Christmas Paris style Photo: Amelie Dupont, Paris Tourist Office
Christmas in France means wonderful festive events, beautiful illuminations and gifts galore! Enjoy the festive season and discover the special magic of this happy time - France is the perfect place for a fabulous celebration.
Where to spend Christmas in France
At this time of year towns, villages and cities across France arrange brilliant arrays of festivities, special events, gourmet fairs, shows, shopping, decorate the wonderful chateaux and of course, fabulous markets to create an unforgettable Christmas visit.
You could watch turkeys parade down a high street in northern France (Licques), see the lights in Paris or enjoy a spot of winter sunshine in the south of France while you indulge in a spot of al fresco dining.
Here are some of our favourite places to spend Christmas in France…
Winter Sun – South of France
Nice, Cannes and Marseille generally have plenty of winter sunshine in the winter. In fact you can often eat your lunch outside on Christmas Day in a T-shirt.
The city of Aix-en-Provence is popular for summer visitors but it’s great for Christmas breaks too. Streets decked out in shimmering lights and shop windows dressed up to the nines make for a very festive atmosphere. Aix has a lovely vibrant Christmas market where you’ll find artisan goods and local specialities. There’s also a December olive oil and truffle fair - perfect for foodie gifts.
A different kind of fair is the Foire aux Santons, a sort of miniature village of little, terracotta, hand-painted figurines. Expect to see the usual biblical figures as well as figures from Provençal village life, such as a woman carrying an armful of lavender, or a man playing boules – the locals adore their santons, and they make great souvenirs too.
In the south of France, it’s a tradition to celebrate Christmas Eve with dinner followed by a dessert known as Les Treize Desserts (yes you read that right – 13 desserts) which symbolises Christ and his twelve apostles. In Aix, from mid-December through the end of the month, there is a Marché des Treize Desserts at the Place Jeanne d’Arc where you can buy loads of sweet things for your Christmas celebration.
Christmas Cheer – Champagne
Reims Christmas Market Photo: Greg Oxley, Reims Tourist Office
There’s nothing quite like a glass of Champagne in Champagne to usher in the Christmas spirit.
The Christmas market at Reims is the biggest in the region and of course has a fabulous Champagne bar. The centre is beautifully lit up with Christmas lights and there’s an ice rink, Ferris Wheel and fun fair.
Not far away, Epernay, home to Moët et Chandon and a host of other legendary Champagne houses also has a lovely Christmas market.
Champagne is home to the ‘World Nativity Scene Route’, an astonishing collection of crib scenes of all shapes, sizes, materials and origin, from hand-knitted settings to historic hand-carved figures, all with their own unique charm. The cribs are on show throughout December in and around the churches of 46 towns and villages between the coronation city of Reims, Epernay, Châlons-en-Champagne and the historic town of Fismes.
Chateaux at Christmas
In the Loire Valley, several of the chateaux put on their Christmas finery, which definitely delivers the wow factor! Chenonceau is full of sumptuous banquets.
Vaux le Vicomte in the Ile de France looks amazing with a carousel, fake snow and thousands of decorations. It will feel truly magical wandering the grounds and rooms of the chateaux, seeing the huge Christmas trees and experiencing what Christmas might have been like when the chateaux were in their prime.
Meanwhile, in the royal city of Blois the annual Winter Festival presents 50 shows and street theatre performances, concerts, choirs, sleigh rides, ice-skating, and more. For those of you looking for ideas for Christmas gifts, there’s the lively St. Nicolas rummage sale and the fabulous Marché de Noël, place Louis XII, with its cheerfully decked stalls and tempting aromas of gingerbread and mulled wine.
The locals love their festival and throw themselves wholeheartedly into the event, decorating and illuminating streets and storefronts from the cobblestoned downtown area up to the Château Royal de Blois, perched majestically above the town and overlooking the Loire. Wander to your heart’s content, taking in the Christmas sights, sounds and magic.
While you’re at it, don’t miss a visit to the château, the home of 7 kings and 10 queens of France, and a splendid example of medieval, Renaissance and 17th century architecture. The château was magnificently restored in 1984 and has since been used as a model for the restoration of numerous other chateaux.
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