It's a truth universally acknowledged that living in Paris can be ridiculously expensive, and even more so at Christmas.
But you don't have to blow your budget to make the most of Noël in the French capital. Here are seven free things to do over the festive period this year.
Take in a Christmas concert
Sainte-Chapelle may be considered one of the holy grails of Christmas concerts, but it'll set you back (at least) €29. You don't actually need to shell out for a ticket to enjoy some beautiful festive music – the stunning Eglise de la Madeleine is offering a classical concert with free entry this Saturday. The church is just a stone’s throw from the Champs-Elysées, so you can drop by to enjoy Mozart and Handel before your trip to the Christmas market.
Where: Eglise de la Madeleine, Place de la Madeleine, 75008
When: 17th December, 4pm
Photo: Joe deSousa/Flickr
Winter sports for kids at the Stade Charléty
Not hitting the ski slopes this winter? The Stade Charléty is transforming into a winter sports resort for kids during the Christmas holidays. Ice skating, sledging, climbing and trampolining are included in the range of activities for children aged three to 16. And it’s all happening on real snow. Proof you don’t need to leave the French capital to enjoy an Alpine winter wonderland.
Where: Stade Charléty, 99 Boulevard Kellermann, 75013
When: December 19th – 31st, 11am – 6pm every day
Take a freezing swim (or at least watch)
This one's not one for the faint-hearted. Enjoy the spectacle or take part (if you dare) as 150 swimmers plunge into the Bassin de la Villette for a 100m race on Christmas Eve. And if that wasn’t crazy enough, they’ll be wearing fancy dress. This historic open-air swim is coming back to the city for the first time in 76 years. Wine and hot chocolate are promised to keep the crowd warm. Inscription is free and limited to 150 people.
Where: Bassin de la Villette, 75019
When: 24th December, 2-5pm
Watch the parade on the most famous avenue in Paris
Ok, this one's a bit after Christmas, but it's still worth a look. The Champs-Elysées will be pedestrianised to make way for the fourth annual New Year’s Day parade. At 2pm, a fleet of carnival floats and brass bands will march from the Place de la Concorde to Avenue George V, accompanied by jugglers and acrobats. Free public transport will be running throughout the city from 5pm on New Year’s Eve until 12pm on New Year’s Day.
Where: Avenue des Champs-Elysées, 75008
When: 1st January, 2pm
Ride the merry-go-round
Just in time for Christmas, festive merry-go-rounds will be springing up in 18 arrondissements across the city. And guess what? They're totally free. They’ll be running from 11am – 9pm from mid-December until early January in the following locations (subject to change):
- Square du Temple (3e)
- Place de l’Hôtel de Ville côté Rivoli / Place du Bourg Tibourg (4e)
- Bordure du square St Médard (5e)
- Place Sainte Sulpice (6e)
- Place Joffre, M° Ecole Militaire (7e)
- Place de la Concorde (8e)
- Place Lino Ventura, M° Pigalle ou Anvers (9e)
- Place Bonsergent (10e)
- Place du Père Chaillet, M° Voltaire (11e)
- Rue Antoine-Julien Henard, au coin de l'avenue Daumesnil (12e)
- Place d’Italie (angle avenue d’Italie) (13e)
- Angle rue Didot et rue d’Alésia, M° Plaisance ou Alésia (14e)
- Esplanade Gare Montparnasse. Place Raoul Dautry (15e)
- Place du Trocadéro (16e)
- Place du Docteur Félix Lobligeois, M° Brochant ou La Fourche (17e)
- Square Louise Michel, 6 place Saint-Pierre, M° Anvers (18e)
- Place Armand Carrel, M° Laumière ou Bolivar (19e)
- Rue Belgrand, M° Gambetta ou Porte de Bagnolet (20e)
Let your inner artist loose
Whether you’re looking to keep the kids busy over the holidays or want to indulge your inner artist, why not try one of the free craft workshops in Paris this month? Galeries Lafayette is hosting a week of creative activities including flower wreath making, terrarium building and embroidery. Or if that sounds too complicated, try your hand at making original Christmas cards and decorations at one of the classes below.
- Galeries Lafayette, 40 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009, 12th-18th December
- Bibliothèque Andrée Chedid, 36 rue Emeriau, 75015, 14th December (Christmas card making)
- Mediatheque de la Canopée la fontaine, 10 passage de la Canopée, 75001, 20th December (recycled Christmas decorations)
Take in a midnight mass at Notre Dame
Nothing screams ‘Christmas in Paris’ more than attending midnight mass at the Notre Dame cathedral. If you can’t stay up for the big show at midnight but still want a slice of festive magic in one of the capital’s most symbolic locations, pop along to one of the many services on 24th and 25th December. Services are free and open to the public.
Where: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, 75004
When: From 4.30pm until midnight on Christmas Eve and all Christmas Day