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IN PICTURES: The best Christmas markets to visit in France this year

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IN PICTURES: The best Christmas markets to visit in France this year
Photo: AFP
11:11 CET+01:00
The Christmas market on the Champs-Elysées has been cancelled but there are many, many more worth visiting around France this year, particularly if you head east.
Marchés de Noël have been popular in Alsace and northern France since the 16th century, and nowadays France boasts the second largest number of Christmas markets in Europe.
 
They are famous for selling regional produce and are filled with yummy treats from mulled wine, to Alsace Bredele biscuits and Flemish style waffles.
 
With the Champs-Elysées Christmas market cancelled because it was deemed too tacky for the cultured City of Light, here's what we think are the cheeriest, the prettiest and the quirkiest of the marchés de Noël around France.
 
PARIS: L’Arche de Noël à la Défense
 
This is the largest of all the Christmas markets in Paris and certainly one of the merriest. Its 350 or so stalls are packed full of festive decorations, original presents and tasty treats. Set in the heart of the busy business district, the Christmas village makes for a quirky contrast with the tall skyscrapers. Open until December 28th.
 
 

Christmas market🎄🎅

Une publication partagée par Xueting Wang (@wang_xueting0316) le

 
MONTBELIARD
 
The picturesque city of Montbéliard in the France's eastern Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region holds one of the country's most stunning Christmas markets. Here, visitors will find themselves fully immersed in festive spirit, with the craft market filled with handmade, traditional products, the festive light display and illuminated streets. And for the adventurous, there's even an ice rink. Open until December 24th.
 
 
AMIENS
 
Amiens Christmas market is renowned for its local produce: sugary delights like macaroons and tuiles amienoises (almond biscuits) as well as glass, soaps, and angora pullovers. But what makes Amiens really stand out is the spectacular "son et lumière" (light and sound) show projected onto the town’s gothic cathedral every night. Open to December 30th.
 
 

#ForêtEnchantée #Aliceauxpaysdesmerveilles #NoëlAmiens 🎄❄️

Une publication partagée par Celine (@celiine_dz) le

 
STRASBOURG
 
This is the oldest "marché de Noël" in France, dating back to the 16th century. Set in the quaint, medieval old town, it has 300 stalls, making it one of the largest markets in Europe. The heart of the festivities is Place de la Cathédrale, in front of the gothic cathedral. Open until December 30th.
 
Photo: AFP
 
 

🇫🇷 Já é natal em Estrasburgo, na França! A cidade está lotada pra aproveitar o mercado de natal mais antigo e tradicional do país.🎅🤶

Une publication partagée par Falando de Viagem (@falandodeviagem) le

 
REIMS
 
Reims Christmas market, in the Champagne region of France, is one of the best for pure yuletide joy and Christmas cheer. They keep their market lively with winter sports at the dry ski slope and street performances from carollers, jazz bands, jugglers and organ grinders. 140 little wooden chalets will be selling local crafts, as well as delicacies from the region, so expect a lot of champagne. Open to December 27th.
 
Photo: AFP
 
 
LICQUES
 
This town in the Nord Pas-de-Calais region wins for originality. Here the focus is on fine festive food, especially top quality poultry. Known as the “Fête de la dinde,” their Christmas food market includes a parade of live turkeys through the centre of town. This is followed by a swig of the local liqueur, Licquoise, before buyers personally select their Christmas dinner. Open December 9th to 11th.
 
Photo: AFP
 
MULHOUSE Les étoffes de Noël
 
Mulhouse has a celebrated tradition of textiles (étoffes) and every Christmas they create a new festive cloth which is then used to decorate the market. Fairy lights, chalets and stalls create an Alsatian winter wonderland where, thanks to Mulhouse’s location near the Swiss and German borders, it’s no surprise to find stalls selling crafts from Mulhouse alongside traditional Swiss and Vosgien gifts. Open until December 27th.
 
Photo: Vincent Desjardins
 
LILLE
 
This northern city has one of the most popular Christmas markets in France, attracting 900,000 visitors every year. Almost 100 stalls in the central Place Rihour sell traditional goodies like Maroilles cheese, chicory pâté and babeluttes (soft caramels). In the nearby Grand Place, a 50-metre-high ferris wheel offers fantastic views over Lille’s Flemish-Renaissance architecture, festooned with sparkling Christmas fairy lights. Open until December 27th.
 
 
ARRAS
 
This charming town in the north of France is the perfect setting for a magical Christmas market. 90 stalls are set up in the Grand Place where scents of mulled wine mingle with hot chocolate and Flemish waffles – a local specialty. There are plenty of musical events and street performances from fire-eaters and jugglers, as well as a daily visit from Santa Claus. Open until December 30th.
 
 
COLMAR. This is one of the prettiest Christmas markets thanks to its almost entirely pedestrianized town centre, medieval Alsace architecture and annual decorations competition. Twinkling fairy lights and glowing Rudolphs bedeck balconies and shopfront windows alike. The children’s market in Petite Venise includes stalls selling handcrafted toys and a giant letter box for posting a wish-list to Santa. Open until December 31st.
 
 
ROUEN
 
The gothic cathedral in the historic part of town is the perfect backdrop to the Rouen Christmas market. Plenty of little stalls sell delicious mulled wine, local specialties and other typical Christmas goods. There’s a whole part of the market dedicated to children and you can show off your ice skating skills on an outdoor rink. Open until December 31st.
 
 
BORDEAUX
 
The Bordeaux Christmas market has become a holiday tradition in the region. Over 150 exhibitors sell unique gifts and creations from all over the world. Stroll around the illuminated market, sip on a cup of mulled wine and enjoy some delicious treats. Open until December 26th.
 
 

Vous avez été nombreux pour ce week-end d'ouverture! 😘✨ #marchenoelbdx

Une publication partagée par Marché De Noël Bordeaux (@marchenoelbdx) le

 
METZ
 
By some accounts France's second most visited Christmas market after Strasbourg, Metz in the Grand Est is a must-visit. With six of the city's squares filled with stalls dedicated to celebrating the festive period, it's impossible not to get into the festive spirit. Enjoy traditional treats like the merry-go-round, a walk through the magical forest or stock up on gastronomic Christmas essentials at the city market hall. Open until 30th December.
 
 
 

#metz #marchedenoelmetz #cathedralemetz

Une publication partagée par Ric Hô (@rico_photographe) le

RIQUEWIHR

Officially one of France's most beautiful villages, Riquewihr's fairytale atmosphere makes it the ideal location to celebrate the festive season. Wander the medieval cobbled streets and see the village at its most stunning. You'll find a Christmassy world of tasting sessions, concerts, exhibitions and delicious food. Open until December 25th.

 

Christmas market in Riquewihr 🎄⛄️🌟 #riquewihr #france #weihnachtsmarkt #christmasmarket

Une publication partagée par CHRIS ✨ (@chris.wa.de) le

 

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