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Paris Itinerary Help for Christmas Eve, Day.


My wife, 12-year old daughter, and I are going to Paris for 8 nights this Christmas. We are staying in an apartment just 2 blocks south of the Odeon Metro stop on BLVD St. Germain. For my wife and I, this will be our 2nd trip to Paris. We've always heard Mr Steves rave about Paris at Christmas time, so here we go!

I have the total list of stuff we want to do pretty well hammered out, but I need need help with the first 3 days of the trip. You see, we get in on Sunday Dec 23. Monday is Christmas Eve, and Tuesday is Christmas Day. So with the actual holidays hitting its "yule-tide" crescendo 2 days after we arrive, I'm struggling to balance between lettin' her rip with some Paris "must-dos" and/or starting slowly to enjoy a bit of Christmas cheer, Parisian-style.

Here's what I have on paper so far... tell me what's wrong:
Sunday AM - Store our bags with our host and follow Rick's Historic Paris Walk
Sunday PM - Check in, then go get groceries for the apt. We may also try to find a small christmas tree. Unpack and explore our neighborhood. We may do Ricks' Sevres-Babylon shopping walk although the book says Sunday may not be ideal.
Sunday Evening - do a boat tour

Monday AM (Christmas Eve) - Monmarte - Lots of museums are closed on Mon so we thought we'd do Monmarte area in the morning - other suggestions? It looks like the Louvre is actually open on Monday which would be a great thing to do before Champs, but Christmas Eve? Is this like the worst day of year to go to the Louvre?
Monday PM - Do Rick's Champs Elysee walk with a Christmas flare: go ice skating, do the big ferris wheel and window shop.
Monday evening - we want to go to an evening Mass at Notre Dame. Is there an earlier mass that we allow us to eat dinner after? Should we go to another smaller church? We could flip our day and do Monmarte PM and do evening mass at Sacre Couer - thoughts?

Tuesday AM (Christmas) - sleep late and eat in - it's Christmas!
Tuesday PM - Luxemborg Garden - see the kids riding ponies; ride the carousel; enjoy the park. We may also see a movie (I know,but it's one of our little family's traditions and there are great theaters in our area)
Tuesday Evening - Trocadero, then we have reservations for late dinner at the Eiffel Tower

The rest of our time will be packed with the "greatest hits" of Paris: Louvre, Orsay, Catacombs, Marais, Rue Cler etc

OTHER QUESTION: What is the best day trip from Paris at Christmas time: Versailles, Chantilly, Veaux Le Vicomte, or Chartres? We would prefer Normandy, but may be outside our budget and not if one of these other destinations is especially awesome during the holidays.

So to recap - I need help with the first three days culminating with Christmas Day, and advice on picking a day trip that is optimal for Christmas week.

Thanks to anyone who reads this post.

Posted by
11433 posts

Your arrival day, Sunday, is a lot if you are jetlagged. Good to be out walking but by evening I would fall asleep on the boat. Maybe dial that back in favor of an early dinner .

Paris os enchanting anytime but stunning at Christmas!

Posted by
1340 posts

Don't forget that both the Pompidou museum and the Jacquemart-Andre museum are open on Christmas day.

I recommend Vaux-le-Vicomte at Christmas time as they decorate especially for it. It is gorgeous.

Also, Paris-Walks sometimes offers Christmas tours that leaved from la Madeleine, I believe

Posted by
11 posts

Thank you both! I edited my original post to note that the Louvre, open on Mondays, might be an option on morning of Christmas Eve. Do you have any sense of how crazy the Louvre might be on Christmas Eve?

Posted by
2573 posts

If you are arriving on Sunday and want to shop for groceries, the only place near you for a good selection will be the Monoprix on rue de Rennes (near St Germain des Prés) which closes at 7pm. Almost anywhere else nearby will be closed with the possible exception of Marks & Spencer at the Marché St Germain which generally emphasizes premade items.

Once you have stocked your kitchen, you might like the Vedettes du Pont Neuf as the cold air on a ride down the Seine might help keep you awake. Discount tickets are available on their website. I wouldn´t plan much of anything later that evening other than probably checking the window displays at le Printemps, Galeries Lafayette or le Bon Marché. Be sure to visit the cupola inside of Galeries Lafayette as it always has a memorable Christmas themed display. These stores will all be open on Sunday as well but the windows are the main reason for visiting.

On Monday, you should be able to purchase a Christmas tree at Monoprix or one of the nearby flower shops. I should think that le Louvre would be empty on Christmas Eve. The Christmas Markets this year will be at Tuileries, not the Champs Élysées and the city has not yet issued a permit for the Ferris wheel (and I don´t think that the city is going to issue one either).

If you want to attempt to attend a Christmas Mass at Notre Dame de Paris or at Sacre Cœur, be there early, very early as crowds will be sizable.

On Tuesday, le Jardin du Luxembourg is open but I don´t ever remember seeing a carousel there and I think that a 12 year old might be too big for the ponies (and I don´t remember ever seeing them in the winter).

For a day trip, I would recommend a guided tour of Chartres Cathedral, the Christmas season would be a particularly good time. Malcom Miller might be available, he might not but other guides can make the experience memorable.

I should mention that while the well know crêperie Breizh has opened a new outlet on rue de l´Odéon, my preferred crêperie in this area is Crêperie des Canettes on rue des Canettes. What 12 year old does not like crêpes?

Posted by
11 posts

Thank you, Tocard, for the recommendations. We're already crepe fiends so, good to know there are some good ones around.

What about the covered food market Marche? It purports to be open on Sunday.

Re: Christmas Eve - do you think AM Louvre, PM Champs Elysee followed by dinner and Christmas Eve Mass - is this too much for Christmas Eve?

I figure we could scale back the Champs Elysee and make it less of a tour and more of a festive stroll.

I hear ya re: the crowds at Notre Dame and Sacre Couer. We were thinking of just getting there early and dealing with it.
Just to be clear - we're not so devout that mass on Christmas eve is mandatory. It would be more about the experience. So with that in mind - what would you do with these options for Christmas Eve.

Posted by
10288 posts

Your only little problem will be doing the shopping on a Sunday afternoon as stores and covered markets close by 1. However, Tocard's suggestion of that particular Monoprix is excellent. Note that not all Monoprix stores are open until 7 pm, but a few are. They will have special holiday foods stocked, as well as their usual products.
La Grande Epicerie, delux food emporium on the ground floor of the Bon Marche department store will be open on Monday morning, for whatever else you need.

Both the Mass from Rome conducted by the Pope and Mass from Notre Dame, with the children's choir, will be televised. I remember watching on a regular channel, before cable existed.

Posted by
2573 posts

If you really want to go to the Grande Épicerie, it is open until 8pm Sundays. The new Carrefour market just up the street on rue de Sevrès would be another (and cheaper) choice but it´s a long walk back to Odéon. You could use métro 10.

Posted by
9765 posts

I think as Tocard said that you won't have too much problem with crowds at the Louvre on Christmas Eve day. I mean, there will always be people there, but not as many that day, I think.

I am guessing Rick normally recommends against the Sevres-Babylone shopping walk on Sundays because most shops are closed on Sundays? If that's the case, that won't apply on Sunday the 23rd. The last few weeks before Christmas, most shops open on Sundays too in order to attract the consumerist hordes : ) haha.

p.s. there's no big ferris wheel this year. There's been a huge fight over the past year or so between the guy who owns the Ferris Wheel (and who used to run the Champs-Elysées Christmas market) and the mayor of Paris. Note that this year he got the space to do his Christmas market in the Tuileries gardens (beside the Louvre). He says that he will have more local stuff rather than made-in-China this year, but I'll believe it when I see it!!

Also, re Christmave Eve mass at Notre Dame -- check the schedule of services, there are several masses over the course of the evening. We went to an earlier one than the midnight one, which was billed as an "international" mass -- parts of the liturgy and songs were done in various languages- English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, etc. I really enjoyed it and thought it was a good alternative to the midnight one. Of course this one was super crowded too, you have to get there early to any of the Christmas Eve masses.

You'll have a wonderful time in Paris at Christmas -- just wandering around, seeing the city decked out and people bustling about to get everything ready for their Christmas feasts with family and friends. . .

Posted by
106 posts

I'm taking my 12-year-old (boy) to Paris for Christmas, too. I wish you all the best.