Christmas in Paris beckons artisans nationwide, filling the stations and squares with glowing timber houses: Les Marches de Noel have arrived. One of the crowd-puiling giants is held in the futuristic La Defense district (November 29-December 31): incongruously, it rolls out 10,000sq m of twee stalls, sprawling beneath the gigantic Grand Arche de la Defense (an angular modern take on Paris’s landmark l’Arc de Triomphe). Shoppers glide a few turns on the central ice rink, then warm up on slugs of vin chaud.

More traditional? The French region of Alsace, with its roots in Christmas-loving Germany, clutters the Champs-Elysees all through December. Stock up on beautiful sparkling glass baubles, and seek out bredele: spiced, sugary biscuits – they make great stocking-fillers (particularly if you eat too many). Things are shamelessly commercial at Le Marche de Noel a la Gare de l’Est (December 5-15): the arches of Paris’s oldest station are awash with sweets and savouries from Alsace. Buy slices of gingerbread, pots of duck or goose foie gras and moist slabs of birewacke -cake laden with fruit, nuts and alcohol. Wash down with spiced tea, before a nap at Hotel du 7eme Art, in the Marais district (20 Rue Saint-Paul; 00 33 1 4454 8500, www.paris-hotel-7art.com; doubles from