The Best Christmas Markets in France

Where to Find the Best Christmas Markets and Festive Events this Winter

Christmas is a magical time in France and the markets bring a wonderful sparkle to cities and towns of every size throughout France, even down in the south of France where the evenings are crisp but the days still warm. Colorful wooden stalls line the boulevards, streets and market places and with that comes a sense of excitement and anticipation.

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    Arras
    ••• Arras. Getty Images/CHICUREL Arnaud hemis.fr

    North France stretching across Nord-Pas-de-Calais has wonderful Christmas markets throughout the region.

    The biggest and best known markets are here in northern France, particularly in the delightful city of Arras, which for a small town had a wonderful market, though the markets in East France, in Nancy and Strasbourg, put up stiff competition. But wherever you are planning a trip to France, check the local tourist office for information. Even small villages celebrate with special stalls at holiday time and holiday time lasts throughout November and often into the early days of the New Year.

    As the region is so close to the U.K., it's a great chance for people to take the ferry across the Channel, or travel via Eurotunnel and stock up on festive produce to keep them going through those long days to December 25th.

    You'll find good markets in ports like Boulogne, Dunkirk with its famous  world War II Operation Dynamo sites, and Le Touquet while inland the towns of Amiens, pretty...MORE and romantic Arras, Bethune, Lens (where you can visit the Louvre-Lens with its fabulous art from its Paris parent, Licques (famous for its annual Turkey parade) and Lille put on a real show.

    For detailed information on all the above markets, click on the
    Guide to the Best Markets in North France

    How to get there

    It is easy to take a day trip from the UK. Here's the guide to Ferries to France from the U.K.

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    ••• Champs Elysees at Christmas. © Jacques Lebar/Paris Tourist Office

    Shimmy down the Champs-Elysees and take in the white twinkling chalets that line the grand boulevard at Christmas. It's a wonderful sight, and draws enormous crowds. But there are many other delightful Christmas markets all over Paris that feel much more local and traditional than the admittedly, glorious, and chic central Paris one.

    Champs Elysees Market: Mid November 2017 to first week of January 2018 More on Paris at Christmas

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    ••• L'Abbaye aux Hommes in Caen. Atout France/CDT Calvados

    Caen’s traditional Christmas Market takes over the Place Saint-Sauveur in the middle of the town. Pick and choose from items from international stalls which fill the air with the smell of pain d'epices (the French version of ginger loaf) and warm wine. It offers everything for anybody's Christmas stocking from foie gras to nativity figurines. 

    There are also other Christmas markets in the region, such as Falaise with its castle where William the Conqueror was born (December 14th) .

    If you're in the area, try to visit Bayeux and its spectacular tapestry.

    Caen Christmas Market: From the end of November to the end of December 2017

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    ••• Boxes of Isigny caramels, a gourmet specialty from Calvados. Atout France/CDT Calvados

    Rouen, the capital of Normandy and the city associated with Joan of Arc who was burnt at the stake here in 1431, pulls out all the stops at Christmas. The magnificent cathedral provides the backdrop to a market which offers items from far and wide. There are two ice rinks where you can pirouette away and there's enough entertainment to keep the whole family happy.

    Rouen Christmas Market: From the end of November to the end of December 2017

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    ••• Reims at Christmas. © Reims Tourist Office

    Champagne and Christmas are made for each other. Of all the markets throughout the region, the big daddy of them all is in Reims itself, the capital of Champagne. The city where the French kings were crowned for centuries in the cathedral, Reims is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s a wonderful place to celebrate Christmas. 135 chalets are dotted around the city in different locations; there’s a big wheel on place de la Republique, and the main market takes place on place d’Erlon, and on rues Condorcet, de l’Etape and Buirette.

    There's also a special gourmet food festival on two weekends in December, and it's a sight to see.

    Drive from Reims to any of the other nearby towns and you’ll get a whole range of different Christmas markets.

    Reims Christmas Market: From mid November to December 24 2017

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    ••• Strasbourg Christmas Market. © Aurélie COTTIER, Strasbourg Office of Tourism

    Alsace is a particularly magical place for Christmas markets. Situated near Germany and Switzerland, it takes inspiration from all three countries.

    Strasbourg began its Christmas markets way back in 1570, making it the oldest in France. At the crossroads of Europe, the market at Strasbourg has an international atmosphere. Today it's the big daddy with over 300 stands. The market spreads out throughout the city with the heart in Place Broglie and Cathedral Square. There’s a huge Christmas tree in Place Kleber and an ice rink outside the cathedral. For Alsatian food, go to the place des Meunieres; the three kings are to be found in Place Benjamin-Zix and the 'Golden Square' is located on the place du Temple-Neuf. Wines are sold on the place d’Austerlitz along with local food delicacies and in the commercial Galerie de l'Aubette you’ll find a book market.

    Strasbourg Christmas Market: from the end of November to December 31 2017

    More about Strasbourg

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    ••• Colmar at Christmas. © Colmar Tourist Office

    Colmar may be famous as the birthplace of Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty, but at Christmas it’s equally well known for its market. The pedestrianised center is full of old houses and cobbled streets, adding to the Hansel and Gretel atmosphere that seems to take over all cities in Alsace in December.

    There are five markets in the old town of Colmar. The place des Domincains has around 50 chalets, against the backdrop of the illuminated church stained-glass windows. Families with children go first to Petite Venise (Little Venice) for wooden toys, stocking fillers and sweet things. There’s also a postbox for your letters to Father Christmas, a wooden merry-go-round and a Nativity. Arts and crafts, from paintings to jewelers and second-hand booksellers fill the Koifhus covered market; and more stalls outside cluster around the fountain. For local crafts and food, make your way to the place Jeanne d’Arc.

    If you are here, don't miss one of Europe's...MORE greatest sacred works of art, the Issenheim Altarpiece.

    Colmar Christmas Market: From the end of November to December 30 2017

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    ••• Mulhouse at Christmas. © Mulhouse Tourist Office

    Mulhouse is well known as a textile town with its Museum of Printed Fabrics a popular attraction. Each year it has a new fabric designed which decorates the stalls throughout the city and the museum hosts a market just selling fabrics. The main action is in the Place de la Réunion in the old city center. The impressive Hotel de Ville (City Hall) is illuminated, overlooking the 50 stalls that offer all the right goodies. In the Place de la Concorde, you’ll find a traditional Hungarian arts and crafts village, and if you want music, make your way to St Etienne church for concerts of Christmas music.

    Don't miss the National Automobile Museum, the Schlumpf Collection.

    Mulhouse Christmas Market: From the end of November to December 27 2017

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  • 09 of 10
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    ••• St. Nicolas on Parade, Nancy, Lorraine. © Ville de Nancy

    Christmas kicks off in Nancy on Saint Nicholas Day, celebrated particularly in Alsace, Lorraine and the north as well as Belgium, Germany, Holland and Austria. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of the weak and the oppressed as well as children and although the official date is December 6th, Nancy celebrates on the weekend of December 1st and 2nd. Street entertainers in the afternoon of December 1st are followed by fireworks on Place Stanislas. The St. Nicholas Parade is on December 2nd when he gives out gingerbread figures; his rather more sinister companion, Pere Fouettard or 'Whipping Father’, lays about him to beat boys and girls who have not been good during the previous year.

    The Christmas market starts at the same time, mainly in Place Maginot where you can pick up local food from fresh bread to charcuterie, Bergamotte bonbons and Mirabelle liqueur. There’s street entertainment, carol singing and folk dancing.

    Saint Nicholas Weekend December 2nd and 3rd 2017

    Nancy Christmas...MORE Market: From mid November to December 31 2017

    More about Nancy

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    ••• Avignon at Christmas 2012. © C. Rodde

    Start at the town hall in Avignon for a look at the spectacular nativity scene, then compare them with others in the Palais du Roure and in many of the Provencal city’s churches. The buildings are specially lit up and you can stroll through the pedestrian-free center with ease.

    There’s a winter village of 60 stalls offering all those tempting Provencale-style gifts that make the southern Christmas markets so different from their northern counterparts. Buy the local magnificent ‘santons’ figures (painted, fired terracotta nativity figurines) for your crèche, Provencal fabrics, jewelry and candles and stock up on nougat, candied fruits, chocolate, and spicy cake. There are spectacles, there is street theater and plenty of music. The main market is on the Place de l’Horloge with stalls and entertainment filling the surrounding streets as well.

    Avignon Christmas Market: From beginning of December to  December 31 2017

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