It’s the plus merveilleux time of the year, have you ever thought of spending it in the plus merveilleux country in the world? Here’s our list of the top places to spend Christmas in France, do let us know if you’re spending it anywhere exciting that hasn’t made our list!
Having staged Christmas markets next to the city’s Cathedral since 1570, Strasbourg is the self-styled ‘capital of Christmas’. The city takes pride on its Yuletide traditions keeping all the tastes, scents, lights and atmosphere that make Christmas the most magical time of the year – it’s enough to get any Scrooge feeling festive. Today, the market is one of the largest in Europe, hosting around 300 mini-chalets around 12 different areas in the heart of the city. You can buy everything you’d expect and more from a one of the best Christmas markets going: Christmas cakes, biscuits, decorated gingerbread, handmade decorations, baubles, mulled wine, cheese, foie gras, local wines and beers produced in the Alsace region. If you are travelling with children, they will love the ice skating rink (which at €3.50 per child is much cheaper than most in the UK – especially considering the current exchange rate). The market is open from late November until Christmas Eve. This video gives you a snapshot of the season in Strasbourg.
Ile de Ré
A French Christmas is rich in several things, not least champagne and seafood. So, where better to enjoy fresh oysters along with a coupe de champagne than the idyllic island of Ile de Ré in the Charente-Maritime area? Many of the long, sandy beaches have been voted among the best in France and would be wonderful for long walks after Christmas lunch (especially in this unseasonal mild weather). In the Place du Marché, a Christmas market will run from 19th December until 30th December. This is a great part of the world if you’re celebrating Christmas with children, as part of the festivities, there will be a (free!) children’s ice-skating rink; adults can supervise whilst enjoying a chocolat or vin chaud. There will also be Christmas shows for kids taking place almost every other day from 22nd December – 2nd January.
As the famous quote goes ‘Paris is always a good idea’ and to that we add, especially at Christmas. It’s the season when the city of lights lives up to its name, glittering, twinkling, shimmering and shining all December long. In the spirit of its role as host of the climate change summit this year, the famous lights adorning the Champs-Elysées are eco-friendly. There are also programmed displays every evening – Oxford Street lights, take note! The stunning setting of the Champs-Elysées is also your one-stop shop for all gift buying; not only can you find some wonderful shops along the famous avenue, there is also a superb Christmas market where you can fill up on treats and find handmade gifts. Be sure to pop over to at least one of the Grands Magasins – the Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, BHV Maris or Le Bon Marché to check out their window displays and amazing Christmas trees. More a fan of a country Christmas? Within a short train ride or drive outside the French capital you’ll feel as if you are deep in the French countryside with chateaux galore to visit, halls decked with boughs of holly and greenery – stunning places to go for romantic winter strolls finished with a vin chaud.
If we’re being completely honest, Colmar looks festive all year round, with its quaint half-timbered architecture, cute windows – it’s like walking into a fairy tale. From late November until New Year’s Eve, the festive atmosphere is ramped up with decorations and scents of orange cinnamon wafting through the streets. Since 1998, the Colmar town hall has organised a Christmas decoration competition to help spread the festive spirit across the town – there are even different categories to win such as balconies, businesses, homes and windows. Each decoration is given a mark by the specially trained judging panel. The town plays host to not one, not two but five Christmas markets! However, the jewel in Colmar’s Christmas celebrations has to be the very special floating carol singers; in the Little Venice area, children wearing Santa hats sing Christmas carols on boats along the canal. They make several stops along their way, performing four or five songs each time to audiences gathered on the quays.
If snow, ski and the crackle of a roaring open fire are your idea of Christmas, Megève is where you will want to be this Christmas. The main square, La Place de l’Eglise, is tastefully lit up and topped off with a huge Christmas tree, bells ring out from the church and the omnipresent clip-clopping of the horse-drawn carriages on the cobbled streets all combine to create a wonderfully festive atmosphere. The enchanting mountain town of Megève simply brims with Christmas magic. One of the great triumphs of Megève is that it can be enjoyed by all at Christmas – naturally by those who love to ski but also by those who love good food, drink and shopping. It certainly wasn’t voted top French ski station in 2013 for nothing! Access to the nearby slopes is very easy, taking a gondola from the centre of town. Upon return from the slopes or if you decide not to head up, there is après-ski activity galore, such as luxury spa treatments, lots of lovely tea rooms and bars. No need to head to Paris to enjoy macarons from La Durée, there’s one in Megève. To top off the day, you can enjoy haute-cuisine in restaurants with sublime views over the Mont Blanc. Christmas sorted.
Wherever you are celebrating Christmas this year, Sextant wishes you Bonnes Fêtes de fin d’année and a Bonne Année!