Christmas market and ultra-modern skyscrapers… not two terms that usually go together.

I was in Paris last week for work. Having a few spare hours, I hopped on the metro to La Défense, largely for nostalgic reasons. (La Défense, as you might know, is the largest purpose-built business district in Europe). Back in the 90s, when I worked as an EU-adviser for the government, I had a few meetings out here and was quite taken with the cool, futuristic architecture.

Arche de la défense

Christmas markets, on the other hand, brings to mind the past. The markets originated in the German-speaking parts of Europe. (Vienna was first, as early as 1294). Often, the markets are set up in the old parts of cities, harmonising beautifully with ancient fountains, medieval church spires, Hanseatic houses…

But not always!

Between the Arche de La Défense and the slick, cutting edge glass-and-steel towers, I stumbled upon an entire Village de Noël, a Christmas Village – a very quirky Paris Christmas Market. As I strolled around the stalls, looking up at the brightly lit scyscrapers, the past and the future blended to make an interesting, all-encompassing present.

Innovative Christmas tree at Village de Noël, La Défense, Paris

Innovative decorations at Village de Noël, La Défense, Paris Innovative decorations at Village de Noël, La Défense, Paris

I never know what to get my mum for Christmas. Or my brother. But I managed to find quite a few unusual things here. This Christmas Village offers

This Paris Christmas Market is a cornucopia of fun and festive finds

Paris Christmas Market

Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris

Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris

Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris

Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris

Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris

Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris

Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris

Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris

Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris

Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris

Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris

Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris

… and food

Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris

Heaps of hams and sausages…

Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris

Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris

A giant pan for raclette to enjoy on the spot and foie gras to take home:

Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris

Honeys

Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris

Cakes and sweets

Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris

… and more sweets:

Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris

Say it with chocolate:

Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris

… and even more lovely, handmade chockies:

Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris

Paris hosts at least 10 different markets during Advent. The largest runs along Champs-Elyssés, from the Champs-Elyssés roundabout all the way down to Place de la Concorde. Another interesting one is at Trocadero, right next to the Eiffel Tower.

Many of the Christmas markets last until 2 January, so if you’re in or near Paris, there’s still time to get a few quirky Christmas presents and indulge: mulled wine, gourmet food, meats from Alsace, foie gras, honey, wine, cognac. And chocolate.

Christmas Village, La Defense, Paris