France’s many Christmas markets make for a great daytrip or weekend getaway, where you can pass the days browsing chalets and sipping vin chaud.

Strasbourg Christmas Markets

When: Nov 28 – Dec 31, 2010

What: Home to France’s biggest Christmas market, Christkindelsmarik, Strasbourg has been keeping the Christmas spirit alive in front of the beautiful cathedral every year since 1570. Strasbourg goes all out at Christmas, with loads of smaller markets and attractions as well as the famous Christkindelsmarik.

Bredle market produces oodles of little cakes made during the Advent period while La Petit France is a quaint neighbourhood with timber houses and a gingerbread shop. Take a break from the shops to spin and glide on the rink in front of the Place du Château.

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Paris Christmas Markets

When: Most start in late November/early December and go until Christmas Eve.

What: Everything magical and romantic about Paris gets amplified ten fold during the Christmas season – the lights, the romance, the food and the vin chaud. The Christmas Market at the Montparnasse Tower is a foodie’s delight, with stalls selling French specialties.

The market at the Place des Abbesses in Montmartre is open starting in December and while smaller than others, it offers a cosy reprieve and a view of the city.

The grand-pere of them all is at Place Saint Suplice, which is more like a Christmas village open for the whole month of December. The main square is an artists’ showcase and surrounding it are food and gift stalls of all sort.

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Lille Christmas Markets

When: Nov 24 – Dec 30, 2010

What: Lille is a popular destination with the English thanks to its being a short 90 minute journey on the Eurostar from London. The Christmas magic happens on the Place Rihour, where 80 chalets sell traditional arts and crafts, gingerbread and mulled wine.

An observation wheel and a giant tree preside over the city and street theatre and games go on below. Pere Noel makes a visit for the young’uns and even “falls” from the top of the bell tower on December 18. 

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Orléans Christmas Markets

When: Dec 8 – 24, 2010

What: The city’s central square, Place du Matroi, is host to 62 chalets with local foods and crafts. Near the market is a 465 m ice-rink, with a section for bumbling beginners and one for experts. The cathedral is also magnificent and a peak inside is a nice break from the throngs of marketers.

Because there are so many vineyards in the area, the drinks are guaranteed to be excellent, especially the white wine.

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Colmar Christmas Markets

When: Nov 25 – Jan 2, 2011

What: The town of Colmar hosts its Christmas market at five different locations in Old Town: Place des Dominicains, Place Jeanne d’Arc, Place de l’Ancienne Douane, Petite Venise for children and inside the Koifhus, the old customs house.

Each smaller market offers something different, from Alsatian dishes to antiques, and even a wooden horse merry-go-round.

All of the buildings and trees are doused in lights, with candles attached to branches of holly and fir to ward off evil spirits.

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Now check out:
Germany’s best Christmas markets
The UK’s best Christmas markets


Words: Heather Vandenengel