One of the most exciting parts of the this trip is seeing the Christmas Markets in Paris and Bruges. There are actually a couple of markets in Paris so we started with the biggest at La Defence in the modern commercial district of Paris.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Nuremberg and Cologne Christmas Markets in the past and these were just stunning. So much atmosphere and full of decorations and local produce. I was expecting the same for this Paris market and it wasn’t quite the same. The Paris market had no decoration vendors (other than a larger stand full of Chinese made pretty average decorations), and there were a mix of other cheaper gift products throughout the market.
La Defence Christmas Market
So, let’s not compare it to the major German markets but look at it by itself. La Defence market is very large market and some of the food produce in it was just amazing. Local suppliers of meats, wines, cheeses, and sweet treats such as nougat filled about half of the stalls. The wheels of nougat were about 20cm tall – I don’t know how they cut through them.
Another local treat we saw for the first time was heated cheese baguettes. The cheese wheels sit under these heating lamps and the cheese is so soft it is just scrapped off onto the baguette. Unfortunately my stomach wasn’t up for this after the flight, but I’m hoping it is at the next market as I can’t wait to give it a go. (This photo is the cheese heaters.)
I’m sure the atmosphere really kicked up when the light went down, but jet lag was starting to kick in so Zoe and I decided not to wait that long.
(One thing for visitors to prepare for is the security at all locations. All bags are checked as you enter main stores and markets (even the local drug store) and at the market we saw about 8 army/police with machine guns on hand. We don’t let this affect our trip, however, it is evident every where you go.)
Christmas Market Champs Elysees
The next experience was the huge Christmas market near the ferris wheel at the Champs Elysees. Massive! And so many people. We visited on a Saturday afternoon so there were locals and tourists all experiencing this special festive treat.
The Champs Elysees market was very similar to the La Defence market. There were beautiful local food producers, and delicacies to enjoy for dinner, but very few decoration vendors and a mix of other products as well. It is still a wonderful thing to experience, however, I find the inclusion of non-Christmas or non-homemade items a little disappointing. (Note: I visited the German markets in Nuremberg 15 years ago. It might be that the German markets have changed too in this time. So, I could be remembering a “pure” market experience that don't exist anymore. A friend has just been to Germany for their markets so I’ll get her report and add it to the blog in January).