From the glittering landscapes to the world-renowned cuisine, there’s something uniquely special about France that captivates even the novice traveler. The French are experts in living well—and celebrating well—so when it comes to the holidays, it’s only natural to look to their expertise for inspiration.
If you’re unable to catch a flight to belle France right now, pas de soucis (no worries) — you can create your own French Christmas traditions right here in Alabama. Read on for how to curate the perfect holiday in le style français!
Breakfast: Continental Bakery
Your French Christmas begins at none other than Continental Bakery, one of Birmingham’s bakery gems in historic English Village. Behind the beautiful glass cases, you’ll find a bounty of traditional French pastries, such as pain au chocolat, almond croissants, and savory croissants with French cheeses such as gruyère and emmental. Pick up a few along with a café au lait (and maybe a fresh pain de campagne or baguette for snacking).
Mid-Morning: Shopping and a Light Lunch in Forest Park
Birmingham’s historic Forest Park neighborhood is brimming with unique shops and offers the perfect opportunity to flâner—the French word to stroll leisurely, wander aimlessly, and enjoy the day unhurried. Wander through Shoppe, Forest Park’s beloved garden shop inside of a restored bungalow. Pick out some fresh Christmas greenery for your home, such as a garland or a couronne de l’Avent (an Advent wreath). Cross the street and browse MK Quinlan’s retail studio, which offers stunning vintage pieces and exclusive art. Finally, pop into General for a light lunch. While you wait, enjoy their selection of unique gift items galore from around the world.
Afternoon: Antiquing at Lolo French Antiques
The treasure hunt is on as you venture over to Avondale and peruse the vast collection of French antiques at Lolo. The owners regularly purchase items from all over France to offer Alabamians the true brocante (French antique market) experience. From Art Deco to mid-century modern pieces, French treasures are sure to be found here for you to add some French joie de vivre to your home.
Evening: Apéro Hour
In France, apéro is sacred—especially during the holidays. This hour is marked by French apéritifs, such as a kir royale or a St. Germain cocktail. And don’t forget the snacks—charcuterie, cheeses, cornichons, and olives all make the perfect bites as you savor drinks and conversation with loved ones.
Dinner: Chez FonFon or Chez Lulu
A true Birmingham institution, owners Frank and Pardis Stitt have created a haven of authentic French food, wine, and ambiance for Alabama to savor at Chez FonFon. Start with a round of buttery escargot, followed by FonFon’s famous hamburger. For classic French favorites, try moules et frites in a white wine sauce or a croque monsieur.
Enjoy a night under the lights at one of Chez Lulu’s outdoor tables and order a traditional French dinner such as their quiche selection of the day, or their warm garlic soup with an arugula salad. Enjoy with a citrusy Orangina and take in the scenery of English Village as you savor an unhurried evening.
After Dinner: Movie and Dessert
There’s nothing better than ending your day cozied up with a movie and something sweet. For a classic French Christmas movie, try L’arbre de Noël (The Christmas Tree, 1969), or for a more modern rom-com, check out Un Conte de Noël (A Christmas Tale, 2008). If you’re feeling adventurous in the kitchen, make a bûche de noël (yule log), a classic French Christmas dessert that is found in patisseries all over France. These can be made beforehand and brought out to wow your guests at just the right moment.
Don’t forget to put the kids’ shoes in front of the fireplace for Père Noël to fill with sweets— a French tradition!
To the French Christmas of your dreams— right here in Alabama— Joyeux Noël!