Notre Dame Cathedral
The Christmas tree in front of France’s signature cathedral is an obligatory stop on your holiday stroll. It’s no Rockefeller Center, but the tree’s sparkling lights are a splash of color against the creamy grandeur of Notre Dame’s illuminated facade. The tree is adorned, like much of Paris, in blue and silver lights and ornaments. The color scheme is a warm-up to 2010, which has been declared the Year of France-Russia. This cross-cultural celebration begins Jan. 3, with the performance of “Slava’s Snowshoe” in Paris.
Notre Dame Cathedral, stop Saint-Michel on Metro line 4 and RER lines B and C.
Hotel de Ville
If you’re standing near the entrance of Notre Dame, you can probably already see the twinkling white lights of Paris’ city hall to the north-north east. Walk down Rue d’Arcole and cross the Seine River. The rooftop of Hotel de Ville sparkles like a discotheque. Two illuminated trees stand on either side of the building’s main entrance, and small pyramids of blue and white lights line the nearby water fountain. An outdoor ice-skating rink in the square's center will be open to the public for free until March 6. Skate rentals are 5 euros ($7). Weekdays are less crowded.
Hotel de Ville, stop Hotel de Ville on Metro lines 1 and 11.
Starting to feel a little homesick for Manhattan? Head over to Boulevard Haussman and Paris’ major department stores. Galleries Lafayette is covered in a complex web of bright white and yellow lights. Elbow through the crowds for a spot in front of one of the store’s several window displays. Need to warm up? Slip inside and head toward the center of the store, where you’ll find a towering Christmas tree and brightly covered presents hanging from the ceiling.
Back outside on Boulevard Haussman, a small Christmas village lines the street. The small peaked-roof wooden stands are festive. You won’t find that ornament of Santa climbing the Eiffel Tower here: The merchandise is mostly jewelry and scarves. A little further down the street, the Printemps department store glows an eerie red. Its decorations feel more suited for Halloween than the winter holidays.
Start at Galleries Lafayette, 40 Boulevard Haussman, stop Chaussee D’Antin La Fayette on Metro lines 7 and 9.
The narrow cobblestone streets of the city’s artisan district feel even cozier when its holiday lights switch on at about 5 p.m. In Place des Tertres, where Paris’ painters set up easels amid hoards of gawking tourists, the branches of the square’s wispy trees are speckled with tiny blue lights. A few steps away, a small Christmas market in the courtyard of Eglise Saint-Pierre sells hot wine in small plastic cups sans cinnamon sticks. Meander the winding streets under the glow of the holiday lights hanging above the road. A stroll down Rue Ravignan brings you to the festive Place des Abbesses, where another small Christmas market encircles the metro stop.
Metro stops Abbesses (line 12) and Anvers (line 2) will take you as close as possible to the top of Montmartre. From there, you have the option of walking up the mountain, hopping on the Montmartrobus or riding the funicular to the top.
Avenue des Champs-Elysees
The most famous street in Paris does not disappoint. The thin trees lining the road are encased in pale blue lights. Start at the top of the avenue, near the Arc de Triomphe, and stroll down the wide sidewalk. The stores and cafe decorations on the south side of the avenue are the most impressive, and best viewed from the opposite side of the street. At the bottom of the Champs-Elysees is an extensive holiday market where you can buy Christmas ornaments or take a picture on Santa’s lap.
The market ends at Place de la Concorde, where a sparkling Ferris wheel awaits. Hop into one of the waiting gondolas and be swept 197 feet above for a spectacular vista. From there, you’ll be able to see all the lights of Paris.
Start at the Arc de Triomphe, stop Charles de Gaulle-Etoile on Metro lines 1, 2 and 6 and on RER line A. Paris’s Ferris wheel is at Place de la Concorde, stop Concorde on Metro lines 1, 8 and 12. Tickets are 10 euros ($15) for adults, 5 euros ($7) for children.
This report comes from a journalist in our Student Correspondent Corps, a GlobalPost project training the next generation of foreign correspondents while they study abroad.