Top five Christmas Markets

Arras Christmas Market

Arras Christmas Market - Credit: Archant

For a Christmas shopping experience with a French flavour, hop across the Channel to visit one of the many festive marches de Noel. It makes for a great day trip with friends and family or why not make a weekend of it?

5 Christmas markets

Our top five French markets are all within 90 minutes of Calais and well worth a visit

1 Amiens: One of the biggest Christmas markets in the area, made more special by the spectacular 13th-century Gothic cathedral in the town. You won’t fail to be impressed by its breathtakingly beautiful lit-up façade when the free evening light show takes place.

Top tip: Parisian-style bistro La Brasserie-Jules is great for a lunch stop, the name is a nod to Amiens’ most famous resident, Jules Verne. www.brasserie-jules.fr

21-31 Dec: www.somme-tourisme.com

2 Arras: The magical Christmas market on the Grand Place is a place of enticing smells and tastes where hot spiced wine and fluffy waffles warm you up in the winter air. This is a market with something for everyone: 100 exhibitors, an ice rink, carousel and a giant box for kids to post their letters to Santa – and he doesn’t mind which language your letters are in.

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Top tip: For a great-value meal, the Assiette au Boeuf, Grand’Place serves beef and French fries that the locals also adore, www.assietteauboeuf.fr

28 Nov to 30 Dec: www.explorearras.com

3 Boulogne: For one weekend only, but this Christmas market more than makes up for it with loads of charm in the perfectly preserved medieval upper town. Elves, Santa, petting zoo, light show – this is a super family Christmas event. Stroll around the ramparts, pop into the magnificent Notre-Dame Basilica and check out the quirky shops in rue de Lille for great present-buying opportunities from antiques to violet-scented ink.

Top tip: Rue de Lille is lined with restaurants, squeeze into the tiny bar called the Vole Hole in the city’s oldest building.

12-14 December: www.tourisme-boulognesurmer.com

4 Le Touquet: This chic seaside resort beloved by Parisians and savvy British tourists bursts into festive mood with beautiful twinkling lights throughout the town. The Christmas market is for one weekend, held in the lovely covered art-deco market, a listed monument. The shops here are of the high-end Parisian style. There are lots of bars and brasseries to enjoy a celebratory meal to suit all budgets; why not indulge yourself at the Michelin-starred restaurant Le Pavillon at the Westminster Hotel?

Top tip: The town boasts several fabulous chocolatiers and specialist food shops; try Beussent for hand-made chocolate and Arts et Gourmand for traditional marshmallow.

See the lights from 28 November to 31 December, Marché de Noel 13-14 December: www.letouquet.com

5 Licques: One of the most authentic and fun festive events in the north of France, the annual Turkey Festival is held in the ancient town of Licques, known to the locals as ‘Turkey Town’ as the birds have been bred here since medieval days. A weekend gastronomic fair culminates in the release of 100 turkeys to ‘rampage’ through the main street.

Actually it’s more of an amble, but it is great fun to watch the birds, accompanied by local guilds in all their finery.

Afterwards you can indulge your taste for mouth-watering French goodies in the huge gourmet marquee – and even buy a turkey for your own Christmas Day.

Top tip: There are a few places to eat in the town but it does get packed so head to Boulogne for more choice, or buy an artisan-baked loaf, cheese and ham at the fair and enjoy a winter picnic.

13-14 December: Turkey release 11am, 14 December www.licques-volailles.fr

Something different

Artisan Christmas market in an ancient manor house in the gorgeous walled upper town of Montreuil-sur-Mer, just 40 minutes from Calais.

Expat Brit Hannah France hosts local artisans for an intimate Christmas market in her home: 29-30 November 2014.

www.tourisme-montreuillois.com n

Get in touch

Janine Marsh is a travel writer and editor of www.thegoodlifefrance.com