What’s on in France: Ten things to do in December 2016

From antique fairs to music festivals - and of course plenty of Christmas-themed events - The Local gives you a rundown of what's going on around France this month.

What's on in France: Ten things to do in December 2016
Light festival in Lyon. Photo: AFP

Christmas markets, Strasbourg, until December 24th

Although most cities have their own Christmas market, it's worth making the trip to Strasbourg in eastern France for a spectacularly festive experience. With a claim to the title of the oldest Christmas market in Europe, it keeps tradition strong with a range of events on offer, including music, craft workshops and activities for children alongside the usual stalls and food. 

Of course, there are loads more Christmas markets worth visiting across France. Here is our pick of the best. 

Photo: Anna & Michal/Flickr

Markets at the Champs-Elysées, Paris
On the most famous avenue in Paris, this Christmas market attracts thousand of visitors each year with its charming wooden chalets selling regional food specialties, decorations and toys. 
It has already opened, and kicks off at 10:30am until midnight each day (and until 1am on Friday and Saturday evenings). It closes on December 24th. 

For more Christmas ideas in Paris, click here

Transmusicales, Rennes: November 30th to December 4th

The Transmusicales festival is now in its 38th year, and has a reputation for discovering future chart-toppers. Portishead, Nirvana, Kate Nash and the Ting Tings all played here before they found fame, so you have a good chance of finding your new favourite artist here. 

The Living Horse Museum Christmas Show, Chantilly

Parents searching for a magical Christmas experience for the family need look no further than this show at the stables of the Chateau de Chantilly, just north of Paris. This year, classic French fairytale Peau d'Âne (Donkeyskin) will be transformed into a visually stunning performance incorporating live horses and acrobatics. The show will run all month and into early January.

One of the Chantilly horses taking part in a show last year. Photo: AFP

Saint Nicholas weekend, Nancy, December 2nd to 4th 

This traditional celebration is held in honour of Saint Nicholas, the protector of the weak and oppressed, as well as the patron saint of lawyers, seamen and school children.

Tourist officials have promised traditional feasts marked by live entertainment, floats, parades and plenty of history of Lorraine.

A man dressed as Saint Nicholas waves from a window at a previous festival. Photo: AFP

Festival of Light, Lyon
From December 8th to 10th, a variety of different artists will light up buildings, streets, squares and parks all over the city.
There are going to be 70 light installations in total for the event that was cancelled last year following the Paris terror attacks. 

Exhibit of Antique Dealers, Montpellier, December 2nd-4th

This annual show from the city's antique dealers takes place in the impressive surroundings of the Saint-Anne Church in Montpellier, southern France. Collectors will display their artefacts, including artworks, jewellery, furniture, books, textiles, and there are sure to be a few curiosities on show. Entry is free. 

Photo: rickpilot_2000/Flickr

Art Fair – Braderie de l'Art in Roubaix – December 3rd and 4th 

Nothing goes to waste in this fair in northern France as savvy craftspeople turn old materials and rubbish into paintings, sculptures and other works of art. Braderie de l’Art offers its 15,000 annual guests the chance to buy some innovative art without breaking the bank (prices range from just €1 to up to €250). 

Crib Figurine Fair – Foire aux Santons – Until December 24th

The Provence region is famous for its “Santons”, hand-painted nativity scene figurines made out of terracotta. At the faire in Mouans-Sartoux artists from all over France come together to showcase and sell their creations. If you fancy displaying a traditional “Provençal crèche” this Christmas you’ll find everything you need at the fair, from hundreds of accessories for the crib to books on the history and art of figurine making. 

Photo: Carolco/flickr

See a Christmas concert in a church

Churches across France will be offering some spectacular Christmas shows this month. 
For those in Paris, check out the one in the Saint Chapelle church (in the first arrondissement, pictured below) that will feature Masterworks of Sacred Music including interpretations of Ave Maria by Schubert and Gounod plus music by Verdi and Mozart.
“Not only do you get to listen to the gorgeous music, you also get to savor the astounding beauty of the church and its brilliant stained glass windows,” says Richard Nahem, who runs the Eye Prefer Paris blog.
Doni from the Girls Guide to Paris blog recommends the sounds of Christmas gospel at the beautiful Les Billettes Church in the Marais on Christmas Eve, or the Christmas Concert which includes the Ave Maria on the 25th at the gothic wonder, St. Severin
Photo: Chris Chabon/Flickr

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