At Christmas many cities and towns in France light up with shows that transform the streets and houses, parks and squares into magical places to visit. An increasing number of places are doing this, from little towns where perhaps the church is spotlit to grand set pieces which astonish you with their ingenuity and technical know-how. Here are just a few of the many towns that put on a Christmas show.
Paris, Ile de France, November 18, 2016 to early January 2017
As you’d expect, France’s capital turns itself into a gorgeous illuminated party during the vacation season. Most lights start on November 18th and go on to early January.
The major illuminations are along the Champs-Élysées, twinkling in the branches of the trees that line the majestic Boulevard from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde.
Don’t miss the sophisticated lights along the Avenue Montaigne, the Place des Abbesses in Montmartre and the lights in Place Vendôme.
Many of the department stores go to town with their Christmas lights, particularly Galeries Lafayette, while Notre-Dame Cathedral has its own separate tree and illuminations.
Amiens, Picardy, December 1, 2016 to January 1, 2017
The relatively unknown city of Amiens is a delightful place, with marshlands, a quayside full of cafes and restaurants and a magnificent cathedral that is lit up in spectacular colours for the Christmas period.
Amiens Christmas Market runs from November 25 to December 31, 2016
Colmar, Alsace, November 25, 2016 to January 6, 2017
During the day the streets are beautifully lit and the scent of oranges and cinnamon fill the air. But make sure you see the illuminations at night that bring the architectural richness of the city from the Middle Ages to the 19th century to life. Alsace is particularly spectacular at Christmas with its great market.
Le Puy-en-Velay, Haute-Loire December 2016 (TBC)
The strange and beautiful city of Le-Puy-en-Velay in the deepest Auvergne has really put on a show in recent years. Approach the town from the west and you see the cathedral and monastery shimmering in what seems to be the sky. Built on a series of volcanic needles, they take on a fairytale quality.
Le Puy is the starting city for one of the great pilgrim walks to Santiago in Spain which is one of the UNESCO world Heritage Sites in France.
Montbéliard, Franche-Comté November 26 to December 24, 2016
Montbéliard in Franche-Comté has lit up its streets for decades. This year it’s the turn of Aunt Airie, St Lucia and Saint Nicolas. Aunt Airie walks the streets with her donkey, Marion, relating her story and Saint Nicolas gives out sweets and presents to small children. There’s also a Parade of Lights, led by Saint Lucia.
Limoges, Limousin December 2, 2016 to January 2, 2017
The lights are switched on in 82 different locations at 5.30pm on December 2 and from then the city of Limoges sparkles. The lights stay on all night on Christmas Eve (December 24) and New Year’s Eve (December 31).
The easy way to see the Christmas in Lights festival here is to take the little tourist train through the old town. You get to see everything and can pick and choose any of the buildings you want to visit later.
Prices for the tourist train: €6 for adults; €3.50 for children from 3 to 12 years
Toulouse, Midi-Pyrenees November 26 to December 25, 2016
The city of pink facades and a magnificent cathedral takes on a different hue with garlands of lights in the centre and around the other streets.