If you’re nuts for Christmas markets, then the one in Port Barcarès is where you should go. People come from far and wide to indulge in the festive mood at this Village Noël in the Pyrenées-Orientales department. Every year from the end of November to mid-January, a complete village in winter realm resurrects at the foot of the landlocked passenger ferry ‘Le Lydia’. Let the merry begin, it’s time to put on your Santa hat!
Since 1999, the ferry ‘Le Lydia’ serves as a backdrop for one of the most beloved Christmas markets in the Languedoc-Rousillon region. Although officially situated in the Pyrenées-Orientales, Port Barcarès sits on the border of the Aude department. Therefore, the Christmas market is also very accessible for people visiting or living in the Aude, or even the Hérault and Spain. I went on a Thursday night, not expecting a lot of people. Wrong. Even on an ordinary weekday, I had to line up to get in. Just letting you know, in case you are planning to go on a weekend or during the end of year school holidays when there will probably be a lot of people.
The Christmas market spreads over no less than 4 hectares in the garden of Le Lydia, which has been beautifully decorated and turned into a true winter wonderland. Once inside, I didn’t quite know where to start. So, I decided to let the shimmering path with sparkling Christmas lights guide me. Through an enchanted forest with snow-covered spruce trees, I arrived at the main square, which included a giant Christmas tree. During the Christmas market, you can also visit Le Lydia itself, whose top floor gives you a marvellous view over the scintillating lights and the impressive Ferris wheel. Gazing out over the venue, I spotted several fairground attractions, a colour-changing ice-rink, and many cosy restaurants and bars.
Of course, there is also, scattered throughout the Christmas village, a fair amount of wooden chalets- over 70!- selling all kinds of wonderful products. You will find anything from locally crafted toys and warm scarves to delicious food and soothing mulled wine. As our kids have already received their presents during our Dutch celebration of Saint Nicolas, they will only get a book for Christmas. So, I managed to walk cheerfully past the lit chalets without buying anything. Well, except for a bag full of sugary churros, which I never can resist…
And when the evening falls, the Village Noël in Port Barcarès turns up the magic even more. To admire the market from even further up, I went for a ride on the 55-meter tall Ferris Wheel. The sun had already set, bringing out all the Christmas happiness in its full splendour against the night sky. Funny how easily I was transported from a sunny South of France into a wintry mountain setting! Including ski lift cabins, polar bears and a lot of fake snow. Even on a weekday, I fully absorbed the holiday spirit. And I have the feeling that it won’t be the last visit to this wonderful place this year…