Welcome to France, where the magic of Christmas is expressed through the sparkle of lights, the enchanting scent of spices, and the warm atmosphere of Christmas markets. During this festive period, the streets of French towns and villages are transformed into enchanted villages, offering visitors an unforgettable experience. If you're planning a language study holiday in France during the Christmas period, don't miss the chance to immerse yourself in this enchanting tradition, which combines the charm of the season with the delights of the French language.
Christmas markets: a tradition
For centuries, Christmas markets in France were held only in the north-eastern regions. It wasn't until the 1990s that they spread throughout France. From north to south and from west to east, the main towns and cities now vie with each other in terms of entertainment, decorations and chalets to offer visitors Christmas markets worthy of plunging them into the enchantment of the festive season. Here are just a few of the traditional, remarkable and impressive Christmas markets:
The Strasbourg Christmas market
This is the best-known Christmas market in France, and also one of the busiest. It is one of the oldest in France (1570), selling Christmas trees, Christmas decorations, nativity scenes, santons, local crafts, sweets and mulled wine on the Place Broglie. The whole town is alive with the Christmas market and its many attractions.
The Colmar Christmas Market
Colmar's Christmas Market is one of the most famous in Alsace, largely due to the quality of the products on display, the decorations and the respect for tradition. In the Old Town, with its skilfully illuminated historic setting, the succession of decorations and lights is a real invitation for walkers to immerse themselves in the enchantment of the Christmas markets. The markets, yes, because while the whole city becomes a huge Christmas village from the end of November onwards, small markets nestle in squares with exceptional heritage, illuminated in an intimate and friendly way.
The Reims Christmas Market
In December, the "City of Kings" changes its face and becomes the "City of Father Christmas". Every year, the Christmas spirit spreads like wildfire throughout the city. The highlight of the festivities is, of course, the Reims Christmas Village, which brings together 135 chalets in Place d'Erlon, Rue Condorcet, Rue de l'Etape and Rue Buirette, selling a wide range of gourmet, craft and festive products to immerse visitors in the warm atmosphere of the Christmas season.
The Paris-La Defense Christmas Market
It's the biggest Christmas market in the Paris region. This year, the La Défense Christmas market runs from 19 November to 27 December 2015 (it will be closed on 25 December), with 350 chalets spread over no less than 10,000 square metres. What the La Défense Christmas market loses in authenticity it gains in profusion and diversity.
The Lille Christmas Market
Like its famous carnival and Grande Braderie, Lille's Christmas market attracts more and more visitors every year. It has only been held on the Place Rihour since 1996 (which is also located in the pedestrianised city centre). The city spares no expense, as the Grand Place, decked out in a thousand lights, is dominated by a majestic 18-metre-high Christmas tree and an equally imposing 50-metre-high Ferris wheel with 36 gondolas offering a unique view of the whole city.
The Avignon Christmas Market
The Christmas market in Avignon is a very special event, highlighting another tradition, the very old Provençal culture, religious and still very present, which brings families together during "Christmas time". Taking place from 5 December 2015 to 3 January 2016 in Avignon's Place de l'horloge, the market features around sixty chalets where local craftsmen and traders showcase typical Provencal Christmas products: wines, nougats, candied fruit, chocolates, honey, gingerbread... And there's no shortage of recipes for the thirteen traditional desserts: green melon, apples, pears, white grapes, the four mendiants (which combine walnuts or hazelnuts, sultanas, almonds and dried figs), figs, oranges, mandarins, nougat, jam, galette à l'huile (called "pompe" in Aix-en-Provence and Marseille and "fougasse" in Arles and Haute-Provence), cooked wine and dates (the list is not exhaustive as it varies from town to town).
And finally, the Montpellier Christmas Market !!!!
For nearly 20 years, the city of Montpellier has been organising a Southern Christmas market. From 2 to 30 December, the traders set up in the chalets on the Promenade Royale du Peyrou welcome you every day from 10.30am to 9.30pm, with late-night opening on Fridays and Saturdays until 10.30pm.
In the Village des Délices, under a heated marquee, you can discover world cuisine or enjoy a hot drink. Illuminations, a Languedoc cot and large parades will be there to liven up the Christmas spirit.
Christmas Markets: A Feast for the Senses
French Christmas markets are famous for their breathtaking illuminations. Thousands of twinkling lights adorn the streets and stalls, creating a warm and magical atmosphere. It's the perfect opportunity to expand your French vocabulary by learning words like 'light' (lumière), 'sparkle' (éclat) and 'twinkling' (scintillant).
Flavours and aromas
A trip to the French Christmas markets is also a gastronomic adventure. Indulge in sweet treats such as crêpes, waffles and hot chestnuts. Don't forget to try some mulled wine, a traditional drink that warms the heart. It's the perfect opportunity to learn words like 'delight', 'aroma' and 'tasty'.
Crafts and gifts
The markets are full of local crafts, offering a variety of unique gifts. From handmade Christmas decorations to regional products, each stall is an invitation to explore France's rich culture. Take the opportunity to expand your French vocabulary with terms such as "artisanat" (craftsmanship), "décoration" (decoration), and "cadeau" (gift).
The Language Experience
Cultural exchange with the locals
Christmas markets are also a great place to meet friendly locals and engage in enriching conversations. Don't hesitate to take part in informal cultural exchanges, where you can practise your French while discovering everyday life in France.
Immersion language courses
Complement your experience by taking part in our French language courses during an immersion language stay. Live with a French host family, where you can practise French on a daily basis, reinforcing your language skills in a natural and authentic way.
In Montpellier you'll find "Les Hivernales", our local Christmas market!
Christmas markets in France offer much more than just a festive experience. It's a total immersion in French culture, a language learning opportunity, and a chance to create unforgettable memories. So get ready to immerse yourself in the magic of the French festive season and enrich your language adventure! Merry Christmas!