It’s that time of year again. With turkey still warm in our bellies and a brisk chill breaking through the air, the holiday season is starting and this can only mean one thing – shopping! While Americans will choose to hit up the local mall (here in Jersey we have many to choose from!), Europeans have a distinctly different venue when it comes to purchasing gifts for their loved ones.
Christmas Markets are set up throughout different cities, each packed with stands of gourmet food, mulled wine and handmade presents. In France, these markets are called Marchés de Noël and if you happen to be in Paris these five are not to be missed.
Jardins du Trocadéro
Imagine walking along a Parisian street, mulled wine in hand, gazing upon various Christmas goodies and looking up to see the Eiffel Tower. This market is located beneath the famous monument, providing visitors with a breathtaking view as they pick up their holiday gifts. Stocked with 120 stands, an ice-skating rink and “snow villages” this is the place to bring the kids because everyone will find something enjoyable at this market.
Located: Place de la Trocadero
Open: December 13th – January 6th
Set along one of the most beautiful and prestigious avenues in the world, this market is sure to dazzle you. Ninety white chalets await you, fully stocked with a variety of arts, crafts, gifts and (of course) mouth-watering foods. Walk this famous street slowly, taking in the smell of waffles, candy and caramel apples as you peruse the stalls. There is even a carousel for the kids. Be sure to take note of the theme, which changes with each year – keeping every experience unique and memorable!
Located: Avenue des Champs-Elysées
Open: November 16th – January 6th
If your philosophy is go big or go home, this is the Christmas market for you. Packed with 350 stalls, you’ll be sure to find something unique for everyone on your gift list. But don’t waste all of your time shopping, be sure to indulge in a sweet treat while you’re wandering through stands. This market also boasts a variety of activities, such as a skating rink, to entertain both you and younger members of your party. Lastly, take a moment before you leave to bask in the festive atmosphere. Surrounded by very brightly lit skyscrapers, this market will easily get you into the holiday spirit.
Located: Parvis de la Defense, near the Grand Arche
Open: November 21 – December 29
For those looking for a smaller and perhaps more intimate atmosphere, this market will be a good fit for you. Paris’s Maison d’Alsace is a smaller version of the largest Christmas market in Europe, pictured above, which is located in Strasbourg. Take the time to sample the French and German produce, famous at this stop, such as pain d’epices (spice bread) and vin chaud (mulled wine). As you’re treating yourself to the delectable food, shop for wooden toys and handmade ornaments and perhaps snag one for your own tree back home. Before you leave though, you must see the giant (700 square meter!) advent calendar that counts down the days until the arrival of Père Noël.
Located: 39 Avenues des Champs-Elysses
Open: November 24 – December 23 11am – 8pm, daily
Place Saint Sulpice
This market is the best bang for your buck – providing three consecutive fairs all in one location! The first is centered around local artists who sell their pieces (everything from wood to glass to textiles) – giving you a truly one of a kind gift. The second is a fantastic market supported by local charities who sell arts (like hand-made cards) and produce to the visitors. This art transforms your gift into more than just a purchase because you’ll know the money went to helping others. Last is a market dedicated to the celebration of the founding of Quebec, featuring dance, song and maple syrup lollipops.
Located: Place Saint Sulpice
Open: December 1st – December 24th
**For a complete listing of all the Marchés de Noël in Paris, visit the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau.
During my own travels I’ve picked up unique gifts at these markets, like hand painted candles Italy and sinfully delicious chocolates in Belgium. What about you? And do you have a favorite Christmas Market in Paris? Tell us about it!