KENSINGTON PALACE PAYS TRIBUTE TO ULTIMATE STYLE ICON THAT WAS PRINCESS DIANA

Une expo qui vaut le détour si vous êtes à Londres. An exhibition that is worth a detour if you are in London.

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One of the most photographed women in the world, she inspired millions of women and designers the world over with her impeccable red carpet looks.

Now, nearly 20 years since her death in Paris in a car accident (on the 31st of August, 1997), Princess Diana is being celebrated as the fashion icon she was in a beautiful exhibition held in the place she called home for over 15 years, Kensington Palace. A great occasion to witness the late Royal’s evolution from a shy debutante with a country girl style to a daring fashionista who communicated through her clothes.

The exhibitionDiana: Her Fashion Story” starts with the Emanuel pale pink chiffon blouse she wore during her first official portrait in 1981 captured by Lord Snowdon and follows with the Bill Pashley brown tweet suit the princess famously wore on her honeymoon in Balmoral in 1981. As time went by, Diana clearly grew more confident, even making comments on the sketches that were sent to her for approval, and in the latter years of her life, thanks in part to her supermodel figure that made any dress she wore look fantastic, it was obvious that Diana no longer followed trends but instead set them. From the sleeveless above the knee outfit she wore to a Christies Auction Gala in New York in 1997, to the green silk velvet evening gown with diamond buttons she wore for a 1997 Vanity Fair photo shoot by Mario Testino, both dresses Catherine Walker creations, she was by then in full control of her image and definitely helped put British fashion designers on the map.

The 25 dresses on display have been lent back by private owners who had acquired them during the famous aforementioned auction where the princess put 79 of her gowns up for auction for charity.

This exhibition is just one of the many events that are going to be organized this year to commemorate the life of Princess Diana. Already, some 12,000 of her favourite flowers, including narcissi, tulips and roses, have recently burst into life thanks to the early spring weather. Created by the gardeners at Kensington Palace, this temporary White Garden was inspired by Diana’s white “Elvis” Catherine Walker dress that is on display, and also includes a few touches of colour in tribute to the Princess’s sense of fun and spirit.

CONTACT DETAILS
Kensington Palace
Kensington Gardens
London W8 4PX
United Kingdom

THE WINTER WONDERLAND THAT IS VIENNA

Souvenirs de mon week-end à Vienne pour Riviera Buzz. Souvenirs from my weekend in Vienna for Riviera Buzz.

With its baroque architecture and fairytale castles, its rich cultural life and world-class museums, Vienna is a wonderful place to visit…all season long.

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The Austrian capital is a great place to visit any time of year, but come the holiday season, as the air becomes crispy and the blue Danube turns grayish-brown, Vienna literally transforms itself into a wonderland, thanks in part to the many Christmas markets that pop up all over the metropolis. The streets are gorgeously decked out with sparkling lights, bows and other tasteful decorations, while many wooden huts sell handmade toys, painted ceramics, ornaments, local delicacies as well as mugs of Glühwein, the famous spicy mulled red wine.

Once you get into the holiday spirit, it is the perfect time to wander around and explore all the marvellous sights the city has to offer. One of the major tourist attractions remains the Schönbrunn Palace, comparable in grandeur to Versailles, which will take you on a romantic whirl in the footsteps of Empress Elisabeth, aka “Sissi”. Even without the gardens in their summer splendor, the rococo-style former residence of the imperial family tells the story of a glorious era that started with Maria Theresa, Marie-Antoinette’s mother and the only female Habsburg ruler, and ended at the end of World War I, with the death of Sissi’s husband, Emperor Franz Joseph.

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The elegance and pomp of the famed Austrian dynasty is also reflected in the architecture of the Hofburg, the imperial palace (pictured in lead image), comprising many different architectural styles, from Gothic and Baroque to Renaissance and classical. In many ways, a “city-within-a-city”, the spectacular monument, with its many squares and gardens, occupies an area of some 59 acres and hosts, among many other attractions, the Imperial Apartments, the Sissi Museum, the Austrian National Library, and the famed Spanish Riding School with its Lipizzan horses.

But the castle is not the only landmark that defines the city centre. The nearby St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which was built in 1147 AD has indeed been the heart of Vienna for centuries. With its two impressive features, the gigantic roof and the imposing tower, it was the tallest building in Europe for a long period, measuring almost 137m. It houses many art treasures like the Altarpiece of Wiener Neustadt, the pulpit by Anton Pilgram (1514-15), the sepulchre of Emperor Frederik III by Niclas Gerhaert (1467-1513), and the Gothic winged altar.

A few steps away, Prince Eugene of Savoy’s 18th-century summer palace, the Belvedere, is home to a stunning art museum that includes the world’s largest Gustav Klimt collection and what is probably the artist’s most famous work, The Kiss, a gold-brushed, mosaic-like painting portray of a couple locked in a tender embrace on a bed of flowers.

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For the sweet-toothed among you, a visit to one (or more) of Vienna’s numerous cafes is a must. Take this opportunity to try some of the country’s most famous pastries, like the Linzertorte, a rich, buttery tart layered with fruit preserves, and which is widely thought to be the world’s oldest-known cake, or the Sachertorte, a delicious chocolate confection filled with apricot jam that fits perfectly in the grandiose décor of the 19th-century Café Sacher.

Of course, no stay in Vienna would be complete without an evening at the famous Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera), shaped like a horseshoe. Music is indeed the city’s legacy to the world, and winter is the season for ballgowns and waltzes. However, if you cannot score tickets for the New Year’s concert by the Vienna Philarmonic Orchestra, fear not — the music of Mozart and Strauss can be found in many of the concert halls throughout town on a nightly basis.

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Both Austrian Airlines and Niki offer daily direct flights.

ATHENS IS SO MUCH MORE THAN JUST AN OPEN-AIR MUSEUM

Souvenirs d’un long week-end à Athènes! Souvenirs from a long weekend in Athens!

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Just a couple of hours from the French Riviera, the historic Greek city of Athens is well worth considering for a weekend visit.

Athens is frantic and chaotic, heavily polluted and decayed in spots, yet despite all this, it remains a fascinating city, rooted in history and traditions. It is also modern, cosmopolitan and alive, making it an ideal location for the perfect weekend getaway.

Whether ancient ruins are your thing or not, it is almost impossible to go to the Greek capital and not climb the hill of the Acropolis (“the sacred rock”) to see the Parthenon in all its magnificence. Described by the 19th century French engineer and architectural historian Auguste Choisy as “the supreme effort of genius in pursuit of beauty”, it is unquestionably Athen’s most iconic structure. Despite having been rocked by earthquakes, shattered by explosions, and even looted for its sculptures, the monument still stands proud amid other ruins as a vibrant testimony to Greece’s Golden Age.

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After the visit, a stop at the nearby Acropolis Museum, and later at the world famous National Archaeological Museum of Athens, is almost mandatory, to appreciate all the priceless finds from excavations from here and from around the city. You will also have the chance to learn more about the story of the Elgin Marbles, the stone carvings removed by Lord Elgin and brought to London in the early 19th century, where they have been a fixture in the British Museum ever since … to the great despair of the Greeks.

The Acropolis and the Parthenon are just a few of the remains that are worth a detour. The Temple of Olympian Zeus with its 104 Pentelic marble columns, each 17 metres high, and the largest of all the Greek temples, or the Panathenaic Olympic Stadium which was built in 330 BC for the Panathenaic contest, and later totally restored with marbles for the first modern Olympics in 1896, provide for an interesting insight into the past.

While you are never far from traces of history, Athens offers much more than just archaeological sites – a stroll in the Plaka district, under the slopes of the Acropolis, will give you a taste of how vibrant the city can be. With its neoclassical mansions, its balconies with bougainvilleas and its small winding roads, it used to be a working class area, and many Greek films of the early 50’s and 60’s were filmed there. Nowadays, it is probably the nicest of the city’s neighbourhoods, with its high-class restaurants, street musicians, busy cafés, and jewelry stores. An ideal place to indulge in some of the country’s culinary specialties, such as moussaka or tzatziki, sip some ouzo, the local aperitif, or try a cup of Greek coffee, a very strong and rich drink made from finely ground roasted beans.

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Other places of interest to discover are the Athens Central Market (Varvakios Market), a big bazaar where you can basically buy just about anything, and Syntagma Square, which houses the Parliament, guarded 24 hours a day by the Evzones, the country’s elite soldiers, famous around the world for their traditional pleated skirt.

There are also plenty of activities on offer throughout the city. Of an evening, why not catch a movie in one of the city’s many open-air theatres. Or take a day trip from Athens to Cape Sounio where, perched on a rocky hilltop above the Aegean Sea, the extraordinary Temple of Poseidon offers one of the most breathtaking panoramas in the world. Or consider a cruise to the islands of Hydra, Poros, and Aegina to enjoy the crystal-clear waters of the Saronic Gulf.

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Aegean Airlines offers direct flights between Nice and Athens every Tuesday and Thursday.

COLOURFUL PORTO IS A PHOTOGRAPHER’S DREAM

Article sur mon voyage à Porto pour Riviera Buzz. Article about my trip to Porto for Riviera Buzz.

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Porto, Portugal’s second city, is the real deal when it comes to beautiful architecture, magical atmosphere, and delicious wines.

In recent years, Lisbon has become one of the favorite destinations of European travellers, and while the Portuguese capital rarely disappoints, its northern counterpart, Porto, is also well worth considering for a visit.

As one of Europe’s oldest cities, Porto is indeed all about colourful tiled buildings, quaint cobbled streets, baroque monuments, Romanesque churches, vibrant plazas, and art nouveau cafes. Its riverfront and old fishing district, Ribeira, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, looks like a picture perfect postcard as you cross the Don Luis bridge over the Douro river. The many hills provide for beautiful views of the red roofs and various architectural styles. But these are just a few of the many highlights of a trip to Portugal’s second city.

Almost everywhere you go, a building or a detail will capture your attention. The 1916 São Bento Railway Station, for instance, boasts a beautiful hall decorated with some 20,000 azulejo ceramic tiles, and Livraria Lello is considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, thanks to its stunning red staircases. Meanwhile, the Café Majestic is a definite must-see attraction for both its façade and beautiful interior.

Porto may have a rich history, but it also has a modern outlook as evidenced by its thriving art scene and the futuristic spectacle offered by the daring Casa da Música, its new House of Music, which was designed by acclaimed Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.

This cultural diversity can be found as well in the gastronomic specialties. Aside from the classic Portuguese staples such as bacalhau (cod), and pastéis de nata (custard tarts), you will be able to enjoy fresh seafood, a great variety of cheese and Porto’s unique dish, the “francesinha”, literally “Little French One”, a sandwich stuffed with sausage, ham and steak, and covered with cheese and a special hot sauce made of tomato and beer.

Even if you do not drink, a trip to Porto would not be complete without a visit to one of the city’s numerous cellars or one of the many vineyards in the neighbouring Douro Valley … to sip, of course, some Port wines.

 

 

IT’S ALWAYS CHRISTMAS IN DRØBAK!

Souvenirs d’un week-end de Noël à Oslo pour Riviera Buzz! Souvenirs from a Christmas weekend in Oslo for Riviera Buzz!

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Christmas is just days away and if you are worried with all that’s going on in the world right now, that the presents will not arrive on time, fear not!

Santa’s helpers in Drøbak, Norway, are hard at work! Indeed, if the Finns are convinced that Santa Claus resides in their country, just north of Rovaniemi, the Norwegians believe that he lives just a 30-minute drive from Oslo, in an idyllic little fishing village located on the fjord. When visitors arrive in Drøbak, they are welcomed by a warning sign that says “Watch out for Nisse”.

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The village is mostly famous for its Tregarden Julehus ( the « Wooden Christmas House ») which celebrates Santa Claus all year round and sells all kinds of Christmas articles such as ornaments, candles and napkins. Each year it draws some 250,000 visitors, including some world dignitaries who have been so impressed by what they have seen that they have invited the owners of the shop to come to visit their countries and spread the Christmas cheers. One of them is Prince Albert who can been seen on some of the pictures displayed at the entrance.

The store is a cute three-story structure, which opens on a little square and is surrounded by clapboard 18th century houses as well as the Christmas house official post office where you can get your letters and cards stamped with the official Christmas postmark. Meanwhile, not too far away, the Drøbak Tourist Information Centre has a permanent exhibition of more than 250,000 letters sent to “Julenissen” from all over the world.

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Julenissen is the name given to Santa Claus by the Norwegians and is an elf-like gnome who lives in the woods. And because he is the guardian of the welfare of all families, children leave a bowl of porridge for him during the holiday season to thank him for his blessings.

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ENJOY LA VIE EN ROSE IN TOULOUSE

Souvenirs de Toulouse pour Riviera Buzz! Souvenirs from Toulouse for Riviera Buzz!

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Few cities can boast such a rich historical past combined with cutting-edge modernity, vibrant nightlife and laidback atmosphere as Toulouse.

France’s fourth largest city, the « ville rose » as Toulouse is lovingly called thanks to its red brick facades which turn pink in the evening, is truly a city that seduces visitors and wins their hearts.

Situated close to the Pyrenees and built on the banks of the Garonne, Toulouse has an outstanding history, which is exemplified by many interesting buildings from the Saint-Sernin basilica, a masterpiece of Roman art, to the impressive Capitole, the current city hall, with its 8 columns of pink marble and its Henry IV courtyard, and from the cloister of the Jacobins to the magnificent Hôtel d’Assezat, which hosts a wonderful permanent collection of paintings, bronzes and objects d’arts, and is just one of the city’s many private mansions.

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Walking through the myriad of narrow streets or along the quays and enjoying the views and the nice weather, it is difficult not to fall under the spell of the city.

Just a bit further away from the center, the Canal du Midi, which has been classified as a World Heritage Site and links the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, is a perfect place for a relaxing stroll while the lovely squares and numerous parks such as the Jardin Royal or the Jardin des Plantes provide for a welcome green respite.

Proud of its Spanish influences, Toulouse has also cultivated its own Occitan identity; the street names are written in French and Spanish, and the local accent has a definite twang!

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This fascinating heritage however doesn’t stop the city from looking to the future. Toulouse is not only home toAirbus, but also to hordes of hi-tech companies such as Galileo, the global positioning site, making it the European capital of aeronautics. A Cité de l’Espace theme park has even been developed on 5 hectares to entertain visitors with space-related attractions.

But maybe what makes Toulouse so special in the eyes of so many people is not its rich history and pretty landscape but simply its undeniable “joie de vivre”. Its inhabitants, who count among their number a vibrant student population, definitely know how to appreciate life.

Maybe the best way to experience the city is to just sit and relax at a café with a glass of local wine, or try a cassoulet, a prime example of rustic Southern French cuisine, or watch the famed local rugby team, Stade Toulousain, in action.

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HITTING THE TINTIN TRAIL IN BRUSSELS

Souvenirs d’un week-end sympa pour Riviera Buzz. Souvenirs from a nice weekend in Brussels for Riviera Buzz

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No trip to the Belgian capital is complete without paying homage to the city’s finest, albeit fictional, son — the one and only Tintin!

Yes, you have the chocolates, the waffles, the beer, the French fries and the mussels. But what makes Brussels really stand out from all other capitals is the myriad comic strips that the city has produced, and in particular, Tintin. Created in 1929 by Belgian cartoonist, Georges Remi (aka Hergé), the young reporter, along with his faithful fox terrier Milou (Snowy) and his friend Captain Haddock, have become some of the most globally recognisable European comic-book characters of the 20th century, with 24 books being translated into more than 100 languages.

Whether you are a fan or not, hitting the Tintin trail is a great way to discover the city’s most famous historic sites as well as some of the more remote and charming districts. And it’s fun too!

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And you don’t have to wait until you’re in Brussels to come face to face with Tintin — If you travel with Brussels Airlines, chances are you that you will fly in one of the company’s new Tintin planes (see lead image and video above), whose entire fuselage has been decorated in the style of Professor Calculus’s shark submarine. And if you stay at the Hotel Amigo in the heart of the capital, you may be lucky enough to spend the night in one of the two suites entirely dedicated to the towheaded boy.

As for the city of Brussels itself, Tintin figures quite prominently, alongside other well-known comic strip characters. There are some 49 murals spread out all over town dedicated to our ageless reporter and the likes of Lucky Luke and the Smurfs. Here you can follow the adventures of your heroes and acquaint yourself with the sights, including the Manneken-Pis, the Grand Place, the magnificent Galerie du Roi, the Vieux Marché and the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, the concert hall that inspired the Hippodrome in The Seven Crystal Balls, where Tintin and Captain Haddock go to see a magic show.

Over at the Centre Belge de bande Dessinée (the Belgian Comics Strip center), the permanent and temporary exhibitions pay tribute to the creators and characters of the 9th art, while the Musée de la Figurine Originale (Museum of Original Figurines) offers a unique collection of life-sized statutes that include Tintin and all his companions.

For a well-deserved culinary break you can then head to the Comics Café where you will be greeted by a huge statue of Tintin and Milou and will be able to dine on an Obelix hamburger.

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And finally, to round off your adventures in the world of the ageless reporter, a visit to the architecturally-striking Musée Hergé in Louvain-la-Neuve (easily accessible by train), is a must. With more than 80 original plates and about 800 photographs, documents and other objects on display, here you can find out all about Tintin’s creator, and the origins of all the main characters.

Brussels Airlines and EasyJet offer daily flights to Brussels from Nice airport.

FROM ONE RIVIERA TO ANOTHER – WELCOME TO DUBROVNIK

Petit article sur mon récent voyage à Dubrovnik pour Riviera Buzz. Little article about my recent trip to Dubrovnik for Riviera buzz.

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Whether you are a Game of Thrones fan or not, the southern Croatian city of Dubrovnik is a great place to visit and experience any time of year.

While wandering through the quaint medieval streets of Dubrovnik’s Old Town, it is hard to imagine that from 1991 to 1992 it was under a devastating siege by the Yugoslav army with 80% of the town being almost destroyed. Thanks to a major UNESCO-coordinated restoration program, the Pearl of the Adriatic as George Bernard Shaw called it, is now miraculously back to its former glory and has even recently become the setting of the fictional King’s Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms realm, in the highly popular TV series Game of Thrones.

No need however to be a fan of the HBO hit production to be enchanted by this stunning city that became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. A simple glance at its Renaissance fountains, baroque churches, monasteries, palaces, marble-paved squares or narrow cobblestone streets is enough to make you fall under its spell. As Shaw himself said “…Those who seek paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik.”

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Probably one of the best way to appreciate the beauty of the city is to walk its sturdy stone walls, built between the 11th and 17th centuries, which surround the historic centre. And after that, if you still do no have your fill ofbreathtaking views, you can take the cable car up to Mount Srd, the mountain that looms over the city.

Dubrovnik is much more than just a magnificent place, it is also a vibrant and bustling city, a perfect place to enjoy the Mediterranean climate and its joyous art-de-vivre. While walking along Stradum, the main street, or exploring the little alleys, you will find lots of little stores, wine shops and restaurants, where you will find nice hand-made jewelry, taste some distilled-products from the Dalmatian region or enjoy seafood, cured hams or truffles.

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While the city is a year-round destination, its clear blue sea, pristine beaches and quaint islands make it the ideal destination for the summer months. The only downside is that it can get extremely busy with the scores of tourists literally flooding the streets of the Old Town.

Croatia Airlines offers direct flights from Nice to Dubrovnik until the 2nd of November, 2015.

SAY BONJOUR TO THE NEW FONDATION LOUIS VUITTON MUSEUM IN PARIS

Premier article de l’année pour Riviera Buzz. (First article of the week for Riviera Buzz).

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A new and most welcome addition to the Paris skyline, the Fondation Louis Vuitton is finally open after a wait of more than 13 years.

From a distance, Paris’ newest museum, the Fondation Louis Vuitton, seems to be floating over the Jardin d’Acclimatation, right by the Bois de Boulogne. Some people believe it is a sailing ship. For others, it is a cloud of glass or an iceberg. But in the end, no matter what their perception of this unusual structure may be, they all agree that the recently opened Louis Vuitton Foundation building is a work of art in its own right.

Commissioned by Europe’s richest man, Bernard Arnault, the chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the famed LVMH luxury group, and designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, whose previous works include the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Walt Disney museum in Los Angeles, the foundation is intended as a centre of art and culture.

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The building is placed over a reflecting pool, which creates mirror effects and is composed of 12 huge glass sails, which capture the light in many different ways. Combined together, these elements provide an impression oflightness and volume, as well as a sense of movement. It is of course decorated with “L’s” and “V’s” and aside from the 11 galleries of various sizes that house Arnaud’s private art collection and temporary exhibits, it also boasts a stepped waterfall and an auditorium.

The Louis Vuitton Foundation took 13 years to build and cost more than €100 million. But if some critics have described it as a mere “vanity project” on the part of the French tycoon, it is first and foremost a great addition to theParis skyline, as evidenced by the number of people who have already lined up to visit the building since its inauguration in late October.

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CONTACT DETAILS
Fondation Louis Vuitton
8, Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi
Bois de Boulogne
75016 Paris

Open every day from 9am to 7pm

GETTING A HEADSTART ON THE CHRISTMAS FESTIVITIES IN COLMAR

Article sur mon week-end à Colmar pour Riviera Buzz (Article about my weekend in Comar for Riviera Buzz).

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The famous Christkindelsmärik in Strasbourg, dating back to 1570, is the oldest Christmas market in France – but we have found a worthy alternative!

Christkindelsmärikis won the title of ‘Best Christmas Market in Europe’ last year, and is a hugely popular attraction. But less than an hour away, another Alsatian city, Colmar, also goes all out in the lead-up to Christmas, providing a less crowded, but definitely as festive and maybe even more colourful, alternative to the region’s capital.

With its many fountains, cobbled squares, ancient churches and half-timbered medieval and Renaissance houses painted in various hues, the charming city of Colmar turns its historic centre into a winter wonderland to celebrate the spirit of Christmas each year. All the buildings are decorated with lights and festive ornaments, and there are five seperate markets spread over five different locations, each focusing on different products and crafts, giving visitors the perfect excuse to wander through the streets to the sound of Christmas carols and jingling bells.

On Place des Dominicains, the stained glass windows of the 14th century Dominican church, which dominates the 65 stalls, creates a peaceful atmosphere, while on Place de l’Ancienne Douane, some 40 chalets surround a fountain adorned by a statute by the city’s most famous son, French sculptor August Bartholdi, who also designed the Statute of Liberty.

Over on Place Jeanne d’Arc, the market celebrates Alsatian food with a large array of local products that range from mulled wines and brandy to bredels and Pain d’épices, while the one set up in between the canals of the “Petite Venise” is a paradise for children, offering a wooden horse merry-go-round, an animated Nativity scene and 44 stalls crammed with toys, stuffed animals and gingerbread.

Finally, the covered market of the Koifhus, located in the 15th-century Customs House, specializes in art objects and antiques (furnitures, jewels, second-hand books…).

Every year, the city really gets into the Christmas spirit and if you want to experience the magic of the season for yourself, it is very easy to do so. Colmar is on the main railway from Strasbourg to Mulhouse and Basel (Switzerland). Air France offers daily flights to Strasbourg from Nice and EasyJet flies Nice – Basel every day except Wednesday.