Get into the holiday spirit with a day spent at Paris’s famous Champs-Elysées Christmas market. Nearly the entire length of the one mile-long boulevard fills up with tiny wooden chalets, selling traditional French gifts for friends back home and goodies for you to enjoy on the spot. But the real treat is the smattering of sparkling lights that drape the trees along the boulevard, setting the scene for true holiday merriment.
Until January 5, the 200 trees lining the Champs-Elysées will be illuminated, beginning at Place de l’Etoile – home to the famed Arc de Triomphe – and finishing at Place de la Concorde. This year, three brightly lit rings of different diameters will encircle each tree, giving the illusion that they are suspended and floating. Belgian designers Koert Vermeulen and Marcos Vinals Bassols came up with the project and have been in charge of the Champs-Elysées Christmas lighting design since 2011. Some 4,000 garlands will also sit atop the fir trees, and the 400 projectors set up alongside will bathe them in additional glorious light, making for a truly magical atmosphere.
Each year, one person is given the esteemed task of turning on the Christmas lights on the Champs-Elysées. This year’s host was French model-turned actress Laetitia Casta, who flipped the switch on November 21.
With the Arc de Triomphe at one end of the Champs and the Concorde’s giant ferris wheel at the other – both swimming in holiday lights – make sure to take in each of these spectacular views and save room in your camera for a picture or two.
Of course, the Champs’ Christmas lights are only part of the fun. The Christmas Market – Paris’s largest – is the main attraction at this time of year. Its 160 white wooden chalets burst with snow globes, gingerbread cookies, chocolates, Christmas tree decorations and handcrafted toys. There are also fun rides and visits with Santa Clause to keep the little ones entertained in between shopping.
And when you can no longer feel your fingertips (December and January get quite cold in Paris), take advantage of the many vendors selling things to warm you back up: spiced mulled wine, hot sandwiches, crepes and chocolat chaud – hot chocolate.
Plan to spend at least three hours at the Champs-Elysées market – enough time to shop and sample the many foods and drinks that have made France famous over the years. And, of course, to truly enjoy the lights display, you’ll have to brave the cold and come at night.
Metro: Passy, Champs Elysées-Clemenceau or Concorde
Open everyday from 10am to 11pm; Fridays and Saturdays until midnight.