Christmas in France is a wonderful festive season. And it’s especially fun if you make a trip to one of the many Christmas markets (marchés de Noël) that fill cities, towns and villages throughout France from the end of November through December. Here’s my pick of the best Christmas markets in France to see from Amiens in the north to Avignon in the south. And in the east, the oldest Christmas market of all, in Strasbourg.
After two years without Christmas markets, 2021 is the time to pull the stops out and really celebrate.
I have included times when I have them. Check with the local tourist office for more information.
I’ve highlighted the best North France Christmas markets in a separate article covering the region (see link at the end of this article). One of my favourites is in Amiens where France’s oldest Gothic cathedral provides the perfect backdrop.
It runs from November 26 to December 30, 2021 from 10:30am to 7:30pm.
The Christmas market adds another reason to visit Caen, too often misguidedly used just as a ferry entry port for holiday makers going south. Over 60 wooden chalets fill Place Saint-Saveur, with the illuminated château on the nearby hill providing just the right backdrop. Traditional French items from nativity figurines to pain d’épices (gingerbread), and a grotto with Father Christmas. Nibble on good snacks, and take a glass of mulled wine (or Calvados – you’re in the heart of the area!)
Caen Christmas Market Dates: November 27 to December 31 2021. Mon 2-7.30pm; Tues-Thurs 11am-7.30pm; Fri, Sat 11am-9pm Sun 11.30am-7.30pm. Closes on Dec 24, 25 and 31 at 6pm.
More French tradition in the ancient city of Rouen and capital of Normandy. 82 wooden chalets sell all the great French goodies in the Place de la Cathédrale with the magnificent backdrop of the cathedral lit up behind.
There are 2 skating rinks and Santa’s Grotto at what is called Rouen Givré (Frosty Rouen). There’s plenty of street entertainment as well taking over the city’s historic streets (including of course the place where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake).
Rouen Christmas Market Dates: November 25 to December 26, 2021.
As bubbly and Christmas go so well together, it’s appropriate that Reims, capital of Champagne, holds one of the biggest fairs in the region and it’s one of the best Christmas markets in France. It takes place in the square in front of the magnificently illuminated cathedral and the surrounding medieval streets.
There’s a special craft market in the adjoining Palace of Tau courtyard. 145 stalls offer good quality gifts, glass, ceramics, food and wine. There’s a Big Wheel, and you can take on board a glass of bubbly to toast the season. Children have their own Kingdom with free ice skating.
Reims Christmas Market Dates: November 26 to December 29, 2021. Mon 2-8pm, Tues-Thurs 10.30am-8pm; Fri, Sat 10.30am-9pm; Sun 10.30am-8pm. Monday Dec 20 & 27 10.30am-8pm.
If you’re here visit one of the great Champagne houses in Reims.
You’ll find Christmas markets all over Paris. There are between 15 and 20 of them!
La Magie de Noël (Jardin de Tuileries)
The best known and Paris’ larges market has moved from the Champs-Elysées to the Jardin des Tuileries. Just by the Louvre, the 100 or so stalls offer all the right treats. There’s a huge Big Wheel, plus carnival rides, an ice skating rink, and a Champagne bar if you’re fed up with mulled wine. It glitters and sparkles with all the magic of the season.
Jardin de Tuileries Market Dates: November 20, 2021 to January 2, 2022.
Jardin de Tuileries
Place de la Concorde
Metro: Tuileries or Concorde
Champ de Mars
Of all the Paris markets my favourite has to be the one near the Eiffel Tower at the Champ de Mars, partly because I particularly love this part of the capital. It concentrates on good artisan and craft products, and food from around France. A large ice-skating rink fills a lot of the green open space by the Ecole Militaire and there’s a snow village as well.
Champ de Mars Market Dates: December 1 2021 to January 2, 2022.
Champ de Mars
Metro: Trocadero or Pont de l’alma
East France – Alsace
It was Alsace that first introduced Christmas markets into France from Germany. It’s a particularly rich region for the festive season.
Colmar has different markets throughout the city. The centre is mainly pedestrianised so you can stroll around them easily. 60 wooden huts in the Place des Domenicans sell decorations and gifts. In the Place Jeanne d’Arc you can stock up on local food and drink from cured meats to wines and eau-de-vie spirits. 50 more surround the Schwendi fountain with its extraordinary Bartholdi fountain and its canal. The indoor market in the medieval Koïfhus sells local artisans’ works. After you’ve bought to your heart’s content here, drop into the Decapole Hall for more in a museum setting.
A children’s market takes over Petite Venise where you can let the children loose on the merry-go-round before they post a letter to Father Christmas. Don’t miss the evenings when children sing carols from boats moored on the canal. There are skating rinks and many of the nearby shops open on Sundays during the Market.
Colmar really pushes the boat out with lots of carol concerts and choirs around the city as well as special events. The city describes itself as an ‘open-air theatre’ and for once, it’s true.
Colmar Market Dates: November 26-Dec 29 2021. Mon-Thurs 10am-7pm; Fri-Sun 10am-8pm. Dec 24: 10am-5pm; Dec 25: 2-7pm; Dec 26: 10am-8pm.
Make your way to the Place de la Réunion in the old city centre overlooked by the lovely city hall. Here you find around 90 wooden chalets, all decorated in a special fabric designed each year. It’s an appropriate thing to do; the Museum of Printed Textiles has the largest collection of textile images in the world. The textile industry, which enriched the city from the 18th century, began in 1746.
Again the city has special markets and events like the opening of the Advent calendar on December 1, concerts of Christmas music and bric-a-brac days.
Mulhouse Market Dates: November 24 to December 27, 2021.
It all began, so the story goes, in Strasbourg in 1570. Today, the biggest city in Alsace welcomes around 2 million visitors to its Christkindelsmärik.
300 stands spread out from Place Broglie and Cathedral Square to other parts of the city. The highest Christmas tree in Europe occupies Place Kleber with a further two trees erected in Place des Hall, lighting up daily at 5pm. Over 300 stalls fill the streets with all sorts of goodies.
This is one of the great European Christmas markets and the city responds with a spectacular light display. Walk through the illuminated entrances on either end of the Grand rue. The rue des Tonneliers is appropriately decorated with 22 twinkling barrels. You can skate outside the cathedral and follow the Nativity Trail from the Bishop’s place in Rue Brulée, in windows of shops along Rue des Juifs, and the Place du Chateau.
See something different at the Musée Alsacien where the nativity shrine is large and beautifully made. It’s a ‘paradise box’ or reliquary from the 18th century full of Provencal nativity figures, paper flowers, straw and clouds.
Strasbourg Market Dates: November 26 to December 26, 2021.
Les lumières de noël transform this delightful town into a glittering Christmas card. 180 stalls cluster around Saint Paul and the surrounding streets, selling high quality artisan good and gifts. There are exhibitions, concerts and street spectacles. For something different the good fairy Aunt Airie accompanies Father Christmas.
Montbéliard Market Dates: November 27 to December 28, 2021.
South of France
The Cour Jean Jaurès has 20 wooden chalets selling food and drink from the region and beyond. Stock up on chocolates, truffles, sausages, olives and more. Here and in the Place de l’Horloge.
Or take home designer items like olive wood spoons and boards, jewellery and textiles, particularly Provençal fabrics. You won’t have to go far to find santons, little painted terracotta nativity figures. The best artisan ones are expensive, but will last a lifetime.
The town hall has an astonishing nativity scene. You’ll find jazz, concerts, exhibitions and more at the various museums and attractions throughout the city.
Avignon Market Dates: December 5 2021 to January 6 2022.
And if it helps…here’s a bit more information
The best Christmas Markets in north France
Events in France in November 2021
Food Festivals in France
More Practical Information
Check how to travel to France under current Covid-19 rules. I did this in August when it was more complicated, but found it easier than I had imagined.
More about getting to France from the UK
Most of the towns have cheap hotels. Check the budget hotel chain options.