All over France the Christmas markets are wonderful. It’s a glorious time when the stalls are put up, the ice rinks built and the restaurants and bars buzz more than ever. There are markets in every major city and even down in the south of France where the evenings are crisp but the days still warm.
The biggest and best known are in northern France, particularly Lille and Strasbourg. But if you are planning a trip to France from November onwards, check the local tourist office for information. Even small villages celebrate with special stalls at holiday time.
Paris has wonderful Christmas markets, with the main one in the Champs-Elysées.
There has been a Christmas Market in Strasbourg since 1570, so not surprisingly, the city that is at the crossroads of Europe, knows how to put on a good one. This year eleven markets are located all over the historic center of the city. The main Christmas Market is around the cathedral, but elsewhere in the city you’ll find Tastes of Alsace, the Square of Gold, markets of food and crafts, a special section for children, special effects, concerts and more.
November 26th to December 31st, 2011
Sunday to Thursday 10a.m.-8p.m.
Fridays and Saturdays to 9p.m.
December 24th 10a.m.–6p.m.
December 25th 2p.m.-6p.m. (Some stands will be closed)
December 26th-30th 10a.m.-7p.m.
December 31st 10a.m.-6p.m.
17 place de la Cathédrale
Tel.: 00 33(0)3 88 52 28 28
Lille has one of the largest Christmas markets in the north of France. More than 80 chalets are packed into the Place Rihour and the Grand Place where the Big Wheel turns. Regional specialities are on offer, plus arts and crafts from Canada, Russia and Lithuania. Nibble on a traditional gingerbread man and warm up with a glass of mulled wine while the children watch a theater performance or get their photo taken with Father Christmas.
November 19th-December 30th, 2011
Monday to Thursday, Sunday 11a.m.-8p.m.
Friday, Saturday to 9pm.
Lille Tourist Office
42 Place Rihour
Tel.: 00 33 (0)8 91 56 20 04
Elsewhere in France
The Provençal market is different from its northern counterparts in the goods on sale, which emphasis Provençal crafts, fabrics and local southern France food. The main market is on the Place d l’Horloge with stalls and entertainment filling the surrounding streets as well. You can watch traditional folk dancing, games and parades which include Father Christmas on his sledge, clowns and film cartoon characters.
Don’t miss the Chemin des Crèches, a walk though various illuminated and animated nativity scenes, with the magnificent ‘santons’ figures (painted, fired terracotta nativity figurines).
November 26th to January 1st 2012
Open daily 9.30a.m.-7p.m.
Avignon Tourist Office
41, Cours Jean Jaurès
Tel.: + 33 (0)4 32 74 32 74
With its glorious cathedral, Chartres, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a magical place for a Christmas market. The stalls in the Place Marceau offer sweet treats like chocolates and chestnuts and local wares.
December 5th to 24th, 2011
Chartres Tourist Office
Place de la Cathédrale
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 37 18 47 60
The Christmas Market in Mulhouse is right in the historic center. As an industrial city based on textiles, a new Christmas fabric is specially created each year to decorate all the different half-timbered chalets –- this year it’s golden garlands dotted with fireflies. In Place de a Reunion, 50 twinkling chalets offer crafts, wooden toys, puppets, stained-glass and more. There's a gastronomic market in Place de la Concorde, advent concerts each week in St Etienne Protestant church and a chance to join in with the church choir. The Museum of Printed Fabrics has a special market as well.
November 24th to December 28th, 2011
Monday to Thursday, Sunday 10a.m.-8p.m.
Friday, Saturday to 9p.m.
Closed December 25th
Christmas Market Information
Mulhouse Tourist Offices
Place de la Réunion - in the former Town Hall
Tel.: 00 33 (0)3 89 66 93 13
9 avenue Foch
Tel.: 00 33 (0)3 89 35 48 48
Medieval Nancy’s market is in Place Maginot. Local specialities range from fresh bread to charcuterie, Bergamotte bonbons and Mirabelle liqueur. There’s street entertainment, carol singing and folk dancing.
Saint Nicholas arrives in the Place Stanislas. Themed floats and marching bands fill the streets and it all ends with fireworks. Saint Nicholas hands out ginger bread figures; his somewhat less jolly companion, Pere Fouettard or ‘Whipping Father’ lays about him to beat boys and girls who have not been good through the year.
December 3rd to December 24th, 2011
Tourist Office of Nancy
Tel.:00 33 (0)3 83 35 22 41
November 25th to December 31st, 2011
Tuesday to Sunday 10.30a.m.-7.30p.m.
Monday 2 p.m.-7.30p.m.
2 rue Guillaume de Machault
Tel.:00 33(0)3 26 09 83 50