Lyon’s rich architectural heritage forms the perfect backdrop for the annual Christmas market, drawing locals and visitors alike with its vibrant stalls and a tempting selection of seasonal treats.
In the following guide, I’ll shed light on everything you’ll need to know to plan a visit to Lyon Christmas Market in 2023, from specific dates and opening times to locations, standout stalls and distinct local specialties.
As December approaches Lyon, a festive spirit sweeps across the city, instilling a unique warmth that counteracts the frosty winter air.
This enchanting atmosphere harmoniously aligns with the city’s renowned Festival of Lights, a luminary spectacle scheduled to bathe Lyon in a glowing aura from the 7th to the 10th of December in 2023.
Lyon Christmas Market 2023
At the Christmas market in Lyon, nearly 100 wooden chalets dot the landscape, their displays full of artisanal crafts, festive decorations and Lyonnaise specialties.
Among the delicious treats, you’ll find Lyon’s famed sausages, Praluline brioche and the warming tradition of vin chaud (mulled wine).
Dates and Location
Lyon Christmas Market dates: 26th November to 24th December 2023.
Location: Place Carnot.
Opening times: Sunday to Thursday: 10:30am to 8pm. Friday and Saturday: 10:30am to 10pm.
Christmas Day: Closed.
Christmas lights: Lyon Festival of Lights – 7th to 10th December 2023. More info.
Santa: Yes, proceeds from photo sales go to charity.
Ice skating: Yes, at Place Ambroise Courtois.
Vegetarian: Yes, plenty of options.
Vegan: Yes, plenty of options.
Gluten-free: Yes, but limited.
Pet-friendly: Yes, dogs are allowed on a lead.
Parking: Please take public transport to help limit congestion.
Reason to visit: Authentic Lyonnaise gastronomy, traditional wooden chalets, Fete des Lumieres.
Recommended tour: 4-hour Lyon food tasting tour.
Specialities: Lyon’s famed sausages; Praluline brioche, tartiflette, Saint Marcellin cheese, marrons glacés.
Where to stay: Hotel De Verdun 1882 is a highly-rated hotel, 2-minutes from Place Carnot.
Where to Stay
The Carnot-Gailleton area in Lyon’s 2nd arrondissement is an ideal base due to its proximity to the market and central location. You’ll find many attractions, cafes and restaurants within walking distance, including the Festival of Lights locations.
In this area, I recommend the Hotel De Verdun 1882 for its quality service and excellent facilities, placing you at the heart of Lyon’s holiday festivities.
Tours You Might Like
Despite the winter chill, the allure of Lyon’s historic quarters, museums and architecture make it a city well worth exploring. A city tour is a great opportunity for an introduction to the city’s heritage and culture.
If you’re a first-time visitor to Lyon, you might like this pedicab tour (the guide pedals while you sit in the back) that takes in many of Lyon’s highlights with insightful commentary.
Alternatively, this 4-hour food tasting tour provides a fascinating angle on Lyon’s culture through its celebrated cuisine.
For a more comprehensive look at where to go this winter, my guide to the French Christmas markets will provide you with detailed information to help plan your itinerary.
Lyon Festival of Lights
The Lyon Festival of Lights, known locally as Fête des Lumières, is a spectacular event transforming Lyon into a vibrant light canvas.
Held annually in early December, this four-day event attracts millions of visitors to the city. Artists worldwide are invited to create light installations illuminating the city’s iconic buildings, streets and parks.
It’s an event deeply rooted in the city’s tradition, originally a simple candle-lit tribute to the Virgin Mary. An international celebration of creativity and light is a stunning sight.
Lyon Festival of Lights dates: 7th to 10th December 2023.
Opening times: Thursday to Saturday: 8pm to midnight. Sunday: 6pm to 8pm.
Locations: The main locations of the Festival of Lights include:
Saint-Paul Railway Station
Place du Change
Place des Terreaux
Place Louis Pradel
Place de la Bourse
Place de la République
Place des Jacobins
Christmas in Lyon
Réveillon: This traditional French feast held on Christmas Eve is no ordinary meal. It’s a celebratory gastronomic event showcasing some of France’s finest foods, like foie gras, oysters, escargots (snails) and champagne. The word Réveillon itself derives from ‘réveil’ meaning ‘waking’, as this feast typically goes late into the night.
Bûche de Noël: When it comes to desserts, the Bûche de Noël, or Yule Log, is a true classic. This dessert resembles a log, as a nod to the ancient tradition of burning a yule log at Christmas. The cake is a rolled sponge, usually filled with chocolate or chestnut puree, covered with chocolate ganache to imitate bark and decorated with sugar paste figurines.
Oysters: Although not a unique Lyonnaise tradition, eating oysters at Christmas is a staple in France. They are typically served raw on the half shell with a little lemon juice or mignonette sauce. This delicacy is usually consumed as an appetiser during the Réveillon feast.
Quenelles: These are a Lyonnaise speciality. Quenelles are a type of dumpling, typically made with creamed fish or meat, combined with breadcrumbs and a light egg binding. They are often poached and served with a rich sauce.
Pommes Dauphinoise: A traditional French dish that originated in the Dauphiné region. The dish involves thinly sliced and layered potatoes cooked in the oven with cream, garlic and cheese.
Tartiflette: Originating from the Savoy region, tartiflette is a hearty, warming dish perfect for winter. It’s a robust, creamy side dish made with potatoes, reblochon cheese, lardons (bacon) and onions.
Raclette: A semi-hard cheese typically used for melting, Raclette is a sociable meal where melted cheese is scraped over boiled potatoes, pickles and charcuterie.
Galette des Rois: Although traditionally associated with Epiphany in January, it’s not uncommon to see this flaky puff pastry tart earlier in the season. A small figurine, or ‘fève’, is hidden inside, and the person who finds it in their slice becomes the ‘king’ or ‘queen’ for the day.
Remember, Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France, and you might find a variety of regional specialities not mentioned here.
Food at the Market
Praluline: Originating from the city of Lyon, Praluline is a rich brioche filled with pink sugared almonds. Crafted by Auguste Pralus in 1955, this sweet brioche comes in smaller sizes too.
Vin Chaud: Winter markets wouldn’t be complete without a cup of vin chaud or mulled wine. It’s a warm, spiced drink perfect for keeping the chill at bay while strolling through the market, typically made from red wine combined with spices and citrus peel.
Saucisson Chaud: A quintessential Lyonnaise street food, Saucisson Chaud is a warm, hearty sausage typically served in a baguette. It’s often enjoyed with a dollop of mustard, making for a satisfying, quick meal while exploring.
Roasted Chestnuts: The sweet, nutty aroma of roasted chestnuts is a hallmark of European Christmas markets. Often sold by street vendors, these are roasted on an open fire and served warm.
Pain d’épices: A traditional French spiced bread, often compared to gingerbread but it’s quite different in my opinion. It’s usually made with rye flour, honey, and spices such as aniseed.
Crêpes: Thin, light pancakes with sweet or savoury fillings, from simple sugar and lemon to rich Nutella or sophisticated flambéed Grand Marnier, crêpes are a ubiquitous street food item in France.
Bratwurst: Representing the influence of neighbouring Germany, Bratwurst (German-style sausage) is often found in Lyon.
What to Buy
Lyon Silk: Historically, Lyon has been a significant centre for the silk industry. You’ll find beautiful silk scarves, ties, and other accessories for sophisticated and unique gifts at the market.
Guignol Puppets: These traditional Lyonnaise puppets are a local favourite. With their cheerful faces and vibrant costumes, they can make for a charming and nostalgic present for children or lovers of traditional theatre.
Santons de Provence: Hand-painted terracotta nativity figurines from the Provence region of France. These intricate figurines depict the nativity scene and a variety of traditional Provencal characters, from shepherds to millers.
French Gastronomic Products: Lyon, known as the gastronomic capital of France, has a rich selection of food products that can be taken home as gifts. Think of bottles of local wine, artisanal cheese, Lyonnaise sausages, or jars of local honey.
Decorations: Traditional ornaments, beautifully crafted baubles, handmade nativity scenes and other festive decorations abound.
French Cosmetics: From luxurious soaps to natural skin care products, French cosmetics have a well-deserved reputation for quality. It’s not uncommon to find stalls selling these products, often made with local ingredients, like lavender from Provence or honey from the Rhône-Alpes region.
For an extensive range of resources and helpful tips for your visit, I highly recommend checking out Visiter Lyon, a very user-friendly and informative website dedicated to assisting visitors to the city.
Many of us are increasingly concerned about climate change and sustainability. Here are a few tips on how we can travel more responsibly in Lyon.
- Choose Renewable Energy: Some hotels in Lyon are committed to using renewable energy. Choosing such places supports the shift towards a more sustainable energy future.
- Reduce Food Waste: Order portions you can finish and consider sharing dishes to minimise waste.
- Ethical Consumption: At the markets, prioritise locally made gifts and products that support the regional economy. It’s a positive step towards ethical consumption by supporting local makers.
- Sustainable Diets: Many plant-based and vegetarian restaurants in Lyon offer tasty dishes. Moving to plant-based meals, even for a few days, can significantly reduce your carbon footprint.
- Sustainable Transport: Lyon has a fantastic public transportation system, which includes trams, buses and the metro. Additionally, Lyon’s Vélo’v bike-sharing program is a fun, healthy and sustainable way to see the city.
By making small, conscious choices, you can make your visit to Lyon enjoyable and sustainable. Remember, every little action can contribute to the bigger picture of global sustainability.
The Lyon Christmas Market dates start on 26th November and last until 24th December 2023.
The main market in Lyon is located at Place Carnot in the 2nd district. It’s easily accessible by public transport or walking, making it a convenient destination for visitors.
Absolutely. The city takes on a magical quality with the Christmas market and Festival of Lights. Despite the colder weather, it’s a fantastic time to experience Lyon’s rich culture and cuisine.
Apart from visiting the Christmas market in Lyon, you can take part in the Festival of Lights, visit the numerous museums and landmarks, enjoy the local cuisine, or take a city tour to explore Lyon’s history and culture.
The Festival of Lights, known locally as Fête des Lumières, is an annual event held in early December where Lyon becomes illuminated by various light installations. Artists worldwide are invited to create these installations that adorn the city’s streets and iconic buildings, making it a breathtaking sight.
Yes, you can find many options in Lyon. From traditional Lyonnaise dishes adapted for a plant-based diet to vegetarian, international foods, there’s an excellent selection.
Visiting Lyon in winter is a unique experience, defined by the many winter events and attractions. You can’t go wrong enjoying the local cuisine, exploring the history-soaked streets, and taking in the beautifully illuminated landmarks.
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Recommendations are independently chosen based on personal travel experiences and extensive research. This post contains affiliate links to hotels and tours in Lyon, France. This means I get a small commission from any bookings at no extra cost to you.