As winter settles in France, towns and cities come alive with the warmth and vibrancy of French Christmas markets. The blend of rich history, local traditions, and delicious French gourmet treats makes each market a distinct experience for visitors.
In this guide, I provide a comprehensive overview of the best Christmas markets in France, including essential details such as the 2023 dates and locations.
French Christmas Markets 2023
France’s Christmas markets reflect the diverse tapestry of its regions, each bringing its own unique character and traditions to the fore.
In the east, Strasbourg, often termed the ‘Capital of Christmas’, offers a blend of German and French festive traditions, with its iconic timbered houses and rich gastronomic heritage.
In the north, Lille has a lively market with an impressive Ferris wheel, while the southern city of Nice introduces Mediterranean flavours into its holiday festivities.
Meanwhile, smaller towns like Colmar take pride in intimate settings that evoke a sense of old-world charm.
For those planning a trip in 2023, I’ve curated a list highlighting the best places to experience these diverse market atmospheres.
Strasbourg Christmas Market – Strasbourg, often termed the ‘Capital of Christmas’, hosts the renowned Christkindelsmärik, one of Europe’s oldest and most frequented Christmas markets.
Set against the backdrop of picturesque canals and half-timbered houses, over 300 wooden chalets populate the historic Grande Île district, offering everything from artisan crafts to mouth-watering treats.
The heart of the market, Place Kléber, is home to the city’s Great Christmas Tree, standing at a magnificent 30 metres and adorned with vibrant decorations. Nearby, Place de la Cathedral, overshadowed by the magnificent Strasbourg Cathedral, also teems with festive activity.
To ensure you’re well-informed for your visit, I recommend reading my guide to Strasbourg Christmas Market, which provides essential details such as dates and opening times.
If accommodation is on your mind, my hotels near Strasbourg Christmas Market guide presents a selection of conveniently situated hotels catering to all budget needs.
Lille Christmas Market – Lille’s market may be smaller, but its intimate charm makes it stand out, creating a relaxed atmosphere favoured by locals and regional visitors.
While strolling the cobbled streets lit with holiday decorations, the aroma of regional dishes from bistros and cafes entices many a passerby.
An iconic Ferris wheel in the Grand Place lights up the evenings and affords panoramic views of the illuminated city below.
I’ve compiled all the essential details, including dates and opening times, in my guide to Lille Christmas Market to help you plan your visit efficiently.
Additionally, if accommodation is on your mind, my guide on hotels near Lille Christmas Market provides a selection of well-located options to suit various budgets.
Colmar Christmas Market – Set within the historic old town, Colmar Christmas Market is one of Europe’s oldest, distinguished by its six unique markets featuring a variety of handmade crafts and regional specialties.
The market’s backdrop is the town’s iconic half-timbered buildings, adorned with fairy lights and exuding the scent of traditional Alsatian dishes.
Notably, the ‘Children’s Land’ gives younger visitors a spellbinding experience with classic toys, sweets and carousel rides.
To ensure you have all the essential details for your visit, I recommend you read my guide to Colmar Christmas Market, which provides information such as dates and opening times.
If you’re seeking accommodation, my guide on hotels near Colmar Christmas Market presents a selection of hotel choices to suit all budgets, helping to simplify your stay arrangements.
Paris Christmas Market – The Christmas markets in Paris radiate a unique blend of traditional festivities and Parisian elegance.
The market at the Tuileries Garden is a standout, where wooden chalets present handmade crafts, French treats and warming drinks.
Meanwhile, the market by the Notre Dame Cathedral is famed for its artisan products, set against a backdrop echoing Paris’s deep-rooted history.
The multitude of markets across Paris, from Montmartre to the Hôtel de Ville, ensures diverse experiences as every neighbourhood brings its own charm to the winter celebrations.
I recommend you read my Paris Christmas Market guide to get all the essential details like dates and opening times for your upcoming visit.
Nice Christmas Market – Set against the city’s palm-lined streets and the azure backdrop of the sea, Nice offers a unique mix of French Riviera elegance and festive spirit.
As you stroll through “Le Village de Noël” in Jardin Albert 1er, you’ll enter in its distinctive Alpine village atmosphere, accentuated by 60 chalets and a dense artificial forest of pine trees.
Beyond the conventional festive treats, you can experience the Swedish Light Festival and the Eco Christmas Village.
Attractions such as a Ferris wheel, an ice rink, and a special House of Santa Claus entertain young and older visitors.
To make the most of your visit, I suggest you consult my guide to Nice Christmas Market, which provides essential details like dates and opening times.
Christmas Markets in France
Beyond the most renowned spots, France hosts a variety of other Christmas markets that merit a visit. I’ve compiled a list of these notable locations, ensuring you have ample choices to experience the festive spirit on your travels.
France’s main Christmas region is Alsace, on the French/German border. Plan a visit to Alsace with my guide to the best Christmas markets in Alsace.
Amiens Christmas Market – Amiens Christmas Market, set against the majestic backdrop of the UNESCO-listed Notre-Dame Cathedral, delivers a mix of history and holiday cheer. While browsing the 130 chalets lining the shopping streets, you can indulge in local delicacies, witness the impressive “Chroma” light show on the cathedral, and partake in various family-friendly activities.
Avignon Christmas Market – Nestled within the shadows of the Palais des Papes, Avignon’s Christmas Market delivers a unique blend of Provençal traditions and festive stalls. You’ll discover local crafts, seasonal treats, and a special atmosphere that reflects the city’s historic charm.
Bordeaux Christmas Market – Bordeaux at Christmas lights up one of France’s most picturesque cities, making its historic landmarks shimmer with festive decorations. As you wander the cobbled streets, expect to find wooden chalets brimming with artisanal crafts and the scents of regional treats like Bûche de Noël and mulled wine wafting through the crisp air.
Dijon Christmas Market – Dijon Christmas Market introduces you to a fusion of French culture and gastronomy amid the city’s historic landmarks. As you meander the cobblestone streets, the aroma of regional specialties like pain d’épices and Bœuf bourguignon fills the air, while the glowing Place de la Libération showcases a towering Christmas tree and a timeless carousel.
Eguisheim Christmas Market – In the heart of Alsace, Eguisheim Christmas Market showcases the town’s medieval charm, where visitors can explore traditional chalets laden with local crafts and delicacies.
Kaysersberg Christmas Market – Kaysersberg town square market is set amidst the town’s historic timber-framed buildings and provides a unique atmosphere, blending its medieval charm with twinkling festive lights. As you wander its cobblestone streets, you can indulge in authentic Alsatian crafts, local wines, and specialities like bredele cookies.
Lyon Christmas Market – This market stands out against the city’s architectural heritage, drawing crowds with nearly 140 wooden chalets filled with artisanal crafts and regional delicacies like Praluline brioche. As you explore, you’ll experience the festive ambience complemented by the renowned Festival of Lights, adding a unique glow to the winter celebrations.
Metz Christmas Market – With its historic architecture providing a magical backdrop, Metz’s Christmas Market sprawls over five unique locations, each offering distinct attractions, from the illuminated 13th-century houses of Place Saint-Louis to the gastronomic specialties at Place de Chambre. As you wander through, you can indulge in regional treats and artisan gifts, especially during Saint Nicolas’ Days, with activities centred around locations like Place de la Comédie.
Montpellier Christmas Market – In the heart of Montpellier, the Hivernales Christmas Market, traditionally held at Esplanade Charles de Gaulle but shifting to Place Royale du Peyrou in 2023, welcomes you with artisanal crafts and Languedoc-Roussillon delicacies. The city’s vibrant blend of history and modernity shines through, especially with the festive lights accentuating its traditional French architecture.
Mulhouse Christmas Market – In Mulhouse, a unique annual tradition stands out: the Christmas cloth, where a distinctive fabric design decorates facades and areas around Place de la Réunion. As you explore, you’ll encounter several chalets showcasing local crafts and food, reflecting the city’s rich industrial heritage.
Nantes Christmas Market – As you wander through the city’s heart, the Nantes Christmas Market has a festive atmosphere, underscored by the scent of mulled wine and the sight of unique Breton crafts. Here, artisans and local producers come together, giving you a genuine taste of the region’s holiday spirit.
Riquewihr Christmas Market – In December, Riquewihr’s medieval architecture is beautifully illuminated, providing a cosy backdrop for its traditional Christmas market. As you wander, you’ll discover artisans showcasing unique Alsatian crafts alongside local culinary items like wines and festive pastries.
Reims Christmas Market – Nestled near the iconic Reims Cathedral, this Christmas Market provides a unique blend of historic ambience and festive activities. You can expect to encounter local Champagne, traditional French holiday foods, and a variety of artisanal crafts.
Rouen Christmas Market – In the heart of Normandy, you’ll find Rouen’s Christmas Market brimming with artisanal crafts, regional delicacies, and a festive atmosphere that showcases the city’s rich history and culture. As you stroll, the aroma of mulled wine and the glow of twinkling lights will guide you through a traditional French holiday experience.
Toulouse Christmas Market – In Toulouse, the terracotta architecture of the “pink city” serves as the backdrop for its festive market at Place du Capitole, where fir tree-lined paths lead you to white chalets filled with gifts and traditional treats. Beyond the main market, the Garonne River light show and innovative Nativity scenes add a distinctive touch, while the Village of Creators on the Ramblas emphasises local craftsmanship and produce.
To further aid in your European Christmas holiday planning for 2023, I recommend reading my guide to the European Christmas markets, which provides detailed insights on top destinations and itineraries.
Similarly, if you’re keen on experiencing the charm of eastern France, look into my Alsace Christmas Market guide.
And for those intrigued by the festive allure of the north, my Christmas Markets in Northern France guide is a valuable resource to consult.
Christmas in France
Here are some ideas on what you can expect to find at the Christmas markets in France, depending on the city and region that you visit.
Vin chaud à la française – Distinct from the generic mulled wine, the French version, known as vin chaud à la française, often incorporates a splash of Cognac or Calvados. As you stroll through the markets, the aroma of this warm drink, with its blend of red wine, cinnamon, and cloves, entices you to take a sip and feel its comforting warmth.
Bredele – Originating from Alsace, bredele are small, spiced biscuits baked during Advent. Presented in different shapes and flavours, including almond, cinnamon, and lemon, they’re traditionally gifted in decorative boxes but also make for an irresistible personal treat.
Flammenkueche – A thin-crust pizza-like dish from the Alsace region, flammenkueche, or tarte flambée, is topped with cream, onions, and smoked bacon. Its crispy edges and savoury toppings give a nice crunch and taste, especially when fresh from a wood-fired oven.
Marrons glacés – A sweet chestnut treat that dates back to the 16th century, marrons glacés are candied chestnuts coated in a sugary syrup and glazed. Often packaged in elegant tins or boxes, they’re a luxurious and classic French Christmas market treat.
Santons – Crafted from clay, santons are hand-painted figurines that depict the Nativity scene’s characters, animals, and daily life in Provençal villages. Unique to the Christmas markets in southern France, these intricately detailed figures are sought after as collectables and gifts.
Savon de Marseille – Savon de Marseille is a traditional soap made from vegetable oils and a timeless and authentic product. It is found in quaint market stalls and is renowned for its purity and moisturising properties, often infused with lavender or other regional scents.
Bûche de Noël – While Yule logs are found in various cultures, the French Bûche de Noël’s intricate designs and flavour combinations stand out. This sponge cake, rolled with rich fillings like chocolate ganache or raspberry jam and then adorned with edible decorations, graces many French dessert tables during Christmas.
Crêpes – Though crêpes are a staple year-round, winter variations often include festive fillings like chestnut cream or spiced apples. Thin and golden, these pancakes are expertly flipped and filled to order, giving a warm and fresh taste with each bite. Crepes from Brittany are particularly delicious.
Pain d’épices d’Alsace – A type of gingerbread hailing from Alsace, pain d’épices d’Alsace is spiced with aniseed and often has a honeyed sweetness. Historically, it was shaped into intricate designs and patterns, and today, it continues to be a beloved sweet treat during the festive period.
Responsible Travel in France
Here are a few tips on how we can travel more responsibly in France at Christmas:
Eco-Friendly Accommodation: When booking your stay, prioritise hotels in France with a lower environmental impact. Many establishments across the country are adopting green initiatives, from solar panels to water-saving practices. By choosing such accommodations, you’re supporting sustainable practices and helping reduce your travels’ carbon footprint.
Mindful Dining: France, with its rich culinary heritage, offers abundant treats at Christmas markets and beyond. However, remember to be conscious of your consumption. Reduce food waste by ordering portions you can finish and embracing local and seasonal delicacies with a smaller environmental footprint. For instance, relishing a fresh tarte flambée in Alsace or sipping on a local vin chaud reduces the need for long-haul transport of goods.
Ethical Consumption: While the festive stalls at Christmas markets may tempt you, practice restraint. Purchase souvenirs and gifts you genuinely need or have a deep connection to. For instance, artisan crafts, like handmade Provencal santons or Alsatian pottery, are not only unique but support local craftsmen and traditions.
Sustainable Diets: Opting for plant-based or low-impact foods can make a significant difference. In France, there are many vegetarian and vegan dishes to try. Think ratatouille from Provence or a hearty vegetable pot-au-feu. These choices can help reduce the strain on resources and ensure a more sustainable food chain.
Travel Sustainably: France boasts an efficient and widespread public transport system. Opt for trains over short-haul flights, such as the TGV or regional TER services. Or better yet, enjoy the crisp winter air with a bicycle ride along the Seine in Paris or the canals of Strasbourg, integrating sightseeing and eco-friendly transit into one.
I recommend checking out Explore France, the country’s official website, for reliable and extensive information on visiting France. You’ll find invaluable destination guides and trip-planning tips tailored for winter excursions. Their site provides insights into the best places to experience during the colder months, ensuring you make the most of your journey.
I’d appreciate it if you could share your thoughts and experiences from visiting the France Xmas markets in the comments or by leaving a review. Your insights can help future visitors make informed decisions.
Recommendations are independently chosen based on personal travel experiences and extensive research.