The Magical Christmas Markets of Northern France

Charming Christmas markets
Charming Christmas markets

The Magical Christmas Markets of Northern France

 
There's something special about Christmas time in Europe. Perhaps it has something to do with the winter snow, or historic buildings lit up by flickering candlelights or the many charming markets that pop up in town squares across the continent. While Germany is often the first nation people think of when it comes to Christmas markets, in this article Dana from Hauts de France describes the magic of the Christmas in Northern France
 
Even if some Christmas markets have been forced to skip 2020 (find the latest news on Europe's Christmas markets here) it's definitely an occasion to plan for in the future. A little touch of je ne sais quoi along with some real French art de vivre makes the Christmas Markets in Northern France the new “must do” when visiting France in winter.
 

Arras

Arras Christmas Market is your long-overdue opportunity to take a step back and relish happiness and seasonal spirit, making memories as you go. Arras Christmas market is far more than just a market, with traditional carousels, big-wheel, sledge-slide and ice-skating all adding to the intoxicating winter wonderland experience. 
 
Arras Christmas markets
 
Endless rows of stalls in the Grand Place with Christmas wares ─ from wreaths and candleholders to personalised wooden decorations, chic French garments and homewares ─ all with the famous French touch. Here’s your chance to buy the unusual, the unique and the handcrafted.
 
Each purchase is pleasantly punctuated by something else going on: People deep in conversation with locals about andouillette (the local sausage sensation), ordering vin chaud (mulled wine) and the kids impatient to get a glimpse of Le Père Noël, visiting ‘Ice World’ and devouring a crepe oozing gooey artisan chocolate.
 
Over in the next square along ─ Place des Héros ─ you can lick a window (not literally of course – it’s the French expression for window shopping) at the Bleu d’Arras shop and ponder how many people you can tick off the gift-list with these exquisite porcelain tree decorations with their long heritage in Arras. 
 
Charming Christmas markets

This isn’t your usual seasonal shopping scrum. Here, the locals take their time, observe traditions such as buying delicacies for Réveillon (Christmas Eve family meal) and catch up with neighbours over a few oysters and a glass of crisp white wine. Folks in Northern France are also big on beer and savour it like a good wine. During the market, nip to the hip bar Chez Marcel to check out Luka’s line of taps (not to mention his cliché-curly French moustache!). 

The famously friendly locals will bend over backwards with their recommendations for must-see places to visit, with WW1 site the Wellington Quarry likely at the top of the list. Christmas isn’t just about the material things and nowhere will you feel more inclined to appreciate health, happiness, friends and family than here at this underground memorial. The graffiti that allied soldiers drew whilst tunnelling in an offensive against German forces is a sad yet life-affirming sight ─ one of many dotting Northern France landscape. 
 
Christmas tree in a town square in Northern France
 

Amiens

Visitors young and old have been coming to the Amiens Christmas Market since 1997. With its 130 chalets that stretch for over 2 km, it has a great choice of gift ideas. Each December, craftsmen from France and all over the world will offer a variety of handmade gifts, Christmas decorations and delicious delicacies. Every Christmas, mechanical decorations in shops are handmade with a mix of natural, vegetable and floral matter. All of them are created in the spirit of Christmas.


The Christmas Market in Amiens is where the 800 year old UNESCO classified cathedral de Notre Dame really does shine with a spectacular sound and light show every night during the festive season.
 

Lille

In Lille, on the Flemish border of Belgium, Christmas festivities have a slightly different twist. Ninety mini-chalets are clustered around Place Rihour, selling many locally made products and crafts. In the old quarter of the city, Rue de la Grande Chaussee, Rue de la Monnaie, and Rue Esquermoise are the best streets for holiday and boutique shopping.


Meert is the oldest confectionery shop in Lille, with chocolates, caramels, flavoured marshmallows, hard candies, and their famous dried waffles filled with vanilla cream, and their divine tea salon serves holiday-themed pastries and thick, rich hot chocolate.

On the Saturday before Christmas the big event is when Santa Claus takes a giant fall off the belfry from the City Hall.
 
Christmas Markets at night in Vienna, Austria |  <i>Carly Grossek</i>
 

Pro tips for visiting the Christmas markets of Northern France

•    Most markets are open starting the third week in November and close either the day after Christmas or on December 30. We advise going in November or the beginning of December to avoid the crowds.
•    Try to visit the markets during the week. The weekends tend to be more crowded because of locals doing their holiday shopping.
•    Bargaining is frowned upon, try to avoid this.
•    The Christmas markets in Northern France markets are so much more than grabbing a gift or gifts. Let yourself meander, soak up the atmosphere, gaze at the stunning lights and décor have a hot chocolate, devour a crepe…enjoy everything around you!
•    Bundle up and wear layers, plus hats, gloves, and scarves… visiting the markets in Northern France can sometimes be a rather chilly affair – it gets you in the spirit!

 

> View our active trips in Northern France
> Looking for a winter wonderland holiday? View our active trips during Europe's winter.
> Or read about other Christmas traditions in Europe, including Iceland, the Netherlands, Czechia and Slovenia.
 
Have you experienced a Christmas market in Europe before? What was it like? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
  
Northern France, Christmas Markets, Winter, Europe winter

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