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Paris in December [2020] Quick Guide by a Local

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10/19/20

December in Paris [2020]

All you need to know to visit Paris in December 2020.

December is a wonderful time to visit Paris. The weather is cold and crisp but the city is in full swing, with busy cafes, beautiful lights & decorations on the streets, and an interesting cultural program for locals and visitors alike.

And of course, Paris at Christmas time also means great shopping opportunities and seasonal activities for all the family!

Paris in December has two main parts. While the beginning of December in Paris has a more local atmosphere, with Parisians doing the last Christmas shopping and visiting the recently inaugurated temporary exhibitions, once you hit the Christmas week things change and the city becomes a favorite haunt of tourists.

All considered December in Paris is wonderful, one of the best winter city breaks in Europe, but a bit crowded with people. This is a great month for a cultural getaway, a festive getaway, and also a shopping weekend. Here is our guide to making the most of your time in Paris in December 2020.

Paris Christmas Markets

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Practical Info

» Basics: Language is French but English is widely spoken; Currency is Euro

» Paris Travel Guide

» Plan: Paris Travel Planner; check out when is the Best Time to Visit Paris;

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» Paris by Train: find the best prices and book your train tickets with Trainline

» Where to Stay: Best Districts to Stay in Paris

» Find your Bearings in Paris: Districts of Paris Quick Guide

» Getting around: Metro of Paris Quick GuideParis by Bike Guide

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» Food & Drinks: Paris Food Guide

» Side Trips: Versailles Quick Guide, check out the Best Day Trips from Paris

Is Paris in December Busy? Crowds Forecast

Years ago, the beginning of the month was usually quiet but since most of the Paris Christmas markets decided to open its doors around mid-November, Paris in December is all the time jam-packed with people, especially on the weekends.

Still, the beginning of the month is considered low season in Paris, with better prices, whilst the Christmas week is high season. However, we recommend booking everything well in advance if you want to visit Paris in December.

To optimize your time and avoid the longest lines, we recommend visiting temporary exhibitions during the office hours, when the Parisians are behind their desks. Book your tickets to temporary exhibitions well in advance.

Same advice for your Christmas shopping and the Christmas markets in Paris: prioritize these activities for the office hours and do more touristy things – less sexy for Parisians – on the weekends.

Below we list the Paris main attractions you will need advance tickets for and have added links to my favorite trusty providers for your convenience.

December in Paris is also the month for the end of the year meetings in pubs and restaurants with coworkers, friends, and family. Weekdays (especially Thursdays), pubs and restaurants are busy with business meetings whilst the weekends are dedicated to friends and family.

If you have a specific place in mind for lunch or dinner in Paris in December, book well in advance.

December Weather in Paris

Paris in the Winter

How is the December weather in Paris? December is a winter month in Paris and it is cold.

If we stick to the statistics, the average temperature in Paris in December is 10C maximum and 5C minimum with a 15% probability of rainfall.

If you decide to visit Paris in December it is always good to have a B plan in case it rains.

What to Wear in Paris in December 2020

Paris Packing List Fall Winter

What to wear in Paris in December 2020? The key to dressing in Paris in the winter is a good, warm coat. Still, it is a good idea to dress in layers because in some places indoor (e.g. in the Louvre!!) is too warm and you are likely to be ok with a light sweater.

What to pack for December in Paris 2020? The weather in Paris in December calls for good walking shoes, warm socks,  scarves, a good warm jacket, and a foldable umbrella.

For a more local look, have a look at our winter packing lists for men and women:

Before leaving home for Paris in December, it is a good idea to check the weather forecast (temperatures and rainfall) and review your Paris packing list.

Best Tips for Visiting Paris in December

Even if France is a secular Republic, all the offices in Paris are closed during the Christmas week. That’s when the Parisians, independently of their religion, travel to their hometowns to spend some time with their families. If you have planned to visit other cities than Paris, book your train tickets well in advance.

If you are interested in visiting the Christmas markets of Alsace, book your train tickets and accommodation right now. Strasbourg and all the Alsatian villages are an easy and popular Paris getaway among tourists visiting Paris in December.

24th December (Christmas Eve) is when families gather for a pre-Christmas dinner and when many people go to midnight mass. On the 24th December, the shops and tourist attractions usually close earlier. Expect restaurants and night attractions like the Parisian Cabarets to have special programs and menus, and they may require advance booking.

25th December (Christmas Day) is traditionally a day spent at home with the family. Paris looks pretty dead and some attractions are closed or have different opening times. When planning a trip to Paris at Christmas time, double-check the opening times of your favorite tourist attractions.

31st December (New Year’s Eve) is usually a normal working day for most of the Paris tourist attractions and shops but perhaps some of them close earlier. Expect restaurants and night attractions like the Parisian Cabarets to have special programs and menus, and they may require advance booking.

Always have a B plan for the rainy days in Paris. If you are in need of some ideas, check out our list of fun things to do during a rainy day in Paris.

As we mentioned above, December in Paris is a bit crowded with people. Have a look at this article on Ways to Avoid Crowds in Paris, with our best local tips.

A week before the departure, have a look at our Transportation Strikes in Paris post, which is always up to date. Just in case . . .

Need insurance for France? Be sure to check France travel insurance rates and coverage with our recommended provider, SafetyWing.

Best Things to Do in Paris in December 2020

If you are visiting Paris in December for the first time, you may want to tick some Paris top tourist attractions off your bucket list. The itineraries below are thought for people visiting Paris for the first time and they are planned around the main attractions and the most interesting neighborhoods in Paris:

If you want to visit Paris at Christmas time, check out our dedicated articles, with all the festive activities and best tips to get the most out of Christmas in Paris.

If you want to visit Paris for New Year’s celebrations, check out our dedicated article on what to do in Paris on New Year’s Eve.

Here’s the list of the best things to do in Paris in December, other than the typical Christmas activities. Some of the dates and activities are still to be confirmed so keep clicking for the latest updates.

DO A NIGHT SEINE RIVER CRUISE

Seine Cruise in Paris

Enjoy “Paris’ most beautiful avenue” with a Seine River night cruise. Admire the city beautifully illuminated with the Christmas lights and some of the main Paris tourist attractions, such as the Eiffel TowerNotre Dame, or Les Invalides. It is difficult not to be in love with a view like this one!

The Seine river cruises come with or without dinner and they are a great way to spend a relaxed night, perhaps with a glass of champagne.

TIP: This Paris Illuminations River Cruise always has great reviews!

TAKE A PASTRY OR CHOCOLATE TOUR IN PARIS

French Pastries

Food tours are always a good idea in a gourmet city like Paris. Discover the best food in Paris and some of the locals’ favorite addresses to eat or buy food while learning fascinating historical facts and anecdotes about the neighborhood that you are exploring.

For December in Paris, the pastry and chocolate walking tours are the best. Learn about the traditional cakes and sweets during Christmas in France and admire the best pastry shops beautifully adorned for the festive season.

The neighborhood of Saint Germain in Paris 6 is very reputed for its beautiful pâtisseries and chocolate shops and this Saint Germain Pastry and Chocolate Walking Tour has always great reviews.

A NIGHT OF CAN CAN, FUN AND BUBBLES IN A PARISIAN CABARET

Paradis Latin can can girls
Photo Courtesy: Paradis Latin Paris ©

After some sleepy months due to the pandemic, cabarets are back in December to entertain the Parisian nights with music, can-can, and lots of bubbles.

There are many good Parisian cabarets – click here for the ultimate cabarets of Paris guide – and you can watch a cabaret show with or without dinner but the full experience is more fun!

For December in Paris, we recommend booking your cabaret show asap, especially if you want to do a cabaret show during the Christmas week in Paris.

WALK THE COVERED PASSAGES OF PARIS

Galerie Vivienne Paris

When the air of Paris gets cold and crisp, it is the perfect time to explore the most beautiful covered passages of Paris.

These covered walkways, all bathed in natural light, are Art Nouveau /Neoclassical architectural gems built in the 18th century, the kind of place to see and to be seen whilst doing some shopping or drinking a cafe.

Most of the best passages in Paris are in the central districts of Paris, in Paris 1 or 2 (click here for our quick guide). If you know where to look, you will find delightful vintage boutiques, cute cafes, and other curiosity shops perfect for unique Christmas gifts.

VISIT THE CHURCHES OF PARIS

Basilica of Saint-Denis France

Visiting the churches of Paris is always a good idea, especially in Paris in December, when they are beautifully decorated for the Christmas celebrations.

The churches of Paris are always free to visit and you have churches of all styles, from medieval churches to modern churches made of iron and concrete.

Unfortunately, Notre Dame is still closed to the public for restoration works but the list of most popular churches in Paris includes other names like the Sacré Coeur – that you can visit during this Montmartre Walking Tour -, the church of Saint Germain des Prés (the oldest), or Sainte Étienne du Mont which features the only jubé in Paris.

EXPLORE THE SQUARES OF PARIS

Paris Christmas Lights and Decorations

Paris is home to beautiful and elegant squares, great for a stroll and a coffee or some shopping. The squares of Paris in December are something not to miss, all beautifully illuminated and decorated for the festive season.

The royal squares of Paris (Place Vendôme, Place des Vosges …) are must-sites in the city but we recommend going out of the beaten path for a taste of local life.

FIND YOUR FAVORITE PARISIAN CAFE FOR A HOT CHOCOLATE (OR VIN-CHAUD)

Vin chaud Paris Christmas

The picturesque Parisian cafes are always a good place for a break during the cold days of December in Paris.

The neighborhoods of Le Marais, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, or Montmartre are some good places to find picturesque cafes but there are pretty cafes in all the districts of Paris.

Order a steaming cup of hot chocolate and cozy up with a good book or, – for a more festive afternoon -, enjoy some glasses of vin chaud (mulled wine) with your tribe.

CHECK OUT THE TEMPORARY EXHIBITIONS IN PARIS IN DECEMBER 2020

Create your Louvre Guide

December in Paris is a great time for museum going and if you have already visited Paris in the past it is worth checking the list of temporary exhibitions in the main museums or art galleries because there are always good surprises.

Paris in December always has an interesting cultural program for visitors and locals, usually with more free time during the holidays.

Here’s the list of the most interesting exhibitions (in my opinion) scheduled for Paris in December 2020:

Gabrielle Chanel, iconic fashion designer. This is her first retrospective at the Palais Galliera, from 1 October 2020 to 14 March 2021.

The Matisse exhibition at Centre Pompidou, from 21 October 2020 to 22 February 2021.

Karnak Journals, at the Musée du Quai Branly, from 3 November 2020 to 7 February 2021.

L’Empire des Sens, the erotic exhibition at Musée Cognacq-Jay, from 2 December 2020 to 28 March 2021.

Marc Riboud, Histoires Possibles: the great retrospective (photography) at Musée Guimet, from 4 November 2020 to 1 March 2021

VISIT THE CASTLES NEAR PARIS

Vaux-le-Vicomte-Julien-Lauren
Photo courtesy: Vaux-le-Vicomte – Julien-Lauren ©

The French castles are always great to visit but they are especially beautiful with the Christmas decorations inside the magnificent halls and also in the gardens.

There are many interesting castles near Paris to visit, apart from the Palace of Versailles. Some of these awesome French châteaux organize special events for the festive season like Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte and its private Christmas tour.

VISIT THE HAPPIEST PLACE IN FRANCE (RIGHT NOW)

Disneyland Paris France

In Disneyland Paris, December is a big month with special parades and Christmas shows. From 7 November 2020 to 10 January 2021 immerse yourself in a warm, festive atmosphere at Disneyland Paris with light shows and streets dripping in Christmas decorations.

Click here to buy your Disneyland Paris tickets

For a more magical experience (who likes waiting in line in the cold for a long time?) enjoy Disneyland Paris with standard FASTPASS® service to select attractions and avoid the longest lines!

TIP: extend your Disney experience, spend one night or two at one of the hotels near Disneyland Paris with a free shuttle bus.

ENJOY THE PARIS LIGHTS FESTIVAL AT JARDIN DES PLANTES

Paris Light Festival 2019

From mid-November to January, The Festival of Lights (Festival des Lumières in French) takes place at the Jardin des Plantes in the 5th Arrondissement of Paris. This Paris light show is a mesmerizing experience for all the family, with monumental light structures set in the alleys and pitches of this beautiful garden.

Every year the Festival of Lights comes with a different topic, usually aiming at raising awareness about the importance of protecting the endangered species of the planet Earth.

For the time being, there’s nothing confirmed, keep clicking for the updates.

NEED MORE IDEAS FOR DECEMBER IN PARIS?

No problem! Have a look at our articles about November in Paris and also January in Paris, some of the activities proposed in these articles are also a good idea for Paris in December.

Where to Stay in Paris in December

Booking.com is our recommended site for booking your hotel in Paris. They have a wide variety of hotels of all kinds and good rates. In addition, they propose the option to cancel for free, most of the time up to 24 hours.


SLEEP WITH EIFFEL TOWER VIEWS

If you have the budget, why not treating yourself with the pleasure of waking up with an amazing Eiffel Tower balcony view?

Some of Paris’ top hotels come also with unique views of Eiffel Tower, especially beautiful during its night show!

Check out the best hotels with Eiffel Tower Views

The good news is that a cozy room with Eiffel Tower views is not exclusive to the best hotels in Paris. If you are looking for a home from home, there are also cute apartments with view of Eiffel Tower to rent.

Check out the best apartments with view of Eiffel Tower


HOTELS AT SAINT-GERMAIN-DES-PRÉS

Saint-Germain in the Left Bank is a beautiful neighborhood to set your base in Paris, especially if you are visiting Paris for the first time. It is picturesque, central, with many entertainments, beautiful cafes and restaurant options.

Click here for the best hotels in Saint-Germain

RELAIS CHRISTINE, Paris 6, $$$$

Set in a 17th-century mansion in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, this is THE kind of hotel that comes to mind when we think about Paris and Saint-Germain. Check out the pictures, you will immediately fell in love with this hotel!

Click here for the Latest Prices


HOTEL TRIANON RIVE GAUCHE, Paris 6, $$$$

Conveniently placed close to the Luxemburg Gardens – on the way to Cité – and with comfortable rooms bigger than the Paris average, Hotel Trianon Rive Gauche is an excellent choice for this area and hotel category.

Click here for the Latest Prices


WELCOME HOTEL, Paris 6, $$$

This cute little hotel with comfortable rooms has the best possible location, between Boulevard Saint-Germain and Saint-Germain-des-Prés Church. Stay in one of the most pretty areas for the best price!

Click here for the Latest Prices


HOTELS AT THE LOUVRE DISTRICT

If you prefer to stay in the Right Bank, the Louvre District is a good option. Stay close to the Louvre, the Seine River, and the Tuileries Gardens, in a lively area with many bars and restaurants nearby.

Click here for the best hotels in the Louvre District

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HOTEL PARIS LOUVRE OPERA; Paris 1, $$$

This hotel set in a 17th-century building is located only a 5-minute walk from the Louvre in a lively area with many choices for dining out. The rooms are small but very clean, comfortable and cozy which make of this hotel is a good value for your money.

Click here for the Latest Prices


HOTEL BRITANNIQUE: Paris 1, $$$

This lovely 19th-century hotel with a nice feel and atmosphere is located at only 700m of Notre Dame and close to other major landmarks. The comfortable rooms and beds and its welcoming staff will make you feel at home.

Click here for the Latest Prices


We hope you enjoyed this December in Paris 2020 quick guide and it helped you plan your trip to Paris in December. Bon voyage!

Join France Bucket List – Our France Travel Planning Facebook Group

You are also welcome to join France Bucket List our France Travel Planning Facebook Group – it is a great resource to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to Paris or France!

France Bucket List - Facebook Group

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