Paris Travel Planner   Christmas Eve Church Services, Paris
Everyone thinks of Notre-Dame, but also consider Saint-Sulpice, Sacre-Coeur on Montmartre; the Church of the Madeleine, and other Paris churches.

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Notre-Dame de Paris offers a variety of Christmas eve services, starting at 4:30 PM and culminating with a midnight mass, just after the ringing of the big bell Emmanuel.

But there are many other wonderful churches in Paris, with a variety of offerings. Depending on where you are staying, you might try the lovely Saint-Sulpice, near the Luxembourg Gardens; Sacre-Coeur, on Montmartre; or the Church of the Madeleine, just up from the Place de la Concorde. Also check out any churches in your neighborhood; a small, local service might be interesting.

Be aware that not all churches have mass at midnight. Some have services at 11:00, and many have earlier services, so you'll want to verify the times with whichever church you decide to attend.

At Notre-Dame and most others, be prepared for security checks as you enter. Once inside, remember that although there may be many tourists, it is a place of worship and visitors are asked to show proper respect.

In addition to Christmas eve and Christmas day, you may find churches offering special concerts during the holiday season. We attended a lovely performance at the Église de la Madeleine just after New Year's:

Concert, Church of the Madeleine, Paris
Five musicians in such a huge space? Wonderful!

Madeleine Concert

It should have been a disaster: two violins, viola, cello, soprano—a mere five musicians performing chamber-music classics—Pachelbel, Vivaldi, Schubert—"pour les touristes," not in an intimate Renaissance salon, but in the echoing Napoleonic vastness of Paris’s Église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine, the gigantic classical temple conceived as a monument to the Emperor’s victorious armies, but in the end surrendered to the Benedictines.

Fauré composed his famous Requiem for La Madeleine, and an enormous orchestra, chorus and soloists numbering 250 might even have filled the place with sound. But…five people? And unamplified at that?

The strings began, the echoes spread, the notes blurred and resounded, and the familiar compositions were transformed. We all knew what the notes were, so the echoing indistinctness in the 93,000-square-meters of enormity didn’t matter. In fact, it was the point: the brilliant strings, beneath the looming apse which amplified their vibrations, spread to the soaring roof 20 meters above and to the shadowy vastness of the temple’s far wall 100 meters away. The single cello made the massive Corinthian columns hum, and the soprano, in full voice, produced the clarion thrill you may hear and feel when you arrive in heaven.

That was it. If you’ve ever dreamed of the Celestial Harmonies, of the Music of the Spheres, it was like that. You should have been there.

What to See & Do in Paris

Christmas in Paris

Christmas Day in Paris

Christmas Lights in Paris

Christmas Markets

Department Stores at Christmas

Best Itineraries & Tours

Where to Stay in Paris

Paris Restaurants

Paris Transportation

Finding Your Way in Paris


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  Notre-Dame de Paris at Christmas

Above, Notre-Dame de Paris, on Christmas night, with the crowds waiting for the ringing of the big bell.


Paris Girls Secret Society, by Tom Brosnahan


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