Christmas is experienced in the south of France in a very familiar format and it is a perfect getaway by car from Catalonia to spend a few days with family and friends and experience the magic of Advent. Although the most famous Christmas markets in France are those of Alsace for their spectacular lighting and gastronomy, in the south we can also find good options.
From Collioure to Montpellier, from Carcassonne to Toulouse, you have several options to enjoy the family atmosphere of the Christmas markets in the South of France.
Christmas in Collioure: charm in the south
Colliure is one of the most important towns in the south of France. Its historic centre is one of the most charming and has an interesting history, partly related to the large number of refugees it took in during the Spanish Civil War. At Christmas time, a beautiful Christmas market is held on the grounds of the Château Royal – a medieval fortress that was an important strategic point for centuries. Here you can buy decorations and also sample some of the season’s sweet delicacies such as crêpes, gouffres and beignets.
To mark the occasion, winegrowers from the Collioure and Banyuls crus will be on hand to present their best vintages, along with local producers (anchovies, oysters, etc.) to the sound of the cobla and brass bands.
It’s a real gastronomic feast, with plenty of food and entertainment, and sumptuous combinations of food and wine.
Christmas in Argelès: traditions on the beach
Location: Place Gambetta, 66700 Argelès-sur-Mer
A Christmas by the beach is very possible and even more so in Argelès-sur-Mer, a village with a spectacular 7-kilometre beach and a beautiful promenade along the La Massane river that runs through it.
Here you’ll find a Village de Noël, a small Christmas village with chalets, in the Place Gambetta in the historic centre where Father Christmas and his elves often appear and where there are lots of activities for the little ones to enjoy this time of year and the holidays.
Another highlight is the Esplanade Charles Trenet, where every year Le Village des Réveillons is set up, another Christmas space with lots of children’s activities and even open-air concerts.
Perpignan Christmas market: Catalan-style tradition
- Location: Quai Sébastien Vauban, 66000 Perpignan
- From 25 November to 7 January – Confirmed
- Opening: 3pm to 11pm, with kids’ activities until 7pm
Because of its proximity to Catalonia, Christmas in Perpignan may remind you more of what you can see in Catalonia than the big light Christmas markets in Alsace. The Perpignan market is usually set up on Quai Vauban, between the Magenta Bridge and the Tourist Office, and forms a small Christmas village of about 35 small wooden chalets with modern and colourful decorations.
As usual in this type of market, there are regional artisan products on display, as well as gastronomic delicacies, which in the case of France include cheeses, crêpes, foie gras, etc. At the market there is a Father Christmas House in the main chalet where the little ones can leave their letters.
In addition to the Christmas stalls there are many other events to enjoy. For example, there are merry-go-rounds and Ferris wheels on the Place Catalogne and the city’s Christmas tree on the Place de la Victoire.
Village Noel in Le Barcarés – the Christmas paradise in the south of France
- Address: Bd du Grau Saint-Ange, 66420 Le Barcarès
- Dates: From 25 November to 8 January – Confirmed
- Entry: 5 €. Free tickets for children under 5 years
If there is one place for children to enjoy Christmas in the South of France, it is the Village de Nöel in Le Barcarès, a Christmas village specially built for the festive season to provide a Christmas entertainment space for the whole family.
Here the aim is to enjoy the concept of “Christmas” with its spectacular lighting, numerous food and craft chalets and many leisure attractions for children, including merry-go-rounds, merry-go-rounds and of course a large ice rink for skating. Inside the grounds you can eat in the numerous food and craft chalets.
Surely, if you’ve seen pictures, you might feel a little overwhelmed by the amount of stuff in this little place. But do not worry, One day is more than enough to visit the site. Remember. this is a recreation of a Christmas town, not a real town, so that all attractions that available they are very close to each other.
Christmas in Sète: festival and marrket
- Location: Chai des Moulins, 34200 Sète
- Dates: 8 to 10 December.
Times: Friday 5pm-9pm – Saturday 10.30am-9pm – Sunday 10.30am-8pm
- Public admission to the festival is FREE. There is a charge for admission to the concerts.
Sète is a pleasant seaside town in the south of France famous for its canals, quays and small squares. At Christmas time it organises the Drôle de Noel, a Christmas celebrations with plenty of activities and spaces programmed to create a festive atmosphere. Among the proposals are a forest of fir trees on the Place Léon-Blum-Aristide Briand, creative workshops for the little ones with shows and storytelling. And of course, there are also small Christmas market to enjoy the charm of Christmas in the South of France.
In Sète, the Marché de Noël des chais des moulins is turning traditions on their head. It’s called Baz’r and offers unique gifts, from origami lamps to cardboard furniture. The main aim is to create a quirky atmosphere with workshops, concerts, food trucks and even a campsite.
An offbeat Christmas market that’s both festive and creative. There are 70 ethical and eco-responsible exhibitors. There are also photography exhibitions and book and CD stalls. And don’t forget the concerts: 20 bands performing including pop-electro, rock and techno.
Narbonne Christmas market and a big fair
- Location: Canal de la Robine, 11100 Narbonne
- From 2 December 2023 to 1 January 2024 – Confirmed
Narbonne is a small and very accessible French town with a Roman heritage visible in the town and with Les Grands Buffets restaurant as a great gastronomic attraction. This Christmas it is set to reprise its French Nöel with a Christmas market with craft and gastronomic chalets on the quays around the Canal de la Robine (Promenade des Barques) – an UNESCO wolrd heritage site.
On the other side of the river, you will also find a large fair with numerous attractions: roller coasters, fairground trains, etc. In addition to the chalets, inside the Palais des Archevèques de Narbonne of the Narbonne Town Hall, the Palais du Jeu (Palace of Games) is a free play area with a Christmas atmosphere dedicated to children where special activities are organised for them, such as bread baking, make-up courses, cake making and decoration workshops, among others.
Outside (and on the remains of the city’s Via Domitia) you’ll find Le Patinoire, an ice rink open daily from 11am to 8pm (10pm during school holidays). For 3€ 45 minutes you can skate.
Also in Narbonne you will find La Maison du Père Noël – Santa’s house (Rue Parerie 7-9), where for €6 you can have your photo taken with him in a specially decorated house.
Christmas in Béziers: beautiful illuminations
- Location: Avenue Allés Paul Riquet, 34500 Béziers
- From 25 November 2023 to 7 January 2024 – Date confirmed
Béziers has put itself on the Christmas map in the South of France thanks to a proposal with around 20 Christmas chalets on the Avenue Allés Paul Riquet where traders, creators and craftsmen will offer the best gastronomic products from Monday to Sunday. The French love to add local products to these celebrations, and they are also very typical here.
The lights are very famous, in particular the illuminated garden.
The magic of Christmas in Carcassonne
Carcassonne is mainly known for its fortified city and the Canal du Midi, classified as World Heritage by UNESCO. In winter, for the end of year celebrations, the city centre of Carcassonne lights up and comes alive for one of the best Christmas markets.
Although the Cité Medieval is lit up at night and decorated with Christmas lights and decorations, it is not the place where most Christmas markets are held (although you can visit a gastronomic market at this time of year), which helps to take some of the load off the busy tourist area.
- Location: Gambetta square, 11000 Carcassonne
- From 2 to 31 December 2023 – Confirmed
It is the Place Gambetta that hosts the largest Christmas market, where a Christmas tree is often set up.
One of the most emblematic and outstanding places of Christmas in Carcassonne is also the Place Carnot, where a spectacular ice rink is usually installed and at nightfall it turns into a very lively light and sound show for skating.
The opening of Christmas in Carcassonne is usually reserved for the first week of December to celebrate Saint-Nicolas (6 December). During this celebration, the streets of the Citadel are animated with demonstrations and workshops on forging, calligraphy, coin minting, 13th century weapons…).
Carcassonne also hosts the Torchlight March, an illuminated parade from the Citadel to La Bastide. The march starts at the drawbridge with a torch in your hand, which you can buy there, and continues to the Bastide with hundreds of people.
Also in the medieval Cité you’ll find animations with fire in the Place du Prado.
Rooftoop Panorama Bar on Général De Gaulle Square
Another of Carcassonne’s unique Christmas venues can be found on the Place Général De Gaulle. On top of a scaffolding, the Rooftop Panorama Bar – a bar decorated with vintage ski gondolas where you can eat either outside or inside one of the gondola cabins, is scheduled to be reinstalled.
The space itself is quiet and quaint, but it’s a good place to spend an afternoon and have a bite to eat.
The Nöel in Carcassonne is intense, find out more!
Les Hivernales – Montpellier’s winter festivities
- Location: Esplanade Charles de Gaulle, 34000 Montpellier
- From 2 to 30 December 2023 – Confirmed
Les Hivernales is synonymous with Christmas in Montpellier. This market is set up on the Esplanade Charles de Gaulle and includes a hundred or so chalets of local traders and craftsmen where you can discover and taste regional products, mulled wine, but also toys or jewellery. The Hivernalles opens at night and several tents with chalets will be set up to keep out the cold.
Craftsmen and traders welcome visitors to their chalets to delight their eyes, their palate and their gifts. Gingerbread, macarons, candied fruit and sweets are not to be missed in the South of France.
Toulouse Christmas Markets
- Location: Place du Capitole
- From November 24th to December 26th – Confirmed
- Opening times: Sunday to Thursday: 10.30am to 8.30pm. Friday and Saturday: 10.30am to 10pm.
Christmas in Toulouse is quite spectacular with over 100 white chalets in the form of an illuminated Christmas village on the Place du Capitole. You can stroll through the alleys surrounded by fir trees and many chalets each one more beautiful than the other and offering many gift ideas: decoration, jewellery, unique designer pieces, games and toys, clothes.
As is traditional in the south of France, there is also no shortage of typical Christmas delicacies such as churros (yes, churros), mulled wine and aligot, a typical local mashed potato and cheese dish.
Christmas market of creators on the Rambles Jean Jaurès
Also in Toulouse you will find another small Christmas market specialising in the creations of local artists and creators.
Here you will only find chalets of jewellery experts, clothing creators, Christmas decorations and other objects produced by artisans. Next to this small market, you will find a large Christmas tree several metres high.
Skating rink in the Place du Capitole
To round off Christmas in Toulouse, if you like skating, don’t miss the skating rink in the Place du Capitole, a place where you can rent skates to enjoy one of the most fun activities.
Last but not least, the city will once again be decked out in Christmas lights.
Festival des Lanternes in Montauban
- Location: 43 Gd Rue Sapiac, 82000 Montauban
- Dates: 15 December 2023 to 11 February 2024
Festival des Lanternes (the Lantern Festival) takes place in Montauban, a town 50 kilometres north of Toulousse. This means that this year it will be a little more difficult to see it on a short trip from Catalonia, although you can of course visit it if you have more days.
The festival offers lantern lighting in different colours and shapes: pandas, a dragon invading the lake, the epic of the Aeropostal, but also dinosaurs.
Christmas markets in the South of France dates
It’s not all about the long weekend in December. Advent is the celebration that starts the four weekends before Christmas and marks the starting point for most Christmas markets in Europe. So, from the last weekend in November until 24 December and from Monday to Sunday you can enjoy the Christmas markets.
Of course there are exceptions and the calendar can change. Some cities move the dates forward and others keep them beyond 24 December. One example is the Christmas village in Le Barcarès, one of the most child-friendly options, which is usually open until after Epiphany.
The South of France at Christmas is a very accessible experience and includes many related events. The best thing is that you can go from one city to another without having to travel a long distance not only to visit the Christmas markets.