It’s the mostttt wonderful time of the year!!
When you think of the Cote D’Azur, I’m sure you’re imagining blazing hot sunshine, crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches – the words ‘cold’ and ‘Christmas’ probably don’t spring to mind. After living in France throughout the run up to Christmas, I can confirm that xmas time is a big deal (although not ‘mid-November Christmas light switch on big deal’ like it is in the UK which I was very relieved about!) I visited Monaco, Nice, Antibes and Cannes to suss out their xmas markets and researched other festive activities which I will share in this post – enjoy!
Located in Port Hercule, you can find the Monaco Christmas Village which consists of many wooden chalets selling edible treats and gift ideas, a large ferris wheel and even a 1000m² ice skating rink. Whenever I normally visit Monaco, I always leave feeling incredibly poor but always with a full pocket (sadly not due to my never-ending funds but simply because I can’t afford to do any shopping there!!) Therefore, I was surprised at the very reasonable prices in the market – €6 per person for a ride on the ferris wheel, ice skating for €6.80 and a crêpe and diet coke for €5.50. As with all xmas markets on the Cote D’Azur, entry was free so the chance to experience the festivities without even having to spend a penny is there too! Sitting watching the ice skating with the luxurious megayachts behind is a great way to feel the Christmas spirit in true Monaco style!
Also worth a visit is Monte Carlo – one of the five main districts of the principality. Outside ‘Monte Carlo Casino’, you can find a winter wonderland scene of white Christmas trees with glitzy gold stars and there are a few cabins selling luxury gifts; although a bit too pricey for me! ‘Le Metropole Shopping Centre’ also has some INCREDIBLE xmas decorations inside which are well worth a visit – tree goals to say the least!
I would highly recommend a festive trip to Mona-ho-ho-ho (sorry I couldn’t resist!)
Antibes is a place which already makes me feel quite christmassy due to the snow capped mountains on the horizon but the Christmas market and decorations around the town added to this festive spirit. The main Christmas Village is located on the ‘Esplanade Pré des Pêcheurs’ which is the large square next to the port (I’d never associated yachts and Christmas together but we are on the Cote D’Azur after all) It opens later in the month than other places in the month on 15th December but it is certainly worth the wait. There are numerous wooden cabins selling jewellery, small gifts and a very large selection of food – and it wasn’t just your standard churros and crêpes on offer. Paella, cheese, mussels; it was a hard choice but I couldn’t resist ‘Krispy Kornet’ which served delicious chicken strips and chips for just €7.50.
In the Christmas Village, you can also find a large ferris wheel offering amazing views over the yachts and town and a 450m² ice skating rink (note that gloves are essential although you can hire a pair for €3) The price for ice skating was the cheapest I have seen on the french riviera at only €3 – looks like it’s time to get your skates on!
Head further into the town and the Christmas spirit does not fade. In the ‘Place Nationale’ you can find rides including a merry go round and a slingshot whilst in the ‘Place de la Gaulle’ there is a festive train ride available for smaller kids.
Cannes is another place on the Cote D’Azur which provides a great display during December. Located on ‘Allée de la Liberté’, you can find Cannes’ xmas market with a golden glitzy entrance sign which is so very typical Cannes-esque.
The glamour is continued inside with glitzy little lights, cabins filled with jewellery and trinkets and an ice skating rink (€3 per hour between 13:00-21:00 with mornings reserved solely for children) I didn’t feel like there was as much of a variety of food types as other places I’ve visited but I found a crêpe stall which caught my eye (well what crêpe stall doesn’t catch my eye!) I had mine with caramel and my sister chose Nutella which cost us €6.50 in total. You can’t visit an xmas market without a toasty hot drink so we also got a white hot chocolate and mulled apple drink to wash it down. Prices were reasonable once again – €2.60 for the apple juice and €3.70 for the hot chocolate. In fact, I haven’t really found the prices at any christmas markets out here to be too much which is quite surprising considering they’re tourist honeypots – it’s nice to see market sellers spreading the good cheer!
A more traditional Christmas celebration to visit is located in ‘Le Notre Dame de l’Espérence’ church in the old town. It’s free to enter and inside, you can find an impressive nativity scene which seems to get bigger year on year – even though I’m not religious, it’s a good reminder of the real reason why Christmas exists.
Arguably the ‘capital’ of the Cote D’Azur, Nice unsurprisingly does not disappoint at Christmas time. The ‘Village de Noël’ is located in the ‘Place Massena’ and is not short of things to do – a large illuminated ferris wheel (visible from a plane too if you’re flying in), numerous cabins filled with gift ideas and food and there’s even the chance to meet Father Christmas himself! An ice skating rink was also on offer for just €5 per hour (I feel like this post is just becoming a ‘compare the price of ice skating rinks’ haha) I visited at night which I think is deffo the best time to go. The lights are all illuminated, live music fills the place and it’s the perfect opportunity to get all dressed up warm and sip on some mulled wine mm mm mm. Of course, I couldn’t come to a Christmas market and not try out the sweet treats on offer so I picked up 12 churros (with Nutella obviouslyyy) for only €5.
What else is on?
There were lots of other christmassy places I wish I could have visited whilst I was staying in France but unfortunately differing schedules did not co-operate. Valbonne hosts a Christmas market in the centre the village from 21st-24th December and, if the regular market held every Friday morning is anything to go by, I’m sure it would be amazing!
I drove past the Christmas Village at Cagnes-Sur-Mer whilst on my way to Nice and was disappointed that I didn’t have chance to pay it a visit. Located in ‘Place de Gaulle’, the wooden cabins featuring in other xmas markets were replaced for white marquees but this did not seem to detract from the quality nor magic of the market – definitely a reason to come back next year!!
Villeneuve Loubet advertised another great Christmas market in the old town however what really attracted me was the ‘Bain de Noël’ on the seafront. Taking place on a Sunday morning in the middle of the month, hundreds of brave festively dressed individuals take the plunge into the sea; I know that the south of France has the advantage of slightly warmer waters but it would deffo be something I’d rather be a spectator for! Nevertheless, it looked like a fun and exciting way to get into the festive spirit.
What better way to get into the festive spirit than to take a day trip to the snow! Yes, thats right – snow near the Cote D’Azur! Okay so it’s not exactly onnnnn the Cote D’Azur but there are buses available from Nice which take you direct to ski resorts including Valberg, Auron and Isola 2000 in around an hour and a half. It costs €12 for a return trip but pre-booking is essential – more information can be found on https://www.lignesdazur.com/fr/bus-100-neige/1023.I was soo gutted not to have the chance to try this out for myself but sadly bus timetables and au pair commitments do not always go hand in hand.
So that concludes my lowdown on what to do at xmas time on the Cote D’Azur. Despite it’s summertime reputation, there is plenty of festive fun to be had!!