What’s on: Eight cool things to do in France in December

Ho ho ho readers, it’s December already and there’s a definite Christmas vibe in the air (not to mention in this story). Yes, here are the best things to do in France this month, including a few non-Christmas related events.

What's on: Eight cool things to do in France in December
Photo: AFP

The Strasbourg Christmas market (pictured above)

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.

There are, of course, plenty of other decent Christmas markets around France. Here are 13 others worth checking out! But remember, the one on the Champs-Elysees has been cancelled this year.  

Festival of Light, Lyon

From December 7th to 10th, a variety of different artists will light up buildings, streets, squares and parks all over the city.

The town has promised 50 installations in total, and has even launched a free app to go with the event. Find out more here.

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.

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 the music of Bach, Purcell, Corelli, the Ave Maria and other traditional Christmas songs. (It happens on the 22nd of December and the 29th).

“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.

If you’re in Paris, it’s also worth taking a look at Les Billettes Church in the Marais, or the traditional Christmas Concert at the gothic wonder, St. Severin.

Spend a half day at the Vaux le Vicomte chateau

Here’s one you may not have heard about. The chateau, about an hour outside of Paris, opens its doors for festive Christmas fun until January 7th. The Paris tourism bureau promises an “incredible atmosphere created especially for the occasion” of Christmas.

The chateau, a masterpiece of Baroque architecture, is decorated specially for the Christmas celebrations. Find out more here.

Cannes Dance Festival

From the 8th to the 17th of December, you can check out this festival in the south of France which promises 14 different shows over two long weekends. You can expect a lot of up-and-coming talent, with organizers promising a focus on young dancers and choreographers. 

Transmusicales, Rennes: December 6th-10th

The Transmusicales festival has been around for over three decades now, 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 Saint-Nicholas Festival in Nancy

The 36-day festival runs until December 31st, and sees a host of events dedicated to Saint Nicholas. Who’s Saint Nick? Well, he is the protector of the weak and oppressed, as well as the patron saint of lawyers, sailors and school children.

The “Fêtes de Saint-Nicolas” attracts tens of thousands of visitors to Nancy every year, and you can expect lights, street performances, parades, food villages, art markets, rides, games, concerts, a spectacular sound and light show, a grand procession.




What’s On in France: Nine great things to do in November

It's getting colder in France, but why not heat up your social calendar with a few of these events?

What's On in France: Nine great things to do in November
Photo: AFP

Jazz sur La Ville Festival, Marseille, November 5th to December 2nd

“Life is a lot like jazz. . . it's best when you improvise,” said George Gershwin.

Get ready to feel jazzy as this year celebrates the twelfth edition of the Jazz Festival in Marseille, welcoming a seemingly endless list gifted artists. The festival, offering dozens live concerts, stretches out from Marseille to other locations in the region such as Aix-en-Provence and Avignon. So if you live in the south-east region of France you have no excuse.

Le Salon de la Photo exhibition, Paris, November 8th to 12th

Head to the Porte de Versailles for the chance to appreciate the creative works of modern-day photographers. The Photographers' Corner, where amateurs and professionals display their work, is not to be missed at Le Salon de la Photo exhibition. 

Chocolate Fair, Lyon, November 9th to 11th

Forget Cadbury's chocolate as Lyon, the widely known capital of gastronomy, has some tasty treats for you to get your teeth stuck into. The eighth edition of the chocolate fair, held at the Centre de Congres, is offering culinary demonstrations, cooking workshops and of course the famous parade of chocolate dresses that will be taking centre stage. Think of it as Paris Fashion Week meets Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 

Herring Festival, Etaples sur mer, Calais November 10th & 11th 

Dressed up in traditional costumes, the people of Étaples meet up on the banks of the Canche River in northern France to celebrate their favourite fish. Every year, thousands of people join them to enjoy herring in all its delicious forms – pickled, grilled, or smoked and accompanied of course by lots of wine.

France-wide: Armistice Day November 11th 

On Armistice Day, France honours those who fell or were injured during World War I with commemorative services. As 2018 marks the centenary of The Great War, memorial services this year are sure to be especially poignant. In Paris, a military parade will take place, and a ceremony will be held at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe. 

Beaujolais Nouveau Festival, November 15th

As the world's best wine party (as thought by many beaujoholics) is fast approaching, will you be ready to uncork a fruity bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau at the stroke of midnight? The festivities will be marked by fireworks, music and various parties to celebrate the region's first wine of the season

Beaujolais Nouveau day is one of France's most loved festivals. Here are 14 things you probably didn't know about it.

Africolor Festival, Paris, November 16th to December 22nd 

This music festival is bound to bring some colour back into your life during this cold and depressing time of year. The festival, which started out in the Parisian suburbs and has now spread across the whole city and its surroundings, features artists from all over Africa.

Christmas Market Colmar – November 23rd to December 30th

Though it may seem a bit early, the Christmas market in the picturesque town of Colmar in the Alsace region kicks off in late-November. Wandering around the illuminated city, trying out Alsatian specialities, and sipping from a mug of mulled wine will definitely get you into the Christmas spirit.

Salon des Vins, Paris, 29th November to December 2nd

At the foot of la Porte de Versailles, this exhibition will be a great opportunity for wine lovers to personally meet local sellers and to discover new wines as well as the history behind them.