Best Things to Do in December in Paris

From Rooftop Ice Skating Rinks to Medieval Manors, Holidays Here Are Fun

This year Paris offers lots of fun activities to do with your family or on your own. For starters, do you love ice skating? What about ice skating on a Parisian rooftop?  This year the Galeries Lafayette, a big Paris department store, has installed an ice skating rink on their rooftop, overlooking the monumental Paris Opera House. What's more, it's free and open to all ages. 

The main attraction in Paris, though this season, is the Da Vinci art exhibit at the Louvre. Be sure to reserve your tickets in advance. And good luck! 

Or, perhaps sitting in a darkened theater watching French films is more your speed? Have a peek at the Lost In Frenchlation fb page and website to see what this week's screening is. Their MO is presenting films in English and providing an evening of it, so it's more a social event as well as a couple hours spent gazing up at a large screen in a darkened movie theater. The locations of the theater vary, so check the schedule. 

Books and libraries are a big part of Parisian culture. Here you will find two places on and near the picturesque Ile Saint-Louis where you can indulge in historical culture and book browsing. The first is Librairie Ulysse which is a book shop (Librairie in French means book shop). It's the only shop in Paris dedicated to travel books and it's chock full. It's also just across the street from t wo iconic Parisian landmarks, Berthillon, the ice cream (and hot chocolate) shop and the Eglise Saint-Louis, dedicated to the ancient French King, Louis IX, who was later pronounced a saint.  The other is Bibliotheque Forney (bibliotheque means 'library' in French). This is a medieval, classified historical, monument, built first in the 15th century for the archbishops of Paris. Later it housed both Nostradamus and also Marguerite de Valois, once married to King Henri IV, resided here (no, not at the same time!) During the holidays this year, there is an art exhibit on display, Nourrir Paris, all about the nourishing of Parisians over the centuries. It is free entry and open to all ages. 

With all that activity, it will be time to have a snack. If you want to keep with French tradition, 4 O'clock is the hour for a cup of hot chocolate or a café and something sweet. It is called 'gouter' or snack time. If there is one true thing about Paris, it is that you are never far from wonderful temptations, be they patisseries, chocolate shops or simply inviting cafés. If you plan to swing by Notre Dame this year to get a peek at the reconstruction which is fully underway, keep in mind that just on the Left Bank side of the river, is the tea salon and pastry shop, A. Lacroix (lacroix means 'Cross' in French and just happens to be this pastry chef's last name). The ceiling high picture window looks directly out onto the Notre Dame cathedral. So you can have your cake and eat it too, here. So to speak. 

The rest of the options on this list are yours for the exploring.  Maison du Balzac, for example, is out by the Trocadero and Eiffel Tower. So a visit to this charming museum dedicated to this great French author can easily be coupled with a swing-by around the Eiffel Tower and the Trocadero, both must-see sites.  For people-oriented experiences, Second Degree Dinners are fashioned after successful runs in Austin, Texas and also San Francisco. It's a way to meet people in a new city, and who knows, maybe even forge some long-distance friendships. 

And for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, you can celebrate the Lord (should you so choose) at Eglise St. Sulpice, the Left Bank's prettiest, and one of its oldest, churches.




6th Arrondissement - Rive Gauche

Nestled on one of the most spectacular squares on the Paris Left Bank, this venerable old church is now taking on many of the duties long held by the nearby Notre Dame whilst she is being restored. The fountain that graces the square just in front of the church is a marvel to behold both in winter and summer. During the very cold winters, it sometimes even freezes over. On most Sundays at 3 P.M. you can join in on a guided visit of the crypt below the church. The ancient walls of the original church, over which this cathedral has been built, can still be discerned. It lasts about 2 hours and you cover a lot of subterranean ground. Kids will love it. It also really makes you able to picture why this church was chosen as the film location for the Da Vinci Code.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: St. Sulpice's history is as storied ancient as the city in which it has offered its grace and mercy for centuries.

Paige's expert tip: Now that the Notre Dame Cathedral is closed for renovations, this is the defacto church for Parisians who live centrally. Mind you, each neighborhood in Paris has its own church, usually several, but one tends to act as a hub. Now it's this one. The first Sunday of every month offers a guided tour of this ancient church in English. Be sure to learn about the 'Arago' brass plaques on the stone floor.

Read more about Eglise St. Sulpice →

1er Arrondissement

The hottest ticket in town - perhaps in the whole art world this year - is the Da Vinci exhibit at the Louvre. The world's largest, richest collection of art and antiques occupies the Louvre, the world's largest museum and the one-time royal palace to French Kings and Queens. NOTE: Reservations are now required to visit the Louvre. Even if you hold a Museum Pass, you still must have advance reservations, which you can make online, in order to enter. Originally built in 1190 as a fortress, part of which can be viewed in the basement, the Louvre began taking its present form under 16thc. Renaissance monarch Francois 1er, whose successors began filling it with artworks. It didn't officially open as a museum until 1793 after the French Revolution. In 1981, then-President Mitterrand spearheaded a stunning renovation of the facility, notably the glass pyramid that now provides the main entrance.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: The Louvre is unrivaled the world over. Now, Leonardo Da Vinci, who died in France's Loire Valley 500 years ago, is the artist of honor.

Paige's expert tip: Now offering free admission for all the first Saturday evening of the month from 6PM to 9:45 PM and every Friday evening for anyone under 26 yrs. old. Here is a true anecdote: When architect I.M. Pei designed the glass pyramid to grace the Louvre's courtyard it was a world-class design scandal. Scant decades later and it is already as emblematic a symbol of this fortress-like museum as is the Mona Lisa (la Jaconde) or Venus de Milo. The popular Ancient Egyptian department is much loved by kids. There are excellent book and gift shops and several cafés in the Carrousel du Louvre, the new shopping center it opens up onto.

Read more about Musée du Louvre →

5th Arondissement - Latin Quarte

The views are stunning and the pastries are good. Even better than good, a few of them, like the 'Notre Dame' pastry, are even great. Here, at this tea salon and pastry shop, you sit in front of the celing-high picture window and gaze straight out onto the Notre Dame cathedral. Now that it is being restored, you even have cranes and construction to entertain you, giving you a bit of a 'Builder Bob' experience while you sip your fair trade teas or locally roasted coffee beans. Even if the window seats are taken, you can still make yourselves comfortable at the side tables or in the sky blue painted anterior room. They also serve light lunches, such as quiche and salads, in case you drop by for lunch. This is a family-run business husband and wife team. So though the address is ultra-chic, the atmosphere is 'homey.'

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: There are many places throughout Paris that offer delicious pastries. But this one is singular in that it offers the view onto Notre Dame, too.

Paige's expert tip: For the height of Paris ambiance, this takes the cake. Where else can you sit, sip your tea, nibble on your sandwich and pastry and gaze out at the rebuilding of the 850 year old Cathédrale Notre Dame?! Plus, they are kid-friendly; Good to know in this busy city!

Read more about A. Lacroix Patissier →

6th Arrondissement - Rive Gauche

First they teach you the ABC's of French wine and how to do a proper wine tasting. They focus on 3 of the major French wine regions at a time. The wines selected come from any of these famous French wine regions: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace, Loire, Provence, Languedoc or Champagne. Next, they teach you how to read a French wine label - how to sound like a pro when ordering French wine at a restaurant here in Paris, France or anywhere in the world. Then, they take you out to a favorite wine and small plates bar. Here you get to try out your new wine pairing skills straight away. Order a small plate of something delicious and then choose the wine you'd like to pair with it. Groups up to 10 people are welcome!

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Food and Wine is not just France's specialty, it's its cultural heritage. In this food+wine experience, you'll discover the best of both.

Paige's expert tip: Join in on a 2+ hour wine + food pairing seminar-workshop experience and tasting trek in St. Germain des Pres, Paris. This is a perfect way to learn how to effortlessly order that bottle of French wine at your favorite restaurant - and what to pair it with perfectly!

Read more about Second Degree Dinners - Paris →

1er Arrondissement

Dreamt up as an oasis in the city, this little desert den is actually hidden inside a chic boutique hotel, up on their 'suspended' terrace. Bookings accommodate a maximum of 8 people for lunch or dinner. Tea time is a bit easier to get in on, as you can book for two and perhaps share the designer decorated desert cabin with others who have had the same notion to share a moment of tea and tranquility together during the holidays. The food served here is a Moroccan theme with its touch of the exotic and perfumed. For example, the orange salad is flavored with light touches of fleur d'oranger water and cinnamon. This is one of those addresses that the French call 'confidential.'

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This year's theme is 'desert oasis' and truly provides a sense of escape from the city when you are sitting cosily inside with your friends.

Paige's expert tip: Holidays are a great time to get together with friends and loved ones in intimate settings. But many Parisians live in small quarters or different far-flung parts of the city. So this concept, of a private little cabana in the city center, is a clever one. You can reserve the entire space (up to 8) for lunch or tea or dinner.

Read more about Khaima Oasis →

4éme Arrondissement

The important thing to know is that Librarie Ulysse is the first, and still only, book shop that is wholly dedicated to travel literature and guide books. The second most important thing to know is that the word 'librairie' in French actually means bookshop. (The word for library is 'bibliotheque' in French). This historical shop on the Ile St.-Louis makes for a great excuse to sightsee on this charming little island in the center of Paris. Plan for some time among the books, as the shop is chock full. Then, once you've made your selection of travel literature and guidebooks, find yourself a seat in one of the cozy cafes the little island neighborhood is famous for, and spend the afternoon reading and sipping hot chocolate or mulled wine. And, if so inclined, have a peek into the Eglise Saint-Louis, the historic church just across from the book shop.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This is the exclusive bookshop in Paris where you can find a Dog Lover's Guide To City of Light, Paris on 4 Paws.

Paige's expert tip: This is one of the oldest bookshops in Paris. It is also the only one purely devoted to travel literature and guidebooks. That it is found on the picturesque Ile St.-Louis makes for a good reason to sightsee in the neighborhood. And, yes, the famous ice cream shop, Berthillon, is just across the street, as is the Eglise Saint-Louis.

Read more about Librairie Ulysse →

4éme Arrondissement

Today this city library specializes in collections of art books and books having to do with art. But back in its day (16th & 17th c.) it housed Queen Marguerite of Valois, once married to King Henri IV but whose marriage was anulled, and Nostradamus (1503 - 1566), respectively. According to historical records, Nostradamus issued forth his prescient predictions from his bedroom upstairs. This monument was first built under the orders of Tristan de Salazar between 1475 and 1519. The building itself is known as the Hotel de Sens, but the library now housed inside it, is called Bibliotheque Forney. Be sure to appreciate the stairwell that leads up to the library entranceway. It dates to the middle ages and has been perfectly restored and preserved. There are continuous art shows held here, in the gallery on the inside of the courtyard. They are free and open to all ages.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Built first in the 15th century for Paris' archbishops, this architectural gem doubles as a public library and exquisite gardens and is open to the public.

Paige's expert tip: During the holidays 2019, this library and medieval historical monument, practically ripped from the pages of Harry Potter, is exhibiting an art show called Nourrir Paris. That translates to, Feeding Paris, and is all about how the city has fed its population throughout the centuries. It is free and open to all ages.

Read more about Bibliotheque Forney →

On the occasion of Christmas celebrations this year, the iconic department store, Galeries Lafayette, has installed an ice skating rink on its rooftop. What's more, it is free and open to all. Now you have extra incentive to head down to the Parisian shopping district where many of the biggest and fanciest department stores are located. A Parisian tradition is to gaze at the window decorations which are festively themed for the season. And this year, you have an added adventure to enjoy whilst you do your holiday shopping - the rooftop ice skating rink. It is open to all ages and from 10 in the morning to 8 at night. Imagine gliding around on the ice while overlooking the Paris Opera house and the majestic boulevards that intersect around this department store. You can even see as far as the Sacre Coeur and the Eiffel Tower.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Holidays are best when they are equal parts fun and adventure as well as shopping and preparing meals!

Paige's expert tip: Throw some fun and games into your holiday shopping this season. Pretend you are taking a sporty break from being a holiday busy bee, and breathe in some of that cold winter air while you glide across the ice on one of the highest vantage points in central Paris. Even better, it's free and open to all ages. As an added attraction, the 5th floor (kids' toys and clothes) this year offers a Barbie House that you can take a peek into.

Read more about Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann →

17th Arrondissement - Etoile Bat

Paris has always been rich with cinema. There is no lack of venues and movie theatres in this City of Light. But going to the movies in a foreign land is not always the most sociable of experienes. After all, you sit in a darkened theatre and peer up at a screen for two hours, listening and watching in silence. So that's where Lost In Frenchlation founders had the clever idea to make an evening of it. And to focus on the expat experience, or, rather, expats and local French who are interested in intermiingling. These weekly movie nights are all about being sociable, and, yes, movies are involved. Screenings are in English so they appeal to French and other nationalities living here in the Capital who want to improve their language skills, and expats who want a dose of their native tongue.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Check the facebook page for their weekly events postings. There are screenings going on all the time, and at different venues.

Paige's expert tip: You can go alone or you can come with friends. Going to the movies at a Frenchlation event is as much a social outing as it is a cinematic experience.

Read more about Lost In Frenchlation →

16th Arrondissement - Auteuil Pa

This museum is the former house where the great French writer, Honoré de Balzac once lived. During his day, this area of Paris, called Passy, was very much outside the city. In fact, this hillside was once covered in vineyards. The author of La Comédie Humaine was quite an entrepreneurial author, even self-publishing at first before his writing became acclaimed and he achieved notoriety. His printing house was located in the 6th arrondissment, the façade of which can still be seen on rue Visconti. Legend has it that this house out here in Passy, very close these days to Radio France, used to have an underground tunnel by which he could escape when creditors came calling. Today the house has been fully restored into a museum dedicated to Balzac. In one of the rooms, you can even see his desk a which he used to write. Another one of the rooms features all the characters of La Comedie Humaine, reconstructed in caricature form.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: More than a museum, here you get a sense of how Honoré de Balzac, one of France's greatest authors, once lived and worked.

Paige's expert tip: Give yourself some extra time for after the museum visit, because the little tea house/coffee shop on site serves marvelous cakes and soothing hot and cold beverages. It is like a little oasis perched above the River Seine in this very gentile Parisian neighborhood.

Read more about Maison du Balzac →


Meet Paige Donner

Paige's guidebook Paris On 4 Paws, A Dog Lover's Guide To The City of Light , her cookbook, Le CBD Cafe Coockbook and novel, I'll Take Paris are all available on Kindle and Amazon. .

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