If you're lucky enough to be in Paris to usher in the New Year, the city of light offers plenty of ways to say Bonne année!. In my book, Paris is one of the most colorful and exciting places to celebrate New Year's Eve, whether your preferred style is clubbing the night away, a good meal with a view, or a simple glass of champagne shared with a small group of friends or loved ones.
Paris New Year's Traditions
In Paris, as in the rest of France, the New Year, or "St. Sylvestre", starts January 1st and ends February 1st. French people start wishing each other cheerful Bonne Années and exchanging bises (small kisses on each cheek) at the stroke of midnight on January 1st, and mailboxes are then flooded with greeting cards and gifts throughout the month. So don't be surprised if you hear wishes for the new year throughout January, and feel free to return them!
Champagne or sparkling white wine (not to be confused if you wish to avoid lengthy lectures) is the drink of choice on New Year's Eve in Paris. Vin chaud (hot wine) and cider are other favorites. Of course, if you're celebrating the New Year at a restaurant or party, plenty of non-alcoholic drinks are available at most spots.
A common Paris treat for the New Year are papillottes, chocolates or other confections that pop like small firecrackers when you tear off the wrapping. You can buy these in any Paris supermarket or confectioner's shop.
Firecrackers and smaller fireworks can be legally bought and sold in Paris, to the surprise of some. Whether you find it amusing or irksome, be aware that street celebrations often include the launching of small, but potentially dangerous, fireworks. While these are usually harmless, do be vigilant.
- Contrary to popular belief, there is no "rule" on how to dress for a major event like New Year's Eve in Paris, and while the city counts a greater-than-average number of impeccably dressed fashionistas, plenty of others hit the town in jeans and warm sweaters to enjoy the New Year. Do make sure you follow any dress codes for individual restaurants, New Year's parties, or other events, though-- it's not unusual for higher-end venues to apply stringent dress codes against sneakers, jeans, or t-shirts at the door.
Are there "official" fireworks for the New Year in Paris?Official Firework shows have been all but absent in Paris on the 31st in recent years, so you unfortunately shouldn't get your hopes up for seeing any on the skyline for New Year's eve. You'll probably see a few small ones launched by private groups, however.
Major Spots to Celebrate
If you like to countdown to the New Year in the warmth-- literal and figurative-- of a crowd, there are several places around the city where thousands of residents and visitors traditionally gather to uncork the champagne and shout "Bonne Année!":
The Champs-Elysées is the place to head if you want to be at the center of the party. Starting at around 9 p.m. on New Year's Eve, people start to flock to the famed avenue. From many places on the Champs-Elysées, you can get a good view of the Eiffel Tower, which generally displays a sparkling dance of light at the stroke of midnight. There are also plenty of spots to go dancing or dining before or after midnight in the area. Although the ambiance here is usually "bon enfant" (literally-- "good child", or harmless), celebrating on the Champs-Elysées calls for you to be especially aware of your personal belongings, as pickpocketing is common in large crowds. This also won't be the partying spot of choice for you if you're claustrophobic or crowd-shy. You should also be aware that, while many if not most people flout the rule by bringing along bottles and/or plastic flutes, alcoholic beverages may not be consumed here or in other major areas around the city where people are congregating for the new year. You can be fined if caught doing so.
- The Sacre Coeur plaza in Montmartre is another favorite, and significantly calmer, place to bid farewell to the current year. Assuming the skies are relatively clear, the knolltop vantage affords spectacular views of the entire Paris skyline. While still crowded, the Montmartre street party is more laid-back than its Champs-Elysees counterpart, and there are plenty of bars, cabarets, and clubs to explore in Montmartre and nearby Pigalle. If you're looking for a less conventional way to celebrate New Year's in Paris, partying in Montmartre may be the ticket.
New Year's Dining and Shows
Paris being one of the culinary capitals of the world, you'd only expect to find plenty of restaurants here offering special New Year's Eve menus, some at reasonable prices, others a bit steeper.
Along with dinner, why not feast your eyes on a traditional cabaret show? New Year's is a perfect time to indulge in all those Parisian cliches that everyone should experience at some point.
Traditional Restaurants and Brasseries
The Flo restaurant group is famous for its traditional French brasserie fare. Special New Year's Eve dining is offered at the following of their restaurants:
- Brasserie Flo (Metro Chateau d'Eau, Line 4)
- Brasserie Julien (Metro Strasbourg-Saint Denis, Line 4)
- Vaudeville (Metro Bourse, Line 3)
- Le Boeuf sur le Toit (Metro Franklin D. Roosevelt, Line 9)
Another pricey way to see in the New Year-- a less expensive option would be to have dinner elsewhere and opt for a simple Seine river boat tour to soak in the lights and festive ambiance.
Bateaux Parisiens offers a New Year's dinner cruise dinner cruise that includes musical entertainment, a bottle of Pommery champagne, and other special treats. Make sure to reserve at least 24 hours in advance.
Yachts de Paris also offers gourmet New Year's Eve dinner cruises on the Seine river. The dinner cruise lasts two hours, includes an aperitif, dessert, and coffee, and offers gorgeous views of some of the city's most remarkable sights (Notre Dame Cathedral, Tuileries Gardens, Concorde).
Reservations are obligatory: +33 (0)144 541 470
- Find more information on Paris boat tours