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5 good reasons to celebrate Christmas on the Côte d’Azur

Until 7 January, the Côte d’Azur is dressed up in all its finery for the holidays, offering locals and visitors alike a unique, magical experience. From cheerful markets to romantic strolls, invigorating sea bathing and impressive fireworks, see how the region glows with a thousand lights for the end-of-year celebrations!

1- CHRISTMAS MARKETS TO TREAT YOURSELF (AND OTHERS)

While the East of France is traditionally the place to go for Christmas markets, the South isn’t left out – certainly not!

Here, little chalets rub shoulders with fir trees and palms for a gourmet festive shopping experience! The stalls are overflowing with hand-crafted creations, local products and unique gift ideas. Each market has its own unique atmosphere, rooted in local tradition, offering visitors an immersive experience at the heart of the magic of Christmas.

In Cannes, the market and ice rink await on Allées de la Liberté, very close to the funfair on Esplanade Pantiero.

In Nice, the Christmas village welcomes young and old alike in the Albert 1er garden under the big wheel.

In Antibes, carousel, workshops and gourmet cabins can be found on Place de-Gaulle and Place Nationale, and on the main esplanade of Pré-aux-Pêcheurs.

In Monaco, the village is celebrating the centenary of Prince Rainier III, while in Menton, it’s “Christmas in the countryside” at the Bastion mall.

In Grasse, exhibitors are setting up on Honoré-Cresp Avenue on 16 and 17 December only.

In Saint-Raphaël, the traditional Christmas market takes place on the seafront.

2- MAGICAL WALKS TO FEAST YOUR EYES

The streets of the Côte d’Azur come alive with romantic strolls, where street artists, storytellers and musicians captivate passers-by. Enchanting shows emerge in the alleyways, creating a magical, timeless feel.

  • In Cannes, don’t miss Father Christmas strolling around with his “white parade” made up of ten street artists, two inflatable horses, two inflatable snowflakes, four stilt walkers and ten musicians on 23 December.
  • In the heart of the Nice village, you can feel the beat and dance to the sound of traditional Christmas music with the performers on 10, 17, 27 and 30 December, and during the afterwork evenings with DJ on 15, 21, 22 and 28 December and 4 January.
  • In Antibes, a large wandering parade will be performing along the streets on 16 and 23 December in Juan-les-Pins, not forgetting the traditional arrival of Santa Claus on water skis on 20 December at 11.00am at La Baigneuse.
  • In Monaco, enchanting parades take place on weekends and every afternoon during school holidays, and the luminous fountains put on a show at the Stade Nautique Rainier III swimming pool on 16 and 23 December and 6 January.
  • The famous Menton parade is held on 23 and 30 December at the Casino Barrière, while the Magic Festival is yours to discover from 20 to 23 December on the Francis-Palmero esplanade.
  • In Saint-Raphaël, Father Christmas arrives by sea at the Old Port on 23 December, accompanied by a spectacular parade with Cies Cielo and Planète Vapeur, followed by fireworks and, at nightfall, a magical atmosphere projected onto the Notre-Dame-de-la-Victoire basilica!

3- CHRISTMAS NATIVITY SCENES iN THE PROVENCAL TRADITION

On 25 December 2023, we celebrate the 800th anniversary of the nativity scene initiated by Saint Francis of Assisi, in 1223, in Greccio, Italy. An opportunity to (re)discover the most iconic Nativity scenes in the region. With, first of all, the unmissable Lucéram nativity scene circuit. For its 26th edition, more than 500 nativity scenes are on display in the streets of this village in the Nice hinterland. A unique getaway to discover a multitude of nativity scenes created by the locals.

For life-sized versions, don’t miss the giant “Lou Présépi” nativity scene on Place Rossetti in Nice with its seventeen automatons!

Or the historic Le Suquet nativity scene in Cannes, created in 1920 and entirely restored by Gilles Mangiantini. These 80 polychrome plaster characters (with an additional twenty or so automaton characters) are still in their original decoration and accompanied by the same music box which plays the notes of the most famous Christmas carols of the last century.

4- INVIGORATING SEA BATHING

Want to end the year in style or take on the next one with renewed energy? Christmas and New Year sea bathing attracts a crowd of brave souls every year. A tradition that comes from Nordic countries where bathing in cold water before diving into a steam bath is considered good for your health.

We should point out that it takes more courage in Scandinavia than here in the South to follow this tradition. But whatever the temperature, diving into the Mediterranean waters at Christmas time remains an invigorating, original and unforgettable experience!

For Christmas bathing, head to Nice for the 77th edition at Plage du Ruhl on 17 December from 10.30am with its parade of traditional “pointu” boats, swimming race and popular bathing. The same day, in Villefranche-sur-Mer, sportsmen and women can take part in the Mounta Cala Races, followed by the Christmas swim at 11.30am.

In Saint Raphaël, bathing takes place on 30 December from 11.30, while in Antibes, they dive into the sea for the New Year, on 1 January 2024 at 11.00am at Salis beach.

5- FIREWORKS TO SET YOU DREAMING ABOUT THE NEW YEAR

To celebrate the old and new years, the Riviera sky lights up with dazzling colours. A breathtaking fireworks show that brings together locals and visitors in common celebration, marking the transition to a new year full of promise.

To watch the grand fireworks display on 31 December dead on midnight, head for the Bay of Cannes. This year, the fireworks show will have the theme “Charlie Chaplin”.

In Monaco, there are no fireworks for New Year’s Eve, but a big dancing evening from 9.00pm and a light fountain show at midnight.

In Saint-Raphaël, the 31 December party will take place in the Bonaparte garden with DJ from 6.30pm to 9.30pm, followed by fireworks.

Finally, the major fireworks of the new year will be launched on 1 January at 6.00pm in Juan-les-Pins.

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