I love the Parisian Christmas Markets. When they start showing up, you know Christmas is just around the corner. And you can spot one a mile away. Whenever you see dozens of white tents clumped together like Santa’s mobile workshop, you know you’re in luck. Those white tents remain the same from one market to the next, but each of the markets has its own feel, and as a result, its own special charm.
The Champs Élysées Market feels like a quaint, small town carnival. It comes complete with a giant slide, a spook house, a huge ferris wheel and even its own ice skating rink. Most of the tents in this market are filled with “State Fair” kinds of foods done gourmet style: freshly made waffles, crepes, sausages, paella, shawarma; you can get almost anything here. Gift ideas though, are almost an afterthought at this one. The Champs Élysées market is all about the rides and the food. It feels like something from another era….perfect for a romantic date night in the city.
It stretches from the Champs Élysées all the way to Place de la Concorde. And when you’re standing in the middle of the market, the view is amazing in either direction. Look one way and you’ll see the length of the Champs Élysées stretching all the way to the Arc de Triomphe. Lining either side of the famous boulevard are all those beautiful, square trees, twinkling with blue and white fairy lights. It’s beyond gorgeous.
A look in the other direction, and the white tents lead you straight to the giant Ferris Wheel called “The Roue” -outlined in brilliant white light. During the Christmas season, it sits smack in the middle of Place de la Concorde marking the end of this Christmas bazaar. The Champs Élysées market, with its small town feel and its beautiful views, makes for a perfect, and very different date night out in Paris.
Saint Germain has its own Christmas market as well. Window shopping is one of the main draws of Saint Germain in the first place, and this market lives up to its neighborhood. Its theme is more boutique wines and cognacs with all the fun things to go with them: cheeses, candies, roasted nuts. It’s lovely.
But, my favorite of the Christmas markets is the one at La Defense. It’s HUGE for one thing. And it feels more Christmas-y, somehow. I think it’s the bright red carpets. They run everywhere you go, connecting about 100 white tents at the foot of the Grand Arch. And when you get to “walk the red carpet” from tent to tent, it really puts you in the holiday spirit.
There are the food tents, of course, filled with all sorts of items for stuffing stockings and entertaining for the holidays. They have fois gras, pâté, and every flavor of nougat and Turkish Delight that a child could dream up. For those cold winter nights, there are booths filled with cognacs, armagnacs and wines. And of course, they have French cheeses, but not just the ones that typically come to mind. Yes, they have camembert and brie, but they also have artisanal cheeses flavored with everything from lavender to wasabi, basil to sun-dried tomato…even coconut. I’ve tried (and bought) all of them. And they are absolutely divine.
If you want to have lunch while you shop, you can grab a raclette sandwich or even sit down for a plate of smoked meats & sausages. For your sweet tooth, there are crepes and waffles, sugared fruits and homemade hot chocolate. Or you can just warm up with a cup of mulled wine while you shop.
La Defense also has dozens of tents with ideas for Christmas presents: beautiful umbrellas, vintage toys, artisan lamps, scarves from India, perfumes and lotions. It’s like the mother of all flea markets, but everything is brand new and filled with promise. There are strings of twinkling lights woven into silk flowers, perfect for decorating the rooms of lucky little girls. There are booths devoted to Russian nesting dolls. I’m guessing those are for the little girl who’s all grown up. There’s even a wonderful little booth that deals exclusively with the jazz greats. Here you can find double CDs of everything from Miles Davis to Nina Simone. And they pipe the music into the market so you can groove while you browse.
As you stroll the red carpet exploring the booths, you are constantly being offered samples of the most wonderful treats -things like crystalized pineapple, nougat, chewy dried figs, chocolate truffles and fresh nuts coated in cinnamon and sugar. Trust me. This is a great way to enjoy a Saturday.
I’ve been to the La Defense market three times this year…It’s that good. My favorite purchase so far has been a gorgeous, red toile umbrella made by a company who has been in business since 1785. Now, when we walk the dogs in the rain, none of us will get the least bit wet.
Merry Christmas…and Joyeux Noel!
3 thoughts on “The Christmas Markets of Paris”
Merry Christmas, indeed! You’ve described something quite amazing!
Come over for a visit with Michele and we’ll show you guys EVERYTHING!!! (You just have to bring me one of those gorgeous fried chicken sandwiches from the little restaurant by your house!