Each year business associations get together with town halls to illuminate our holiday season evenings. A large portion of the budget comes from the businesses on the illuminated streets. On rue de Sevrès and Saint Placide this is quite clear as the names of the businesses are actually suspended in luminous red letters as part of the decoration. Most of the other displays however are simply for the beauty of the lights and the gaiety that they provide to shopping areas. Nearly all are done with LED technology to keep costs and energy use to a minimum. There are about 100 streets and many monuments which are illuminated in Paris. The lights will be on through the first week in January. Here’s a few of our favorite displays.
Christmas in Paris Light Trails
Lumières en Seine
One of two new light display this year comes to Paris from Germany. It’s a new concept called a light trail or Christmas garden. It’s titled Lumières en Seine and is on display every night at the Parc de Saint-Cloud until 9 January. Lumières en Seine is a unique experience inspired by Christmas and year end celebrations.
Easily accessible by public transport (at the end of the metro line 10!), this historical park, on a hillside above the Seine with views over Paris, is transformed every evening at dusk into an artistic and sensory discovery with spectacular scenography. It is an illuminated, musical immersion trail of 2 kilometres which wanders through the park to 26 displays with different themes. A maze of paths, passageways, tree and water features within the Parc de Saint-Cloud are awash with hundreds of thousands of lights, lasers and projections. It is an enchanting experience to share with friends or for a romantic night out. A great activity for families to enjoy the festive season in a safe, outdoor environment. The variety of scenes have something for every taste and style. Each person will have their own favorite. Mine was the hologram of the historic chateau, my husband’s was the lasers in the fog.
Celebrating and enhancing the natural surroundings, flora, fauna and fountains of the park, this very special light trail features colorful and brilliant light installations including floating water lilies, an impressive field of fairy lights, and a dreamlike laser-scape in the fog. Plus the perfect frame for a photo with the Eiffel Tower. In addition, the trail projects a hologram rendition of the ‘forgotten’ royal chateau which graced the park until it was burned by the Prussians during the 1870 siege of Paris.
You’ll also find cozy rest spots with food stalls, mulled wine and hot chocolate, and a traditional caroussel.
The light path will be run in accordance with Covid-19 guidelines. Lumières en Seine will have a timed entry system, ensuring a comfortable, spacious and safe environment for all visitors. And Sanitary passes are required. Don’t forget your hats and gloves (it’s chillier in the dark amongst the vegetation that it is on the city streets), sturdy shoes recommended too! Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the park. Last entry is 21h as you’ll need about 2 hours to enjoy the whole show.
Created and produced by global events and entertainment leader IMG (think of the Tutankhamun exhibition at La Villette and Taste of Paris at the Grand Palais) and DEAG Entertainment Group / Christmas Garden Deutschland GmbH (creator of 15 acclaimed light trails in Europe), the experience will be of the highest quality and standard befitting the historic location.
Lumières! at La Villette
To close the year, La Villette Park is draped in lights proportional with the park’s vegetation and unique architecture. Several grandiose installations will create magic in the Parc de la Villette, for an immersive, free and magical experience. The first installation, called From the Light Flow is designed by the Group F (think of the best fireworks or light show you have ever seen – Group F is probably behind it). The lights flow to the marvelous, electronic and delicate music of Scott Gibbons. The stroll continues along the canal where projected constellations by 1024 Architecture float on the surface. Bursts of the moon and stars line up elegantly in a grand galactic ballet, a monumental ode to the beauty of living things. The reverie continues with the work of Lélia Demoisy. Her luminescent circles in the trees modify our perception of space. The installation invites us to unravel the well-kept secrets of the plant world. December 2 to January 2.
Jardin des Plantes
Every year, the Jardin des Plantes presents a night time light festival in a magical setting! Gigantic lit statues of animals take over the place at nightfall. This year, enjoy the « Illumination Evolution », a new night time walk from November 29, 2021 to January 30, 2022.
Thoiry Chateau and Safari
A half hour from Paris is the drive through safari at Thoiry. During the winter you can add their evening light show to your visit. 1500 illuminated animals, characters and scenes are set up in the chateau’s gardens for a magical time called Thoiry Lumière Sauvages. An even more exciting time can be had if you stay overnight in one of the animal’s dens! Yes! From your cozy space you might see a coyote walk by, or the night time activities of a bear or even wolf. Plus you can visit the safari park at sunrise. Just imagine! Book in advance of course.
Christmas in Paris Neighborhoods
Place Marcel Sembat – Boulogne-Billancourt, M° Marcel Sembat
This traffic circle was previously decorated by a giant champagne glass, but the folks in Boulogne were not too partial towards the glass and so the structure was transformed in 2009 to a 12 meter tall Christmas tree. In fact the tree is not one tree but many trees… stacked. It was the only way to be able to have a huge tree in the middle of this large traffic circle which is also above a tunnel. A single tree would have been simply too heavy for the tunnel to support. A single tree is also very costly and complicated to put up. So Boulogne stacks 120 trees on a 5 tiered structure that used to be a champagne glass. The process is done at night to avoid complications at this busy intersection of eight streets. It takes seven people five nights to build the tree and decorate it complete with a star on the top. Boulogne has many other lovely decorations on streets and squares. 25 kilometers of garlands and strings all together! There is a Christmas market with stalls and carnival amusements at the Grande Place too. Boulogne is well worth a tour – but of course we’re partial.
As in previous years the lights are designed by Blachère Illuminations, a long standing family owned French company which exists for Christmas. 98% of their business in connection to light displays on the Champs, in hotels and even in the department stores. The company has an ecofriendly approach and the lights on the Champs can be used for three to five seasons. In all, 400 trees are covered in string lights which fan out from each trunk in the shape of a wine glass. They say the energy used to light the Champs is the equivalent a typical Parisian family of 4 over 6 weeks.
Rue Lecourbe, 15th arrondissement – A personal favorite
Each year I make a trip to rue Lecourbe to see what they have conjured up. The ribbons of light that zigzag down rue Lecourbe are stunning. They seem endless, but in fact cover about 600 meters. Rue Lecourbe is one of the longest streets in Paris at 2.4 kilometers total, it is a very wide street too at 17 meters in breadth. When you stand at the top of rue Lecourbe where it intersects with avenue Pasteur (Mo Sevrès-Lecourbe) and look to the south the effect of the light ribbons is as if it were a continuous canopy over the street. Nowhere have I seen lights this dense and the result gets my vote for the best individual street.
Other spectacular displays in the City of Light
Forum des Halles A twenty two meter tall Christmas tree decorates the Forum des Halles.
Christmas in Paris wouldn’t be Christmas without a stop at windows of Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, the Bon Marché and new this year: the Samaritaine, of course!
Don’t forget to poke your nose into the elegance of the 5 star hotels. A walk through the lovely lobby and rooftop bar of The Peninsula will make your jaw drop.
Bercy Village, Viaduc des Arts, Place Vendome and Avenue Montaigne (another personal favorite) all have extraordinary lights.
Visit this site for a short list of Christmas Nativity scenes