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Paris is the destination of choice for those who want to have magical end-of-year celebrations. Between the multiple Christmas markets, the magnificently-illuminated streets and the romantic atmosphere, the capital attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists at this time of the year. However, perhaps you are looking for a quieter – but no less magical – destination in the region to enjoy the special atmosphere of this period. There is a wealth of more intimate places, steeped in history, and conducive to enchanting walks. We spent a little time selecting places worth checking out for a day or a weekend. Here are our magical places to celebrate Christmas around Paris:
Enchantment all over France. If you are not afraid of distances, here is our list of the 10 most beautiful Christmas markets in France.
Provins (Seine-et-Marne) for a medieval Christmas
To begin with, let’s dive into the history of France, in the beautiful city that is Provins. Located south-east of the capital by just 1h20 by train, this city undoubtedly offers the best-preserved medieval heritage in Ile-de-France, which has been registered with Unesco since 2001. Visit the César Tower, underground passages, rose gardens, the Grange aux Dimes – there is no shortage of attractions. If you visit in the summer, the festival Les Médiévales attracts floods of visitors. In the winter, with the approach of Christmas, the city dons a mantle of magic with its living nativity scene, its medieval market and its Christmas market. Please note: some activities are concentrated around a weekend in mid-December, during festivities called “Christmas in Provins”.
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Janvry (Essonne) for its Christmas market like no other
Looking for a breathtaking Christmas market in Ile-de-France? Then make the jump to Janvry, in the west of Essonne during the two weekends straddling the months of November and December. For the occasion, the whole village gets involved, and nearly 100,000 visitors flock to see the festivities. On the program: nativities from around the world, pony rides, funfair rides and animals of all kinds.
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Vaux-le-Vicomte (Seine-et-Marne) for a Christmas at the castle
If you have studied the history of France, you will know about the castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte, near Melun. Each year, this magnificent, residence built for Louis XIV’s superintendent of finances, Nicolas Fouquet, in the 17th century, is adorned with a thousand and one lights. The doors are opened to adults and children alike who wish to celebrate Christmas. as it should be. Horse-drawn carriage rides, roaring fires and enchanted gifts will put the cherry on the cake of the festivities. The proof in this video.
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Senlis (Oise) for a sacred Christmas
Senlis is a medieval city with a rich two-thousand-year-long history. If you go there for the end of the year celebrations, you must make a detour to the majestic abbey of Chaalis Fontaine-Chaalis, where the Christmas market is held every year, which attracts nearly 10,000 visitors around sixty exhibitors. You will also find a Christmas market in town at the Saint-Pierre church. Plenty to satisfy your shopping desires in a city that is a little magical!
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Barbizon (Seine-et-Marne) for a romantic Christmas
You can’t go wrong traveling to Barbizon for Christmas. It is a popular destination throughout the year, known for being “the village of painters”. This beautiful village, with its cobbled streets bordering the Fontainebleau Forest, attracted many artists in the mid-nineteenth century. At Christmas, for a few days, the village offers simply magical nocturnal route. Check the dates on the town’s official website.
Versailles (Yvelines) for a royal Christmas
There is no need to introduce the next magical place for Christmas: the Palace of Versailles becomes even more sublime in the build up to Christmas, with attractions such as The King’s Course. What is it? A 1h10tour of the Hall of Mirrors and the Palace’s State Apartments, hosted by actors and dancers. All the necessary information is available on this page of the official website. But we assure you: you will come back with stars in your eyes.
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Thoiry (Yvelines) for a wild Christmas
You know about the Thoiry Zoo, but do you know about Thoiry’s light animals? It is not particularly dedicated to Christmas – spanning a much wider period, from October to March generally – but the surreal atmosphere is an invitation to reverie and a stroll in the gardens of the castle of Thoiry. Perfect to add a little more magic to your end-of-year celebrations! More information on the official website.
Saint-Cloud (Hauts-de-Seine) for a Christmas in lights (and 10 minutes from Paris)
These illuminations are also popular with Ile-de-France residents, but they are much more in keeping with the Christmas theme. Lumières en Seine is a show that takes place over two kilometers in the magnificent gardens of the Saint-Cloud estate, to the west of Paris. It can also be accessed quickly from the center of the capital on metro lines 9 and 10) At nightfall, the park lights up with thousands of lights, and leaves visitors speechless. Please note that the entrance fees are a bit high. Go to the official website of the event.
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Fontainebleau (Seine-et-Marne) for a spectacular Christmas
Who does not know about the Château de Fontainebleau? This jewel of the Renaissance is of unequalled beauty and knows how to celebrate Christmas with all the appropriate pomp. Each year, the program of festivities is different, usually including classical music concerts, theatrical performances, and carriage rides. Take a look at the programming for 2021, which includes Christmas carols by the famous conductor Thomas Hengelbrock and the choir Balthasar Neumann, guided tour on the theme of “Princesses from the cold”, and a Christmas show about Perrault’s tales. For all the details, visit the official castle website.
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Breteuil (Yvelines) for a fairy-tale Christmas
We end our little tour of magical places around Paris to celebrate Christmas with a last castle, which is not the least spectacular. Each end of the year, the Château de Breteuil brings out its most beautiful illuminations to delight young and old alike. With entertainment including storytelling, Christmas trees, and sewing workshops, there is something for everyone, all for just €3 entry for children. What more could you want?
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We hope that our list of 10 magical places around Paris will have given you some ideas for your end of year celebrations. Any other suggestions? Do not hesitate to mention them to us in comments.