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CHRISTMAS

14 of the best Christmas markets in France in 2022

As Christmas approaches, towns and cities across France get into the festive spirit. Here’s our list of go-to seasonal markets, fetes and fairs

14 of the best Christmas markets in France in 2022
(Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP)

Nancy

An early start to the seasonal celebrations in Nancy, as the city’s St Nicholas’ festival kicks off on November 18th, and runs to January 3rd.

St Nicolas Day – December 6th – is a huge deal in Germany, and because of historic links to Germany many areas of north east France celebrate it as well.

In Nancy they combine St Nicolas and Christmas into a 40-day celebration which features a Christmas market, ferris wheel, ice rink artistic tours through the towns, and – on the weekend of December 3rd – a parade celebrating the patron saint of Lorraine.

Strasbourg

Strasbourg has got pretty good at running Christmas markets over the years – it has been doing it since around 1570 and they brand themselves the ‘Christmas capital of France’. This year’s celebrations kick off on November 25th and run to January 2nd – and the tree is already in place in Place Kleber. 

This year, 300 chalets will host local artisans selling Christmas gift ideas on the Grande Île, while the streets will be festooned with illuminations celebrating a very Alsace Christmas. The markets will close on December 24th, but the Village de l’Avent will continue into the New Year.

Organisers say they want the market to be more traditional this year, and have banned a long list of items that are either not local or were deemed ‘too tacky’.

READ ALSO Champagne, tartiflette and dog toys banned from 2022 Strasbourg Christmas market

Colmar

Strasbourg likes to boast that it is France’s ‘Christmas capital’. But, though smaller Colmar, less than an hour down the A35, has a Christmas market that’s perfectly formed – and less hectic, but still enjoys those Alsace-Lorraine festive traditions. It runs from November 24th to December 29th this year.

Eguisheim

Sticking in the Christmas-loving north-east of France, medieval Eguisheim – with colourful Alsatian houses around the castle is a must-visit. Its authentic and traditional Christmas market is an opportunity to discover the local gastronomic products and enjoy a glass of vin chaud with the villagers.

The Christmas market, along with the Ronde de Noël on the town ramparts, begins on November 25th and runs until December 30th.

Mulhouse

Mulhouse’s Christmas market takes place in a sea of Christmas fabric. Almost 10km of festive material decorate the frontages, monuments and pedestrian streets in the city’s historical centre for the celebrations, which kick off on November 24th and run to December 27th.

Try Alsatian sweets such as the Berawecka – a spongy cake with pears, plums, figs and kirsch – or the Pebkucha – a cake with honey and spices – and get handcrafted products such as wooden toys or Christmas decorations. 

READ ALSO Eight of the best winter experiences in France

Nice

In case you were thinking Christmas celebrations in France were limited to the northeast of the country, Nice’s annual festivities run from December 3rd to January 2nd and bring a little southern flavour.

It’s not a Christmas speciality, but while you’re there definitely try the local socca bread.

Mouans-Sartoux

In fact, the south of France has a Christmas tradition all its own, celebrated in Mouans-Sartoux – the Foire aux Santons opened on November 4th and runs until December 24th. As well as the traditional mini-figures, used to populate seasonal creches, there will be a Christmas market, light festival and other events to celebrate. 

Lyon

Another one on a slightly different note, Lyon’s Fête des Lumières is a magnificent event which has made the reputation of the city. 

Between December 8th and 11th, the Fête des Lumières invites visitors from across the world to enjoy enchanting walks in a setting of 46 lights and sound creations. 

There’s also a more traditional Christmas market with 90 illuminated chalets which offer local products and arts and crafts. Lyon is known as the foodie capital of France, so enjoy superior food at the market.

Montbéliard

Montbéliard, on France’s border with Switzerland, calls its market “the Lights of Christmas”. During the advent period, from November 26th to December 24th, its picturesque city centre is illuminated with thousands of lights. 

The market gathers 160 craftsmen who sell authentic and traditional products. The good fairy of the Pays de Montbéliard Aunt Airie keeps local traditions going by telling her story to the children. 

Lille

Lille starts celebrating Christmas on November 18th, and doesn’t stop until December 30th.

Around 900,000 visitors a year head to the charming Christmas market in Flanders’ capital, which is set to feature more local artisans and traders, as well as those from regions of France, Poland, Canada, and Germany.

Paris

The capital hosts several Christmas markets. Opposite the Eiffel Tower, for example, 60 wooden chalets spring up, where – between December 16th and January 2nd – artisans sell craft products and culinary wonders.

There are also markets at Notre-Dame, Montmartre, gare de l’Est, Auteuil, Trocadéro au Champs de Mars, the Tuileries, the Hôtel de Ville, and Saint-Germain des Prés.

Ile-de-France

Beyond the periph’ the biggest Christmas Market in the greater Paris region is at La Defense and runs from November 23rd to December 24th, where some 350 chalets will be occupied by artisans and traders selling gifts for the season.

Bordeaux

From November 25th to December 25th, the Allées de Tourny is transformed into a winter wonderland, with the usual array of stalls selling festive gifts, and treats while the unmistakable aroma of a foodie Christmas fills the air.

Bayonne

Bayonne invites visitors to rediscover the magic of Christmas from December 3rd to January 2nd – from the Ferris wheel on Place de la Liberté, Santa Claus village in Les Halles, Christmas market on Place du Réduit, lantern evenings, parades in town… to delight young and old alike.

Small towns

Most towns in France have some sort of Christmas market, even if it’s just for a couple of days, and sometimes these are nicer and more relaxed than the big events.

Local craftsmen and shops take stalls and you can also try local food specialties – such as Toulouse sausage and aligot in the south, hot spiced cider in Brittany or the ’12 desserts of Christmas’ in Provence.

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CHRISTMAS

11 of the best winter festivals in France

From Christmas markets to festivals of light and special wine days, here are some dates for your diary for winter 2022 in France.

11 of the best winter festivals in France

Beaujolais Nouveau Day – November 17th

It’s not exactly an ancient and traditional French festival – it’s actually a marketing plot from the 1980s – but the third Thursday of every November has become a celebration for wine lovers, as the year’s Beaujolais Nouveau is released.

There are festivals in the eastern part of France, where the Beaujolais appellation is located, in towns and villages from Beaujeu to Lyon via Villefranche-Sur-Saône. In the rest of France, it’s mostly limited to special promotions in supermarkets and wine caves.

We know what they say about Beaujolais Nouveau, but apparently it’s become a better product in recent years (and no longer tastes of bananas), while wine experts say the primeurs (early wines) of 2022 will be particularly good. Find out more here.

Dieppe Herring Festival – November 19th and 20th

On the third weekend of every November Dieppe goes crazy for herring with its annual Foire aux Hareng et Coquille Saint-Jacques.

It’s a street festival with parades and also lots of fish and seafood and general eating, drinking and merriment. 

Lights Festival in Montpellier (Le Cœur de Ville en Lumières) – November 25th and 26th

Each year, the city of Montpellier welcomes over 200,000 people for its annual light show in the heart of the city. 

With dozens of colourful lightshows and projections, this is a great way to enjoy a winter celebration in the south of France. Typically, the city will highlight its monuments, such as St Peter’s Cathedral and the Opera.

The festival is free and open to all. You can learn more HERE

Festival des Lanternes in Montauban – December 1st to February 5th

With 2022 marking the fifth edition of the festival, people come from all over the country to admire traditional scenes of Chinese life amid thousands of colourful, Chinese lanterns.

In 2021, the lantern festival drew over 400,000 visitors, making it one of the largest of its kind outside of East Asia. 

Each night from 6pm until 11pm, visitors will be able to walk in the Cours Foucault, a park bordering the Tarn river – which will represent the Yangtze River during the festival. There, over 2,500 lanterns will be illuminated, along with mythical animals and Chinese monuments. Tickets range form €17 to €19 for adults, with reduced pricing for students and children. Find out more here.

Cabanes en Fête d’Andernos – Oyster and Wine festival in Arcachon on December 3rd

This one-day festival celebrating local seafood and cuisine takes place in the town of Andernos-les-Bains, located in the Bassin d’Arcachon not far from Bordeaux.

Enjoy a walk along the coastline, where you will pass by several decorated stands where vendors sell local oysters, white wine and local art. There will also be live music, and with live bands playing and as you look out onto the water you will be able to admire the traditional sailboats.

A ticket of €10 will allow you to enjoy three oysters, a glass of wine, as well as a souvenir oyster fork and your own tasting glass in honour of the festival. 

The event runs from 10 am to 8pm. You can learn more HERE

Lyon Fête des Lumières – December 8th to 11th

One of France’s most beautiful festivals, the four-day festival of lights see the eastern city of Lyon transformed into a glowing wonderland.

The festival has a religious origin, when locals would light candles to honour the Virgin Mary, but these days it is firmly secular, as 13 sites around the city are transformed with giant light shows, often with music as well.

Wait until darkness falls and take a walk around the light trail drinking in the beautiful displays and perhaps warming up with a vin chaud (hot wine) as you go. Once you have finished looking at the lights, go for dinner – Lyon has a well-earned reputation as the foodie capital of France. 

Organisers have confirmed that the festival is going ahead this year, despite the winter energy-saving measures.

Lights festival (Habits de Lumière) in d’Epernay – December 9th to December 11th

Located in northern France near Reims, the city of Epernay puts on a winter festival every year celebrating the “Capital of Champagne’s” cultural heritage.

Just under two hours driving-distance from Paris, visitors can expect to enjoy lights, fireworks, activities, and a “gourmet food day” on Saturday.

Enjoy free champagne tastings, as well as food and wine paring workshops and live music from brass bands. Find more information HERE.

Lumières en Seine – November 17th to January 8th

Lyon is the biggest and, for our money, the best, but festivals of light happen all over France during the winter.

If you’re in the Paris region you can check out Lumières en Seine which is held in the Parc de Sainte-Cloud, in the Bois de Boulogne just to the west of the city.

The park is decked out in beautiful light displays for a night-time wander. Tickets are €20.

Colmar Christmas market – November 24th to December 29th

Christmas markets happen all over France around the festive season, from local markets in small towns to the huge international festivals.

The biggest Christmas market in France is Strasbourg, the town that styles itself the ‘Christmas capital’ and the eastern areas of Alsace Lorraine are definitely where Christmas is celebrated most enthusiastically, thanks to the area’s historic links with Germany. Other popular Christmas markets take place in Metz and Mulhouse.

As for the Colmar market, it gets the benefit of the Alsace-Lorraine traditions, but is slightly smaller and less hectic than the Strasbourg event. 

READ MORE: Champagne, tartiflette and dog toys banned from 2022 Strasbourg Christmas market

Les Fêtes de Saint Nicolas in Nancy – November 18th to January 3rd

St Nicholas Day (December 6th) is a huge deal in Germany and it’s also celebrated in many places in north east France, because of the historic links to Germany.

READ ALSO How the French celebrate St Nicolas Day

In Nancy, there are several days of festivities with parades, floats, light shows and ice skating. 

While the events technically run from November 18th to January 3rd, the primary days for this festival will be December 3rd and 4th.

The city will also host small “Saint Nicholas villages” – Nancy’s version of Christmas markets – along with several performances, activities, and of course you will see your fair share of people dressed as Saint Nicholas.

Epiphany – January 6th

Epiphany is much less of a big deal in France than it is in neighbouring Spain, and there aren’t many big public events. The holiday celebrates the day that the wise men arrived to visit the infant Jesus, but for most people in France it is primarily known as the day to enjoy eating galette de rois.

The cake is made up of puff pastry, and inside it there is a small item – a fève – hidden inside. There are some complicated rituals around the eating of the cake, which comes with a gold paper crown. Everyone eats a slice of the pastry, and the winner – the person whose slice contains the fève – is crowned. 

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