If you want to visit the best Christmas markets in north France, you’re in luck. It’s just a short ferry ride across the English Channel to many of these, so you can do a one-day trip. But if it’s possible, you’ll find it much more fun to stay over. Take your car, visit any of the best Christmas markets in north France and come home with a car packed with goodies.
Here you’ll find details on the markets, dates, how to get there and that all-important…where to stay.
Also check out my article on the Best Christmas Markets throughout France, from the North to Avignon.
Amiens in Picardy
Amiens has France’s largest Gothic cathedral which lights up with its spectacular son-et-lumière ‘Chroma’ show at Christmas, nightly from 7pm. It makes the perfect backdrop to the annual market.
It’s a big market with 130 chalets that offer food, drink and gifts from France, Canada and India. There are special Christmas-themed rides for children (don’t miss the train), and a Big Wheel for those a little older. It takes place in the center of the city in Place Gambetta, la rue de noyon and la rue des 3 cailloux.
There are Christmas parades with fantastic characters on 1 December and 22 December leaving City Hall at 5pm.
Amiens Market Dates: 23 November to 30 December. Mon 2pm-7.30pm; Tues to Sun 10.30am-7.30pm (to 9pm Fris and Sats).
More about Amiens and its Christmas Market
How to get to Amiens from the UK
By car: Take a ferry from Dover to Calais. It’s around a 1 hour 45 minute drive from Calais to Amiens (157 km/98 miles). There are tolls on the road. From Dover it’s about a 3 hour trip by ferry.
By train: Take the Eurostar from London St Pancras, Ebbsfleet or Ashford to Lille Europe. Transfer from Lille Europe station to Gare de Lille Flandres (an 8-minute walk). Trains leave from Gare de Lille Flandres to Arras regularly throughout the day. A ticket costs from £20 and the journey takes from 1 hour 18 minutes (direct).
OR take Eurostar from London St Pancras, Ebbsfleet or Ashford to Calais Fréthun (1 hour 1 minute). Regular trains take you to Calais Ville (9 minutes from around £2.50). Trains leave from Calais Ville to Amiens about every 3 hours throughout the day. A ticket costs from £26 and the journey takes from 1 hour 35 minutes.
Where to Stay in Amiens
Hôtel Le Prieuré et La Résidence is a chic 3-star hotel in a former residence of a canon of the cathedral. It’s right in the old centre of town, has a range of 12 beautifully decorated rooms from the saintly and traditional to the funky and modern.
Rates: Double/twin room from €90. Breakfast €9.50.
Hôtel Le Prieuré et La Résidence
17 Rue Porion
Tel: +33 (0)3 22 71 16 71
The 5-star Hôtel Marotte is at the top end of the range, and well worth the money. Set in a Flemish-style former house, this boutique hotel is now an Art Deco lover’s dream. It’s right in the action, has a wine and Champagne bar and tea room. There’s a separate modern extension with spectacular huge suites.
Rates: Double/Twin from €175. Breakfast from €15.
3 Rue Marotte
Tel: +33 (0)3 60 12 50 00
This is, to me among the best Christmas markets in north France. It fills the main cobble-stoned Grand’Place in Arras, a glorious square surrounded by Baroque houses which are startling in their beauty and uniformity. Arras was comprehensively bombed during World War I but so well restored you’ll find it impossible to fault its historical significance.
There’s an excellent Big Wheel, well worth the price to go up high into the clear sky and look down on the crowd below and the ice staking rink, a traditional carousel with wooden horses, an excellent restaurant in a large chalet and all the 140-odd twinkling stalls.
If you can, come when St Nicholas abseils down the belfry on 6 December. There are bands playing on Fridays.
Arras Market Dates: 30 November to December 30, 2019. Mon-Thurs noon-7.30pm, Fri noon-9pm; Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 10am-7.30pm; 24 Dec noon-5pm
How to get to Arras from the UK
Best by train: Take the Eurostar from London St Pancras, Ebbsfleet or Ashford to Lille Europe. Transfer from Lille Europe station to Gare de Lille Flandres (an 8-minute walk). Trains leave from Gare de Lille Flandres to Arras regularly throughout the day. A ticket costs from £10.37 and the journey takes from 34 minutes (direct).
By car: Take a DFDS ferry from Dover to Calais. It’s around a 1 hour 10 minute drive from Calais to Arras (109 km/68 miles). There are tolls on the road. From Dover it’s about a 2 hour 30 minute trip.
Where to Stay in Arras
Check into what was once a 17th-century Jesuit monastery. Gone is the austerity; in its place the Hôtel de l’Univers offers 38 large, prettily decorated rooms just a few minutes away from the main action. It has a restaurant, and is family friendly.
Rates: Doubles from €78. Breakfast from €16.
Hôtel de l’Univers
13 & 5 Place de la Croix-Rouge
Tel: +33 (0)3 21 71 34 01
Hôtel Moderne is just opposite the station and a short walk to the Grand’Place. It’s simply decorated, with 50 good sized rooms and is very good value. Friendly staff and good breakfast. Bar but no restaurant.
Rates: Doubles from €77. Breakfast €10.
1 bd du Faidherbe
+33 (0)3 21 23 39 57
Béthune is another one of those places that you normally pass by. But if you stop it’s one of those places where you go ‘Wow; why haven’t I been here before?’ Most of the centre was destroyed in World War I. But standing in the square and looking at the 14th-century belfry, still extraordinarily intact after surviving the destruction, you wouldn’t know. The pretty houses around the square are a wonderful mix of baroque, Art Deco and…’what period is that one’ style?
So a visit to the Christmas market is doubly worthwhile. Over 50 chalets sell all the goodies you could want; there’s a carousel, big Big Wheel, sparkly Christmas tree, childrens section, special train and large covered ice rink. Every Saturday evening there are concerts and kids from 5 years old can get creative every afternoon from 2pm to 5pm at workshops at the foot of the belfry.
Béthune Market Dates: 23 November to 31 December 2019. Mon to Thurs 3pm-8pm; Fri 3pm-10pm; Sat 11am-8pm; Sun 11am-9pm.
How to get to Béthune from the UK
By car: Take a ferry from Dover to Calais. It’s around a 56 minute drive from Calais to Béthune (82 km/50 miles). There are tolls on the road. From Dover it’s about a 2 hour 25 minute trip.
By train: Take the Eurostar from London St Pancras, Ebbsfleet or Ashford to Lille Europe (1hr 22 mins). Transfer from Lille Europe station to Gare de Lille Flandres (an 8-minute walk). Trains leave from Gare de Lille Flandres to Béthune regularly throughout the day. A ticket costs from £8 and the journey takes from 32 minutes (direct).
Where to Stay in Béthune
Le Vieux Beffroi is simply decorated and good value. And it is just steps away from the main square. It has a restaurant and bar.
Rates: Double/Twin room from €61. Breakfast €9.90.
Le Vieux Beffroi
Tel: +33 (0)3 21 68 15 00
The Christmas market might only be one weekend in December, but it’s such a great market and such a great city that I thoroughly recommend you try to make this one.
The market is held in the delightful vielle ville (old town) which many visitors miss. Rue de Lille in full of chalets selling local delicacies (don’t miss the herrings!) and lovely gifts. There’s plenty of street theatre going on as well – elves cavorting (in the nicest possible way), and knights on wooden hobby horses entertaining you and the family. All the boutiques on the street are decorated for Christmas as well. At the end of the rue de Lille stands the great, rather bombastic cathedral. The priest who had it built wanted something like St Peter’s in Rome; there’s nothing wrong with ambition.
Boulogne-sur-Mer Market Dates: 13-15 December, 2019
How to get to Boulogne-sur-Mer from the UK
By car: Take the ferry from Dover to Calais. It’s around a 35 minute drive from Calais to Boulogne (35 km/22 miles). From Dover to Boulogne it’s around a 1 hour 50 minute trip by Eurotunnel and it’s about a 2 hour 10 minutes by ferry.
By train: Take Eurostar from London St Pancras, Ebbsfleet or Ashford to Calais Fréthun (1 hour 1 minute). Regular trains take you to Calais Ville (9 minutes from around £2.50). Trains leave from Calais Ville to Boulogne regularly throughout the day. A ticket costs from £7.50 and the journey takes from 22 ninutes.
Where to Stay in Boulogne-sur-Mer
To be near the market in the old town (and the chateau, museum, gardens, restaurants etc., and for a really interesting and pretty place to stay, try the upmarket L’Enclos de l’Evêché. The bed and breakfast has 3 bedrooms, all delightfully decorated in different styles. There’s a bar and a good breakfast.
Rates: Double/Twin rooms from €77 inc brreakfast.
L’Enclos de l’Evêché
6 Rue de Pressy
Tel: +33 (0)3 91 90 05 90
For a really top experience, check into the 4-star, 35 roomed La Matelote It’s on the seafront and right opposite Nausicaá – the excellent Centre National de la Mer. Rooms are comfortable though can be on the small side. For the best, book a room with a terrace looking out to sea. There’s a Michelin starred restaurant with excellent set menus (very good indeed), and a spa with swimming pool. It’s family owned and it shows with the friendly welcome.
Rates: Double/Twin room from €130. Breakfast €16
80 blvd Ste-Beuve
Tel: +33 (0)3 21 30 33 33
Calais goes really festive at Christmas. The Christmas Village runs from November to January in the large Place d’Armes. From 24 November, there’s also a forest of Christmas trees and a Nativity Creche to see.
On 30 November, the town switches on its Christmas lights and its mascots – who else but Nickey and Minnie Mouse? – take to the streets from 1 December.
There’s a Christmas letterbox open from 6 to 17 December (and Santa will answer!) The main action, the Christmas Market, gets going from 7 to 22 December. There are all the usual jolly stalls, plus a 1900s 2-tier carousel and a skating rink you can whizz around in La Halle. There are plenty of carol concerts, late openings in the shops and special offers.
Then from 17 December, the latest newcomer to Calais arrives, huffing and puffing his way around town. The fabulous shiny new dragon comes all the way from Nantes where he was born (which I prefer to just being made) in the great workshops of the Machines de l’Ile. He can take up to 50 passengers and lives on the Calais seafront so you often see him as you come in by ferry.
Calais Christmas Market Dates: Major events from 24 November. Calais Christmas Market runs from December 7-22, 2019. Mon-Thurs 4-7 pm; Fri 4-9 pm; Sat 10 am-9pm; Sun 10am-8pm.
More about Calais and the Christmas Market
How to get to Calais from the UK
It couldn’t be easier.
By car: Take the ferry from Dover to Calais or for speed take Eurotunnel from Folkestone to Calais.
By train: Take Eurostar from London St Pancras, Ebbsfleet or Ashford to Calais Fréthun (1 hour 1 minute). Regular trains take you to Calais Ville (9 minutes from around £2.50).
Where to Stay in Calais
The 3-star Hôtel Meurice is one of Calais’ two rather splendid old-fashioned hotels. It’s next to the very good Fine Arts Museum, and has been welcoming guests (many of them British) since 1771. Its large rooms are pleasantly decorated; there’s a good restaurant and a bar which is distinctly British and club-like. It’s a 10-minute walk from the train station.
Rates: Double/Twin room from €70. Breakfast €14.
5-7 Rue Edmond Roche
Tel: +33 3 21 34 57 03
Hôtel Métropole is another of those old-fashioned hotels that offer no surprises but comfort and good value. 40 rooms are good-sized; there’s a bar and a good breakfast. It’s a 3 to 4 minute walk from the train station and central.
Rates: Double/Twin rooms from €70. Breakfast €13.
45 quai du Rhinbr
Tel: +33 (0)3 21 97 54 00
For a good, modern option go for the Ibis Styles Calais Centre. It’s in central rue Royale, has good, simply decorated rooms and a jolly breakfast area. It’s about 4 minutes from the train station and I the same street as one of my favourite Calais restaurants, Histoire Ancienne (at number 20). Children 15 and under stay free with an adult.
Rates: Double/Twin from €70, breakfast included.
Ibis Styles Calais Centre
46 Rue Royale
Tel: +33 3 21 97 45 00
Dunkirk (Dunkerque) is a small town well worth visiting, quite apart from the Operation Dynamo sites. Their Christmas market opens in Place de la République, Place Jean Bart, and Place Charles Valentin. 50 chalets with good gifts; a big wheel, a Christmas forest complete with elves of course, a free ice rink and a whole lot of extra events. Santa Claus arrives in style to be welcomed to his castle (the town hall) at 5.45pm on 8 December. On 22 December there are plenty of magicians and acrobats cavorting through the streets.
Dunkirk Christmas Market Dates: 8 December to 6 January 2020. 8-22 December; 30-6 Dec: Wed, Sat, Sun 11am-7.30pm; Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri 2pm-7.30pm. 23-29 December: 11am-7.30pm daily.
More about Dunkirk
How to get to Dunkirk from the UK
By car: Take the ferry from Dover to Dunkirk. The ferry takes one hour.
By train: Take Eurostar from London St Pancras, Ebbsfleet or Ashford to Calais Fréthun (1 hour 1 minute). Regular trains take you to Calais Ville (9 minutes from around £2.50). Trains go to Dunkirk but there are not many direct train (from 35 minutes). Otherwise you will have to change and it takes around 1 hr 45 minutes.
Where to Stay in Dunkirk
Try the good value, simple All Suites Apart Hôtel by the water. There are useful kitchenettes and good sized rooms.
Rates: Double/Twin from €56.
All Suites Apart Hôtel
1 Avenue de l’Université
Tel: +33 3 28 69 70 40
You may not have heard of Licques. It’s a small town around 21 kilometers south of Calais. But it rates pretty highly in French folklore at Christmas. For one weekend in mid December the town offers a great regional Christmas food market. So far, so good. What makes Licques stand out is the Fête de la Dinde. The turkey festival sees a gaggle of well-fed birds running through the town herded on Sunday morning by the Confrerie de Licques, the local bigwigs. It’s a competition for the best bird, and boy is it competitive. You’re offered a glass of the local liqueur, Licquoise, and you can then choose which bird you’re going to buy for the Christmas meal. The weekend ends with a dinner dance.
Licques Market and Turkey Parade Dates: December 13-15, 2019
More about Licques from the nearby Tourist Office
How to get to Licques
By car: You’ll have to take the car to Licques. Take the ferry from Dover to Calais or for speed take Eurotunnel from Folkestone to Calais. It’s around 21 kms (13 miles) and takes around 30 minutes.
Where to Stay in Licques
Either base yourself in Calais or try the bed and breakfast La Longère d’Ecottes. It’s a pretty house with a terrace and garden.
Rates: Double/Twin room €70 including breakfast.
La Longère d’Ecottes
573 Rue de Ferlinghem
Tel: +33 (0)6 22 53 50 06
Lille is one of my favourite cities and I’m not alone. Its Christmas market has around 90 wooden chalets selling gifts from around the world. There’s a big Big Wheel and a huge Christmas tree in Place Rihour and lights twinkling all over Lille. But I have to admit that it’s not one of the best north France markets in terms of quality. But hey ho, it’s still a lovely place to visit.
Lille Christmas Market Dates: 22 November to 29 December 2019. Mon-Thurs11am-8pm. Fri, Sat 10am-10pm. Sun 10am-8pm.
How to get to Lille from the UK
By car: Take the ferry from Dover to Calais. It’s around a 1 hr 20 minute drive from Calais to Lille (112 km/70 miles).
By train: Take the Eurostar from London St Pancras, Ebbsfleet or Ashford to Lille Europe (1hr 22 mins).
Where to Stay in Lille
The 3-star Hôtel de la Treille in the heart of old Lille was built in 1988 but is decorated in classic style. So you get modern comfort with old-fashioned elegance. It’s friendly and welcoming.
Rates: Double/Twin rooms from €135. Breakfast €14
Hôtel de la Treille
7-9 Place Louise de Bettignies
Tel: + 33 3 20 55 45 46
The Brueghel is a constant favourite. The hotel in a 19th-century Flemish-style building is tucked away down a side street. Rooms are simply but well decorated with antiques throughout, and it’s just 200 metres from the Grand Place.
Rates: Double/Twin rooms from €90.
5 Parvis St-Maurice
Tel: +33 (0)3 20 06 06 69
Le Touquet Paris-Plage
Fashionable, stylish with a great history connected to Britain, Le Touquet Paris-Plage (to give it its formal name; most people just refer to Le Touquet) is a favourite seaside resort. Its Christmas market is short, just one weekend, but a good place for presents and food. It takes place in the lovely covered market so you won’t have to worry about the weather. The whole town is lit up with lights that sparkle from 29 November to 5 January 2020.
Le Touquet Christmas Market Dates: 7 December (afternoon & evening); 8 December (all day).
More about Le Touquet
How to get to Le Touquet from the UK
By car: Take the ferry from Dover to Calais. Then take the autoroute to Le Touquet. Total time via ferry is 2 hours 31 minutes.
By train: Take Eurostar from London St Pancras, Ebbsfleet or Ashford to Lille Europe. The train from Lille-Europe to Etaples-Le Touquet takes 1 hr 19 minutes. Total time varies from 3 hours 4 minutes to 5 hours 25 minutes depending on time of train. Total cost from £59 to £165.
Where to Stay in Le Touquet
The splendid Le Westminster takes you back to a bygone, elegant age. It’s being refurbished in early 2020 but will keep the traditional feel, the corridor of photographs of the great and the good who’ve stayed here and its reputation as a top hotel. Also great restaurant. It is scheduled to re-open in June 2020.
Av du Verger
62520 Le Touquet-Paris-Plage
Tel: +33 (0)3 21 05 48 48
Stay just outside the centre in the splendidly traditional golf hotel Le Manoir. It’s set in the leafy, forest-like part of Le Touquet, is very comfortable and near the excellent golf course.
Rates: Double/Twin from €160.
2170 Ave du Golf
62520 Le Touquet-Paris-Plage
Tel: +33 (0)3 21 06 28 28
So which are your best Christmas markets in north France? Please do send me your comments, so I can add your favorites.