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Christmas markets in France

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Posted on November 24 2019

Christmas is a magical time of year in France, when markets known in French as Marchés de Noël add a sense of tradition and wonder to the centre of towns and villages.

It was in Sélestat, in the Alsace region of eastern France, that the tradition of Christmas trees began with a decorated pine tree in 1521, and today some of the best markets can still be found in northern France, near the German border.

While visiting Christmas markets, you can wander through medieval and renaissance streets, buy Christmas ornaments and quality items made by local craftsmen, sample local festive foods and mulled wine.

France has hundreds of Christmas markets but some of the most popular are not far from Villers-Bretonneux, offering ice-skating rinks, choirs, hot food, street shows, and Christmas shopping.

For opening times it is best to check the Christmas Markets website.

Amiens: The town centre is transformed into a Christmas village with 130 chalets covering 2km and selling Christmas gifts from France and other countries. There are children’s rides, waffles, chocolate pancakes, mulled wine and tartiflette (potato gratin). During the festive season, you can also take some time out to see the mesmerising sound and light show ‘Chroma’ on the Amiens Cathedral’s façade, just around the corner from the market.

Open from 23 November to 30 December.

Click here for more information

Reims: This market on the forecourt of the famous Reims Cathedral is one of the most popular in France. A spectacular light show takes place on the façade of the Gothic cathedral and a large Ferris wheel offers views over the rooftops and spires. Reims is renowned for its pain d’épices, a spiced bread associated with Christmas.

Open from 22 November to 29 December.

Click here for more information

St Quentin: Between Amiens and Reims, St Quentin offers 50 Christmas stalls set against Art Deco architecture and styled as a mountain village, selling gingerbread, Quentins (chocolate with almonds and halzenuts), cugnots (brioche) and tartes maroilles (cheese tarts). There are also handmade decorations, jewellery, and nativity figurines from Provence called santons.

Open from 30 November to 5 January.

Click here for more information

Arras: Arras has one of the most important Christmas markets in the north, located in the Grand’Place, a Baroque square in the heart of town that was built to showcase such events. It was shelled during the First World War but then beautifully restored. There are more than 730 shops nearby and local offerings include the Coeur d’Arras, a mild cheese, and Arras blue fine porcelain.

Open from 29 November to 30 December.

Click here for more information

Lille: An hour’s drive north of Villers-Bretonneux, this market on the Belgian border has 90 stalls in the Place Rihour, offering regional specialties, as well as arts and crafts from Russia, Canada and Poland. The ferris wheel is one of the largest in France, standing 50m tall, and the atmosphere is warm and inviting, with many restaurants, brasseries and cafés.

Open from 22 November to 29 December.

Click here for more information

References

Anne Gregg. Tarragon and Truffles: a Guide to the Best French Markets. London: Bantam, 2006.

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