Christmas in Paris is utterly magical. From Christmas markets to pop-up experiences, theatre shows and of course Disneyland Paris on the city’s doorstep, there are a plethora of fun activities for families in Paris at Christmas.
With the Paris 2024 Olympic games fast approaching, the city is already in full swing with preparations underway, and this winter is a really exciting time to visit. Here are some of the best things to do in Paris with kids for Christmas 2023.
Every December, the French capital’s most iconic streets and prettiest squares are transformed into magnificent Christmas markets. There’s nothing quite like enjoying a cosy chocolat chaud (or vin chaud) at one of Paris’ Christmas markets to get into the festive spirit.
The Paris town hall organises a superb annual free Christmas Village at l’Hôtel de Ville. This year is themed around the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Hôtel de Ville Christmas market has a real emphasis on products made in Paris by local artisans. There are free rides for children and entertainment throughout December.
Other quintessentially Parisian Christmas markets include La Defense (the biggest Christmas market in Paris), pretty stalls along the iconic Champs Elysées, and an outdoor Christmas market in Saint Germain. Don’t miss the Magie de Noël Christmas market at Jardin des Tuileries, where in past years, Santa’s sleigh has been spotted flying 22m above the market each evening (the market organisers have not yet confirmed if he will return in 2023).
For perhaps the most traditional French Christmas market experience, one of the most amazing places to visit at Christmas near Paris is Alsace. France’s cultural epicentre of Christmas markets is only a 2-hour train journey from the capital and would make a really exciting day trip with kids.
Few things feel as festive as gliding around an outdoor ice rink in Paris at Christmas. Enjoy a very Parisian Noël at the ice rink in the Jardins des Tuileries, beside the world-famous Louvre museum. One of the best places to ice skate in Paris in 2023, the 500m2 rink has a dedicated area for little ones and plenty of nearby food and drinks stalls at the Christmas Market, for post-skating treats.
This year it’s actually the only pop-up outdoor ice rink in Paris city centre, so booking in advance is essential. For ice skating in Paris on a rainy day, the largest permanent ice rink in the city centre is at Accor Arena in the 12th arrondissement.
Why not learn a new culinary skill as a family this Christmas and join a fun creative workshop? Chocolate museum Choco Story Paris are running Christmassy workshops for children and parents. Learn how to make an impressive chocolate Christmas tree tower or a white chocolate snowman. Entry to the museum is included with the workshop fee, for even more chocolate fun!
Try macaroon making at Galeries Lafayette at their family-friendly workshop series (in English) with a Chef Pâtissier this December. Local culinary school Cook’n with Class runs really special parent-child cooking workshops. Suitable for 6 to 12-year-olds (plus an accompanying grown-up), these hands-on 2.5-hour workshops will teach you how to make perfect pâtisseries such as Crème Brûlée, Fruit Tarts or Eiffel Tower Cookies.
When it comes to festive decorations, The City of Light certainly doesn’t disappoint. From the elegant Place Vendôme to the impressive shop windows of the Champs-Élysées, there are so many impressive Christmas decorations to enjoy for free in Paris. Department stores like Galeries Lafayette and Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche go all out with over-the-top displays every year and are definitely worth a visit.
The hourly sparkling of the Eiffel Tower takes on an extra Christmassy feel on winter nights, as it glitters for the first five minutes of every hour. The Arc de Triumph also offers a stunning vantage point of the city’s dazzling lights (the views are well worth the climb).
Not only is the city itself lit up beautifully for the holidays, but some of the most popular parks in Paris come to life at night with unique installations and light shows for families this Christmas.
Step into the surreal artworks of Salvador Dali at l’Art dans la Nature, at Parc de La Villette. Now in its third edition, the Christmas illuminations at La Vilette are a spectacular, interactive sensory experience, with some of the artist’s most famous works recreated with lights, set along a woodland path.
L’Odyssée Lumineuse sees the Parc Floral filled with over 1000 illuminated sculptures of fantastical creatures, giant plans and majestic animals, enhanced with state-of-the-art sky projections and video mapping. Every night until 21st January, the Jardin des Plantes is transformed into a dazzling jungle filled with immersive light installations. “Jungle en Voie d’Illumination” is an impressive walk-through experience that children will love.
The Jardin d’Acclimation is a festive theme park in the Bois de Boulogne, open year-round but especially lovely at Christmas. This year for the first time ever, the world-famous Dragons and Lanterns festival is coming to Paris from Friday 15 December 2023 to Sunday 25 February 2024. Usually held in Shanghai, this fabulous festival will take place throughout the Christmas holidays and mark the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations.
What could be more captivating for children and adults alike than The Nutcracker Ballet at Christmas? Tchaïkovsky’s masterpiece Casse-Noisette is coming to La Seine Musicale from the 26th to the 31st of December 2023 and is guaranteed to be a hit with all the family this Christmas.
If your little ones are a bit too young to sit through a full-length ballet, the Théâtre Mogador presents Mon Premier Casse-Noisette (My First Nutcracker), in collaboration with one of the leading dancers of l’Opéra de Paris. Following the success of last year’s “My First Swan Lake”, this specially adapted ballet has been shortened to 2 x 40-minute acts and simplified for younger audiences. Other Christmas shows in Paris suitable for toddlers and young children include Le Noël de Petite Pomme at (for ages 1 to 6) and comedy. Le Père Noël Est Enrhumé (Father Christmas has a cold) at À La Folie Théâtre.
The annual Christmas concert Noël au Théâtre du Châtelet on 10th December 2023 is a fun way to kickstart the festive season, welcoming 50 young singers from the Sotto Voce choir (suitable from age 5+). A beautiful stage production of The Jungle Book is also running until the 7th of January at the Théâtre du Gymnase.
Although crowds are inevitable at this time of year, The Magic Kingdom is about as special as it gets over Christmas. A quick train journey to Marne-la-Vallée will transport you to Disney heaven. The theme park becomes a spectacular winter wonderland with an enormous Christmas tree, extravagant decorations and even “snowfall” on Main Street USA.
Disneyland Paris is staging Le Noël Enchanté until 7th January 2024, promising an unparalleled festive atmosphere for families at Christmas in Paris. Special highlights of Christmas at Disneyland Paris include Mickey’s Dazzling Christmas Parade and a new “Let’s Sing Christmas!” singalong musical show.
Disney on Ice also returns to Paris this year with a phenomenal new show at Le Zenith running from the 6th to the 17th December 2023. Dream Big (Crois en tes Rêves in French) brings together beloved characters from Frozen, Moana, Coco, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and more, with spectacular ice skating, costumes and acrobatics.
A short train journey from the city centre, the sumptuous Palace of Versailles is known for its’ year-round grandeur and some of the most impressive gardens in France. Visiting the Château de Versailles at Christmas is extra special, from the sparkling decorations to special events during the holidays.
The King’s Tour is an amazing immersive experience at the chateau after dark that brings the baroque atmosphere and history to life. Explore the hall of mirrors and grand apartments accompanied by royal fireworks, actors, musicians, dancers and even fencers. The tour culminates in a very special meeting with Baroque Father Christmas! An unforgettable family experience close to Paris this Christmas.
See our top recommendations for Christmas on the French Riviera & more activities for families this Christmas on the MumAbroad blog