With under six weeks to Christmas, towns across Brittany are starting to hang their Christmas lights and festive decorations. Many are also gearing-up to host Christmas markets; there certainly seems a lot planned this year. With so many to choose from, it can be difficult deciding which ones to visit as some can be a little underwhelming, especially if you’ve travelled from afar. So, to help you avoid the turkeys, here are 12 Christmas markets and outings that will give you a wonderful festive experience.
Rennes : 22 November to 31 December 2019
As you would expect from the largest town in Brittany, there are several Christmas markets taking place in the run-up to Christmas this year. The largest of which, with about 45 stalls, is on the Mail François Mitterrand and runs from 22 November to 31 December. There are a range of great dining options here and a special gourmet market every Wednesday.
For a great view of the Breton capital, take a ride on the illuminated Ferris wheel that dominates the market. A quick stroll through the bustling town centre bedecked with festive lights & decorations takes you to the Place du Parlement de Bretagne where you’ll find the monumental Palace Carousel; a unique ten meter high, two-storey carousel open from 30 November to 5 January. This year, the Town Hall’s facade will be brought to life by a Sound & Light show inspired by Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. The Son et Lumiere runs every evening from 20 December through to 5 January.
Le Domaine de Trévarez : 23 November to 5 January 2020
The grand Château de Trévarez stages a Christmas spectacle throughout the festive period and this year will transform itself into the palace of a thousand and one splendours as it showcases its take on the Tale of a Thousand and One Nights. The castle along with its beautiful formal gardens will be illuminated with spectacular colours & lights, leading you to discover oases, magical fountains, hidden princesses and genies. Let your imagination roam and expect the unexpected!
Rochefort-en-Terre : 29 November to 5 January 2020
A picture postcard perfect village regularly ranked among the most beautiful villages of France and recent winner of the coveted title of ‘Favourite village of the French’; this is a village that knows how to display itself to best effect and at Christmastime it does so spectacularly. There seem to be tastefully hung garlands & decorations wherever you look. The streets and alleyways are beautifully illuminated with the sparkling of tens of thousands of pretty lights.
A visit here at Christmas is a feast for the senses. The shop fronts vie for your attention with sumptuous displays that draw even the most jaded eye, enticing you in. Your sense of smell will be bombarded by roasting chestnuts and freshly made Breton delicacies like crepes and kouign amann. Tasty homemade spiced cake and hot mulled wine will ensure your taste buds get a thorough work-out too as you stroll through the ancient streets soaking in the festive spirit.
Saint Malo : 30 November to 5 January 2020
You’ll find St Malo’s Christmas market at Le Jardin des Douves, set out at the base of the impressive ramparts of this historic old walled town. There will be about 35 chalets selling handmade toys and local handicrafts and food stalls selling tasty festive goodies such as fresh pretzels, roast chestnuts, gingerbread and nougat. Don’t worry about the calories as you’ll be able to burn them off on the large outdoor ice rink across the road!
Vannes : 1 December to 5 January 2020
If you like your Christmas illuminations set against a stunning backdrop then the medieval city of Vannes will deliver; from the projections on the massive ramparts to the curtains of light spread over the cobbled streets of the old town. It’s a wonderful time to visit this beautiful city. A large ice rink, along with a smaller ice garden set aside for toddlers, will be set-up in Place Maurice Marchais from 20 December to 5 January. On this same square, there will be stalls cooking fresh crepes & waffles and serving hot chocolate and mulled wine. Take Santa’s Little Train down to the marina where you’ll find the Christmas market, featuring about 25 stalls. If you visit on 15 December then you’ll be well placed to greet the arrival of Santa Claus’ boat!
Dinan : 6 December to 24 December 2019
The pretty medieval town of Dinan exudes seasonal charm at Christmas and the switching on of the Christmas lights on 29 November heralds a month of festive activities. The Christmas market at Place Duclos will have about 30 chalets as well as a range of food stalls. This year, there will be an outdoor ice rink set-up in the centre of the market.
On 14 December, children will love the fairy show ‘the Dream of Herbert’ while a pyrotechnic show on the following evening is sure to entertain older children. The following weekend sees a spectacular ‘fairy parade’ through the historic centre of the town on 21 December and a fireworks display from the castle on 22 December.
Locranon : 7 December to 5 January 2020
One of the real beauties of Brittany, the picturesque small medieval town of Locranon is decked with lights and festive illuminations guaranteed to envelop you in seasonal cheer. The narrow cobbled streets, courtyards and town centre buildings are adorned with lights and decorations creating a delightful atmosphere in which to wander around this beautiful town. This year, a monumental 45m² crib, previously on display at Notre-Dame-de-Paris, will also be on show.
The Christmas market is expected to have 30 chalet-style stalls selling handicrafts, handmade toys & games and local produce. There will also be crepe stalls, roast chestnuts, mulled wine and cider to keep out the winter chill. Street performances and horse-drawn carriage rides will also add to the festivities.
Saint Brieuc : 7 December to 26 December 2019
This year, the town boasts a staggering 6km of garlands, 220 street decorations and over 190,000 Christmas lights. Follow the illuminated pathways to the Polar Village at Parc des Promenades, here amongst the illuminated firs you’ll find a magical realm of ice where igloos, penguins and polar bears surround Santa’s Grotto. Take a carriage ride as dusk falls and take-in the festive lights as you browse the food stalls. Towards the pedestrianised centre of town, you’ll hear the sound of music coming from one of many planned performances and discover creative illuminations, Sound & Light shows and a 25m toboggan run!
Street bands will be performing around the town centre on 15, 16 & 22 December before reaching the Polar Village. On 15-16 December, don’t be surprised if you come across two massive, fully articulated Indian cows. Part puppet, part machine, these massive creatures seem alive thanks to the talents of their team of manipulators. Enjoy the spectacle as they sway to the music or interact with each other and the public! As if two crazy machines were not enough, the afternoons of 22-23 December will see the Mekanibulle (imagine a steam-punk velocipede driven by Chaplin & Keaton and you’re about there!) loose in the town centre.
Quimper : 7 December to 31 December 2019
Historic Quimper is a beautiful setting for a traditional Christmas market set-up amongst the half-timbered buildings surrounding the Place Terre au Duc. Festive lights and decorations form the backdrop for wandering carol singers, street entertainers and vendors of hot chocolate, mulled wine and roasted chestnuts. An ice rink, located in the Espace Évêché, will be open from 13 December to 5 January and there’s a Christmas circus staged between 11 and 15 December.
Morlaix : 8 December to 31 December 2019
Under the shadow of Morlaix’s landmark 62m high viaduct will be found the Christmas market at Place des Otages. Featuring a range of stalls selling a variety of handicrafts & local produce, the market is the centre for a host of activities and games such as making Christmas wreaths, fir decoration contests and treasure hunts. Entertainment for children is the main focus here with readings of Christmas fairy tales and Santa’s Grotto. Next to the market will be a small children’s fun-fair and an outdoor ice rink suitable for all ages. Carriage rides and circulating carol singers are guaranteed to add to the festive feel. On 22 December, a Christmas tale for children will be projected onto giant geometric structures, nicely setting-up the main event – the arrival of Santa Claus, abseiling from the top of the viaduct!
Auray : 13 December to 31 December 2019
On the south coast, Auray is offering visitors and locals a range of festive treats centred around a Christmas Village, including: animated displays, games, musical performances, an outdoor ice rink, horse-drawn carriage rides and even a special Escape-Game. The Christmas market runs from 13 to 31 December and about 80 stalls are anticipated
Santa Claus will arrive, by boat, at the picturesque harbour of St Goustan on the evening of 13 December, just in time to join the grand parade the following day! There’s also a fireworks display on 21 December.
Abbaye de Bon-Repos : 22 December to 5 January 2020
Renowned for its spectacular summer Sound & Light shows, the 12th century Abbey of Bon Repos showcases the year’s main artistic installations; the captivating 7 metre high Celtic ‘Wish Tree’ sculpted out of wicker branches and ‘Stellar Dreams’, a re-imagining of the legend surrounding the founding of the Abbey crafted with over 30km of strained yarn. There will be special exhibitions, readings, puppet shows and childrens’ workshops between 26 December and 4 January. As dusk falls, wander the grounds as the abbey is transformed with lights and effects.
This is, of necessity, just a tiny snapshot of the many Christmas markets and fairs being staged here throughout the festive season; most are beautifully paired with delightful festive illuminations. So, keep your eyes out for signs to a ‘Marché de Noël’ and drop in; some of the small village markets are great fun and very welcoming to visitors.