6 November 2009

Christmas Markets in France

{Christmas market stall, Strasbourg}

Christmas time in France is joyous event and celebrated in cities, towns and villages with sparkling decorations, festive food, concerts, festivals, parades and, perhaps most importantly of all, Christmas markets.

When it comes to Christmas, France is not as commercially driven as in other countries, with less emphasis being on big spending and more being on seasonal events. With hundreds of Christmas markets taking place throughout France between late November and early January most are found in the larger town or cities, with Paris, Lille, Strasbourg and Avignon being the principle ones.

Traditionally, housewives in France would spend the weeks leading up to Christmas preparing the festive food and Christmas markets developed to supply them with the ingredients and products they needed. The first Christmas market to emerge in France was Strasbourg, in 1570. Here is our selection of top French Christmas markets to visit this winter.


Alsace is home to over 35 Christmas market with the most spectacular "Christkindelsmärik" taking place in Strasbourg outside its landmark gothic cathedral. The stalls sell Bredele (festive Alsatian biscuits), other local produce, Christmas decorations and local crafts. The market has not only an Alsatian influence, but Germanic too; this makes it a very special place to visit at Christmas time. Marked by the scents of gingerbread, sweets, roasted chestnuts, cinnamon and mulled wine, the market is very atmospheric. Taking place from 28th November to 30th December.


The capital city has several Christmas markets in the lead up to Christmas. The main ones are Les Halles and La Defense, but spectacular markets also take place at Montparnasse, Place St-Sulpice and Noisy le Grand.

Les Halles: This famous Christmas market is set amongst the twinkling Christmas lights and decorations of Paris city centre. It is a traditional Christmas market, which attracts visitors from all over France who take the opportunity to do their Christmas shopping here.

La Defense: 25th November until 27th December. The Christmas market stalls at La Defense sell everything from crepes to roasted chestnuts, wood carvings to glass ornaments. There is live musical entertainment and even a large ice rink to delight children and entice visitors to take to the ice.


Lille is the first Christmas market to open each year, and the town transforms into a winter wonderland. On Place Rihour more than 80 chalets sell gifts, nativity figurines, Christmas decorations and festive food. You can find regional specialities as well as arts and crafts from Russia, Poland and Québec. On the Grand Place a 50 metre high big wheel stands majestically to offer visitors splendid views across the city.
Taking place from November 18th to 30th December.


The Christmas market in Avignon takes place on the Place de l’horloge, in the heart of the city. Over 60 chalets sell gifts, decorations and food to celebrate Christmas and the New Year. Father Christmas has his own house with santons (traditional animated figures). Entertainment and parades take place throughout the Christmas period to accompany the market and the town is adorned in twinkling lights and dazzling decorations. Open everyday from 26th November to 2nd January.


Under the illuminated trees of Les Allées de Tourny square, in the city centre, Bordeaux Christmas market takes place with a vast array of log cabins. Free sleigh rides and a visit to Father Christmas are just some of the events the children can look forward to. With the sound of Christmas carols and laughing children, Bordeaux city centre becomes a magical fairy tale. Open from the 26th November to the 30th December. Note Bordeaux is an 1 1/2 hours drive from Maison No.20.


The Christmas market is held in December in the very heart of Toulouse at the famous Place du Capitole. Chalets will provide visitors young and old with a feast for the eyes and taste-buds. Father Christmas can be found among the chalets, handing out sweets and other treats to children – the lucky ones will even get a chance to have their photo taken with him. Visitors can also admire a traditional Provençal nativity scene, marvel at the fairylike decorations in the Henri IV courtyard and take a stroll through the streets of Toulouse under the Christmas lights. The market is open from the 17th to the 20th December. Note Toulouse is a 2 hour drive from Maison No. 20.


The medieval hilltop town of Laon, which was the ancient capital of France between 7th to 11th centuries, is a magical setting for its Christmas market which takes place each year outside the Notre Dame cathedral. Its annual Christmas market includes a winter braderie with 40 different stalls offering food, drink, local delicacies and arts and crafts. For children the fun at the Laon Christmas Market includes a merry-go-round, a sledge set up in the cathedral square and a Father Christmas. The Laon Christmas market is taking place on various dates, including 6th December, 7th December and the 10th – 12th December. Further information


The Christmas market of Mulhouse takes place in the heart of the city on the Place de la Réunion. This main market, together with smaller offshoots in surrounding squares and museums, offers a wide range of high quality products and gastronomic delights. The Mulhouse Christmas market is also unique in the fact that every year, the Land of Carols and Fabrics designs a Christmas fabric inspired by the collections kept at the Museum of Printing Fabrics. The fabric dresses the City Hall and façades of the Place de la Réunion, the pedestrian streets and chalets on the Christmas market. Taking place from the 24th November to the 27th December.


From November 29th to December 24th, Montbéliard is illuminated by thousands of lights which provide the perfect backdrop to its Christmas market. Nestled near St Martin Church, the oldest protestant church in France (1601), about a hundred craftsmen offer gifts, flavours and scents. The town comes alive as musicians and artists perform on the streets. The wooden chalets are crammed with tasty produce and lovely craft products. Christmas decorations, figurines, wooden toys, candles, fine lace, jewels, soft fabrics and much more are available to purchase at the market.

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