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
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. The 2023 Fête des Lumieres runs from December 7th to 10th. You can find more information here.
Paris: Christmas Shopping and Concerts
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!
Also not to miss is a series of festive Christmas concerts in Paris. Perhaps the most coveted concerts are those held at the Eiffel Tower on December 24th and 25th. Guests can enjoy classical music along with Christmas traditional on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower. Tickets sell out quickly, so be sure to reserve quickly if you’re interested!
Île de France: Vaux-le-Vicomte
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. The 2023 theme is Grand Noël or the Great Christmas. Don’t miss the light projections on the facade in the evenings. To complete the cozy atmosphere, fireplaces will be lit and carriage rides will be offered. This year the festivities go from November 19th until January 7th. Guests can visit from Wednesday through Sunday from November 18th until December 22nd and every day from December 23rd until January 7th (closed on December 25th and January 1st). Reservations are required.
Strasbourg: Christmas Market
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 24th until December 24th at 6:00 pm and the theme is Le Coeur (the heart), which you will see repeated in decorations. The After-Christmas Village at Louise Weiss Square will be open until January 1st 2024.
Private Guided Driving Tour of the Alsace Christmas Markets
Alsace at Christmastime is unique. The region will welcome you with warmth and generosity, good food and drinks, and a magical ambiance.
Whatever you love about Christmas, Alsace allows you to fully participate in the festivities. From iconic sites to hidden gems, this perfect Christmas itinerary will cover it all and guarantee you that this Christmas will be unlike any other!
Enjoy a full-day trip in Alsace to explore some of the oldest and most authentic Christmas markets in Europe. You will visit various traditional Christmas markets in Obernai, Mittelbergheim, and the Haut Koenigsbourg castle. A world of delicious fragrances, delightful handmade goods, and lights quickly takes shape along the rows. Plenty of surprising and mouthwatering discoveries await!
Loire Valley: Christmas Châteaux
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. From Saturday December 2nd through Sunday January 7th, seven of the largest châteaux in the Loire region are celebrating the spirit of the end-of-year festivities through exceptional tours and events. 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
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. In 2023, the Bayeux Cathedral will have an immersive light and sound show from December 20th through January 6th. 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 15th through 31st, and at the base of the Rouen Cathedral (from November 23rd to December 24th) to name a few.
Provence: Unique Traditions
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 18th through December 31st.
Another Christmas in Provence activity not to miss is the Aix-en-Provence Christmas Market from November 15th through December 31st which will feature various foods and craftsman, as well as a Truffle Market.
Bordeaux: Christmas Markets in Wine Country
In the heart of Bordeaux you’ll find the Christmas market back again this year from November 24th to December 27th. 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 16th and 17th.
Radio Classique Christmas Symphonic Concert at the Opera Bordeaux
The Auditorium of the Opéra National de Bordeaux is located in the heart of the city’s historic center. With its spectacular structure and acoustics, this ideal venue offers a program that is as prestigious as it is eclectic.
For this unique concert and celebration, the audience votes and chooses the program of the evening simply by a show of hands. To prepare for these special evenings the orchestra has gone to great lengths. There is an incredibly festive air to these concerts…which of course will not be the same from one evening to the next!
Concerts are held Thursday December 14th at 8:00 pm, Friday December 15th at 8:00 pm, Sunday December 17th at 11:00 am, and Sunday December 17th at 3:00 pm.
Pas de Calais: Fête de la Dinde de Licques
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 9th and 10th.
French Alps: Snow, Skiing, and Merriment
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.
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.