Christmas in France: Must-See Highlights by Region

The holiday season in France is something that every traveller should experience at least once. Starting in mid-November there is an unrivaled festive atmosphere that overtakes the country. Whether you’re coming to get some shopping done in Paris, visit the Christmas Markets in Strasbourg, or to see the Loire Valley châteaux decorated, there’s truly something extraordinary almost anywhere you go. We’re breaking down the Christmas in France must-see highlights down by region.


Christmas in France: Must-See Highlights by Region

Lyon: Fête des Lumières

christmas in france lyon la fete des lumieres
Photo Courtesy of the city of Lyon

For four nights in December, a variety of different artists take over Lyon for the Fête des Lumières. You’ll be able to discover illuminations on buildings, streets, squares and parks throughout the city. This year the festival is from December 8th to 11th.

Paris: Christmas Shopping

paris christmas markets

There’s so much to do in the French capital during the holidays that we have an entire post about visiting Paris in the winter. One activity that brings a lot of seasonal highlights together is Christmas shopping. Whether you’re visiting the Grand Magasin department stores or one of the Christmas markets you’ll be sure to take in the festive decorations and lights, and you’ll be able to bring back gifts from Paris!

Île de France: Vaux-le-Vicomte

christmas in france vaux le vicomte
Photo by Yann Pirioux

While the Château de Versailles doesn’t decorate for Christmas, one stunning castle in the Paris region that does is Vaux-le-Vicomte. Visitors will discover illuminations in both the gardens and the château. Inside, decorations have a gourmet theme this year. Rooms will be scented with gingerbread and cinnamon. To complete the cozy atmosphere, fireplaces will be lit and carriage rides will be offered. The festivities go from November 20th until January 2nd (closed on December 25th and January 1st).

vaux le vicomte christmas
Photo Courtesy of Vaux-le-Vicomte

Private Guided Christmas Tour of Vaux-le-Vicomte with Afternoon Tea or Cocktail in a Private Room

After the castle is closed to the public, discover the State Rooms and the private apartments in peace. Your private guide will recount the tales from the heyday of the estate; from its creation by Nicolas Fouquet, through its operation in the 18th and 19th century, until its opening to visitors in 1968 thanks to the current owners, the De Vogüe family.

Afterwards, enjoy an extraordinary moment of relaxation in the Salon Le Brun. There will be a monumental projection specially set up for you! An evening fit for a King and Queen!

Strasbourg: Christmas Market

christmas in france highlights strasbourg
Photo Courtesy of Strasbourg.eu

The Christmas Markets in and around Strasbourg are without a doubt a holiday must-see. With more than 300 market stalls, miles of garlands of light, the majestic Big Tree, and dazzling shows and concerts there is nothing quite like the Strasbourg Christmas Market. This year the market is open from November 26th until December 26th. As a note, there may be a limited amount of vendors open on December 25th and 26th.

Loire Valley: Christmas Châteaux

christmas in the loire valley
Photo Courtesy of Touraine Loire Valley

The Loire Valley châteaux are marvelous year round (we’ve identified our ten favorites here). During the holidays, many of the châteaux are decorated both inside and out. You’ll see Christmas trees, festive wreaths, and holiday tables dressed to the nines. It’s truly a wonderful time of the year in the Loire Valley and especially fun for families.

Normandy: Christmas Markets and Light Shows

christmas in normandy rouen christmas market
Photo Courtesy of Normandy Tourism

In a region known for gourmet specialties including hearty ciders and cheeses, it’s not difficult to imagine that Christmas is a lively time of year. You’ll find Christmas Markets in the most picturesque of places: at the foot of Mont Saint-Michel (dates to be announced), along the port of Honfleur (from December 20th to January 2nd), and at the base of the Rouen Cathedral (end of November to December 31st) to name a few. Also special for the holidays is a William the Conquerer-inspired light show inside the Bayeux Cathedral starting on November 27th, on Saturdays in December, and from December 19th to 23rd and 26th to 30th.

Provence: Unique Traditions

christmas in provence
Photo Courtesy of Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur Tourisme

In Provence, there is a unique Christmas tradition to eat 13 desserts following the Christmas dinner: one for each Christ and his twelve apostles. Each of the desserts served varies a bit based on the region and particular family. Some common items include fougasse, the four beggars (almonds, raisins, dried figs and nuts), Cachat piquant, white and black nougat, calissons, pain d’épice, and of course, the Bûche de Noël.

You’ll also find Santons, little clay figurines in nativity scenes. The literal translation of Santon is ‘little saint.’ There’s an entire Foire aux Santons dedicated to these collectables in Marseille, this year from November 20th to January 2nd.

Bordeaux: Christmas Markets in Wine Country

christmas in bordeaux
© Facebook / Marché de Noël de Bordeaux

In the heart of Bordeaux you’ll find the Christmas market back again this year from November 26th to December 26th. It’s a wonderful place to admire the decorations and also get some shopping done. For a more artisanal market, this year there is a special Christmas market in the heart of Saint-Émilion on December 4th and 5th.

Pas de Calais: Fête de la Dinde de Licques

christmas in france
Photo Courtesy of La Voix du Nord

France can be known for being quirky. Perhaps one of the quirkiest Christmas festivals is the Licques Turkey Festival in the north of France. It’s named for the turkey, which is a popular item served on Christmas day in France, but you’ll also find all sorts of gourmet regional products. It’s the perfect opportunity to prepare your Christmas menu and stock up on wine, cheese, chocolate, Champagne, and of course turkey! This year the festival will be held on December 11th and 12th.

French Alps: Snow, Skiing, and Merriment

christmas in the alps

The snowy alps make them the perfect setting to celebrate a memorable Christmas. Whether you’re in Courchevel or Val d’Isère, you’ll be enchanted by the special Christmas magic including parades throughout town, Santa hitting the slopes and more.

Winter in Courchevel: The Last Track After Hours Ski

You’ll have the opportunity to continue skiing after the slopes are closed for the end of the day. You’ll meet at the top of Courchevel to have a drink while you enjoy the sunset.

Then, once the sky is dark and everyone is at home, you’ll enjoy the entire slope for yourself and experience what skiing at night is like. An excellent opportunity to take in the view on the lights of Courchevel from the top!

Are you ready to spend the holidays in France? Our travel designers are standing by to create a tailor-made itinerary just for you. They can help to identify the perfect region for you to experience the must-see Christmas highlights in France.

A Gourmet Tour of Strasbourg

In Northeast France not far from the German border lies Alsace, a beautiful region nestled at the base of the Vosges mountains. The picturesque half-timbered villages, stately castles, and distinct wines attract plenty of French and German tourists. Alsace remains largely under the radar for other travelers. Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace, is a wonderful spot to base to discover a gourmet tour of the region.


A Gourmet Tour of Strasbourg


Strasbourg was the first urban center in France to be listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. This will come as no surprise after wandering through the charming small streets lined with half-timbered houses in various colors. You’ll also see the Strasbourg’s gothic Notre Dame Cathedral, which Victor Hugo described “a gigantic and delicate marvel.”

The center of the town is pedestrian, inviting visitors to take in the beautiful scenery, great shopping, and tasty local cuisine at winstubs – small Alsatian wine bars. One of the best ways to get acquainted with a city is through a private walking tour. Your guide will point out the highlights of the city, as well as make recommendations of things to do, see, and taste.

gourmet tour in strasbourg notre dame cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral in Strasbourg

How to Get to Strasbourg

Strasbourg can easily be reached from Paris by train in under two hours. Since it’s in the eastern part of France, trains depart from the Gare de l’Est station. Alsace and Strasbourg are a great addition to a trip to Paris or the Champagne regions. There are also direct trains between the Charles de Gaulle airport and Strasbourg.

If you’d like to have a car to explore the region, it’s about a five hour drive from Paris.

Strasbourg Gourmet Tours

For a day filled with walking, sightseeing, and tasting take a full day Gourmet and City Tour of Strasbourg. Your guide will take you to meet with regional specialists to truly discover the best of the best of Alsace. You’ll visit a local winemaker, cheesemaker, brewer, and distiller among others. Of course, there will also be plenty of tasting including wine, beer, gingerbread, foie gras, cheese, Alsatian pastries, and local spirits.

After sampling the best of Alsatian food and drinks, the following day you can test your cooking skills! You’ll meet with a chef to learn all of the tips and tricks of preparing French cuisine with a focus on Alsatian specialties. When you’ve finished cooking you’ll sit down for lunch or dinner to enjoy the food you’ve prepared.

strasbourg citroen 2cv tour

Visit Strasbourg in a Convertible Citroën 2CV

Admire the beautiful sites of Strasbourg through the open top of a legendary French car during a private two-hour tour. You’ll see Palais Rohan, a royal residence and a masterpiece of French Baroque architecture, the world-famous Gothic cathedral, Place Gutenberg, and the Medieval bridge Pont Couvert. You’ll also discover the picturesque neighborhood known as ‘Petite France,’ an impressive region with many beautiful renaissance style houses, often with flowers tumbling from windows and pretty bridges across the River Ill.

Next, you’ll drive through the area where the most important European institutions are located: the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the Palace of Human rights.

To finish the tour, you’ll take a short walk along the Mimram footbridge and cross the mighty Rhine river into Germany. Your guide and vehicle will pick you up on the German side and show you the charming German town of Kehl before returning to your accommodation.

alsace wine route gourmet tour of strasbourg

The Alsace Wine Route

A major highlight on a trip to Strasbourg is discovering the Alsace Wine Route. French Side Travel can arrange a variety of different tours, over multiple days to cover the most ground possible. Each tour includes private wine tastings to discover the diversity of Alsatian wines. Thanks to the rich soil and generations of winemakers in the region you will find 51 Grand Crus and seven types of grapes!

However, there is more to the Alsace Wine Route tours than just great wines. You’ll see towns with Medieval and Renaissance architecture ranked among the Most Beautiful Villages in France.

After stopping at a winstub for lunch, a local restaurant offering regional cuisine, you will continue along the Wine Route. More places ranked among the Most Beautiful Villages in France are on the itinerary, including Colmar, the Alsatian wine capital and castles depending on which route you take.

hotel regent petite france in strasbourg
Overhead View of Hotel Regent Petite France

Where to Stay in Strasbourg

One of our favorite 5-star hotels in Strasbourg is the Hotel Regent Petite France. The building dates from the 17th century and is located just on the banks of the river in the historic ‘Petite France’ district. Each room in this elegant and charming hotel offers a unique view of either half-timbered buildings or the River III. During the summer, guests can enjoy a lovely terrace that offers regional cuisine. The sophisticated bar offers over 50 champagnes.

Les Haras hotel in strasbourg
Les Haras

Les Haras was formerly the National Stud Farm of Strasbourg and was reborn as a luxury 4-star hotel. The comfortable contemporary design is a tribute to the property’s former life as a stable, and seamlessly merges past and present. Don’t miss the fabulous brasserie restaurant that offers both French cuisine classics and Alsatian specialties.

Stay Along the Alsace Wine Route: Château d’Isenbourg

For a stay along the wine route with panoramic views of the surrounding Vosges Foothills, Rhine Plain and Black Forest look no further than the gorgeous 5-star Château d’Isenbourg. You’ll feel like you’re truly living at a castle while staying at this stunning property.

Enjoy traditional Alsatian cuisine at the restaurant in two dining rooms: one decorated in the Louis XV style and one decorated in the Louis XIII style. On warm days, dine outside on the terrace that overlooks the vineyards and town of Rouffach.

chateau d'isenbourg alsace
Château d’Isenbourg

Ready for your own gourmet tour of Strasbourg? Our travel designers are standing by to create a tailor-made itinerary just for you. We recommend adding Strasbourg as an extension to a trip to Paris or Champagne. Interested in more French food and wine? We have plenty of trips to help inspire you!

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