This was my first visit to the the Christmas Market, Arras but it certainly won’t be my last – it was absolutely gorgeous.
The Christmas village is set up on the Grand Place of Arras, surrounded by stunning houses and with a red carpet laid over the ancient cobble stones for visitor comfort. There were not far off 100 chalets selling artisan products – and only artisan products. Each vendor is carefully checked by the organisers of the Christmas Market to ensure that the goods are not massed produced and what an amazing array there was.
Nougat, handmade and utterly delicious, bon bons – sweets made locally and known as chucques here in Ch’ti country. Breads and cakes, sausages, cheese, foie gras, wine, champagne and gourmet delights of all kinds.
Handcrafted gifts, jewellery, ornaments – from all over France but also from Poland, Russia and Canada – unique items.
Mulled wine with chocolate dipped Agen prunes, hot chestnuts, chichis – the little donut sticks that are so more-ish, wine tasting, champagne tasting – there’s something for everyone here.
The Christmas village is beautifully decorated and ablaze with colour and light – it really comes into its own at night where at one end the ice skating rink pulses with colour and festive music and the magnificent houses around the square are also lit up and add to the ambience.
The whole town is in a celebratory mood – the lovely Place des Héros and all the wonderful shops around display lights and festive fayre and the atmosphere is magical.
For visitors from the UK the drive from Calais is little more than an hour on the toll road and from Paris its just 50 minutes on the fast train. There are plenty of shops in the town of Arras other than the Christmas Market and lots of opportunity to do your Christmas shopping – on foot as it’s not a huge town. If you’re fed up with rampant commercialism and want something traditional, festive and romantic – then you’ll love Arras at Christmas.
When you’re done shopping, treat yourself in one of the great restaurants or bars – there are loads and there’s not much that beats sitting outside a café on a crisp night watching the world go by, the Christmas lights shining beautifully and keeping warm with a delicious chocolat chaud or glass of mulled wine.
I’ll definitely be going to this one next year – the organisers say that it’s going to be even bigger and better – a whole year to go (29 November – 29 December 2013) and already I can’t wait!
See here for more on Arras.