Christmas markets a plenty, department stores dripping in festive bling and avenues of trees sparkling with fairy lights – these images and more swam in my head as I boarded the Eurostar train at St Pancras Station in London. A little more than two hours later I was stepping of the train at Gare du Nord in Paris. Why? To photograph the City of Lights at Christmas.
Paris at Christmas
Galeries Lafayette, Boulevard Haussmann
Top of my list, the exclusive department store, Galeries Lafayette, in particular its spellbinding Art Nouveau stained-glass and steel dome, sitting atop three tiers of exquisite balconies, dating back to 1912. It is a spectacular sight any time of year but at Christmas even more so. Having seen images from previous years I’d been looking forward to checking out the 2015 decorations and they didn’t disappoint. Having taken my photographs I grabbed a bite to eat and sat on a stool looking out over one of the balconies and a fabulous festive view as I munched on a delicious slice of quiche washed down with a cool beer. I really am a sucker for Christmas trees, shiny baubles and twinkling lights but when combined with such exquisite architecture I was mesmerised.
Also on my hot list for a photograph was the Champs-Elysées, with the avenue of trees decked-out in lights and cars headlights streaming passed. I wasn’t the only one trying to capture this scene as others had the same idea as me of taking a photo from the traffic island in the middle of the street. I was amazed though at how many people were happy to stand out in the road, with their backs to the traffic, so that their loved one could take their photo with this scene as a backdrop displaying an almost suicidal disregard for their own safety.
While waiting for the light to fade enough to capture the scene above, I explored the market stalls that ran all along the avenue. I particularly enjoyed the gourmet food market (no surprise there for regular readers). Edible and drinkable delights included hot wine and mulled cider, waffles and toffee apples, herbed sausages and many a tasty cheese.
The avenue looked as splendid as I’d imagined with the Arc de Triomphe at one end and in the other direction a giant Ferris wheel on the Place de la Concord.
Place du Tertre, Montmartre
An out and out tourist trap but a must-see never-the-less, Place du Tertre in Montmartre is a delightful square lined with restaurants. A favourite haunt of artists in days gone by, today it is thronged with painters displaying their scenes of Paris or trying to entice you to pose for your portrait or caricature. This is what it is, yet you can’t deny that Place du Tertre looked extremely pretty at dusk with the Christmas lights gently swaying in the breeze.
Printemps, Boulevard Haussmann
Next door to the Galeries Lafayette buildings, yes there is more than one, another grand department store, Printemps, is dressed up in their festive finery and celebrating their 150th Christmas.
In the Printemps ‘Beauty’ building you can see another spectacular glass dome above an elegant restaurant. It was built in 1923. Just 16 years later however, in 1939, in order to avoid the risk that it might be destroyed in bombing raids, it was dismantled and put into storage. It didn’t return until 1973 when the grandson of its original designer oversaw its restoration. I can certainly see why it was deemed so precious.
Just a couple of weeks before my visit, the streets of Paris had been turned into chaos by a terrorist attack. I am so pleased that I did not let this put me off visiting. I felt perfectly safe there and so glad to have this opportunity to share my images of Paris, looking as wonderful as ever in her Christmas bling.
You’ll find more great ideas for things to do in Paris in Winter here.
Where to stay in Paris?
I stayed in an apartment booked through Airbnb. It’s the first time I’ve used this service but it won’t be the last. It’s far more cost-effective compared with hotel prices and my host was able to give me lost of advice about the local area. If you’ve not travelled with them before you can get a £25 discount using this link. There’s a great range of rooms and apartments to choose from.
Do you have a favourite city you love to visit at Christmas?
Check out these best Christmas destinations if you need some inspiration.
And you’ll find lots more festive themed posts on my blog including:
Celebrating Christmas around the World
Fortnum and Mason at Christmas
The magic of Brussels at Christmas, Part 1
The magic of Brussels at Christmas, Part 2
London Days Out: Christmas shopping in Covent Garden
Winchester Christmas Market
A Victorian Christmas Festival (Portsmouth Christmas Market)