5 cool ideas for Christmas holidays on the French Riviera

With the start of Christmas school holidays, we’re counting down to Christmas with a whole range of family-friendly activities or places to visit during school holidays.

If you’re thinking two weeks is a looooong time to keep your kids entertained, then take a look below for my 5 suggestions for Christmas holidays on the French Riviera which will see you past gift unwrapping, the 13 desserts and wondering where to find those photo booths to get portraits with Santa in your Christmas jumpers. 🙂

Crazy Fact:  Today, I learned for the first time about Père Fouettard.  Ever heard of him?  Well, he is known as ‘Slapping Santa / Santa Spanker / Father Whipper’ in various forms in France and apparently accompanied Saint Nicholas who distributed gifts to children who are good and Père Fouettard bought a whip with him to spank naughty kids.  I thought it was part hilarious and part disturbing!  There is also a version in Holland, Germany and Austria.   I can’t believe I’ve lived here so long and never heard of this crazy tradition, though I think if I get desperate I’ll be introducing Père Fouettard to my boys 🙂

Here’s 5 ideas for things to see and do during Vacances de Noël 2018:

1. Get creative at BRICKLIVE Monaco

After a show at the Saatchi Gallery in London last year, BRICKLIVE is coming to Monaco.  From 22 December until 6 January at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, families can enjoy a fun atmosphere and get creative with an interactive event.

Though not officially part of LEGO®Group, the show will have a ton of colourful bricks for kids of all ages to play with.

bricklive monaco

BRICKLIVE is coming to Monaco, head there during Christmas school holidays 2018 (image: Pinterest)

There will be huge brick pits filled with 250,000 bricks, race ramps where you can build your own car and challenge friends, themed build zones such as a LEGO®Friends area with a Monaco build map, Christmas decorations, Minecraft zone, dance zone and a 10-metre graffiti wall to plant your vertical creations onto.  Special features are five life-sized wildlife statues in the ‘Animal Paradise’ zone including an elephant made of 271,000 bricks, and a dedicated zone for Star Wars.

Bricklive Monaco opening hours:  Open every day from 10am to 6pm until 6 January (except Christmas Day and New Years Day).

Cost:  Adults €20 / Kids under 12 are €16 each / Under 3 years are free.

Buy tickets hereTickets for Bricklive Monaco

Watch the video below to see what to expect (video courtesy of Bricklive Monaco):

2. Visit the French Riviera Christmas Markets

Visiting the Marchés de Noël is one of the nicest things to do during Christmas school holidays.  You’ll find stands selling handicrafts and food, theme park rides such as ferris wheels and mini rollercoasters as well as pop-up ice skating rinks.

Don’t miss visiting the Antibes, Cannes, Nice, Monaco or Valbonne markets as they all offer a different atmosphere and attractions.

I was too busy to write up my usual Christmas market blog post this year, but I’m sharing some links where you can find lists for the various Christmas Markets below:

Antibes Christmas market is spread over 3 zones in old town Antibes including Pre des Pecheurs, Place Nationale and Place de Gaulle (photo: Access Riviera)

3. See the nativity crèches in Lucéram

Lucéram isn’t one of the best known villages on the French Riviera, but it’s worth visiting during Christmas because the entire town is decorated in a nativity scene wonderland.

For two decades, locals participate in the annual ‘Circuit des Crèches de Lucéram’ by creating individual crèches during festive season with nativity displays dotted around the upper and lower village.  You don’t have to look far to find one – there are around 500 in place with a map provided by the Lucéram tourist office and they are free to visit.

The crèches and santons are literally placed everywhere including doorways, window sills, shop counters and the village lavoirs (communal wash houses).

If you want to see nativity cribs on the French Riviera, then Lucéram is THE place to go – it’s the ultimate showcase for nativity scenes and don’t think you’ll be bored from a repetition of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus or the Three Wise Men because Lucéram’s offering has all sort of characters from French life including bakers, iron mongers, priests, farmers and animals!

creches luceram

Circuit des Creches in Lucéram (image: Simone Laurent)

This season’s ‘Circuit des Crèches’ runs until 6 January, with special animations on certain days.

If you’ve never visited Lucéram before there are a number of things to see and do outside of Christmas season such as painted chapels including Notre-Dame de Boncoeur, Le Musée de la Crèche as well as walking and mountain biking trails at nearby Peïra Cava. The best option to get to Luceram is by car as the bus schedules are infrequent; driving time is approximately 40 minutes from Nice or Monaco via l’Escarène.

Watch the video below (by Drone de Regard / Lucéram RP):

4. Chill out in the mountains

The French Riviera is known as a place of sea, sand and sunshine but there is plenty happening in the mountains during Christmas school holidays.

Saint-Martin-Vésubie has an ice skating rink, concerts, Christmas films, storytelling sessions for children – even Père Noel arriving by zip line on Christmas Eve! You can find the 2018 programme of activities here:  St-Martin-Vésubie Noel animations

Ever seen Santa arrive by zip line? Well, it happens on the French Riviera! (image: Tourism Office St Martin Vésubie)

Valberg has a range of activities happening over Christmas holidays including fireworks on Christmas Day, a free treasure hunt for kids on 26 December, the famous torchlight descent by the ski school on the 28th December and a New Years Eve party with DJ, snow bar and laser show.  Find out more here about Valberg’s Christmas programme.

valberg christmas

Families can join in on a free treasure hunt for candy at Valberg during Christmas school holidays (image: Valberg tourism)

Auron has a Christmas market as well as free storytelling sessions including Pinocchio from 26 to 28 December.  See the dates and times here:  Auron Christmas 2018

noel auron

Auron is hosting Festival du Contes de Noël during Christmas 2018 (image: Auron tourism)

The Vesúbia Mountain Park hosts Ciné’Eau which are fun cinema screenings where viewers float on swim rings in their pool heated to 32 degrees.  You can also choose to sit on a chair poolside if you prefer not to get your feet wet!

Fancy a winter cinema screening while floating in a heated pool? It’s possible on the Côte d’Azur!

The films will be screened on Friday 28 December from 4.30pm.  Films on offer are :

4.30pm  Coco (a Disney film that’s appropriate for kids)

7pm      Jumanji  (suitable for older kids)

9.30pm The Shallows (rated PG13 but it is a shark/thriller movie so expect a modern-day Jaws with some gory scenes and bad language)

Reservation is necessary as there are limited places each session.  Kids under 6 years have to share a swim ring with a parent, and of course as per public pools in France you need the obligatory dinky swim cap and appropriate swimsuit.  I’d estimate a guess that all 3 films will be in French language.  Find out more information here about the Ciné’Eau sessions.

Any time of the year, Vesúbia Mountain Park is a very cool attraction to entertain children with climbing walls and nets (minimum age is 5 years), an indoor canyoning zone (minimum age is 10 years and height 1.3metres) and more!  Check out their website here:  Vésubia Mountain Park

5. Soar sky high over Monaco

Did you know every year you can take a helicopter mini tour over Monaco for a special price at Christmas?  That’s right, the friendly team at Heli Air Monaco offer ‘Baptèmes de l’air Père Noel’ each festive season.

It’s a super cool way to treat your children/nieces/nephews and while it is a splurge for some it’s actually a very good deal for such an amazing experience flying over the iconic buildings and coastline of Monaco!

monaco helicopter tour

Helicopter flights at Christmas with Heli Air Monaco (image: Get Your Guide)

This year, you can take a 5-minute scenic helicopter flight with Heli Air Monaco from 1 December to 6 January for just €35 per person.

Note:  All passengers must take their passports AND for each passenger under 18 years of age you must fill in a parental permission form.

To take advantage of this offer you book and pay in advance online – simply choose your preferred date and time slot when you book via the link.  Click here for the official Heli Air Monaco Santa Flight booking link; at the question ‘How did you know about first flight Santa Claus?’ please tick the last box and type ‘Access Riviera blog’.  Disclaimer:  I don’t get any commission for you mentioning my blog, but it’s good for Heli Air Monaco to know that you found out where to book here on Access Riviera!

For a teaser of what to expect, you can watch the video below of my heli tour during Monaco Yacht Show 2018:


Thanks for reading my Christmas blog post!  I’m happy to say I’ll be finishing 2018 by reaching over 350,000 views recently so I appreciate every visitor.  Please share this post on social media or comment if you found it helpful.

Thank you and have a Merry Christmas!


Christmas Markets on the French Riviera 2014 (Marchés de Noel)

I love Christmas markets.

Drinking mulled wine, eating gingerbread and cute cookies dusted with cinnamon and icing sugar, the smell of chestnuts roasting, the fairy lights and all the festive add-ons that make me realise a Northern Hemisphere Christmas isn’t so bad.

Cannes Xmas market (image: cannes.com)

Cannes Xmas market (image: cannes.com)

French Christmas markets don’t have the stellar reputation of the German, Czech or Austrian markets but they still pack a punch with entertainment, useful (and tacky) festive shopping and decorations to fuel your Yuletide celebrations.

Here is my list of the Christmas Markets for the French Riviera in 2014:

(this alphabetical list is not exhaustive, more dates will be announced closer to December!)


13 Dec: Opening of Xmas entertainment with a concert at 5.30pm at Place de Gaulle from students at the Conservatoire de Musique d’Antibes. 20Dec: Lantern parade departing from Place de Gaulle at 5pm, followed by a light show on the remparts at 6pm retracing 2000 years of the history of Antibes. 13Dec-04Jan: Xmas markets at Place de Gaulle and Place Nationale including fairground rides, Père Noels mailbox, kids workshops, an appearance from Père Noel on 22Dec.  01Jan: New Years Day swim at Salis beach


26Dec-03Jan: Xmas markets

If you fancy a white Christmas, head to Auron (image: winter.auron.com)

If you fancy a white Christmas, head to Auron (image: winter.auron.com)

Beaulieu sur Mer

22-23Dec: Theatre and musical comedy shows. 26Dec-01Jan: Ice skating rink


28Nov: Light parade 28Nov-24Dec: Xmas market, pony rides


07Dec: Xmas market


01Dec: Music and illumination of lights for Advent calendar of shutters on rue Saint Sébastien. 20Dec-03Jan Xmas market, pony rides, kids workshops, Père Noel arrives by horse and cart on the 23rd Dec


13Dec: Xmas market


14Dec: Xmas market and visit by Père Noel

Cagnes sur Mer

13-21Dec: Xmas market, mini iceskating show on 13Dec, kids craft workshops in an igloo at place de Gaulle. 20-21Dec: Marché aux santons.

(image: cagnes.maville)

(image: cagnes.maville)


28Nov-04Jan: Xmas markets, ice skating rink from 06Dec. 31Dec: New Years fireworks

Cannes La Bocca

17-26Dec: Xmas market, wishing tree, photos with Père Noel

Cap d’Ail

20Dec: Horse & cart parade, street decorations, tastings of socca & mulled wine


20-23Dec: Xmas markets, marionette show


14Dec: Xmas market


07Dec: Xmas market, magic show, bouncy castle


20Dec: Xmas market


13Dec: Xmas market


20-21Dec: Xmas market

Golfe Juan / Vallauris

20Dec: Xmas parade from Vallauris to Golfe Juan. Kids workshops on 20-21Dec


06Dec-04Jan : Xmas market

Xmas decorations in Grasse (image: Google)

Xmas decorations in Grasse (image: Google)

Juan les Pins

21 Dec: Père Noel arrives by waterski at 10.30am, followed by a trip on the petit train to Antibes at 11.30am. 01Jan – Viennese concert at the Palais des Congrès 11am-4pm and fireworks at 6.30pm in the bay of Juan les Pins.

La Bollène-Vésubie

14Dec: Xmas market, visit from Père Noel

La Colle sur Loup

14Dec : Xmas market (other Xmas animatinos until 24Dec)

La Gaude

12-14Dec: Xmas markets, post a letter to Père Noel, Xmas shows, kids construction site

La Roquette-sur-Var

13Dec: Xmas market, Xmas songs, roasted chestnuts

La Trinité

29-30Nov : Xmas market

La Turbie

28-30Nov : Xmas market

Le Broc 

06-07Dec : Xmas market, decorate Xmas trees, mulled wine

Le Rouret

07Dec: Xmas market

Le Tignet

14Dec : Xmas market, mini farm, pony rides

Les Adrets-de-l’Estérel

Xmas dates to be advised


14Dec: Xmas market, hot chocolate and mulled wine

Mandelieu-La Napoule

06Dec: Xmas market, Xmas stories, pony rides, Père Noels mailbox


06Dec-04Jan: Xmas displays through the town with a circus theme. Programme here: http://www.tourisme-menton.fr/Noel-a-Menton.html


05Dec-04Jan: Xmas market

Monaco Xmas market (image: Flickr)

Monaco Xmas market (image: Flickr)

Mouans Sartoux

14Nov-24Dec: Santon fair. Also, 06Dec: Lights festival and paper lantern parade on 06Dec followed by free hot chocolate & bonbons; Xmas market 07Dec


06Dec: Creche display, Xmas carols and lights, post a letter to Pere Noel. 13-14Dec: Xmas market and lantern parade


06Dec-04Jan: Xmas markets, bouncy castles, ice-skating rink, ferris wheel. Also, Luna Park Nice will be open these exact dates as well.

Xmas festivities in Nice (image: Nice Tourisme)

Xmas festivities in Nice (image: Nice Tourisme)


14Dec: Xmas market, lantern parade, 13 desserts, Père Noel


30Nov: Xmas market


22-24Dec: Xmas market

Roquefort Les Pins

14Dec: Xmas market, facepainting, mini farm, cooking workshop, magic and circus displays, horse and cart rides, bouncy castle, lantern parade ending with hot chocolate


01Dec: Crèche aux santons. 06Dec : Competition for Xmas decorated doors in the town. 19Dec: Xmas concert. 20Dec : Xmas market and mulled wine. 22Dec: Xmas cinema


20-25Dec: Xmas markets

St Laurent du Var

20-24Dec : Xmas market

St Jean Cap Ferret

07Dec: Xmas concert. 19Dec-06Jan : Xmas market, kids craft workshops, horse and cart rides, yeti hunt, Xmas stories

St Martin Vesubie

13/20/21Dec: Xmas market

St Paul de Vence

17Dec: Marionnette show. 19-21 Dec : Xmas market


13Dec: Xmas market


14Dec: Xmas market


24Dec: Xmas feast and gifts for small children (There is a cost for this)

Tende in winter (image: Panaramio)

Tende in winter (image: Panaramio)


29Nov-04Jan: Creche decorations & display, santon displays


29-30Nov: Xmas markets, bouncy castle, pony rides

Tourrettes sur Loup

13Dec: Xmas concert (there is a cost for this). 14Dec: Xmas market, treasure hunt in the village


24Dec : Torch descent by ESF ski school on the pistes. 28Dec: Truffle market. 01Jan: Fireworks

Valbonne / Sophia Antipolis

16-18Dec: Kids workshop & fireworks. 20-24Dec: Xmas market, kids workshops, mini farm, photos with Père Noel

Valbonne Xmas market (image: Tourisme Valbonne)

Valbonne Xmas market (image: Tourisme Valbonne)


20Dec-04Jan : Xmas market

Villeneuve Loubet

06Dec: Xmas show. 14Dec: Xmas market & concert. 20Dec: Xmas workshop (festive treats) and Xmas stories

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