Christmas Markets in France

France hosts many enchanting Christmas markets in many towns and villages. From Alsace to Paris, from Lyon to Lille, discover the most beautiful French Christmas markets.
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Christmas markets in France have ancient origins and have evolved over the centuries. The tradition of celebrating Christmas with markets dates back to the Middle Ages, when trade fairs were organised during the Christmas holidays. In the 19th century, Christmas markets in France became popular in many cities and towns, such as Strasbourg, Colmar and Nancy. Today, Christmas markets in France attract tourists from all over the world and are considered an important tourist attraction during the Christmas holidays.

The French region where the Christmas market tradition is most alive is undoubtedly Alsace, on the border with Germany and Switzerland. If you have never been to France at Christmas time, that’s where you have to start – simply the most beautiful! Each of its towns and villages is decorated with large illuminated fir trees and comes alive with processions, Christmas concerts, large Advent calendars and events for both adults and children.

Very famous is Strasbourg’s Christmas market, the Christkindelsmärik, which with over 500 years of history is the oldest in France. However, the most famous is probably the Christmas market in Colmar.

Among the many Christmas markets in Alsace, those in the villages of Riquewihr, Eguisheim, Kaysersberg, Ribeauvillé and Obernai deserve special mention.

Beyond Alsace, however, there are many French cities worth visiting over the Christmas period. Below we offer an overview of the Christmas markets in the larger cities so that you can perhaps get some ideas for a weekend in December.

Strasbourg Christmas Market

The hundreds of decorated stalls of the Chriskindelsmarik can be found throughout the city’s huge historic centre. Strasbourg ‘s market is the oldest market in France with its 500 years of history. The heart of the market is in Place Broglie, Place de la Cathédrale, Rue de la Comédie, Place de la Gare and Place Klébler (where there is also a huge Christmas tree and an Advent calendar).
You can buy everything from Christmas tree decorations and cribs, traditional Alsatian handicrafts to items from faraway and unknown places. Each year, the entire Place Gutemberg is reserved for a different foreign country and the display of all its characteristic products.

In the gastronomic stands you can find everything, but you can’t resist Bredle (Alsatian Christmas biscuits made with butter, flavoured with chocolate, aniseed, caramel, almonds, ginger or fruit), fois gras, varieties of Choucroute (a dish made with pork and sauerkraut), spiced candies, marzipan pigs. And then to chocolate, fruit cakes, pain d’épices made of honey, sugar and cinnamon, sweet Bretzels, Kougelhopf (doughnuts), Maennelle (little men made of decorated brioche dough), steaming soups, pizzas, flambée cakes, the famous pommes d’amour and Alsace wines and beers.

Wonderful Christmas concerts are held in the magnificent Notre-Dame Cathedral, as well as in numerous other churches, and a large ice-skating rink is set up on the Place du Chateau.

A legend, confirmed by a chronicle from 1605, has it that the Christmas tree tradition originated here, when citizens would bring fir trees into their homes to decorate them with multi-coloured paper roses, apples, sugar and shiny objects like gold.

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Colmar Christmas Market

The heart of Colmar ‘s market is in Place des Dominicains, where the splendid stained glass windows of the Dominican church amplify an already unique atmosphere. The 65 merchants sell mainly gift items made of wood or natural materials.

In the market on Place Jeanne D’Arc, on the other hand, the best products of Alsatian gastronomy can be found: fois gras buns, Bradala (typical Alsatian Christmas biscuits) gingerbread, honey, Vosges sweets, Munster cheese, Alsatian wines and beers, mulled wine.

Around the Schwendi fountain in Place de l’Ancienne Douane and inside the old medieval Koifhus building, there are 50 stands selling genuine art objects such as blown glass, wood carvings, goldsmith’s work and antiques.

Finally, especially for the little ones, there is a market for children’s articles and toys in the Petite Venise district. In addition, a merry-go-round, an animated mechanical nativity scene and a giant letterbox for writing to Father Christmas make this place unforgettable and wonderful in their eyes.

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Paris Christmas Markets

Paris certainly doesn’t shy away when it comes to celebrating Christmas. From the Champs Elysées to the Notre Dame Cathedral, giant Christmas trees start appearing in the streets and in front of the most important monuments, while Les Galeries Lafayette are decorated with a different façade each year. Along the streets, in addition to stopping for shopping, you can admire the Advent calendars and illuminations that literally invade every corner of the French capital.

Christmas markets in Paris abound and there are for all tastes, but the biggest one is the Marché de Noel à la Defense. This is one of the most modern and avant-garde neighbourhoods in Paris, where an iron and crystal archway makes a fine display, but which literally changes face with the arrival of the Christmas market, making way for stalls with Christmas decorations and gifts, ethnic and woollen items, sweets and delicacies such as sandwiches on which melted cheese is poured.

Other Christmas markets that you will have the opportunity to visit if you are in Paris at Christmas time are those that take place on the Champs Elysées, in front of Notre Dame Cathedral, on the Montmartre hill, in Place Vendôme, in Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés or under the Montparnasse Tower.

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Christmas Markets in Lyon

Visiting Lyon during the Christmas period is certainly a great idea. Lyon’s Christmas market is perfect for soaking up the Christmas atmosphere and the concomitant historic festival of lights only adds to the city’s charm.

The Place Carnot Christmas market is the oldest and most traditional Christmas market in Lyon and takes place in the heart of the French university city. There are over 140 Christmas chalets on Place Carnot, where vendors of all kinds from both Lyon and the entire Rhône-Alpes region display their wares.

The market is one of the most picturesque in France, with a Ferris wheel in the centre of the chalets and many activities for children.

The festival of lights (Fete des Lumiéres) is one of Lyon’s most famous traditions and a special event to attend. For three days only around 8 December, Lyon hosts the Fete des Lumiéres, where designers and artists come from all over the world to participate in a collective exhibition of beautiful illuminated works. It’s an experience that can hardly be described in words, you absolutely must go there to fully appreciate the magic of this event.

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Lille Christmas Markets

The Lille Christmas markets take place in Place Rihour, Place du Général de Gaulle and Place Charles de Gaulle. These three squares are located in the historical city centre of Lille, within walking distance of each other.

Place Rihour is the largest of the three squares and houses most of the Christmas market stalls. Place du Général de Gaulle is easily recognisable by its ice skating rink and its 50-metre high Ferris wheel. Place Charles de Gaulle, finally, is the smallest of the three squares and hosts a craft market.

Lille’s Christmas markets cover quite a large area and there are little houses and attractions scattered in different parts of the city, including Place du Théâtre, Place du Concert and Place Louise de Bettignies.

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Nancy Christmas Markets

In Nancy Saint-Nicolas (St Nicholas), which falls on 6 December, is celebrated in grand style for over six weeks. During the festivities, Christmas market huts (here called Villages de Saint-Nicolas) are scattered throughout the city of Nancy.

Le Grand Village de Saint-Nicolas is the most important Christmas market in Nancy and is located on Place Charles III in the Ville Neuve, between the covered market and the Saint Sebastian shopping centre.

Don’t miss the artisans’ market around the magnificent merry-go-round, the elegant Christmas tree in Place Stanislas and the Ferris wheel in Place de la Carrière for a breathtaking panoramic view of the city.

The one in Nancy is definitely one of the best Christmas markets in eastern France, with more than sixty little wooden houses offering original gift ideas, typical regional delicacies and mulled wine.

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Reims Christmas Market

The Reims Christmas market is among the largest in France with 135 chalets offering gourmet products and original gift ideas. What makes it special is that it is held along beautifully illuminated and decorated tree-lined pedestrian streets, while at Place d’Erlon, the very tall Ferris wheel offers spectacular views of the city: don’t miss the chance to see the spectacle from above!

Wooden chalets and glittering illuminations then spring up around the UNESCO World Heritage Reims Cathedral and in the courtyard of the Palais de Tau.

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Montbéliard Christmas Market

Every year during Advent, a German-style Christmas market is organised in Montbéliard. Since its first edition in 1987, the Christmas market has been one of the most popular of its kind in France. The success of the market is certainly due to the spectacular illumination of the streets of the old town.

Every day of the Advent calendar, the Christmas lights are a big attraction for visitors. From Place Denfert-Rochereau to the railway station, you can admire a fantastic light show consisting of more than 115,000 bulbs.

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Metz Christmas Market

Metz is a small but charming provincial city located on the east side of the Moselle River, between the city of Nancy and the Luxembourg border.
Metz is famous for its Gothic cathedral of St Etienne and its German quarter around the railway station. It is known as the ‘garden city’, thanks to the many trees, parks and flower beds that colour the city green.

In recent years, the Metz Christmas market has become one of the largest Christmas markets in France. Today, the Christmas market is spread over 4 main locations: Place Saint Louis, Place de la République, Place d’Armes and Place Saint-Jacques.

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Insights

Christmas markets in Alsace

Christmas markets in Alsace

The Christmas markets in Alsace are among the richest and most atmospheric in Europe thanks to their magical atmosphere, thousands of decorations and picturesque villages.
Strasbourg Christmas Markets

Strasbourg Christmas Markets

In the capital of Alsace, the Christmas markets are one of the most eagerly awaited events of the year: over 300 wooden chalets with magical illuminations and enchanting decorations.
Christmas markets in Colmar

Christmas markets in Colmar

Experience the most amazing Christmas magic in Colmar, Alsace. Its Christmas markets enchant young and old with a fairy-tale atmosphere of lights, decorations and heady scents.
Christmas in Paris

Christmas in Paris

During the festive season, Paris is cloaked in a special atmosphere, magical and rarefied thanks to the presence not only of illuminations but of many Christmas markets.