Published: 15:44, 04 December 2019
Want a weekend getaway which leaves you with plenty of Christmas spirit? Northern France has some treats this time of year and they're only a few hours away. Here's our review:
Less than an hour’s drive from Calais is the town of Béthune where a charming Christmas market has been set up in its historic main square. It brings together an array of stalls selling local produce, festive treats and of course an ice rink and merry-go-round.
The market has been set up around the impressive 14th century Belfry tower. The architectural feature can be found in many historic towns in Northern France and Béthune’s now boasts a carillon of more than 30 bells which chime every quarter of an hour.
In the Middle Ages the tower would have been the centre of power, a watch-post and would most importantly have symbolised the town’s independence. The stunning view from the top is definitely worth climbing the 130+ steep spiralling steps.
Just metres away from the centre is Les Béthunoises, a B&B converted from an old fire station and run by Sophie who makes her visitors feel incredibly welcome. Each room has been beautifully thought out with their own individual themes such as the ‘Lumières du Beffroi’, a nod to the light display illuminating the town’s famous Belfry Tower at night. A delicious breakfast including warm patisseries is also available in the morning (as is the option of spending an hour in the spa or sauna to relax).
A quick walk to the Place de la République brings you to the gourmet Maxime LePlat restaurant. Located in a chic and sophisticated building, the staff are really friendly and the menu showcases a variety of elegant French dishes which are not only delicious but immaculately presented.
Half an hour down the road is the larger town of Arras which boasts the biggest Christmas Market north of Paris. The Grand Place where the vast market has been set up for the season is just a 5 minute walk away from the stylish Hotel Mercure. This amazing market is bustling with visitors and has a huge variety of stalls and attractions (a go on the big wheel is an absolute must!).
Mulled wine and cider are all of course on the menu as visitors soak in the festive atmosphere. A new addition to the market is the ‘Ice World’ which seems to be a hit with children who get to pose for a picture next to life sized polar bears, seals and walruses made entirely of ice.
The square also offers a variety of bars and eateries to suit everyone’s taste. L’Ambassade d’Arras is one such restaurant neighbouring the Christmas market. Fresh oysters and steak tartare are particularly tasty followed by a boozy sorbet or the classic ‘café gourmand’.
It’s just an hour’s drive to get back to Calais and a hop onto one of the P&O ferries making their way back to Dover. The crossing is about an hour and a half - just enough time for some last minute duty free Christmas shopping on board.
Book to making your weekend crossing at poferries.com