There is a reason why all the best European cruises dock on the coasts of France. Its rich cultural tapestry, exquisite cuisine, and incredible history make it one of the best places in the world to visit.
As you might expect, the holiday season in France is a special occasion. Tapping into its veneration of tradition and deep appreciation for its cultural icons, the country is transformed over the festive period into a winter wonderland, with a uniquely magical atmosphere.
If you are looking for a blend of elegance, sophistication, and fascinating tradition this Christmastime, then take a look at the best seasonal customs that France has to offer.
Strasbourg: Capital of Christmas
Strasbourg is a fascinating city, blending the best of French and German culture to create a truly stunning festive atmosphere. Hailed as the ‘Capital of Christmas’, the city pulls out all the stops when it comes to the holidays, making it one of the best places to experience a European Christmas. Strasbourg’s Christkindlmärik is one of the oldest Christmas street markets in the world and transports you to a world filled with glowing festive lights, artisanal crafts, warm bredele cookies, and the aroma of mulled wine!
Midnight Mass in Paris
Paris does high religious spectacle and sacred grandeur better than almost anywhere else in the world, and the profound cultural and religious significance of Christmas in France reaches its zenith on Christmas Eve. Midnight Mass in the Gothic masterpiece that is Notre Dame Cathedral is a truly spiritual experience, an extraordinary combination of devotion, architectural beauty, and crystal-clear voices raised to the heavens in song!
Provence’s Thirteen Desserts
Cuisine is an incredibly important part of French culture, so it is unsurprising that there are plenty of fascinating culinary traditions included in Christmas celebrations. Provence offers one of the most delightful, in the form of the Thirteen Desserts. Served after the main Christmas meal, each dessert from nougat to candied fruit symbolizes one of the twelve apostles, as well as Jesus Christ himself.
Lyon’s Festival of Lights
The city of Lyon is known throughout the year for its commitment to lumière, so it stands to reason that its Festival of Lights over the Christmas period is a breathtaking sight. Held in early December, the Fête des Lumières transforms the city into a mesmerizing canvas painted in light, projections, and illuminated installations, combining to form an unforgettable festive experience.
Burgundy Wine Tasting
Burgundy is the center of fine wine and viticulture in France, and a seasonal trip to this remarkable region makes for an incredibly sophisticated Christmas experience. While the grapes might be long gone, wandering the frozen vines is a charming aperitif before getting down to a festive wine-tasting extravaganza!
Nice’s Promenade des Anglais
Nice’s Promenade des Anglais might be a peculiar name for a seafront street in the south of France, but it is one of the most beautiful parts of this exquisite town, as well as being one of the most festive parts of Nice during Christmas! Thanks to its mild winter weather the Cote D’Azur remains somewhere you can spend time outside, even in December, which makes the vibrant Christmas market on the promenade one of the loveliest spots in the country. From Provençal crafts to regional delicacies, it is a fantastic opportunity to get away from the cold and enjoy the fresh Mediterranean air.
Christmas in France is out of the ordinary in many ways. From cultural traditions to delicious culinary morsels, there are so many things to do that take you on a festive journey through this fabulous country and offer a wonderful way to celebrate the Christmas season with traditional French festivities.