3 Best Christmas Markets in France and How to Visit them in Your Motorhome
In our last blog, we looked at some of the best christkindlemarkts in Germany. But you needn’t travel quite so far to experience an authentic dose of Christmas markets.
France is well-known for its wonderful local markets and at Christmas time you’re in for a real treat. Here is the Freedhome Luxury Motorhome Hire’s pick of the best Christmas markets in France.
The Strasbourg Christkindelsmärik is the oldest Christmas market in France and dates back to 1570. Every year, from the last week in November to the end of December, the market spreads out from Strasbourg’s Cathedral square and Place Broglie. Meander around the stalls and enjoy the Christmas delicacies and plentiful gifts in the town that calls itself “Capitale de Noël”.
At the city’s “quai des bateliers” enjoy the twinkling Christmas lights and the beautiful views over the Cathedral, the Palais Rohan, then explore Strasbourg’s half-timbered houses and medieval alleyways.
Where to stay?!
There is a large campsite, Camping Strasbourg, which is open year-round. It’s just 2km from the World Heritage site of the Grande-île and its pretty half-timbered houses, so you can easily walk or get a taxi to the central area and the markets. Alternatively, there are good bus links close to the campsite. As you’d expect there are also a number of Aire de Camping Car spaces around the city, check with the Office du Tourism for the most up-to-date list.
This Northern City is just over an hour’s drive from Calais. It has a lovely Christmas market well worth visiting. Nearly a hundred wooden chalets pack the Place Rihour, chock-full of nativity figurines and other Christmas decorations, gifts, warming mulled wine, gingerbread and other tasty festive treats.
Where to stay?
Lille also has a large campsite convenient to the city centre that is open year-round. You’ll need to book Camping Lille in advance, which you can do online. There are a number of Aire de Service outside the city, but we recommend speaking the Lille Tourist Office for the most up to date information. Tourist Information usually keeps an updated list of all the possible parking spaces, so is generally a good starting point wherever you are in France.
In this year of the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, visiting the battlefields of the Somme is a particularly moving commemoration. Amiens is commemorating the event with a special temporary exhibition “designing the peace”. The town was rebuilt extensively after the end of the war and the Cathedral is UNESCO listed. It’s well worth a visit year-round, with local attractions including a museum dedicated to Jules Verne in the house where the author used to live, plus the impressive Picardie museum. At Christmas, more than 130 chalets line the roads around town, full of twinkling Christmas lights, Christmas treats, sizzling food stalls and delicious aromas. Make a visit to Pere Noel (Santa Claus), take a turn on the big wheel for great views over the city and the market, or ice skate on the outdoor rink.
Where to stay?
The most central campsite, Le Parc des Cygnes, isn’t open over the winter months, so your best bet is the non-designated car park at Parking Parc Moulin Saint Pierre which is favoured by some motorhomers. However, this isn’t an official site so you will need to respect the local community and minimise disruption. There are plans afoot to open a new space for motorhomes; the local council is planning an aire d’accueil on the town’s rue de Verdun but that isn’t planned to open until 2020, so for now Parking Parc Moulin Saint Pierre seems to be functioning as an unofficial parking space.
Top Tips for a Great Trip
If you have a little extra time, why not combine these destinations and visit all three markets in a single trip? You could even add in a stop in Reims between Lille and Amiens and a stop in Metz between Lille and Strasbourg to turn up the Christmas factor to twelve. Both Metz and Reims also have wonderful and extensive Christmas markets.
As with travel to the German Christmas markets, if you’re going to make the trip, you’re going to need to ensure your motorhome is fully kitted out with the right equipment. This means talking to us about heating, pipe insulation and choosing the right gas for your heating and cooking. You’ll also need to ensure you have snow chains for driving and, of course, the appropriate paperwork. Take copies of your driving license and insurance details and get breakdown cover before you go – it always pays to be prepared.
You’ll also need to carry reflective jackets, two warning triangles and the necessary alcohol breathalyser devices, as required under French law.
Most importantly – have fun and explore! Many French towns have wonderful Christmas markets and, if you’re going to make the trip, do make the most of it.