9 must visit Christmas markets in France

Christmas markets mean the festive season is unquestionably creeping up on us. Buying gifts at Christmas markets ensures you’ll give handcrafted, artisan items with the personal touch.

Christmas markets in France - the Lille Ferris wheelChristmas markets are a firm favourite for many. And as far as we’re concerned there is a festive market for everyone. Whether you plan on visiting one locally or perhaps look to venture further afield, there are so many lovely ones that are well worth a visit, especially in France. Christmas markets in France make a great excuse for a weekend break with a loved one or group of friends. With amusements for children they make a memorable family day out too. The majority of markets open at the end of November. So you can get ahead on some of your Christmas shopping whilst having fun soaking in the festive atmosphere.

Known in France as Marché de Noel, the big three Christmas markets in France can be found in Paris, Lille and Strasbourg. There are lots of smaller Christmas markets across the country.

Whether you plan to drive, fly or take the Eurostar, wrap up warm, sip your vin chaud and enjoy the entertainment. Here are our top nine must-visit Christmas markets in France.

Lille Christmas Market

When: 18 November – 30 December 2016 (closed Christmas Day)

Where: Place Rihour, centre of Lille

Travel: 1hr 22m from St. Pancras International, direct to Lille

If you plan on a proper shopping weekend then take the car. It is just over an hour from Calais, depending on traffic. The Lille Christmas market is somewhat an institution. Its presence in the city dates back for centuries and it has become the biggest of its kind in Northern France. Amidst the traditional wooden chalets selling local products and gifts to concerts and exhibitions there is plenty of entertainment too. The iconic Ferris wheel in the main square will give you a great view of the market. You’ll get a different perspective on the towering Christmas tree that dominates this winter wonderland.

Lille retailers really go to town at this time of year with their festive themed shop windows. And with nearly 4,000 shops throughout the city there will definitely be something to suit every taste and budget. A true shopping haven!

“Capital of Christmas” Strasbourg Christmas Market 

When: 25 November – 31 December 2016

Where: In front of the Strasbourg Cathedral in the historic quarter

Travel: Eurostar from London St Pancras changing at Paris, journey time between 5-6 hours including changeover.

Just over 2 hours away from Paris is the historic, cultural and gastronomic city of Strasbourg. Situated a few miles from the German border it is easy to notice several Germanic influences at France’s oldest and Europe’s largest Christmas market. From the food and wine right through to the style of gifts available you’ll understand quite quickly why Strasbourg has twice been voted ‘Best Christmas Market in Europe’. Known to many as the Capital of Christmas, it has some 300 chalets across 11 sites. It attracts up to 2 million visitors during the festive season. If this doesn’t get you into the festive spirit nothing will!

The Christmas market is situated in front of Strasbourg Cathedral, with its Gothic towers and famous sky-high clock. If you can drag yourself away from the stalls, the cathedral is worth a visit in itself.

Throughout the city, town squares are filled with characteristic wooden huts:

Place des Meuniers hosts a foodie market where you can purchase delicacies from Alsace’s legendary small growers and producers.  The Alsatian Christmas delicacies market has further local products in Place d’Austerlitz.

There is a Children’s World on Place Saint Thomas, definitely worth a visit if you are taking the kids. And have some fun ice skating on Place du Château.

Visit La Petite France, an area of quaint buildings with Christmas shops and even a gingerbread bakery. Food on offer at the market includes sausages and choucroute (pickled cabbages) and their famous three-meat baeckeoffe stew.

Reims Christmas Market

When: 18 November – 24 December 2016

Where: Place d’Erlon, rue Condorcet, rue Marx Dormoy and rue Théodore Dubois.

Travel: 2hr 16m London to Paris, on Eurostar

If you are visiting Paris then why not add on an extra day or two to explore Reims. Less than an hour from Paris by TGV it would almost be rude not to visit the capital of the Champagne region while in the vicinity. Reims is known as the “Cité des Sacres”. Its Christmas market is set to fill you with yuletide joy, Christmas cheer and of course a little Champagne.

With entertainment from street performers, carolers, jazz bands, jugglers and organ grinders along with wooden chalets selling local crafts and delicacies there is lots to see and do.

The market attracts more than 1.5 million visitors over its month long opening. Despite that it remains incredibly family friendly with animations for children, concerts, Nativity scenes, gourmet food stalls and even a funfair.

Nice Christmas Market

When: 03 December 2016 – 01 January 2017 (closed Christmas Day)

Where: Place d’Erlon, rue Condorcet, rue Marx Dormoy and rue Théodore Dubois.

Travel: 2 hr flight from London to Nice

The city is illuminated to set the celebratory tone for the abundance of festivities that take place throughout December. There’s a Christmas Parade and an end of year concert. Despite being on the French Riviera, you’ll very quickly feel Christmassy.

The market is set up on Place Massena, just at the edge of picturesque Vieux Nice. Over 50 wooden chalets selling arts and crafts, gifts, vin chaud and fresh socca (a local dish: pancake made from chickpea flour). Other attractions include an oyster and champagne bar.

In the centre of the city in the green park area is a Ferris wheel which is elegantly lit up. The palm trees that border the ice skating rink are also given a fairy light festive feel. What’s more the ice rink runs just four sessions each day, each lasting 1.5 hours. Make your way over to the Albert 1er gardens to find a festive play area specifically for kids.

Christmas Markets in Paris

There are a number of Les Marchés de Noël throughout Paris, selling art and craft products, local specialties, gastronomic treats for the Christmas dining table, toys and clothes. Plan a festive weekend to the city and wonder around the many markets Paris has to offer, mixed in with some memorable sightseeing.

When: 13 November 2016 – 15  January 2017

Where: All throughout Paris

Travel: 2hr 16m from London to Paris, on Eurostar

Avenue des Champs-Elysées Christmas market

The largest Christmas market in Paris. Dazzling illuminations line this iconic avenue, up to 160 chalets line the Champs-Elysées between the Rond-point and Place de la Concorde.

Paris Notre-Dame Christmas market

Marque chalets are set up in front of the city’s most famous cathedral. Although it is a relatively small market there are some 40 craftsmen, makers of clothes and accessories, wood turners and toys. There is also festive entertainment laid on each day such as street singers, puppet shows and stories for children.

Others include:

Saint Germain des Prés Christmas market in the Latin Quarter

13 November 2016 – 8 January 2017

St. Sulpice Christmas market in the Latin quarter

1st – 24th December 2016

Place des Abbesses Christmas market

26 November 2016 – 1st Jan 2017

We hope that we have conjured up all sorts of festive shopping ideas for you, wherever you may be or wherever you’re intending to visit in France. Happy festive shopping from all of us!

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