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Where to spend Christmas in France

A pretty cobbled street festooned with Christmas lights in Paris

Swap the last minute shopping frenzy, the crowds, traffic and stress – and plan a relaxing break with family and friends in France.

Whether it’s a chance to ski in the snow covered alps, a bit of winter sunshine in the south or the fabulous Christmas markets of the north – there’s something to please the whole family in France.

The best Christmas markets

A bandstand smothered with twinkling Christmas lights

The north of France is famous for its Christmas markets. From Strasbourg, AKA the capital of Christmas to Paris with its famous fairs. But, some of the best are in the far north, just across the English Channel.

From the last week in November to the end of December the historic and architecturally lovely city of Lille sparkles with Christmas joie de Vivre. On Place Rihour, more than 80 chalets teem with gift ideas, nativity figurines, Christmas decorations and festive food. You can find regional specialities here, and also arts and crafts from Russia, Poland, and Québec, as well as products from Native America.

The Christmas market in Arras is held in the magnificent setting of the Grand’Place, a Flemish Baroque architectural ensemble unrivalled in Europe. A Ferris wheel, ice skating rink, toboggan slope, 140 artisans and exhibitors await you in an authentic and festive atmosphere in the heart of the town. This is one of the most popular Christmas markets in France.

Great for Christmas sunshine

Cannes port France

Head to the Cote d’Azur for a sunshine fix. It’s not sunbathing weather, but the area has it’s own microclimate and generally, the average is around 13 degrees centigrade. And, it’s common to be wandering around in a T Shirt on Christmas day. Most days you’ll find it’s warm enough to dine outdoors, enjoy walking, cycling and days that are bright and filled with sunshine, if a little nippy at night.

You’ll have beaches all to yourself, perfect for picnics. Monuments and the main attractions are empty of crowds making it the perfect opportunity for some cultural sight-seeing. Vineyards offer wine tasting opportunities where you can take the time to really enjoy the sunny southern wines. And, though the Christmas markets might not be as big as in the north – they’re still pretty spectacular. Aix-en-Provence has a particularly lovely Christmas fair and there are also great Christmas markets in Marseille, Arles, Avignon, Cannes and Nice

Nice is a great city for a Christmas break, festive and fun, great for shopping, filled with museums including the wonderful Matisse Museum. And, thanks to the hills that surround it, it’s protected from the famous Mistral wind and stays warmer than the rest of the Cote d’Azur.

Just round the coast, Cannes, without the summer crowds and glitterati, has lots to offer the winter visitor. Visit the beautiful Lerins Islands, get a table in restaurants that you’d normally have to book months in advance, explore the gorgeous coastline and enjoy the relaxed pace of life.

Snowtastic festive breaks

People snowing on a mountain in the French alps

It’s never guaranteed that you’ll get snow at Christmas in France but for the best chance, head for the hills, or rather the mountains.

You’re most like to find snow above 2000m in the Alps and the Pyrénées mountain ranges. Check the snow.forecast.com website for reports on the white stuff falling in these two areas and you’ll find plenty of details. Several ski areas open for business in October and more in November.

Part of the fun with a winter holiday is staying in lovely accommodation, chalet style with a roaring fire and there’s plenty available in Haute Savoie from 2-bed gites just minutes from major ski resorts to stunning luxury chalets with hot tubs that that can sleep up to 50 – house party heaven! Some chalets offer a hotel style service with private chef, private chauffeur and more. It’s hard to think of anything nicer than sipping Champagne under a snowy sky in a hot tub in the Alps!

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