Best places to shop for Christmas gifts
Here we are again… in less than a month, it’ll be Christmas already! Lights, decorations, Christmas markets, and then… the presents! These famous Christmas presents that each year have to be more original than ever. But where can you find them? Well, what if Provence took its place under your Christmas tree?
Christmas is a great excuse for giving presents! It’s also an opportunity to let the people you love discover quality local products. So this year, why not choose an authentic Christmas present made by a small producer in Provence, wander around the Christmas markets in search of Christmas traditions and activities, or find an original gift on your Christmas shopping spree to Marseille or Aix-en-Provence? For the occasion, My Provence is suggesting some good ideas and good contacts for finding gift ideas for children and adults alike.
QUALITY GIFTS FROM SMALL LOCAL CRAFTSPEOPLE AND PRODUCERS
From Marseille to Arles, via Aix-en-Provence and Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, pop in to the workshops of the local craftspeople and producers and thereby help your family and friends discover quality local products: the famous ‘Savon de Marseille’ soap, olive oil, ceramics and pottery, santon figurines, or sweet treats from Provence. Take the time to go round the workshops and appreciate the skill of the craftspeople and producers in Bouches-du-Rhône. Our ideas for authentic gifts:
The Chocolaterie de Puyricard welcomes you into its preparation laboratory for tourist visits, workshops, and creative classes – as well as selling chocolates and calissons, the local confectionery speciality. A great opportunity to have fun as a family or in a group and go home with a lovely box of Christmas chocolates.
‘Savon de Marseille’ soap makes a lovely, original Christmas gift that’s Provençal and 100% natural – and what’s more, it smells so good too! There are still a few small-scale soap-makers left, like the Savonnerie Marius Fabre in Salon-de-Provence, and the Fer à Cheval and the Sérail in Marseille. These are some of the last manufacturers to abide by the various steps in making traditional Marseille soap. Find out more about the soap-makers who are still making traditional ‘Savon de Marseille’ soap – take a look at our special soap guide.
Puyricard chocolate factory
Marius Fabre soap
Another original Christmas gift idea: a candle from the Ciergerie de l’Abbaye des Prémontrés in Tarascon. Since the 15th century, this Premonstratensian abbey has been using two traditional techniques to make candles and tapers of all shapes. You can go round the workshop, but you must ring in advance to find out which days they will be making candles. A light that will be a sensation on your Christmas table – or as someone’s gift under the tree!
At the santons Arterra studio in the Le Panier area of Marseille, you can go round the workshop to see where these little clay figures called santons are made, and especially the hand painting (with a speciality of plain white figures) of the little figures before they end up in a Nativity scene. Even though santons are not really considered Christmas presents, they are all part of the Christmas traditions in Provence, and you could give one as a present to complete a friend’s crib, for example. To learn more about santons
For foodies, the confiserie Lilamand in Saint-Rémy de Provence offers tours of its workshops, where they have been making crystallized fruits and the local speciality calissons since 2009. A chance for you to go home with an attractive assortment basket as a present for your loved ones for a jolly sweet Christmas.
You can also find the local craftspeople and small producers in Provence on myprovence.fr
Ciergerie of the Abbey of Prémontrés (pictureTwinky Lizzy
Christmas crib figures of Arterra
For a sweet gift, ofer candied fruits from Lilamand
DO YOUR CHRISTMAS SHOPPING AT THE TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS MARKETS AND MAKE IT A FAMILY OUTING
To do your Christmas shopping, it’s often simplest to go for the quickest solution. Goodbye Internet, here come the Christmas markets in the villages of Provence! Traditional market, craft market, Provençal gastronomy, santons fayre, and Christmas entertainment… Some fine opportunities selected by My Provence to do a bit of tourism and have fun as a family.
From 2–4 December, Châteaurenard is holding a major producers’ market for filling your Christmas shopping basket with local specialities, as well as products from Alsace, South-West France, and Brittany. On the programme for the weekend: fireworks, parade of lights, Nativity play… Make the most of the occasion to see round the distillerie du Frigolet and take home a little liqueur made using 30 different plants.
On 3 and 4 December, the town of Tarascon is holding the Christmas tastes and treats market, an occasion to give presents of local gastronomy with, among others, a market for the traditional 13 desserts. And not forgetting the santons fayre, Nativity scene, Christmas carols and stories, and the Advent Pastoral, a magical light show.
If you’re near Salon-de-Provence on Friday 9 December, we recommend going along to the opening of the Christmas market in Pelissanne Friday evening from 6 o’c: you’ll be welcomed by traditional dancing and Provençal Christmas songs. The market runs all weekend.
Saturday 10 December, Peyrolles-en-Provence is hosting the 3rd “Hand-made Christmas Market” as part of its Christmas market. From 10 am to 7 pm, come and choose your unusual, special, original Christmas presents from over 100 local artists and craftspeople. Presents for children, as well as activities and creative workshops. And to bring the day to a fine close, watch the fireworks before sampling the Christmas mulled wine.
In Salon-de-Provence, the Christmas Market chalets will be welcoming you right up to 24 December for doing your Christmas shopping, decorating your table, and preparing your Christmas meal. And on 10 and 11 December, the “Hand-made Christmas Market” is an opportunity to discover around twenty artists and craftspeople for some original, unique gifts for young and old alike. Three other communes in Bouches-du-Rhône are taking part in this event, initiated by A little Market, a website selling hand-made articles from French artists and craftspeople online.
Around Marseille, on 10 and 11 December, Allauch welcomes you to its Christmas Village for a weekend in Provence to come and do your present shopping. And the little extra for this outing? The tourist visit to the Gilbert Orsini Nativity scene: 800 santon figures, 45 of them animated, plunge you into the Provence of a bygone era.
Find Santa Claus on your Christmas Market
Marseille Christmas Market
Aix Christmas Market
How about preparing Christmas in Cassis? From 2–11 December, come and do your Christmas shopping at the market, with numerous local craftspeople, artists, and producers, all in a festive, friendly atmosphere. On the programme: musical activities and creative workshops for adults and children, guided tours about Provençal Christmas traditions, Provençal songs and dancing. And if you want to give a unique present to a unique person, visit the “L’eau de Cassis” museum and shop and create your own perfume.
In Aix-en-Provence, in addition to the traditional Christmas chalets along Cours Mirabeau, from 9–18 December come and wander round the “Made in Aix” Christmas market set up by an association of traders. And on the gastronomic side, from 16–24 December the Bouches-du-Rhône Chamber of Agriculture is holding the 13 desserts market, a traditional event that brings together 40 local producers. And don’t let’s forget the traditional Santons Fayre.
On Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 December, the little village of Eyguières is holding an Italian-themed Christmas market with a number of Italian producers and musical and theatrical activities. An opportunity for a tourist trip to Italy and to discover a Christmas market that’s rather different
In Baux-de-Provence there’s no Christmas market as such, but from 17 December there are a great many activities in the purest tradition of Christmas in Provence: storytelling, Christmas stable, Nativity scene, riddles, and workshops to make santons while you’re waiting for Father Christmas to call.
In Marseille, you have to go right down to the Vieux-Port to do your Christmas shopping and take advantage of the great many activities from 19 November to 31 December. Don’t miss the traditional Christmas Santons Fayre
You can find all the Christmas markets in Provence under the heading myprovence.fr Diary
Christmas Market in Salon-de-Provence
DISCOVERING ARTS AND CRAFTS MARKETS…
December is already here and you still haven’t got any ideas for original Christmas presents to put under the tree? Don’t panic, this is also the season of the arts and crafts markets and as luck would have it, My Provence has found these five good ideas for you in Marseille and Aix-en-Provence:
For the last two weekends leading up to Christmas, go to the Grand Arts & Crafts Christmas Market on Cours Julien. With over 150 stands by artists and craftspeople, you’re sure to find your Christmas presents: jewellery, textiles, paintings, ceramics, decorations, leathergoods, etc.
And if you’re hesitating, you’ve still got a chance to make someone happy with the Arts & Crafts Market at the Friche Belle de Mai on 17 and 18 December as part of the Fairground Follies event. More than 80 traders will be there to help you with your Christmas shopping while having fun at the super Belle de Mai funfair.
In Aix-en-Provence, the 4-star Aquabella Hotel is holding an Arts & Crafts Market on 7 December. Perhaps an opportunity to find luxury gift ideas in this comfortable, agreeable leafy setting.
Since 1 November and right up to 31 December, the Pop-up Workshop in Aix-en-Provence is giving you the opportunity to discover a number of gift ideas from young lady artists: jewellery, bags and clutch-bags, ready-to-wear clothing, etc.
Throughout the month of December, **the Collectif des Coquettes **run by three young lady artists welcome you to their pop-up shop in Aix-en-Provence. Three artists, three styles – and a great many more than just three gift ideas for children and adults!
Offer a designer bag Made in Provence
In the atmosphere of a creative market
… AND CHRISTMAS SHOPPING TRIPS FROM THE BLOGGERS
And lastly, if you’re short on ideas for trendy, original gifts, just for you My Provence has selected three bloggers’ Christmas shopping trips in Martigues, Aix-en-Provence, and Salon-de-Provence:
Following Ma Cigale is fantastic in Martigues
Following Anaïs et Pedro in Aix-en-Provence
Following Amélie in Salon-de-Provence
Find all our shopping trips in Provence
Christmas shopping in Aix-en-Provence
OUR SELECTION FOR ORIGINAL GIFTS 100% “MADE IN PROVENCE”
In the My Provence Shopping guide, discover dozens of places where you can unearth unique, authentic, original Christmas gifts so you can treat your family and friends to a little bit of Provence. Here’s a small selection of trendy places not to miss, emblematic of Provence, where you can find “Made in Provence” gift ideas for children and parents:
If there’s one unmissable emblematic place to do your Christmas shopping in Marseille, it has to be Maison Empereur, a hardware shop that’s a real “Aladdin’s Cave” where all the Marseille folk go. Soap, knives, kitchen utensils, decorations, and vintage toys for the kids: a sure bet for your Christmas presents.
Giving someone a Christmas present of a set of pétanque balls from the shop Boule Bleue is giving them a game of pétanque in the depths of Winter, and at the same time the scent of the pines, the sea, the pastis, and even the song of the cicadas.
How about giving a 100% made in Provence souvenir – the local drink: pastis. Since 1928, the Janot distillery in Aubagne has been making a number of alcohols typical of the Bouches-du-Rhône département so you can put a wee drop of Provence in your glass.
To enjoy Provençal flavours for your 100% Provençal Christmas meal and give a gastronomic gift, do go to the Marius Bernard shop in Saint-Chamas. They’ve been bottling and canning local produce here since 1958.
Giving sweet things at Christmas brings your loved ones happiness all year round. At the foot of the Garlaban, le Moulin Bleu shop in Allauch lets you put together a gift basket of delicious Provençal specialities: navettes, nougats, suces miel, chiques, and casse dents. And the cherry on the cake is the opportunity to watch a film about how they’re made in the workshop.
L’épicerie du Baràvin in Arles is a trendy place to go for you your Christmas gifts: decorations, ceramics, olive oils, sardines, sweetmeats… attractive, fine products to delight any foodie.
Find gift ideas at Maison Empereur in Marseille
Christmas gift idea: boules balls
Discover all our Christmas gift ideas in our “Made in Provence” shopping guide
Special itineraries and guides for touring the Bouches-du-Rhône by bike!
Time to eat outside
Picnics are a great way to escape from routine and spend some quality time with friends, family or your partner. Whether you opt for the seaside, a park or vineyard, they are an ode to simple pleasures and sharing.
Top tips from a celebrity from Arles
1 person, 1 town = advice and tips for getting to know the town like a local
Time to row
Fancy grabbing your paddle and swishing off to the translucent waters of En-Vau fjord? Test your biceps with a kayak tour of the myriad of fjords dotted along the coast between Cassis and Marseille.
Would you believe us if we told you the best ever train ride is right here in the Bouches-du-Rhône?