If you are lucky enough to be in France during the holidays, there is nothing that can compare to the feeling of walking the holiday market streets, with a cup of vin chaud in your hand. As the air fills with the sweet scents of gingerbread and nuts, spices and Christmas trees, and the twinkling fairy lights enhance the magic of the season. This is a chance to join in on the festivities while enjoying the cool air, the happy faces, thoughtful and tasteful Christmas decorations and stocking up on any last-minute gifts you may need. Part carnival, part fair, part market, part block party, French Christmas markets are not something you want to miss. Put it on your bucket list!
Most French cities and towns have their own version of holiday market. Visitors may take the French trains to any of the listed towns and cities. Your biggest choice will be between smaller Christmas markets in picturesque villages, or the beautiful Christmas markets in big French cities. Most French Christmas markets start around Thanksgiving, and culminate with Christmas celebrations on December 24 or 25. Some even go all the way until New Year’s Eve or Epiphany!
North to South, East to West: The Best Christmas Markets in France
1. Amiens Christmas Market
The northern city of Amiens—capital of Picardy—hosts a festive Christmas market with a mix of local and international products that you won’t want to miss. Food-wise, they’ve got you covered: taste the delightful Amiens macarons and tuiles amienoises (crunchy, delicious almond biscuit treats), as well as savory snacks like pâté de canard, which will help you put on that inevitable holiday weight in style. Wash it all down with a warming glass of mulled wine at this traditional market.
What truly sets Amiens apart is its nightly son et lumière, a spectacular light and sound show projected onto its Notre Dame Cathedral, which happens to be the biggest gothic cathedral in France. These are not your average Christmas lights! (Nightly show at 7:00 PM)
Dates: November 25 – December 30
2. Annecy Christmas Market
Experience an Alpine Christmas in the lake town of Annecy, nestled at the base of the snowcapped Alps. This medieval city opens it’s doors at Christmas time, with over 80 vendors in chalets throughout the town offering dozens of gift ideas from the Alsace/Savoie region, including wooden toys and ornaments, Reblochon cheese, chocolates, pastries, woolens, berry jams, honey, candles and more. Open until early January, visitors can stock up on homemade gifts, warm up with a cup of hot wine, and stroll in the evenings to look at the spectacular lights illuminating the unique architecture. (In particular, the castle situated in the middle of a canal, Palais de l’Isle, its image bouncing off the crystal clear lake water.) A twelve-minute light show projected on the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) can also be enjoyed, as well as nightly concerts. Churches in the town will feature eclectic and hallowed displays full of all the recognizable nativity figurines but one, as they won’t gain their baby Jesus until Christmas night, per tradition. Pack your ice skates and visit the ice skating rink in François de Menthon square. Until the 24th, Father Christmas is installed in the “Santa’s Village” section of the chalets, where all the booths are painted white and feature handmade and unique gifts.
Dates: November 25 – January 6
3. Arras Christmas Market
This charming French city, midway between Paris and Brussels, might otherwise not be on your radar. But don’t underestimate Arras during Christmas time. The city has Flemish roots, meaning you can enjoy their famous, mouth-watering gaufres, or Flemish waffles, which are the perfect treat for a winter day. The Arras Christmas market has an ice rink, street performers, and local food like coeurs d’Arras, small, orange colored heart-shaped cheeses with a pungent flavor. This is one of the best Christmas markets for enjoying the festive season, whether you come for the mulled wine, the Christmas carols, or the original gift ideas… or even to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve!
Dates: November 24 – December 30
4. Biarritz Christmas Market
For a Christmas market with the smoky accents of a Spanish border town, head to the surfer mecca of Biarritz, where lights everywhere turn the city into a fairyland. Until the first of the year this Basque Country town will feature outdoor markets with local specialities, like Bayonne ham or Piment d’Espelette, a special chili pepper from the region that is used a local specialty, an omelette made of peppers and tomatoes. The market will also have an ice rink and a lighted ferris wheel. Every night until early January, from 6-11 PM, the town comes alive with special light shows projected on the walls and facades of the buildings all over town.
Dates: Dates are flexible year to year. Most often, early December. Check local listings.
5. Bordeaux Christmas Market
The Bordeaux Christmas market is undoubtedly one of the best Christmas markets in France. The wooden stalls lined up along the Allées de Tourny feature animatronic reindeer, eco-friendly Christmas decoration workshops, stilt walkers, face painting, acrobats, elves, and the opportunity to get your photo taken with Father Christmas. Local refreshments like aligot, bretzels, and roasted chestnuts will be available to warm your belly, and vegetarians will have no trouble finding delicious treats to eat. The market is also accessible to wheelchair users, though the concourse can get quite crowded close to Christmas.
Dates: November 24 – December 27
6. Collioure Christmas Market
This seaside and colorful town on the Southwestern border of Spain hugs the Meditterannean coast and has equal doses of French sophistication and Spanish intrigue. Here, Santa arrives to the delight of children on a zipline, or by jet ski, zooming up to the small local beach. Merry-go-rounds are festooned with lights and the chalet stalls in the market, set in the local Château Royal, boast majolica ceramics, roasted chestnuts, artisanal ice creams, cheeses, spices, handmade knives, local soaps, candles, and more. This is a trip for those who want a Christmas market in France with a warmer climate, and the possibility of a cool-but-not-freezing dip on a sunny winter day. Enjoy a glass of vin chaud while sitting under a palm tree instead of the standard Christmas tree, or take a lovely a beach stroll on Christmas morning. Packed with food and bars, this small, eccentric town with pink, blue, green, and yellow buildings is the place to go if you want a dose of fun and spirit (and also want to visit the place where Matisse got his Fauve-on).
Dates: Check local listings as dates vary.
7. Colmar Christmas Market
If you’re looking for the best Christmas market in France, you want to head to Northeast to Alsace. Located in the eastern France, wedged between Switzerland, Germany and Luxembourg, the small Alsatian town of Colmar is one of the true capitals of Christmas celebration. Transport yourself into an old-time fairytale in this ancient, primarily pedestrian, city. The vielle ville is composed of German Renaissance-style architecture with its iconic half-timbered houses, and the town center turns into a week-long celebration for the Colmar Christmas market, illuminated with festive lighting to enhance the city’s heritage. Each window and door in town is adorned with holiday wreaths and Christmas decorations, as well as grand nativity scenes, making this truly one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in France. Walk the city streets and don’t forget to indulge in mulled wine, sweet treats, and festive food while there.
Dates: November 23 – December 29
8. Lille Christmas Market
All the way at the tip of northern France is the young and bustling boomtown city of Lille, which shines with holiday spirit during the winter months. The festive atmosphere comes alive on its streets, decked out in Christmas lights and decorations, as well as 80 wooden chalets, or market stalls. While most French Christmas markets support entirely local production, Lille’s Christmas market includes a United Nations of artisan products from Russia, Poland, and Québec, as well as the Americas. The market features a glorious ferris wheel, an ice skating rink, as well as many chalets dedicated to tasting the regions’ best foods and others which feature unique holiday activities.
Dates: November 22 – December 30
9. Lyon Christmas Market
Known the country of France over for its gastronomy, Lyon is also famous for one of the most spectacular light shows in all of France, known as the Fête des Lumières. Held annually in early December, this four day light extravaganza draws festive spirits from all over France.
Even if you miss the Fêe des Lumières, the Lyon Christmas market, located in the old city in the Place Carnot, is open until Christmas Eve, and boasts a hundred stalls full of food and artisanal crafts, like handmade shoes, silkscreened bags (Lyon is famous for its silk), knitted hats, and more. The foods from Lyon are not to be missed, like a praluline, which is a local specialty of a brioche made with the Lyonnais specialty of pink sugared almonds. With vin chaud in hand, you can stuff yourself with oysters, cheeses, quenelles, roasted chestnuts, and pain d’épices, the French version of gingerbread. If you’re a foodie and happen to be in France at Christmas, this is your destination.
Dates: November 23 – December 24
10. Dijon Christmas Market
Just two hours north of Lyon by train is Dijon, where the Christmas markets at Place Darcy and Rue de la Liberté Place Darcy and Place du Théâtre will be kitted out with twinkling lights and decorative window displays, as will Porte Guillaume, the Église Notre-Dame, and the Palais des ducs et des États de Bourgogne. Enjoy the views from the 130-foot-tall Ferris wheel, take a spin on the merry-go-round at the Children’s Village, ooh and ahh at the stunning light shows of this this French Christmas market, or enjoy a luxe splurge at the city’s truffle market. If you’re there on December 24th, be sure to stop by at 6:30pm, when Santa “falls,” per tradition, from the Tour Philippe Le Bon, and rewards children with sweets after safely landing.
Dates: December 2 – January 7
11. Metz Christmas Market
One of the longest-standing Christmas markets in France is held in Metz, just East of the Lorraine forrest and south of the border from Luxembourg. There, at the Place Saint Louis, Place de la République, and Place de la Comédie, you can find some of the finest hand-made Christmas presents anywhere or taste the best gingerbread in France. There’s an ice rink, a colorful merry-go-round, and a magical “Sentiers des Lanternes” light corner. The Metz Christmas market also features entertainment for adults, with gourmet food available at the classic wooden chalets, where you can indulge in mulled wine and local specialties.
Dates: November 24 – December 30
12. Montbéliard Christmas Market
A bit South of Colmar is Montbéliard, a largely Swiss city located in France. Just 8 miles away from Switzerland, this little town is a lovely mix between the two cultures and traditions. Looking for a traditional Christmas market? The 160 lovely stalls full of authentic and high quality items in Montbéliard deliver just that, embracing the true atmosphere of Christmas. Walk the snowy streets or even engage in dance and singing of Christmas music in the town square.
Dates: November 25 – December 24
13. Paris Christmas Markets
It’s not surprising that Paris would have some of the best Christmas markets in France. And while there are plenty of enchanting Christmas markets in the French capital each year, the largest Christmas market in the city is the Tuileries Christmas market, which stretches all the way to Place de la Concorde. (It has replaced the famous Christmas market on the Champs-Élysées.) You can also try the popular Christmas markets by Notre-Dame or Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) in the city centre. The Saint-Germain-des-Prés marché also always brings in a local crowd, in a quaint and lovely atmosphere. You’ll be sure to get plenty of gift ideas at this French Christmas market. For more markets please check out ParisInfo.com as just about every neighborhood will put on its own particular odyssey and show at Christmas time.
Dates: Various (see Paris Tourism website for details)
14. Pérouges Christmas Market
Only 25 miles Northeast of Lyon (and included in our 15 Best Day Trips from Lyon), Pérouges is a tiny village of only 100 year-round inhabitants. Kept immaculately preserved, clean and distinct in its vibe, Pérouges is considered by many to be the most beautiful town in all of France. (It’s actually on France’s list of “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France.”)
The old town of Pérouges is perched on a hill, with the Alps as a backdrop and has half-timbered houses. Hidden behind fortress walls, this medieval town has two entrance gates, cobblestoned streets, narrow alleys, secret byways, and Liberty Square, named for a towering Linden tree that was planted during the French Revolution.
This is one of the most magical places in all of France to experience a Christmas market. The old town comes alive in lights and old-fashioned nuance. In addition to the local delicacy of the sweet leavened lemon-flavored bread called the Galette de Pérouges, created in 1912 to keep people fed on Fridays during Lent, all of Pérouges comes alive before the holidays with market stalls full of artisans and local delicacies. Walk the cobblestoned streets and see the twinkling lights and candles in all the windows and sip a vin chaud.
Dates: Check local listings as dates vary.
15. Reims Christmas Market
For those staying in central France, the Champagne city of Reims is the midpoint between Metz and Paris (1h30 away.) Reims has loads of history and is where most of France’s Kings were crowned at the regal Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Reims. The annual Reims Christmas market is set at the Place d’Erlon, facing the medieval cathedral, where 145 market stalls shine with twinkling lights and offer seasonal gifts. Street entertainers crowd the streets while some take a ride on the Ferris Wheel, Champagne in hand.
Dates: November 24 – December 24
16. Strasbourg Christmas Market
And while you’re in the East, Strasbourg is just slightly North of Colmar. Legend has it that the first ever (and definitely the most famous) Christmas market was first set in the city of Strasbourg. It was 1570, then called the “Christkindelsmärik” (market of the Infant Jesus). Today it is known as the oldest Christmas market in Europe. The streets will be filled with over 300 wooden chalets filled with food, gifts and drinks as well as winter games and entertainment, including a Children’s Christmas Village. There are actually several Christmas markets here, many of them centered around the Place de la Cathédrale. The crown jewel of the market is a beauty of a Christmas tree, one of France’s tallest and most beautiful Christmas trees to date. Many people consider the Strasbourg Christmas market to be the best Christmas market in the entire country, if not the world, and when you see how the festive season transforms the city’s historic centre into a winter wonderland, you won’t be surprised.
Dates: November 24 – December 24
17. Toulouse Christmas Market
Many of the best Christmas markets in France are in the North, but Toulouse offers a delightful option for those who would rather not freeze their butts off while ornament shopping. This southwest city hosts a Christmas market brimming with festive cheer, where locals dine on aligot (a cheesy potato dish that will threaten stop your heart), Spanish-style hot chocolate, and regional favorites like foie gras. Shop for local salves, toys, cosmetics, and candles.
Dates: November 24 – December 26