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Posts in ‘Holidays & Festivals’

San Fermin: All You Need To Know

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Every July the historic and lovely town of Pamplona, in the far North of Spain, becomes a sea of colour and throbs to the sound of music, dancing and merriment.  It is fiesta time! The 8 day long festival is to honour San Fermin (Sanfermines), the patron saint of Navarre Province.  The fiesta for most, is the occasion of the famous Bull Run in Spain but is actually a combination of three ancient events – honouring the saint, a market fair and a bullfighting festival.

The San Fermin Festival is a time of mayhem, huge adrenaline rushes, vast wine consumption, dancing and non-stop fun.  It is a heck of a crazy adventure.  Here are some tips and information if you want to get the most out of your festival experience.

  • The festival is officially opened by the mayor, at 12:00pm on the 6th of July with the launching of a pyrotechnic Txupinazo rocket (chupinazo) from the city hall balcony.  Thousands gather in the square to witness the event.

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  • The most famous event of the fiesta is the running of the bulls, properly called “encierro.”  The first running takes place the day after the opening ceremony.
  • The main festival is on 7th July.  The statue of San Fermin is paraded through the streets of old Pamplona accompanied by dancers and entertainers performing the Jota (an ancient dance).
  • The Giant’s Parade takes place every day of the festival.  Huge papier-mâché puppets manipulated by people dancing inside them are part of the procession.
  • Encierro takes place every day at 8am.  A firecracker signals the release of the bulls from their corral.
  • Just before the Pamplona Bull Run starts, runners (wearing red bandanas around their necks) gather around the statue of San Fermin and sing a traditional chant three times.  This is a prayer for protection.
  • The run involves six fighting bulls and six steers down the narrow streets of old Pamplona.  The route is 825 metres long and ends in Pamplona’s Bullring.

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  • The bulls are killed later in the afternoon at the bullfights.
  • At 11:59pm on a random night crowds gather at the Town Hall to make as much noise as possible with drums, horns, whistles or anything they can lay their hands on.  The din or El Struendo (The Roar) goes on for several hours.
  • There are spectacular fireworks every night at the Citadel Park.
  • The San Fermin festival also has traditional Basque sports every morning in the Plaza de los Fueros, near the Citadel.  They are stone lifting, wood cutting and hay baling.
  • On the last night people gather once again at the Town Hall Square at midnight, 14th July.  The sad Pobre de Mi (Poor Me) is sung, candles are lit and the people remove the red bandanas from their necks.

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Great Places To Celebrate The 4th Of July

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With Independence Day in the United States coming up this Friday, most Americans have been excitedly making preparations for the holiday and how they’ll spend the weekend that follows. After all, the Fourth of July is one of the most beloved holidays in the US. If you’ll be in the United States for the holiday, then you have already taken the first step in assuring yourself that a fantastic weekend is ahead of you. Let us help you take the next few! We’ve made it possible for you to visit four of the most unforgettable places this weekend at lower prices.

New York City

Picture it: walking through the famed streets of the most popular city in the United States, riding above skyscrapers and climbing atop the Empire State Building giving you a view of the city like none other, and taking a trip along the Hudson River as the sun goes down and fireworks come out. This is what New York City has to offer to you this weekend!

New York

The NY Sky Ride and Empire State Building both provide unbeatable views of New York City. It’s perfect for a day spent walking around the city and for getting to know the city from a different perspective. Another must-see in NYC is the Hudson River. But don’t just see it from a bridge; experience it on its waters on the Spirit of New York Dinner Cruise. There is no experience like watching the fireworks on the Fourth of July from the middle of the Hudson River while feasting on a delectable meal and dancing along to the music of the live band onboard.

Niagara Falls

Though admittedly not located in the United States, Niagara Falls is a magnificent and adventurous way to spend any weekend. And it’s only a short 650 km from New York, the equivalent of a few hours trip.  Spend three days in Niagara Falls and Toronto this coming weekend, where you can ride on the famed Maid of the Mist boat ride, experience the Falls in all of their majesty, sight-see through Toronto, and view the natural beauty of the 1000 Islands on your trip back to New York.

For the adventurer in you, Niagara Falls is where you need to be this Fourth of July weekend!

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Another great way to spend your holiday weekend is by exploring and taking in the landscapes that cover the Southwestern United States from the nearby city Las Vegas. Though Vegas is typically known for its attractions inside the city itself, the natural attractions located just a short trip away from the city will allow you to see the United States in a light you probably never have before. Take a day trip from Las Vegas and be amazed by the grandiose of the southern rim of the Grand Canyon as well as the beautiful paths running through Zion National Park. Both are true American treasures.

Washington D.C.

The nation’s capital! Where else could anyone who wanted a true American Fourth of July experience endeavor to spend their weekend?

Experience the fireworks on the Fourth of July aboard the Washington Odyssey Dinner Cruise where you will eat a fabulous meal, listen to a remarkable band play, and be surrounded by a wonderful group of people and a beautiful sky full of lights. Later on that weekend you can discover all the landmarks and history that the US capital has in store for you.
Prepare yourself for a weekend you won’t forget, filled with brilliant fireworks, fantastic celebrations, and experiences that you’ll be sharing with others for years to come!

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Where To Go This Summer – Part II

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Scotland

The highlands, Glasgow in particular, will be putting its best foot forward and donning its party dress this summer.  This is a mountainous, heather covered land of mists, the Loch Ness Monster and other myths, kilts and football mad natives!  It has hundreds of miles of wild, beautiful windswept coastline.   It is a magical land famous for its whisky blended with plenty of history.  So much of Scotland’s treasures are accessible – for free.  Except the whisky!

Scotland Castles

There is so much action on the calendar that it is really difficult to decide what to see and do.  For instance…

The 2014 Commonwealth Games – Glasgow
The XXth Commonwealth Games will see the world’s top athletes compete over 11 days of competition from 23 July to 3 August.  The ancient city of Glasgow dominated by the impressive People’s Palace will host the largest ever athletic gathering of its kind for the first time in Scotland’s history.   This multi-sport event will see the likes of Usain Bolt giving off their very best during the Games.

Homecoming Scotland 2014
The first edition of 2009 Homecoming was marvelously successful.  Following on that success, Homecoming Scotland 2014 is designed to bring people of Scottish ancestry from all over the world back to the country.  It is also an open invitation to people from all over the world.  Homecoming will gain an added significance and poignancy this year because in September the Scottish people will vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum to decide if “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

Edinburgh Fringe Festival
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival will be set against the backdrop of the Royal Mile, the Old Town, Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace and ancient Parliament Hall.  For nigh on three weeks, this annual cultural festival will showcase artists of all hues as they perform and delight us with their creative and manic best.

The Ryder Cup

Scotland

After many a long year the Ryder Cup, that pinnacle of golf competition, pitting the best of Europe and the US will come back to Scotland.  The legendary home of golf will see the world’s best golfers swinging their clubs on the magnificent greens and fairways of the PGA Centenary Course in Perthshire where the Highlands and the Lowlands meet.

For all these reasons and more Scotland will be the centre of the world’s attention in the coming months!

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Famous Easter Celebrations Around The World

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Easter is a really important time for Christians around the world.  It begins the week before on Palm Sunday and is called the Holy Week. It is the end of the 40 day period of fasting known as Lent.  Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus three days after he was crucified on Good Friday.

Christians around the world observe and celebrate Easter in many different ways.  There are sunrise services, Easter egg painting and parades. Two things are common though – church services and plenty of good food.

We show you how different cities around the world celebrate Easter.

Seville, Spain
The Holy Week and Easter celebrations in Seville are one of the most spectacular in the world.  The atmosphere is really terrific.  Every day there are huge colourful processions with masked participants and floats depicting scenes from Christ’s passion.  The floats are elaborately decorated and feature startlingly lifelike sculptures – some of which are several centuries old masterpieces.  It is a really important occasion for local Catholics and the many worshippers who come from across the world.

Easter 1

Jerusalem
As the Lenten period draws to a close, Jerusalem is packed with thousands of local and foreign Christians.  Celebrations in Christianity’s most holy city happens on a more emotional and spiritual plane.  Every year pilgrims come to join in processions that retrace the steps Christ took on the way to his crucifixion.  Known as the Via Dolorosa (Way of Suffering), it winds through narrow passageways from Lion’s Gate to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The solemn yet joyous services at the Holy Sepulchre on Easter Sunday are especially important as Christians believe that this is the place where Jesus was buried and later resurrected.  A visit to the historic and picturesque Mount of Olives, Jesus’ favourite place, is not to be missed.

Rome
The spiritual and administrative centre of the Roman Catholic Church, Rome hosts a number of traditional and religious events.  For two weeks there are processions and church services (some candlelit/torch lit) to mark the most important event in the Christian calendar.  The Good Friday processions are particularly poignant as actors enact the Passion of Christ leading up to Christ’s crucifixion.

The Pope is involved in many of the services.  On Easter morning he will celebrate open air mass in St Peter’s Square with many thousands of worshippers.  After the mass he delivers the blessing known as the "Urbi et Orbi – to the City and to the World" from the balcony on the façade of Saint Peter's.

Buenos Aires
Argentina is almost 85% Catholic and so Easter is an important time for people.  There are numerous religious events around this time.   La Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Argentina is observed by candlelit processions through the streets accompanied by melodious choirs.  Easter in Argentina involves plenty of delicious foods and sweets.  It is a time when families get together and conjure some tasty dishes.

One of the most popular destinations in Buenos Aires during Easter is the Tierra Santa Religious Theme Park.  The park is a recreation of many Christian related sites and buildings of ancient Jerusalem that give you the feeling of being in that holy city even though you are many thousands of miles away.  During the Holy Week they put on special programmes re-enacting the important events in the life of Christ.

New York
This city likes to put on a show and Easter is just the occasion when New York puts its best foot forward.  The many churches have services all through the Holy Week.  The lovely and most famous church in the city is St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Central New York.

Easter parade

Aside from the religious observances, one of the most famous (and rather hilarious) events is the Easter Parade and Bonnet Festival.  The event takes place on the celebrated Fifth Avenue.  You have got to see (and join in if you want) the jaw-dropping bonnets, hats and outfits.  Some are elegant, some are interesting and many are just plain over-the-top creations.  Some people even bring their dressed up dogs!

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Holi – Is A Colourful Time

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The Hindu festival of Holi is celebrated on the last full moon day (or Poornima) in the Hindu Lunar calendar month of Phalgun.  The days and dates vary every year.  This year, 2014, the dates are March, 16th (Sunday) and 17th (Monday).

HoliWhile Holi is a universal festival, in India it goes by different names with variations in the theme and the way it is celebrated.  This facet of Holi mirrors the numerous linguistic differences and distinct cultural identities of India.

A popular and widespread origin for the festival revolves around Krishna.  Krishna had a mischievous nature and often played pranks on people around him.  He would drench the village girls, including Radha in coloured water.

To commemorate his pranks the women gather at the Radha Rani Temple in Barsana, Mathura (close to Agra) and drive away men by beating them with sticks just as Krishna was chased away when he tried teasing Radha and her friends.  It is called Lathmaar Holi (lath: meaning stick).

In Maharashtra the highlight is when young men make a human pyramid to climb up and break a pot suspended high above the streets.  The practice harks back to the child Krishna who used to steal buttermilk from the houses in his village.  It is truly a spectacular scene.

Bengal does it a little differently.  It is known as Dol Jatra or Dol Purnima.  Idols of Krishna and his consort Radha are put in an extravagantly decorated palanquin and paraded around the streets.  Wherever it goes, people throw coloured powder (gulal) on the carriers and vice versa.

Holi 2

The Shekhawat region of Rajasthan has its own peculiar style.  When Holi is celebrated and people smear gulal on each other it is a manly affair with no women participating.  This custom has evolved because in previous years women used to be physically harassed by drunken men, which led to plenty of conflict and violence.  A result of this social restriction is that now the young men and boys dress up like girls during the week long celebrations.

However one theme unites them all.  Holi is the celebration of the triumph of good over evil.

Holi is also enthusiastically celebrated by the vast Indian Diaspora around the world, especially London.  It will be celebrated on different dates at different places like Richmond and Watford and go on right through the month of March.  The final big bash will be in June at the Holi Festival Of Colours London on the 28th of June at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Wherever it is celebrated though, Holi is bound to be full of colour, excitement and good times.

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Homecoming Scotland 2014

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Homecoming Scotland 2014 is the follow up to the highly successful first edition of 2009. The initial Homecoming was designed to encourage people of Scottish ancestry to visit the area and to celebrate all things Scottish. Of course, it also served as an open invitation to visitors from all over the world.

Homecoming Scotland was originally born from the idea of celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns; the famous national poet. The event grew into showcasing Scotland’s other significant contributions in the realms of culture, heritage, innovations, golf and of course, whisky. 

The year-long programme for Homecoming Scotland 2014 will feature the same attributes as it did the first time around. The two main events this year are the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Ryder Cup in Pertshire. The other events spread over the year focus on activities, ancestry, creativity, food & drink and nature, celebrating the very best that Scotland has to offer. Here are our favourite picks from the vast selection of events:

Highland Games

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There will be staging of the traditional Highland Games in towns, villages and castles across the country. The exciting games, where contestants compete in some truly unique activities such as caber tossing and competitive dancing, are a combination of culture, sport and social entertainment with a uniquely Scottish twist! Some of the more well-known locations for the games are Cowal, which stages the largest Highland games in the world, Braemar, attended annually by members of the Royal Family, and the Ceres Highland Games, the oldest free games.

Stirling – Battle of Bannockburn

28 Jun 2014 – 29 Jun 2014

The medieval city of Stirling in Central Scotland will host a number of exciting events that will recreate and commemorate the 700th Anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, a significant victory for the Scots in the Wars of Scottish Independence. Here you will see extraordinary re-enactments choreographed by Clanranald, known for their work on Hollywood blockbusters such as Gladiator and Thor II. Walk amidst interactive medieval encampments of 14th century Scotland; kitchens, blacksmiths and armouries with a real feel of the excitement before the great battle. There will also be hundreds of tartan clad pipers, drummers and Highland dancers providing a real Scottish atmosphere.

Edinburgh

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Edinburgh will once again be at the heart of cultural activity and festivals by running the renowned Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the largest arts festival in the world. There will be a number of activities to choose from revolving around music, books, art, traditional storytelling, comedy shows and much more.  The annual festival is truly the peak of this artistic gathering and outpouring, and the sweet dish at the end this feast of performing arts will be a spectacular fireworks display at the iconic Edinburgh Castle. The Fringe Festival runs between 01 – 25 August 2014.

Of course there is more to Edinburgh than all the arty stuff.  Not far away from the city are the fabulous Highlands of Glencoe and the legendary Loch Ness – if you are the sporty type, you might even consider taking part in the popular Loch Ness marathon.

Whisky

Homecoming Scotland 2014 will be big on celebrating and imbibing the uisge beatha (water of life).  World Whisky Day will no doubt be a very spirited affair while there will be month-long celebration at the Spirit of Speyside Festival (1 – 5 May 2014), and also at The Islay Music and Malt Festival (23 May – 1 Jun 2014).  There will be eating aplenty too at farmers’ markets and food festivals, all inevitably washed down with a wee dram of good Scottish whisky or draft beer. If you want to combine the beauty of the highlands with a tipple or two, you could take a day tour exploring the best of both worlds. 

Nature

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Beyond Scotland’s cultural and gastronomical fame, are its natural and scenic wonders made famous in song, verse and painting throughout centuries. The Scottish landscape is one of the most dramatic in the world with rugged mountain peaks, thousands of miles of coastline, fairy-tale forests and glens populated by thriving wildlife and plants.  Majestic deer and vast colonies of seabirds have made Scotland their home, and a trip up the spectacular highlands is an unforgettable experience.

Scotland is a place of ancient legends, grand scenery, amazing people, a unique and rich culture and producer of great minds that will be well represented in all the events of Homecoming Scotland 2014. If you’re still hungry for more Scottish wonders in 2014, take a look at our offering, from sightseeing tours to ghostly walks in the eerie Edinburgh vaults to touring the wonderful highlands.

For more information on Homecoming Scotland 2014, go to Visit Scotland.

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The Sun is Shining on Brazil

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The title may sound rhetorical.  The very mention of the name Brazil and sunshine springs to mind.  During the coming year it will be very much in the global limelight.

Three of the world’s largest events are due to be held in Brazil.  In a few days the Rio Carnival will begin.  The FIFA World Cup 2014 will kick off in a few months from now – in June to be precise.  This will ensure that thousands of football fans from around the world will pack the stadiums and beaches of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.  Barely will the dust and excitement have settled when the 2016 Olympics will put Brazil right back on the world’s front pages.

football

Brazil is a large country stretching roughly 4,800kms from north to south and 2,700km from west to east.  This is a vast country of golden beaches, lengthy stretches of ocean front, towering mountains and millions of acres of jungle.  Her boundaries cover an amazing array of geographical features that can be broadly categorised as the Amazon River Basin in the north and the Brazilian Highlands in the south.  The mighty Amazon, and its tributaries, serve more than a third of this area, which is so large that ocean-going ships can travel 3,700kms upstream.

The other watery aspect to Brazil is its coastline that runs for about 7,500kms.  This is probably the most popular and well-known feature of the country.  The indigenous Tupi-Gurani Indians call Brazil “Pindorama,” which aptly means “land of the palm trees.

While Brazil’s naturally diverse landscape is rich and varied, it is her beaches that make it such an attractive and magnetic tourist destination.  These sunny, sandy havens can be found the length of the country but it is the south-central regions that have the most famous and highly visited beaches including the legendary Copacabana.

rio

Copacabana is located in the city of Rio de Janeiro.  Its beautiful sands extend for miles.  However, it is the 4km stretch known as the ‘balneiro’ that is world famous because of its hedonistic and totally relaxed social traditions.  That, by the way, is only the day to day feature of this amazing beach.

Rio de Janeiro and by association Copacabana celebrates New Year every year in the most sensational way.  It is among the largest in the world.  The fireworks display runs for almost half an hour, while the revelry involving music and dancing can continue till well past dawn.  In fact, the spectacle bringing in the New Year is the single largest Brazilian attraction.  It is estimated that more than 2 million people from Brazil and all over the world pack the sands during that night.

Another massive event is the Rio Carnival.  This flamboyant, colour splashed, over the top six-day party brings the whole city (and country) to a standstill.  From 28th February to 4th March nearly 5 million people will watch, dance and sing through the streets of Rio de Janeiro.  These huge displays of fantasy played out on the streets are fuelled by time, effort and money.  So large has the event become that it is probably “The Greatest Show On Earth.”

carnival

The Copacabana is not the only attraction in Rio de Janeiro.  There is also the iconic Sugar Loaf Mountain, the Christ Statute (one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World) and numerous historic parts of the city.

A visit to Rio de Janeiro is always a high-spirited affair.  It is also stunningly beautiful and full of contradictions.  Rio de Janeiro is a captivating city and worth every moment spent in discovering it.

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The Year of the Horse Gallops into London

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This Chinese New Year will come galloping in.  The celebration for the Year of the Horse in London is slated to be as bright, noisy and happy as anywhere in the world.  London is reputed to host the largest celebrations marking the Chinese Lunar New Year outside Asia.

In China, Hong Kong and Taiwan the festivities and rituals carry on over a period of 15 days.  In London, however, it will be restricted to the weekend.  2nd February will be the highpoint and main day for celebrations.   The Chinese community and many others too will be celebrating just as vigorously.

Chinese new yearOfficially the celebrations will kick off around noon at Trafalgar Square.  It will be followed by several performances involving acrobatic troupes and traditional dancers from China.  Local artists will perform at a number of sets at a venue on Shaftesbury Avenue.

The West End too will put on a show as befitting its status.  In fact the New Year Parade, led by the Lucky Money God will start here at 10am.  It will then wind its way through the theatre district, down Charing Cross Road before arriving at Trafalgar Square for the official opening.

Chinatown, which stretches from Shaftesbury Avenue to the area around Gerrard Street and includes a part of Soho, will be the main focus of the celebrations.  There will be traditional Horse themed decorations, crafts and food stalls, plenty of dancing drumming and classical Chinese music.  One of the treats will be watching the dragon dancers making their way past the crowds on the streets.  Fireworks!  There are going to be plenty of those and lots of bangs to go along with them.chinatown london

Like the previous years, several thousands will turn up to watch the many events and participate in the numerous parties at the roughly 100 bars, restaurants and cafes in Chinatown.  Of course there will be plenty of delicious food to sample as the restaurants come up with special menus.

Not to be left out, Madame Tussauds will be lighting up the building in lucky red and festooning it with traditional Chinese decorations.  Among the likenesses of Chinese celebrities will be those of martial arts legends, Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.  They have been specially brought in from Shanghai and Hong Kong for the New Year celebrations and will remain in London till April.

Joining in the New Year celebrations, the British Film Institute will be casting the spotlight on Chinese cinema by showing over 80 films.  This is part of an extended four month China season and will feature director Feng Xiaogang, China’s Steven Spielberg.

Besides the above, there will be plenty to see and do over this Chinese New Year weekend in London.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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Millions of Americans are set to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday on November 28th this year. The festival marks homecoming for many who come together to share this holiday with their families. A hearty thanksgiving dinner of roasted turkey, butternut squash, cranberry sauce, corn on the cob, green beans, carrots and pumpkin pie is shared with loved ones. It is the time when families thank the Lord for what they have and remember their ancestors for providing them with bountiful harvest.

Thanksgiving DayIn 1621, the European settlers and Native Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For later generations of Colonists, Thanksgiving was more of a religious holiday descended from Puritan days of fasting, prayer and giving thanks to God. The Governor of each colony every year would declare certain days of Thanksgiving for plentiful harvests, victorious battles and timely rains. In 1777, George Washington decreed a national day of Thanksgiving to celebrate America's victory over the British in the Battle of Saratoga. By the 19th century, every state was celebrating the holiday with varying dates and months. Soon writer Sarah Josepha Hale began a one woman letter writing campaign, urging politicians to establish an annual day of Thanksgiving to help the country heading towards strife and Civil War. In 1863, her efforts were rewarded when Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November to be the Thanksgiving Day.

Thanksgiving has now became a welcome day of leisure from a six day work week. Some people have a four-day weekend so it is a popular time for trips and to visit family and friends. Thanksgiving day football game, celebratory parades and early Christmas shopping have since become part of this great American tradition.

Thanksgiving paradeWatching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City has become a beloved Thansgiving custom for New Yorkers and outsiders who come to witness this grand spectacle. This annual extravaganza has over 3.5 million people attending the parade along the parade route, and over 50 million people watching it on television. The parade works its way through the 2.5 mile route in Manhattan from Central Park West to Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square. This year's line-up will see family favorites such as Hello Kitty, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Spider Man, Ronald McDonald, Pillsbury Doughboy, Pikachu, Buzz Lightyear, Smurf, SpongeBob and others. Giant baseballs, stars, pumpkins, and candy canes will be among the novelty balloons. Floats will include Santa's Sleigh, True Spirit of Thanksgiving and Winter Wonderland in Central Park. The line-up of music performances include Carrie Underwood, Ariana Grade, Gavin Degraw and Fall Out Boy among many others.

We wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

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In search of Père Noël – Christmas in Paris

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parishero (500 x 324)

During the coldest, darkest winter months it’s often the wonderful thought and anticipation of Christmas that encourages most of us to bravely battle the nasty breeze, sleet and sub-zero temperatures. When Christmas lights and displays pop up across the cities of Europe, one can’t help but feel the build-up of festive cheer and excitement. And during this dark time of year the best place to be is of course the City of Light, where you can soak up the glow of seasonal activities. Paris is chock-full of yuletide activities and makes for a wonderful destination even if you're not too into busy Christmas markets and carol singers. Take a look below at the best things to do if you're spending Christmas in Paris.

Christmas Lights and Displays

NicholasJonesgalerie

Image by Nicholas Jones

A 2km stretch of the iconic Champs-Élysées is lit up with dozens of lights leading up to the Arc de Triomphe. The 200 trees that are drenched in light will stay lit until 2:00am each day, and all night on December 31st in celebration of the new year.

The many boutiques and shops that line Champs-Élysées are decorated with festive displays, lights and trees. Stop by at the traditional Christmas market for a cup of mulled wine and a bit of shopping. Don’t miss the stupendous Galeries Lafayette department store: from the outside you can marvel at the ever-changing light show the wonderfully magical window displays, dedicated this year to the theme of The Beauty and the Beast. Be sure to check out the Printemps store as well.

Other noteworthy spots with twinkling lights are Place Vendôme and Place de la Concorde, where you will also find the Paris Big Wheel.

Ice Skating

OlivierBruchezskate

Image by Olivier Bruchez

Donning a pair of skates and heading to the rink is a winter favourite, especially among kids.
Patinoire de L’Hôtel de Ville is situated right in front of the city hall and is the most popular (and busiest) rink in the city. If your skating skills are a bit rusty, fear not, the huge rink includes a smaller area for beginners and children – and there are even instructors at hand to help you perfect your technique.

Patinoire des Cinq Continents at Champs-Élysées, right in the middle of the liveliest Christmas shenanignas. This year the rink takes its inspiration from the five continents of the world by featuring over 300 animated pandas, deer, wolves, polar bears and other critters in its ice garden.

If you want to skate under the watchful eye of the Eiffel Tower, you can do so at the Trocadero Square rink where you will also find a Christmas village and a snow garden.

Cultural Events

There are many things to do in Paris besides the obvious Christmas activities, from shows to art exhibitions.

For scenes straight out of a storybook, catch the legendary Sleeping Beauty (La Belle au bois dormant) ballet at the Opéra Bastille, or the Beauty and the Beast musical at Théâtre Mogador.

For thrills and wondrous excitement, go to one of the latest circus shows: Cirque BouglioneCirque Pinder or Cirque National Alexis Gruss. For something out of this world, you can experience Kooza, the new show by Cirque du Soleil. Whatever your choice, prepare for an evening of fantastical characters, colours, sounds and mind-boggling feats and tricks.

Art lovers will appreciate the many exhibitions taking place, most of which run until the end of January. See the works of Frida Kahlo at the Musee de l’Orangerie, Goya at the Pinacotheque and Braque at the Grand Palais

Quirky

Christophe Alary Musee

Image by Christophe Alary

Enter the bizarre, mysterious world of carnivals of the bygone era at Musée des Arts Forains, also known as The Fun Fair Museum. The museum is located in Bercy, a disctrict once used by Parisian wine merchants, where you can see rows and rows of warehouses with rails running down the lanes for transportation of the barrels. The museum is usually only open with prior reservation, but opens to the general public during Christmas. The collection includes merry-go-rounds and carousels, Japanese billiards and much more dating all the way back to 1850.

Still unsure of what to do in Paris? Take a look at the tours we offer in this beautiful city!

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