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10 festive cities to visit in France at Christmas

We look at some fabulously festive cities to visit in France at Christmas. You’re guaranteed a bit of Christmas magic here!

Strasbourg – the capital of Christmas

Head for Strasbourg‘s Christmas market. Known locally as the Christkindelsmarik, it’s the oldest in Europe. From the end of November to the end of December it’s full of beautiful lights and decorations. There is a most festive Christmas market and the tallest decorated Christmas tree in Europe.  Take a boat ride, wander from one Christmas market to another – there are eleven, and prepare to be awed by the fabulous decorations on almost every street.

Sarlat – medieval and Christmassy

Shop window lit brightly and a tiny wooden door with a single silver star at Christmas in Sarlat, Dordogne

In the year-round-gorgeous Dordogne, the town of Sarlat hosts three weeks of colour and warmth at its Christmas village. It’s made up of forty-two charming chalets set up around an ice skating rink. The village showcases the work of craftsmen from all over France and a variety of goods are on offer to provide you with unforgettable gift ideas.

Gourmets will appreciate the many products to be enjoyed on site or taken away. Truffles, walnuts, foie gras are some of the favourites of the locals. There’s a tavern at the heart of the market where you can warm up with a mulled wine or Christmas beer. The festive atmosphere and enchanting holiday décor are lovely.  Starts early December www.sarlat-tourisme.com

Dijon – fabulously festive and foodie

view over the roof tops of Dijon from the top of a tall tower

Place de la République in Dijon is even more vibrant than usual at Christmas with little wooden chalets in a magnificent location. There is an ice rink in the Place de la Liberation and a little train for rides at Place Darcy. Don’t miss the superb market, Dijon is a foodie paradise. See tourist office website for details. www.visitdijon.com 

Reims – bubbles at Christmas

The Christmas market at Reims is the biggest in the region. It’s also one of the largest in France with 135 chalets offering a range of gourmet products, arts and crafts and creative gift suggestions. This renowned market is held annually in the tree-lined pedestrian streets around Place d’Erlon and the city centre, all beautifully illuminated and decorated. There’s also an international craft market, ice-skating rink and Santa’s Grotto in the Place du Forum. There’s  a traditional funfair and Ferris Wheel offering spectacular views over this coronation city. And a sound and light show at the Cathedra. Plus events, creative workshops and concerts throughout the region. Enjoy gourmet food, crafts and festive gifts and of course a glass or two of the fizzy stuff.

Open every day from end November to end December. More info www.champagne-ardenne-tourism.co.uk

Paris – city of  Christmas  Lights

The City of Light goes all out fabulous and festive for Christmas. Don’t miss the gorgeous Christmas tree at Galleries Lafayette, go ice skating at the Eiffel Tower, drink hot chocolate at a terraced cafe and visit one of Paris’ many Christmas markets. And window show until you drop…

Tours – Loire Valley Chateaux

Christmas tree in a gallery of the Chateau of Chenonceau, Loire Valley

Many of the Loire Valley Chateaux put on their winter and Christmas finery for real wow factor appeal and Tours makes for a great base. From here head to the stunning chateau of Chenonceau,  full of sumptuous floral bouquets. Amboise, Azay-le-Rideau, Chinon, Langeais and Loches all put on a show. From the beginning of December to the beginning of January, these Loire Valley châteaux get into the festive spirit with exceptional tours and events.

Montpellier – Mediterraean style at Christmas

Discover Montpellier in its winter clothes! From the end of November to the end of December, Montpellier lights up in vibrant colours for a Mediterranean style Christmas. There is a traditional market, local crafts and parades. During the whole month, there’s a festive atmosphere on the Place de la Comédie, in the heart of Montpellier.

Lille – jewel of the north

Christmas market at Lille, northern France

From the last week in November to end December, the Grand Place in Lille will be transformed with chalets, a Ferris wheel and an 18 metre-high Christmas tree. There is a lively Christmas market in Place Rihour. With thousands of shops  from high street to unique boutique, Christmas shopping here is on a different level. More on the Christmas market at Lille. lilletourism.com

More on Lille Christmas market

For a truly charming Christmas market head to Boulogne-sur-Mer (about 30 minutes from Calais port) for the middle weekend of Decemver. Head to the Old Town to find elves, knights animals, festive stalls, beautiful decorations galore. There are lovely light displays in this really authentic Christmas market. Warm up at the newly extended NAUSICAA, Europe’s largest aquarium – it’s astonishingly good.

Read more about Boulogne Christmas market

Annecy – Christmas in the mountains

Bridge over a small river in Annecy showing the town lit up for Chrismtas

This lovely city in the French Aps, Haute Savoie is gorgeous year round. At Christmas, it’s not unusual to have snow fall and then the city really takes on a magical glow. Fabulous restaurants, close to the ski resorts of Annecy Mountains, castles and a stunning market make this an out and out Christmas destination extraordinaire…

More on Christmas in France

How to spend Christmas Eve in Paris
15 things to do on Christmas Day in Paris

It might not surprise you to know that mostly – Christmas in France is all about food… so buckle up, or maybe unbuckle your belt, for a fun, festive and foodie podcast: The A to Z of Christmas in France

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