7 small French towns that could star in an iconic film
In North America, Hallmark films have become part of Christmas tradition, a festive viewing of wellness films with the whole family, cuddled on the couch, with Christmas decorations surrounding you. But what about those of us who want to travel during the holiday season, but still love that warm sense of well-being that small Christmas towns give you in the movies?
If you find yourself in France, don’t worry, there are plenty of cute little towns and villages that give you the joy and charm of Christmas. I have selected a few of my favorite places that give you a warm and fuzzy feeling, with a cachet that makes your heart beat, and doubly so at Christmas time.
Here are a few not to be missed.
Imagine walking through the gates of medieval town, across an ancient bridge, looking at an ancient watermill sitting in the middle of the river. Nearby are restaurants overlooking the river and a main street decorated with pretty lights. Moret-sur-Loing sits on the perimeter of the Fontainebleau forest and is a picture perfect. If you ever wanted to send a Hallmark postcard from France, the view from the Moret-sur-Loing bridge would definitely be out front. No wonder the painter Sisley drew inspiration from the town, and you can follow in his footsteps on a private walking tour of all the scenic spots.
Pro tip: If walking along the Loing River will keep you occupied for a while, it is a small town albeit very picturesque, so why not combine it with nearby Fontainebleau, and also quite pretty, but a little more lively?
2. La Petite France, Strasbourg
Strasbourg is well known for its Christmas vibe, but when it comes to the perfect backdrops for the Hallmark cinema, head straight for the Old Quarter by the river. La Petite France was, in the Middle Ages, the homeland of tanners, due to its proximity to the Ill. At that time, I’m sure it wasn’t a desirable place, with the crowded houses, the narrow alleys, little squares, and those smells. Today, Petite France is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but at Christmas it is still the same as it was centuries ago, but much better. Tight half-timbered buildings, all a little twisted, tiny plazas filled with huts and stalls and glistening trees, and the lingering smells in the air are those of mulled wine, hot chocolate, sauerkraut sausage and many sweets. The river is now clean and gurgles through locks and a 17th century two-story dam. Add covered bridges and the cutest houses on tiny riverside peninsulas, and you’ve probably found France’s most iconic film location. I would never say you don’t watch all of Strasbourg, it is so beautiful, but La Petite France is where you can easily imagine a film crew capturing the absolute beauty and charm of this neighborhood. And you have a good chance that it is snowing on Christmas.
Pro tip: To truly immerse yourself in the romance of Petite France, stay at the Hotel & Spa Regent Petite France located in a former 17th century water mill, and you will be at the heart of the film.
Saint-Germain-en-Laye is a town located just across the Seine in Paris. Perched on a hill, with Paris stretching out below, not only are the views cinema-friendly, but the small town is too. The St-Germain-en-Laye market is full of a wonderful selection of fresh produce and produce stalls every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, as well as the narrow, cobbled streets that lead to a grand chateau and those views over Paris, are reason enough to love this community. But add the Christmas sparkle and the Christmas village that has the castle as a backdrop, and it gets really very picturesque. This is the place many prefer to live in central Paris, mainly due to the community, charm and quaintness, all less than 20 minutes by RER A train from Paris.
Pro tip: Sit with a coffee and a croissant on the terrace of the CafÃ© de l’Industrie, at the back of the market square, and watch the hustle and bustle and you will understand why this community is included. Everyone knows everyone else, stops to chat, then goes about their day-to-day business, and you can imagine a Hallmark plot going on here.
4. The Saint-Louis district, Versailles
Versailles is beautiful at Christmas, but for that extra charm, far from the rather grandiose palace, head to the Saint-Louis district. Here you won’t find imposing grandeur or rugged medieval history, but the superbly picturesque and charming âCarrÃ©s Saint-Louisâ. A village in the small town of Versailles, so very different from the rest of the city. There are plazas surrounded by tiny buildings, the ground floor usually housing an individual shop, art gallery, craftsman’s studio or small cafÃ©, and on the upper floor, old lodgings. All painted in beautiful colors, and too cute for words, these little buildings cover a few blocks. They surround picturesque squares where children play and the elderly sit and chat and were built under Louis XV as housing for a new market, perfectly retaining their unique charm that would be a perfect setting for a Hallmark movie.
Pro tip: Stay in Saint-Louis so as not to lose the Christmas atmosphere and sleep in the small and totally romantic HÃ´tel Berry.
Dijon has so many cute corners, crooked half-timbered houses and historic little corners, it’s always a delight. But at Christmas, all those special little corners are lit up, filled with market stalls, and turn into a Christmas wonderland. Especially the corner of Place FranÃ§ois Rude, almost too charming for words.
Place Darcy and Rue de la LibertÃ© are home to some sixty chalets selling fine arts and crafts and offering the best of famous Dijon cuisine, which is even better when tasted in winter. Who can beat a warming beef bourguignon? For a little extra treat this Christmas, head to the truffle market which is held in the market hall.
The pretty market hall, designed by Mr. Gustave Eiffel, famous for its tower, is one of Hallmark’s most iconic filming locations, with families doing their seasonal shopping, people meeting friends at the various stands around a glass of wine, and everything sparkles with pretty lights.
Pro tip: For that old world charm, stay at Maison Philippe le Bon, which is a beautiful hotel in the center, which has kept the old elements of the house and enhanced them with modern touches. The restaurant is superb too.
The capital of French Champagne blossoms at Christmas, with a Christmas market nestled around the ancient cathedral where the kings of France were crowned. Ignoring the rest of the city, as charming and historic as it is, and just strolling through the market, with its miniature train, Christmas trees everywhere, chalets filled with mulled wine and hot food, and pretty stalls Handcrafted, locally made Christmas decorations, gets that warm fuzzy feel pretty quickly. Families walk hand in hand, enjoying the miniature fun fair and the large snow globe where Santa Claus resides, and Christmas cheer is everywhere. What sets Reims apart when it comes to potentially staring in a Hallmark film are the little champagne outlets that appear on the market. Cozy little nooks where you are provided with a warm blanket and a flute of champagne, and you can just visualize someone meeting the (future) love of their life.
Pro tip: For a delicious, comfortable meal after a stroll through the city, head to the romantic L’Alambic for dinner.
7. Montmartre, Paris
Ask anyone, and most people will say Montmartre is their favorite neighborhood in Paris. And the reason? Because it is a perfectly preserved village within a large city. Perched on the Butte Montmartre, it not only offers great views but is distinctly different and separate from the rest of Paris. At Christmas, this village is prettier than ever. Even the merry-go-round, which always stands at the bottom of the steep steps leading to the SacrÃ©-Coeur, is prettier at Christmas if that is possible. But the twinkling lights, stalls and decorations enhance every feature of this neighborhood and if you can’t imagine a romantic girl-boy movie set in Place du Tertre, the one with all the artists exhibiting their wares, then you don’t. don’t have a romantic bone in your body. On the Place des Abbesses, the one with the magnificent metro station, a Christmas market takes over the square, and you can stroll past the little shops and cafes and find yourself in the cinema – literally, because that’s where Amelie was filmed.Pro tip: To soak up the atmosphere and project your own film montages into your head while watching life unfold on Place du Tertre, take a seat at La Mer Catherine, one of the oldest restaurants in Montmartre, dating back to 1793 .
Visiting France at Christmas offers opportunities for other activities: