Many European rail travelers will know Lille as one of the main hubs for the Eurostar, with trains continuing on to London, Paris and Brussels. However, for 6 weeks prior to Christmas take time out to stop off at one of France’s best Christmas markets. It’s close proximity to London makes it an ideal day-trip. Take the Eurostar to Lille from St Pancras and be in the city within 90 minutes.
From November 24th to December 30th, the city center’s Place Rihour hosts wooden chalets selling international Christmas arts and crafts. It’s possible to find goods here from Poland, Russia, Canada, Ireland and Native America. This is the place to buy gifts, Christmas decorations and festive food. Grab a tasty gingerbread and sample a warming glass of mulled wine.
Lille Christmas Market — Dates and Times
Lille Christmas market (marché de Nöel) opens daily from 11am and closing times vary depending on the day/date. Sunday to Thursday the market closes at 8pm, whilst Fridays and Saturdays it closes one hour late at 9pm. However, closer to Christmas the market stays open until 10pm on Saturday December 4th, 11th and 18th and on Thursday December 24th (Christmas Eve) and 30th it closes early at 6pm. Lille market is closed Christmas Day.
The Arrival of Lille’s Father Christmas
One of the best days to be in Lille is December 19th, when Santa Claus makes a dramatic entrance by “falling” from the 80-meter high belfry of the Chamber of Commerce. Having survived the fall in one piece, Father Christmas (Père Nöel) then hands out sweets to onlookers.
The Big Wheel
The city also gets into the festive season with Christmas carols and a ride on Lille’s Big Wheel, which gives a stunning few of the city and all its decorations and 18-ft high Christmas tree. The Big Wheel is open from November 24th to the begining of January, from midday until late evening.
Lille is an enticing French city for the shopaholic. When you become tied of the Christmas market stalls there are around 3900 shops in the city to explore, from designer boutiques and luxury stores to international chains. The large Euralille shopping mall adjacent to Lille Europe railway station is home to many shops, cafes and restaurants. Most shops are also open the last 3 Sundays before Christmas.
Other Christmas Markets in France
Whilst Lille Christmas market is very convenient for rail travelers from the UK, other Christmas markets in France include those in major cities such as Marseilles, Bordeaux and Paris. Strasbourg Christmas market is the biggest and most famous in France and it runs throughout the whole of December. For those European travelers who want to take in the flavor of Christmas markets further afield, then Germany’s Cologne Christmas markets are some of the best in the region.