wintry magic.
• Discover the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte
Christmas decor doesn’t come any more spellbinding than at this castle about an hour south-east of the city centre (there are shuttle buses from Paris, or you can take the train and then a local shuttle). The old stables with their displays of antique carriages are quirkily decorated with Christmas trees hung with sugary treats that scent the air, while inside the castle itself it’s all candles, roaring log fires and more decorated scenes, some of them animated.
• Shop and Munch at a Christmas Market
Take your pick from several festive fairs around Paris in winter, including Les Halles, Notre-Dame Cathedral and Montmartre. Not only are they a great place to buy Christmas presents and decorations, they’re fantastic for sampling seasonal treats, from raclette (Alpine cheese, served all melted and gooey) to roasted chestnuts.