It’s the most wonderful time of the year and that’s the case in France, too! The spirit of Christmas transforms the people of France, enchanting everyone with cheer and festive feelings. The people of France anticipate this and set up magnificent Christmas markets to share in the good tidings of Christmas with locals and visitors alike. Read on to find out more about some of the best French Christmas markets you have to see in person.
Best Christmas markets in France
Strasbourg Christmas market: A visit to France’s oldest Christmas market
For the lovers of history and the charming qualities of the old world, Strasbourg ranks high on the list of amazing Christmas markets in France. The Strasbourg Christmas Market is the oldest of all French Christmas markets and first got underway in 1577. Since then, it has hosted more than 2 million tourists yearly as they have flocked from all around the world to appreciate the beauty of Strasbourg this time of year. Visitors to Strasbourg’s Christmas market are also enticed by the many themed events, the monstrous ice rink, and the famous “Great Christmas Tree,” which measures 100 feet tall.
The French Christmas Markets of Strasbourg take you back to the beautifully French days of old. Half-timbered houses that resemble gingerbread houses are about as full on as you can get and I love it. Add in some winter snow and it’s a true winter wonderland. The houses are decorated with large red-and-white hearts, lights, wreathes, the works.
The scene is always very beautiful and in 2018, Strasbourg Christmas Market was awarded the title of “Best Christmas Market in Europe.” There is delicious food from all over the region that visitors can sample such as the spicy orange juice that is native to Strasbourg and the famous Winachtsbredele Christmas Cookies.
Colmar Christmas market: Gateway to Alsace and Germany
The French city of Colmar is situated close to the German border, making it easy for people visiting France to take a quick dip across the border and into Germany. This is great because when you visit the French Christmas markets in Colmar, you can simply do a road trip or a river cruise across the Rhine and use the opportunity not only to see a Christmas market in France but also in places like the village of Breisach and Breitnau.
You might, however, be too amazed by the beautiful French Christmas markets in Colmar to consider visiting other places. The city of Colmar looks like it was brought to life from a storybook and the spirit of Christmas makes it glitter and glow. It is so beautiful that it’s always voted one of the best Christmas markets in France.
While beauty may be one of Colmar’s charms, another advantage it has is its famous wine production. Located within the Alsace wine region, Colmar makes some of the best Christmas-based wines. A very popular wine sold in Colmar is “vin chaud rouge,” the French alternative to Germany’s “glühwein.” It’ll warm you right up.
Between its sheer beauty, wine variety, and connectedness to other Christmas markets, Colmar is a perfect French Christmas market to visit if you’re a lover of winter and all things Christmas.
Nice Christmas Market & the French Riviera
Of the French Christmas Markets along the Riviera, the Nice Christmas market is one of the best. It is also the perfect place to find your Christmas spirit if you’re not into freezing cold temperatures and snow. The Nice Christmas market held in Place Massena is one of the bigger ones, with plenty of variety including free activities for kids and adults. There are more than 60 stalls with all kinds of goodies to eat and drink. Have the kids sit with Santa or take a ride on the big Ferris wheel looking out over the Baie des Anges. They market is made to look like a Christmas village complete with an enchanted forest made up of 600 fir trees.
A market loved by everyone, the Nice Christmas market is open for a month, running from the first week of December and into the New Year. It is open both in the day and the evening and both times of the day have their own charm.
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Rouen Christmas markets on the Seine
The Nice Christmas Market is to the Riviera what the Rouen Christmas markets are to Normandy. There is magic in the air of Rouen when Christmas comes about, and the Christmas market that is set up in the center of the Medieval city adds to the enchantment with fun games, amazing concerts, and local music.
The Rouen Christmas celebration is a big one, with more than 70 chalets offering different things from mulled wine to ice skating at the Place du Vieux Marché. Have some Calvados from the region while there! The streets are lit up in dazzling displays, and there are many street entertainers, including a visiting Santa.
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What to expect at a typical French Christmas market
The French Christmas markets above are only a glimpse at what you can find in France this time of year. You can visit smaller markets throughout France. Regardless of which Christmas markets in France you visit, here are a few things they all have in common:
Local food specialties
France is the food capital of the world and the Christmas markets do not fail to represent. Visitors are always spoiled for choice, having to think about whether to try out a tasty snack or to eat a delicious, well-cooked meal. The local specialty in Nice is called “socca,” while visitors to Strasbourg will enjoy various types of sausages and pretzels. Gingerbread, churros, waffles, and crêpes are basic fare everywhere, and it is never out of place for a pig to be roasting on a spit somewhere.
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Handmade art and other goods
Other than the food, there are a plenty of handmade items for sale at most French Christmas markets that make extra special gifts you can’t find anywhere else. Smaller markets may have items made by local artisans like fabric, jewelry, wooden toys, ceramics, and other trinkets. The larger Christmas markets will more likely carry generic Christmas items like decorations and other things that might be made en masse, so always ask if you’re unsure of an item’s origin.
The beauty of a Christmas market is found in its decorations. You can be sure that every French Christmas market you attend will pull out all the stops to ensure that it looks as beautiful and as enchanting as it can manage. From lights and garland to pictures with Santa and more, Christmas markets in France embody that Christmas spirit.
French Christmas markets are one of the best ways to spread the holiday cheer and immerse yourself in the holiday spirit while getting a healthy dose of French culture. If you are planning a Christmas trip to France, make sure you visit one of the French Christmas markets listed above. They truly are worth a special trip.
More on Christmas in France vs. USA differences here.
Have you visited any French Christmas markets? Tell me about it!
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I only know Nantes’ tiny Christmas Market, but I always find it comforting and cozy, even if kind of corny (… and boozy). I miss this tradition here! I think there’s a Christmas Market in one of Ottawa’s “bobo” neighbourhood but it’s too cold for me to hang out outside. I know, not a true Canadian…!
Julia Weich says
My husband and I went to the Colmar Christmas Market in 2018 and it was fantastic! Many, many booths and tons of local, handmade treasures. The half timbered houses are gorgeous and beautifully decorated. It was incredible! We planned to go to the Strasbourg Market too but unfortunately there had been a shooting there and the market was closed the days we planned to be there.
slope io says
I have been here before and everything is really impressive. I think there will be many other comments on this. But for me it was a fun experience at the Christmas market in France