A Christ­mas walk through Paris

As a law student in France, November is mainly spent studying and taking midterm exams. But you can enjoy December all the more for it! In this blog post, I take you to my favourite places in Christmassy Paris.

Isabelle in front of two big Christmas trees in Paris.
The midterms are done - time to explore Christmassy Paris! Photo: Henrike Arnold

Studying law in Paris, you have to work hard for a free weekend in the run-up to Christmas. During your studies, you’ll write so-called galops d'essai in your main subjects at the end of November. These are midterm exams that count towards your final grade. Since most students' schedules here are very full - I myself had classes until 8:30pm three days per week in the first half of the semester - these exams usually take place on Saturdays.

The clear advantage of this concept is that you study half of the semester's material very closely, because in France a lot of emphasis is placed on learning by heart. In addition, this gives you the chance to secure a few points already, so you can go into the end-of-semester exams with a little less pressure.

So, I basically spent my November studying a lot and writing exams on Saturdays. It was all the nicer when I had taken my last big exam on the first weekend in December and was free to take a long Christmas walk through Paris on Sunday!

The Champs Elysees with Christmas decorations in the trees.
Trees are glittering on the French capital's most famous boulevard. Photo: private

Unmatched: the Champs-Elysées

If, like me, you marvel at everything that glows and glitters, you'll have a great time in Paris in the run-up to Christmas. I started my Christmas walk at the Galeries Lafayettes Haussmann, where there is a different and very impressive Christmas tree installation every year. On this occasion, I also went up to the rooftop terrace and had a look at the Parisian Christmas lights from above. Of course, it wasn't just me - masses of tourists enjoyed the ambience in the iconic department store. There were fewer and fewer people on the streets, however, perhaps the cold weather was a deterrent after all.

As evening fell, the street lighting started to take its full effect. For a particularly festive decoration, be sure to stroll through Rue Montorgueil, the Passages du Grand Cerf and the Galerie Vivienne. There, the Christmas lights sparkle particularly warmly, so that you won't mind the cold weather, which, like in Berlin, can be a bit on the wet side. But nothing really matches the Champs Elysées: Not only were the trees glittering in different colours, but most of the buildings were also fully decorated for Christmas.

The Place Vendôme with Christmas decorations.
Extravagantly dressed facades on Place Vendôme epitomize Paris Christmas flair. (photo: private)

My personal favourite spot

I wanted to end the evening at the city's largest Christmas market, the Village de Noël de Paris - La Défense. But when it comes to Christmas markets, there is still room for improvement in Paris: without Christmas music, it felt like a cross between a farmer’s market and a fun fair. As it turns out, it's rare to find a cosy Christmas market with delicious mulled wine in Paris.

The Christmas magic that I missed at the markets is all the more noticeable at my personal favourite place in the run-up to Christmas: Place Vendôme. With several stylishly decorated Christmas trees and extravagantly dressed facades, if you ask me, it epitomizes Parisian Christmas flair.

(Published 23 December 2022)