pariswinter, amyinprovenceI’ll admit it, I was dubious about spending Christmas in Paris. Although I love the city I’ve become accustomed to Christmas at home with my family, roast turkey and all the trimmings. So the thought of wandering the sleepy streets of Paris looking for a bite to eat on Christmas day was not so appealing. Happily, and to my surprise, I found the city was buzzing and full of festive cheer. Despite the horrific events of November it held its head up high and shined more brightly than I’d ever seen it. Here are a few things to know in case you feel like escaping to the City of Light next Noël:

Musée d’Orsay is open on Christmas eve (and not too crowded)

I love this museum but when I’ve attempted to go in the summer there have been queues around the block and it has been a bunfight to get a good look at the amazing Impressionist artworks within. I was pleased to find on Christmas Eve it wasn’t too heaving. I went to see the exhibition “Splendour and Misery: Pictures of Prostitution, 1850-1910” – a treasure trove of work by Toulouse-Lautrec, van Gogh, Degas, Picasso, Munch and more (turns out they were all hanging out in the Montmartre brothels in those days).

Sacré-Cœur: Do the Dome

A lesson to be learnt here. I didn’t go up the Dome of the Sacré-Cœur as I was put off by the crowds but some of my friends did. And it didn’t take long for them to get to the top, where they could capture spectacular views of Paris at sunset.

The backstreets of Montmartre on a crisp winter's day
The backstreets of Montmartre on a crisp winter’s day

Find quirky presents at the Marché aux puces de Saint-Ouen

I’ve always wanted to go to the Marché aux puces de Saint-Ouen and I wasn’t disappointed. Street after street of antiquities, from retro toys to tea cups, fine artwork to vintage Chanel suits. Perfect for a post-Christmas spot of window shopping if you are not in the mood for big department stores.

Scenes from the flea market at Saint-Ouen
Scenes from the flea market at Saint-Ouen

Finally, plan your Christmas Eve dining

While we had no trouble finding restaurants on Christmas Day, we struggled on Dec 24th, despite the shops being bustling. We ended up dining in a gay bar in the Marais, which was actually a cosy, welcoming little spot. And on Christmas Day we ate at Les Antiquaires on the left bank. They were extremely friendly and served up delicious French seasonal delicacies like chicken stuffed with chestnut and fresh oysters. They were a little confused when we pulled our Christmas crackers though (we brought our own), so be ready for some strange looks if you don a silly paper hat in Paris at Christmas…