11 December 2012 by Jessica Boston
Christmas Shopping in France: Magical Markets, Gourmet Treats and Bargain Booze!
If you fancy a pre-Christmas getaway or want to stock up on goodies for the festive season why not take a trip to France? Whether you want to shop ‘til you drop with friends, take romantic strolls along streets twinkling with Christmas lights with your loved one, or nip across for a whistle-stop trip to stock up on cheaper wine and beer at a French hypermarche, make it a ‘Joyeux Noel’ with a trip to France this December.
Where are the best Christmas markets to go to?
It makes sense to take your car if you’re planning a shopping break so pick destinations within easy reach of ferry ports for less time on the road. There are plenty of gorgeous Christmas markets in major towns and cities across northern France. Most run throughout December giving you ample opportunity for a short break to explore the festive crafts and food on offer.
You’ll be able to take in all the sights and smells enjoying delicious street food and buying wonderful handcrafted gifts, decorations and regional produce. If you’re lucky there may even be street entertainment or festive parades to watch, check at the local tourist office to see what’s on during your stay.
Our pick of the best Christmas markets within easy driving distance includes:
- Caen Christmas market with over 50 stalls representing local crafts and produce including delicious foie gras and gingerbreads. Treat yourself to some of the famous ‘Santon’ crib scene figurines, a decoration that will delight year after year.
- Brest Christmas market features around 50 stalls selling local produce and crafts. There is also mulled wine and hot food on offer and children’s entertainment including a Santa train ride.
- At Orleans Christmas market you’ll find Christmas decorations, local produce and gifts on offer at over 60 chalets in the Place du Martoi. There is also an ice-rink with sections for experts and beginners – great fun to watch with a warming mulled wine in hand.
- Chartres Christmas market transforms the town with twinkling lights, decorations and delicious smells of chocolate, chestnuts and cinnamon. There is a manger scene, Santa parade and ice rink adding to the festive atmosphere.
And then of course there’s Paris…
Discover Christmas Magic in Paris
There is no better time to visit Paris than in the bustling run up to Christmas. The streets are lined with shops offering everything from exclusive luxury brands to bargain gifts with a touch of French chic. Over a hundred Paris streets are decked out in Christmas lights and there are several Christmas markets spread across the city for you to explore. Paris’ Christmas markets are held throughout December but check for exact dates to avoid disappointment.
The Christmas market at Noisy le Grand takes place at Ile de France and is one of the largest Christmas markets in Paris attracting over 35,000 visitors each year! Shop for hand-crafted gifts and enjoy the festive atmosphere with carol singing, horse drawn carriage rides and a nativity scene featuring real animals.
La Defense is another popular Christmas market in the city featuring an ice rink where you can take to the ice or simply enjoy the view with a hot drink. Les Halles Christmas market is also in the city centre and is a favourite with French shoppers who come to buy the unusual art and crafts and exquisite chocolates. If you’re travelling with children a visit to the market at Place Saint-Sulpice is well worth it for a ride on the traditional carousel.
Cross channel trolley dash!
If you’re planning Christmas festivities it can be a good idea to save money by shopping for alcohol and some gourmet food in France. Day return trips can be surprisingly good value and you can drive straight from the ferry to the nearest superstore to stock up.
You can save as much as £2-3 per bottle on wines and champagnes compared to UK prices, so for bulk buying the savings really can add up.
Customs allows you to bring back up to 90 litres of wine, 110 litres of beer and 10 litres of spirits for personal use so you’re more likely to be constrained by the size of your car (and budget) than customs law!
While you are shopping you’ll also be able to pick up some outstanding cold meats, French cheeses and preserves that will store well for a couple of weeks or more to serve over the Christmas period.
Christmas shopping has never been so much fun! Once you try a cross channel supermarket run or festive French mini break it’s sure to become a Christmas tradition to look forward to every year.