It’s that magical time of year. Snow is falling, fires are blazing and Santa Clause is at the mall. Okay, maybe not in the South of France, but Christmas is definitely in the air. We have chilly mornings, hot chocolate, Christmas lights strung throughout the town and Père Noël peeking out of storefront windows.
What better place to celebrate the holiday season than on the French Riviera at the Village de Noël or Christmas Village in Nice, France! Experience the delight of handcrafted gifts, delicious food and play area for kids and kids at heart while visiting Nice over the holiday’s.
Christmas Market in Nice
The fun starts in Place Massena, where you can’t miss the towering Ferris Wheel (Grande Roue). The large skating rink (patinoire) beckons beginners and experienced skaters for five daily sessions of 1.5 hours each. Find a Christmas tree bucket ride, food and wine chalets with seating area and a decorated area with a ski lift seat for a cute photo opportunity.
Just across the Promenade du Paillon is the picture perfect Ice Palace that my kids enjoying running through on the way to the park.
The Fontaine du Soleil is enclosed with it’s huge statue of Apollo, turning the beautiful fountain into a large snow globe complete with color changing lights. This is also where you can pick up the Tourist Train if you want to ride through the city and learn about the must-see spots in Nice.
At Place Masséna you will also find a large Christmas shopping market (Marché de Noël) inside Jardin Albert 1er.
The two main entrances to the Christmas Market in Jardin Albert 1er are from the Promenade des Anglais and the Place Masséna near the skating rink.
There are about sixty wooden chalets in Jardin Albert 1er to purchase local handmade goods and tasty treats. This is a great location to purchase unique gifts for family and friends. It’s a good thing I have a friend coming to visit in a few weeks to take all my purchases back home to the US!
I plan to purchase a Provençal Santon, meaning “little saint”, and start a collection. A Santon is a small hand-painted, terracotta nativity scene figurine which is produced in the Provence region of southeastern France.
The santons represent characters from old-fashioned Provençal village life such as the the chestnut seller, scissors grinder and fishwife and are used in a traditional Provençal crèche (nativity scene). Interestingly, the figurines were first created during the French Revolution when churches were forced to close and large nativity scenes were prohibited. I’ve spoken to a few locals who remember their mother’s collecting them through the years and even starting collections for their grandchildren.
At the Place Masséna entrance, you will find a kids play area complete with Bungee Trampolines, climbing maze, bounce houses for little ones, rides and games. There are activities for many ages, so all kids can come in and enjoy some holiday fun.
You must try the local specialty, Socca, which is like a chickpea pancake. Kids will also enjoy churros, crepes, chestnuts, artisan chocolates, beautiful gingerbread treats, candied apples and waffles just like we had in Belgium.
Another must try is the tasty Hungarian style hollow cake commonly called chimney cake by English speakers. It’s served with your choice of cinnamon (cannelle), coconut (la noix de coco), chocolate (chocolate) or sugar (sucre). My kids love the cinnamon, but all the varieties smelled tempting! Make sure to ask for it hot (chaud) pronounced /shaw/. You will also find an oyster and champagne bar, as well as stands selling hot wine and Christmas beer.
The grand opening in 2015 included live music, an ice skating performance and fireworks! The kids had a blast and it was the perfect way to start off the holiday. Live music and free actives will take place on weekends and daily activities will start on December 21st. See the calendar for more activity specifics.
In Old Town, visit Place Rossetti to see the large nativity scene (Crèche Géante). I’m told that there will be live animals starting on the 23rd. While the children check out the square, adults can take a seat at one of the many restaurants for a glass of wine or cup of coffee (café).
Holiday activités can also be found throughout the city. Take a stroll at night to see the Christmas Lights twinkle. Place Garibaldi has huge Christmas ornament balls hanging from lighted trees. Shop for handmade gifts in some squares on the weekends.
Just this past weekend, Lucy and I were checking out all the handmade jewelry, purses, clothing, artwork and leather goods during the Grand local designers Christmas market or Grand Marché de Noël des Créateurs locaux. Of course, Lucy found something at just about every table that she HAD to have. Wonder where she got that from?
Entertain the entire family at the ice skating rink and Ferris wheel at the Christmas Market in Nice. Shop until you drop picking up local items for everyone on your list, then relax with tasty treats and drink. Hot wine anyone?
*As of 2015
Entrance into the Christmas Market = Free
Ice skating with rental = 5€ per person
Ferris Wheel = 7.50€ adult and 5€ for kids 6 and under
Christmas tree bucket ride = 4€ or 4 for 12€
Bungee Trampoline = 6€
Kids horse ride = 3€ each or 2 for 5€ or 4€ for 1 adult and 1 child
Kiddy play area with bounce house (15 minutes) = 6€ each or 4 for 20€
Sugar Churros (10) = 3.50€
Chocolate Dipped Apple (Pomme) = 2.50€
Oysters (10) = 6€
Belgium Style Waffles = 3€ with sugar or 4€ with Nutella
Hot Wine (vin chaud) = 3€
Christmas Beer (Bierre de Noël) = 4€
*Prices can vary by stand
Christmas 2016 Dates & Times:
December 2, 2016 – January 1, 2017
Open daily from 11am to 8pm and until 9pm every Friday and Saturday night
*Keep an eye out for the 2017 dates which should start the first Friday in December.
Have you been to the Christmas Market in Nice? What are you favorite European Christmas Markets?
It seems really weird to think of a Christmas market that’s not freezing cold and covered in snow but it looks like they have all the classic here – including the yummy food!
Meg Jerrard says
Sounds like a fabulous time of year – I love hitting up European Christmas markets, though we’re looking for a destination this Christmas which has a bit more of a moderate temperature, so I’m thinking that Nice just may well be the key!
[email protected] says
I love exploring Christmas markets and brining home a memento or two. The chickpea pancakes sound a little interesting and probably healthier than the churros or crepes that I would pick.
Nothing says christmas to me more than a market! Great post, I particularly love the Fontaine du Soleil, such a lovely idea!
I visited Nice in September and really enjoyed walking around town. It wasn’t time yet for the Christmas market but it surely looks appealing.
I’ve been to other Christmas markets in France, though!
Trisha Velarmino says
I love Christmas markets! This is the only place where I am happy there’s a big crowd and a lot of noise. It will make you feel really ‘Christmas-y!’ But I have yet to explore the Christmas markets in France. Looks really interesting!
Fiona @ London-Unattached says
Christmas markets are so pretty! it may be touristy but I love the The Fontaine du Soleil as a snow globe
Love it! I visited the Christmas markets in Trieste and in Milan and they looked kind of similar!
Mel @ Footsteps on Globe says
Perfect combination for Christmas markets, funfair for the kids (and the big kids!), ice skating and good food. Looks like so much fun and I have yet to go to Nice so I think I’ll be making a pitstop this over the Christmas period this year 🙂
Oh, that looks really nice! I have lived in Germany the past couple of years and absolutely love visiting the Christmas markets, despite that the fact that it makes my stomach grow! The saints also seem cute. I would love to have one of those!