Five Tips for a Festive Family Holiday in Paris

Here’s one Paris mom’s list—checked twice—of fun ideas to make the most of your family time.

Exploring Paris with little ones is a magical experience anytime of year.  But with a heavenly host of family-friendly activities, the city shines especially bright during the holidays.  Get inspired to bring on the Noël cheer with Kelly’s list of cool kids’ stuff to do.

1) Ice Skate Under the Domes of the Grand-Palais

You may have visited the Grand Palais for an art event, but you’ve never seen it quite like this! Every December, this magical space is transformed into a winter wonderland, featuring France’s largest indoor ice skating rink.

Le Grand Palais des Glaces is a perfect outing for every age in your family.  While kids will be excited about the skating, parents can also enjoy the Belle Epoque interior of the Grand Palais, built for the 1900 Universal Exposition. Child-sized helmets and pushable seats for little ones are also available.  The rink also offers a secure and supervised space for children to safely skate.

This year, the whole family will be awe-inspired by Standing Wild Bear, a 23-foot polar bear sculpture by French artist Richard Orlinski, installed at the rink’s center.  

Location: Le Grand Palais

Closing Date: January 9, 2019

Opening Hours: Open every day, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm, and 10:00 pm to 2:00 am.

Metro/RER: Grand Palais

Admission: Children under 3 are free.  Child between 3-12:  12 € (about 13.60 USD). Adult admission ranges from 17 € (about 19.30 USD) to 25 € (about 28.40 USD) depending on the time of day.  Both children and adults pay 29 € (about 33 USD) per ticket from 10:00 pm to 2:00 am.

Stroller Friendly? Yes

To save time, book your tickets online.

2) Wander Through a Festival of Light in the Botanical Gardens

This year, the city’s botanical gardens Jardin des Plantes is hosting its first festival of illumination: Espèces en voie d’Illumination  (“Illuminated Species”).  This unique spectacle will shine a light on the critical importance of nature conservation.

You and your family will be led on an interactive path meandering through a menagerie of glowing flora and fauna. Beginning with animals that faced extinction millions of years ago and ending with a look at today’s endangered species, this family-friendly exhibition promises to illuminate both minds and faces.  After this whimsical evening stroll, kids are invited to watch live shows about nature, attend fun educational workshops, and even decorate their own festive lantern.

Location: Jardin des Plantes

Closing Date: January 15

Opening Hours: Open every day from 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm. Closed on December 24.

Metro/RER: Gare d’Austerlitz and Censier Daubenton (metro) and Gare d’Austerlitz (RER)

Admission: Online tickets cost 14,00 € (about 15.90 USD) for adults and 11,00 € (about 12.50 USD) for kids ages 3-12. Children under 3 are free, and family tickets are also available.

Stroller Friendly? Yes

 

3) Take in the Tree at Notre-Dame Cathedral

Notre-Dame Cathedral is considered by many to be the historic heart of Paris.  As the city’s most prominent religious site, this medieval landmark is even more of a must-see destination during advent.  Every December, the cathedral warmly welcomes the season with an enormous beautiful tree in its plaza.  It makes the world-famous Gothic façade just behind it even more striking.  After stopping at the Christmas tree—or sapin de Noël—your little ones will love wandering inside the cathedral to see its colorful Nativity scene and sparkling stained glass windows.

You can also reserve our Notre Dame for Families: Stories in Stone tour, designed for children ages 6-12, to understand the engaging secular stories the cathedral tells as well. Much like Paris itself, this tour is especially enchanting during the holiday season, when Notre-Dame is at its most festive.

Location: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris

Closing Date: The tree will be up through January and the Nativity scene will be on display until February, though the exact closing dates are yet to be announced.

Opening Hours: The cathedral is open every day from 7:45 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, it closes at 7:15 p.m.

Metro/RER:  Cité (metro) and Saint-Michel – Notre-Dame (RER)

Admission: Free

Stroller Friendly? Yes

4) Gaze at the Galeries Lafayette Displays

Nothing says holiday magic in Paris like the windows of Galeries Lafayette department store. Every year, these displays mesmerize visitors with a host of animated figures, whimsical scenery, and eye-catching illuminations.

The iconic window displays are normally created by teams of design professionals, but this year the store decided to hand over the reins to children, with their Young Dreamers Art Competition.  The winning drawings of young artists ages 5-11 were brought to three-dimensional life by an illustrator team known as Keraskoët.  Even your teenager will adore these dazzling displays, while enjoying the very Parisian pass time of “lèche-vitrines” (literally “window licking”). My little one nearly jumped out of her stroller to get a better look!

Location: Galeries Lafayette

Closing Date: On-view until January, though exact date is not known.

Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday, 9:30 am to 8:30 pm. Sunday, 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. On December 24th and December 31st, it will be open until 6 pm. Closed on Christmas Day and January 1st.

Metro/RER:  Chaussée d’Antin – La Fayette (metro) and Station Auber (RER)

Admission: Free

Stroller Friendly? Yes

5) Explore the Tuileries Garden Christmas Market 

For nearly a decade, the Christmas market on the Champs-Elysées was one of Paris’ most popular holiday events. It’s back, but this year, La Magie de Noël (The Magic of Christmas) takes place in the Tuileries Garden, just next to the Louvre. Here, you’ll find a Christmas fair with all the trimmings, including 120 chalets selling gifts, sweets, and foods from around the world. 

As kids sip on chocolat chaud (hot chocolate), they can take in a Guignol puppet show (Saturdays and Sundays, 2:30 and 4:30) or wander around the stalls. When not trying out the sweet treats, give the giant Ferris wheel a whirl for exceptional views of central Paris.

Location: Jardin des Tuileries

Closing Date: January 6, 2019

Opening Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11:00 am to 11:00 pm, Friday and Saturday, 11:00 am to 12:45 am, and Sunday, 11:00 am to 11:45 pm. Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, 11:00 am to 9:00 pm.

Metro/RER: Tuileries or Concorde

Admission: Free

Stroller Friendly? Yes

If you’re looking for more holly jolly activities to add to your itinerary, check out our selection of family tours. Whether exploring the Marais with our Time to Explore Paris walk or unwrapping art clues at the Louvre, you’re bound to have a lively holiday if you’re spending it in Paris.

Bonne année from all of us at Paris Muse!

The author, Kelly, enjoying the window displays at Galeries Lafayette.