Since coming to Paris, I’ve kind of had a love-hate relationship with the Champs-Élysées.
I know, I know. How could I? How could I not love “la plus belle avenue du monde,” or “the most beautiful avenue in the world?”
Easy. Because it’s always too crowded with tourists. That’s really my biggest problem with the Champs-Élysées. Unfortunately, the crowds extend past the actual shopping area and down the street all the way to Place de la Concorde and the Tuileries Gardens and then the Louvre. So, understandably, there is going to be a lot of tourists wanting to visit and sometimes I’m one of them and sometimes I’m not.
But the Champs-Élysées Christmas Market made my poor Grinch heart grow three sizes. It is worth the hassle. It’s easy to spot because there are little white tents lining the streets a block away from the start of the Champs-Élysées shopping area. But it’s really more like a Christmas Carnival.
It’s bizarre (a word I use ALL THE TIME in French because it just means “weird” and I love the juxtaposition between American “bizarre” and French “bizarre”). Mostly because there are weird carnival staples like the “psychedelic” funhouse or those super slides you go down on a potato sack or roller coasters just set up there on the sidewalk.
Oh, and there’s an ice-skating rink too, complete with moving robot animals and hilariously inappropriate dance music (it’s like 7 euros to rent skates and it’s absolutely worth it, if only for the chance to be able to photobomb a million tourist shots while on ice skates).
Plus, there are a lot of really interesting food stands serving both the things you can easily find—crepes, waffles, churros (or chi-chi; I’ve seen both)—and maybe can’t easily find—hot beer (bière chaud), hot wine (vin chaud, not as rare as hot beer but definitely better), and foie gras sandwiches.
And there’s shopping. But it’s not just shopping, but shopping with really weird stores. Need to buy a set of Russian dolls, or three, for that special someone? No problem, there are at least two different stands. Need to buy just a regular doll? Well, there are some stands for that too. Chocolate-covered mousse balls? A dozen for 10 euros or one for 1 euro. Scarves. Backpacks. Ornaments. Glass trinkets. Eiffel tower key chains. HERMIT CRABS. You want it, chances are there’s a stand for it.
The shopping, eating, drinking, and ice skating would be fun activities on their own, but they’re made like ten times funner by the fact that you are doing it on the Champs-Élysées. Like, I felt so cool telling my host mom that I went ice skating on the Champs-Élysées … and saying the same thing to my mom, my dad, and a couple of my friends. This Christmas village, while still crowded, definitely contributed to my Champs-Élysées experience.
It’s a fun—and FREE—activity that is a little touristy (or at least in a touristy area) yet really exciting. You can see the Tuileries, the Place de la Concorde (and the seasonal Christmas Tree and Ferris Wheel), the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées, and the Arch de Triomphe all in the span of like five minutes. I highly recommend it if it’s November/December time in Paris and you’re the tourist or you’re having a tourist come visit.
I’ve gone four times now. I hate that I love it so much.