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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Christmas in Paris

Christmas market in Mons, Belgium (Maggie Bullock)
Christmas market in Mons, Belgium (Maggie Bullock)

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve posted, but I have returned from traveling and will be getting back to crafting and blogging this week.

I spent Christmas and New Year’s in Paris on my honeymoon, and I will say that Christmas in Paris is not too shabby.

One of the best things about Europe at Christmas time is the celebration of the season. In several areas of Paris, as well as in small towns we visited in the south of France and Belgium, there small Christmas festivals were set up in town centers or city squares.

Most markets are set up in small wooden chalet-like stalls around a square or along a main street and the wares vary pretty greatly. I will say that the food stalls are worth trying. In fact intentionally saving room for vin chaud (hot mulled wine), hot sandwiches, and a variety of snacks, waffles, and breads (not to mention the local cheeses, chocolates, and cured meats) is a good idea. There’s a good chance Ethan and I went back to a Christmas market just for lunch one day.

While some stalls featured imported goods, other stalls house regional specialties (lots of lavender and soap in Provence, etc) and local crafts. Those, of course, were my favorites. The best market we found in Paris was at La Défence, a surprising area of the city that is primarily a business district surrounded by high-rise buildings and modern architecture. The market was set up like a small village, and we spent a wonderful afternoon wandering, eating, and shopping. 

In smaller cities and towns, temporary ice-skating rinks and small carousels accompanied the shopping and food stalls. Town centers became a gathering place, not just for shopping, but also for community and celebrating the season. Markets are generally open until Epiphany (January 6), and after Christmas they were still buzzing with activity.

The week before New Year’s, we traveled to Aix-en-Provence, a beautiful city in the south of France (we skipped Marseille…the surrounding cities are much more peaceful and lovely). If you’re in France for Christmas, travel to Aix. The cafes were busy, there were children and adults skating in the town center, and the Christmas market had more regional and handmade work than any other. It was difficult to choose what we would bring home and what to leave behind for the next trip.

Here are a few of my tips, should you find yourself in Paris for Christmas:

  1. Go for a walk in the middle of the night. You’ll see the city without crowds and it will seem like it is all yours. We made more discoveries on quiet midnight walks than any other. And be sure to notice the way the Seine reflects the lights of the city. (One of these walks also led to our discovery that the lights on the Eiffel Tower turn off at 1:00 a.m.).
  2. Find a Christmas market, drink vin chaud, and eat a sandwich from a stall as you walk around the market.
  3. Attend a Christmas Eve concert at Sainte Chapelle. The space is intimate and has perfect acoustics. Every inch of Sainte Chapelle is decorated, including over 6000 square feet of stained glass windows. “O Holy Night” is already a beautiful song; in that space it was simply magical.
  4. Go ice skating on the Eiffel Tower. Some of the more traditional tourist destinations are worth waiting in a line or two: the Eiffel Tower is one. On the first level of the Tower there is a small ice rink with free skating and skate rental. While you’re there, go all the way to the top of the tower, buy a glass of Champagne, and look out over the most beautiful city you’ll ever see.
  5. Learn the art of stopping for a café as you wander the city. Paris can be overwhelming: there is more to experience than your senses can take in. Stopping for a café (espresso) and a rest is not only healthy, but also one of the experiences Paris should teach you. (Adding a macaroon or croissant to the stop isn’t too shabby either).



Artist and crafter Maggie Wolcott writes about craft events in and around Spokane, as well as her own adventures in creating and repurposing. Her DwellWellNW posts include project and decorating ideas, recipes, reviews of events, and interviews with local artists. Maggie spends her days as an English professor, and when she’s not grading papers, she can generally be found with a paintbrush or scissors in hand. She can be reached at