Monday, November 23, 2009

Christmas Market: Lille

Christmas market season is officially underway. Mulled wine, cookies, cakes and breads, and seasonal decorations galore will be available for purchase and for filling one with the holiday spirit in cities all over Europe from now until after the New Year. I decided early on that as long as I had a home base in Brussels I might as well make a point to visit as many such markets as I could. Who knows when or if I will ever be so strategically placed again? And really, who can turn down multiple tastings of mulled wine and cookies? So began my quest for Christmas overload. First stop: Lille, France.

Lille is an easy 30 minute Eurostar ride away from Brussels. A former industrial center that is known for being a bit rough around the edges, the city has worked hard in recent years to clean up its image. While Lille has what is quite possibly the ugliest cathedral in all of Europe (what happened to this thing?), it also has a nice old town and a lot of high-end shopping. We found the Christmas market in the Place Charles de Gaulle lined with little wooden stands and bustling with shoppers. A good mix of Christmas decorations, gift possibilities and edible treats abounded. Between me and my friend we bought an amber ring, a sterling silver ring, a colorful star-shaped paper lantern, a sign for the kitchen that says la cuisine, and an enormous warm beignet stuffed with whipped cream that didn’t last very long in our hungry hands.

I went to the Lille Christmas market hoping to return to Brussels bearing Christmasy stuff for my apartment. A few ornaments for my little store-bought Charlie Brown Christmas tree, an advent calendar and maybe a hand-carved nativity scene if I found just the right one. But we came home with none of those things. There just wasn’t anything along those lines that caught my eye enough to make me part with my hard-earned euros. The market was well worth the trip, and I enjoyed visiting a French city I had never visited before, but I’ll have to hope that another European Christmas market will have the Christmas paraphernalia I seek. Up next: Cologne, Germany.


Greg Wesson said...

I thought the same thing when I saw the cathedral. I was wondering if it suffered extensive damage in one of the wars. Turns out it was financial issues and modern architecture that gave the church its (being nice) "unique" look. The church was started in 1854 (thus the gothic rear of the cathedral), but because of cash problems, didn't get finished until 1999 (that's the modern, front part).

Jennie said...

I'm planning on staying in Brussels for a few days in June and taking day trips into Lille and Cologne and other nearby cities. Thanks for the info and pictures! I'm getting excited for my trip!

Personally I think German Christmas markets are always better than French ones. They know how to do Christmas!

Adriana said...

I love this time of year iN Europe mostly because of Christmas markets! I remember I went to a great one in Cologne and another one in Bern. The food was great, the decoration was just sooo cute and I bought a few handcrafts. Great antidote for the cold weather.

Sara said...

I love the European Christmas markets! The music, the decorations, the food. In my opinion there's nothig beter to get you into the holiday spirit. My favorite ones are the German ones, have fun in Cologne!

Tanya said...

@Greg, Lesson learned: leave the cathedral building to people not living in the late 20th century.

@Jennie, Lille is a super easy place to get to from Brussels. The perfect day trip. Brugges is also easy to get to and it's adorable.

@Adriana, I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the Cologne Christmas market. I can't wait to go there this weekend!

@Sara, Lots of fans of the German markets here, including you. Glad I put Cologne on my to-do list.

Tanya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.