Today Pierre of French Moments joins me to talk about Christmas in Paris and the difference between Christmas in the North East of France and the rest of the country.
Subscribe to the Show
iTunes | Stitcher Radio | TuneIn Radio
The Best Christmas Markets in Paris
- Christmas Market on the Champs Elysées, it is arguably the biggest one in Paris with hundreds of chalets and runs between Place de la Concorde and Rond-Point des Champs Elysées near the metro Franklin Roosevelt. It also looks like a fun-fare and offers rides as well as stores. Marcel Campion is a business man who organizes all sorts of fun fares all over France and he has put his mark on this one as well. It is probably the best Christmas market in Paris for children. Pierre recommends you go around 5 or 5:15 PM during the “blue hour” so you can take photos from the Ferris wheel. They offer regional food at this market, you’ll be able to have tartiflette or cassoulet as well as mulled wine, etc.
- La Défence Christmas Market. This one is out-of-place in many ways, but it is very large and attracts a lot of people who work there. It is best to go to any Christmas Market after 5 PM so you can enjoy the lights.
- Notre Dame Christmas Market. It is not located on the Parvis of Notre Dame (that’s where you’ll find the large Christmas Tree) but rather on Square Viviani. This one opens around the 15th of December and it is small, sells mostly local products.
- Gare de l’Est has an interesting Christmas Markets under tents and it’s an Alsacien Christmas Market where they sell genuine products from Alscace such as wines, kougloff, etc.
- Eiffel Tower Christmas Market at the Quai Branly and Champ de Mars. This one is very touristy but offers nice views.
Christmas Window Displays
Printemps and Gallerie Lafayette on Boulevard Hausmann, Metro Havre – Caumartin or Chaussée d’Antin – Lafayette, Gare Saint Lazare or Auber on RER A. This year Printemps has a theme of Christmas Tale from 1911 celebrating their 150th year of Christmas Celebrations. Galerie Fayette has the theme of Christmas from another Planet, linked with the release of Star Wars. Pierre’s daughter liked the robots at Galerie Lafayette. You must go inside and see the Art Nouveau dome to see the giant Christmas tree.
The Best Christmas Lights in Paris
- Champs Elysées
- Rue de Rennes between Saint Germain des Près and Montparnasse
- Rue de Rivoli between rue de la Concorde and the Paris City Hall
- Avenue Montaigne
Christmas in the North East of France
Some of the most beautiful Christmas Markets are in Alsace, Loraine and Franche Comté as well. This area of France was part of the Holy Roman Germanic Empire in the Middle Ages and you can still see Germanic influences today. In December that are more visitors in Strasbourg than in Paris.
Strasbourg Christmas Market
Christmas Markets originate in Alsace, the earliest documented Christmas Market was in Strasbourg in 1570 and it was the Saint Nicholas Market. This is where you will find artisanal products made locally, sometimes exhibitors are working while the market is going on. Christmas Markets used to be rare, now they are all over France and even all over Europe. The Alsace region works hard to make their Christmas Markets different and better. To do this they have established a quality charter which only allows certain products in. Germanic people also have a feel for decorations and use the beautiful surroundings with half-timbered houses, etc.
Due to the terrorist attacks on Paris on Nov 13th, 2015 the city of Strasbourg has cancelled the large inaugural show, but the Christmas Market is still going on. The Festival of Lights in Lyon was cancelled, and so were the festivities of Saint Nicolas in Nancy. Hopefully next year things will be back to normal again.
Other Great Christmas Markets in Alsace
Pierre really likes the Christmas Markets in Colmar, Kaysersberg, Eguisheim (also one of France’s most beautiful villages), Mulhouse, and Montbéliard. If you wanted to spend a week visiting Christmas Markets in the North East of France, you could establish a base somewhere central and get around by car or train (or regional buses too!). Or you could spend one or two nights in Strasbourg, then go stay in Mulhouse or Colmar and then go to various towns all over the area. Sélestat where the first Christmas Tree is mentioned in official records in 1521.
Christmas Musical Traditions in the Alsace
Unlike many other places in France, the Alsace has strong Christmas Musical traditions where you will find choirs in churches performing Christmas music.