With the holiday season in full swing, it’s tempting to huddle up on the sofa with a warming glass of mulled wine and a good film, and simply watch the world pass by outside your frosted windows. But stop! Don’t do that… there’s so much beauty in the world at this time of year, and one thing everyone should experience at least once at Christmas time is a French Christmas Market! With so many to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to head to for the best, most bedazzling festive experience… so it’s lucky I’ve taken the time to review five of my favourites for you…
The oldest and most historic of Christmas markets, Strasbourg’s Christkindelsmärik dates back to the 16th Century and has thousands of people flocking to the ‘home of Christmas’ each year! This spectacular market features over 300 small wooden chalets, offering local products and delicacies. You’ll be able to nibble on gingerbread and sip hot mulled wine, whilst wandering around the various squares of Strasbourg discovering what made this market ‘Europe’s Best Christmas Market’ in 2014 as voted by Europe Best Vacation. Each year, a different guest country is welcomed to promote their goods, making the market a true multi-cultural delight.
Discover the magical winter wonderland of Bordeaux, where 150 illuminated log cabin stalls line the Allées du Tourny – the perfect spot to while away the hours whilst picking up a few original gifts for your loved ones. Particular treasures you’ll find here include artisan perfumes, bottles of local wine and Landes foie gras. Father Christmas can be found in his grotto for children to visit, and the market also offers free sleigh rides – an enchanting experience!
Avignon in December is a great place to be if you are looking to discover Provencal Christmas traditions! As well as the usual market stalls lining the streets, overflowing with wooden toys, gastronomic specialities, artisan crafts and jewellery, this lively Christmas market dedicates space for traditional Provence performers to dance, act and sing transforming Avignon into a sparkly performance arena! You will be welcomed to attend a local midnight mass or nativity celebration on Christmas Eve in the city, which is a lovely way to experience Christmas the way the locals do.
A second Alsatian offering, which is only fitting when you consider that Alsace is the birthplace of the Christmas tree! In a pretty, fairy-tale setting, the fully pedestrianised streets of Colmar lend themselves perfectly to a typical festive market. The quaint illuminated town welcomes tourists to explore their five different market areas including a Children’s market in Little Venice (look out for the children’s choirs singing carols on brightly lit boats on the canals!), the markets of the Place de l’Ancienne Douane, and Alsatian gastronomic delights at the food markets at Place Jeanne d’Arc. A Christmas ice skating rink at Place Rapp finishes off this spectacular market, where you can enjoy the childlike joy experienced from skating in such a dream-like setting!
Reims is said to be where the first French Christmas celebrations took place in 496BC when King Clovis and his 3000 warriors were baptised on Christmas Day! Reims’ Christmas market involves over 125 fairy-lit chalets, offering Christmas gifts and local produce. Street entertainers such as carol singers and magicians entertain the crowds, and there is a grotto where children can meet Father Christmas. Look out for Biscuits Rose de Reims – ‘pink biscuits’, traditionally dipped into Champagne – the distinctive feature of these biscuits is they don’t break even when wet. They’ll be the perfect accompaniment for your Champagne on Christmas day. It would also be a crime not to visit some of the esteemed Champagne Houses whilst in the region, as well as exploring the smaller producers, where you are able to purchase a bottle of Grand Cru Champagne for as little as €15 a bottle – the perfect opportunity to stock up for the festivities!