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5 French Christmas markets just over the Channel

PUBLISHED: 16:14 28 November 2018

Sample the gourmet delights on offer at northern France's Christmas markets, including this one at Saint-Quentin. Pic: CRT HDF/G. Wasikowski

Sample the gourmet delights on offer at northern France's Christmas markets, including this one at Saint-Quentin. Pic: CRT HDF/G. Wasikowski

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Discover the Christmas delights of northern France with our top five Christmas markets in the region

The smell of vin chaud, the taste of gingerbread; you can’t beat an authentic French Christmas market. There are no Continental markets more convenient for Brits than those in northern France, just a short hop across the Channel.

Enjoy a relaxing stroll around these historic cities, soaking up the stunning architecture and lively atmosphere, and immerse yourself in their traditional Christmas festivities for a true flavour of the French way of life at this special time of year.

Arras

The baroque Grand’Place is transformed into an enchanting festive village for a month of Christmas celebrations. The Christmas market boasts some 130 chalets where there is all manner of present inspiration to tempt you: hand-crafted wooden toys, Advent wreaths and local gourmet specialities. Complementing the market are musical and street theatre performances around the city. On 6 December, keep a close eye on the town hall – this is where Saint Nicholas makes his grand arrival by abseiling down the belfry!

The beautiful Baroque town hall at Arras is the focal point of the market there. Pic: CRT HDF/S. BouillandThe beautiful Baroque town hall at Arras is the focal point of the market there. Pic: CRT HDF/S. Bouilland

Click here to see a video of the Arras markets in action and find out more about Christmas in Arras dates

Saint-Quentin

There’s no better place to stock up on your Christmas bubbly than Saint-Quentin, ideally situated between Calais and Reims. The market at the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, modelled on an Alpine village, is renowned for its delicacies: quentins, chocolate with almonds and hazelnuts; cugnots, traditional brioche; and tartes Maroilles, the region’s emblematic cheese dish.

Arm yourself with a chocolat chaud or a soupe aux cailloux, a special vegetable soup, from the tavern in the Christmas village and spend an evening wander admiring the intriguing architecture. Don’t miss the flamboyant gothic town hall and the 19th-century theatre.

The Christmas markets of northern France are a feast for all the senses. Pic: Cituation et EnsembleThe Christmas markets of northern France are a feast for all the senses. Pic: Cituation et Ensemble

Find out more about Christmas in Saint-Quentin dates

Amiens (and its cathedral light show)

Get your walking boots on because this is the largest market in northern France, covering a whopping two kilometres. As well as a plethora of chalets selling the finest French produce and crafts, this market also offers some international gifts, with stallholders coming especially for the event from as far afield as Canada and India. You’ll be spellbound by the brilliant son-et-lumière show at the Unesco-listed gothic cathedral, which restores its façade to its original colours.

Amiens is also a gastronomic hub; wake up those tastebuds with Michelin-starred chef Eric Boutté.

The stunning cathedral at Amiens has a starring role in the Christmas son-et-lumiere show. Pic: CRT HDF/R. FeuilleteThe stunning cathedral at Amiens has a starring role in the Christmas son-et-lumiere show. Pic: CRT HDF/R. Feuillete

Find out more about Christmas in Amiens dates

Lille

Come December, Lille is bedecked with glorious lights and Place Rihour is teeming with stands. This year its markets include a fun big wheel, for those with a head for heights, as well as artisan crafts and local food – don’t miss the divine roasted chestnuts.

It’s worth combining your trip to the market with a visit to the Palais des Beaux Arts, one of France’s largest art museums. You could also find out more about the city’s gastronomic heritage by popping into the Meert tea rooms, which are renowned for their super waffles and afternoon tea.

Lille is transformed into a winter wonderland for its market every Christmas. Pic: BarrySheene/iStock/Getty ImagesLille is transformed into a winter wonderland for its market every Christmas. Pic: BarrySheene/iStock/Getty Images

Find out more about Christmas in Lille dates

Calais

You don’t need to travel anywhere after landing on French soil to experience a real French Christmas market; Calais has pushed the boat out with its festive offerings this year. A highlight is the Christmas parade, where you can watch a procession of floats featuring dancers and acrobats travel through the streets. There’s also an impressive double-decker carousel dating back to the 1900s and an indoor ice rink. Little ones can be regaled with a Christmas story told by an elf in Mother Christmas’s cottage.

The Christmas Market itself has around 80 stalls where you must pick up some of the special Saint Nicholas gingerbread biscuits.

See Calais in a new light this Christmas thanks to its glorious illuminations. Pic: Mairie de Calais/F. CollierSee Calais in a new light this Christmas thanks to its glorious illuminations. Pic: Mairie de Calais/F. Collier

Find out more about Christmas in Calais dates...

Has the thought of these gorgeous markets made your feet itch? You’ll find lots more travel information about French Christmas markets in northern France on their website.

Bon voyage!

Article by France Magazine France Magazine

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