Paris, it’s the city of love, the city of dreams, the city of the arts and all things beautiful.

It’s the perfect Christmas getaway, a short weekend walking its icy streets and world-beating Christmas markets.

Yet, everyone goes to Paris, it is the capital of France, after all.

Crowded are its streets, its roads littered with rubbish and tourists, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

But there is an alternative, a beautifully carved commune not all that far away from Paris but just far enough so that the crowds are thinner, the streets are cleaner, and the Christmas market feels much more special: it is the town of Saint-Omer.

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Saint-Omer first appeared in writing in the 7th century and is integral to North France’s position as a place of Christianity after Bishop Audomar of Thérouanne, who is now better known as Saint Omer, showed the pagan people a brighter path in life.

As the crow flies, it is around 131 miles from Paris, just slightly more than London is from Cardiff or Birmingham — though in spirit, it couldn’t be further away.

With a population of just under 15,000, the town feels exceedingly snug and familiar.

Its narrow streets are set out in long stretches which hint at its tightly packed history, and each is filled with independent shops and boutiques, as well as the odd whisper of the past.

According to one review website, Saint-Omer has one of Northern France’s best Christmas markets.

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Situated on the main square, called Place Foch, this time of year it is covered entirely with a velvety red carpet on which sit a giant carousel, a big wheel, and scores of artisan stalls.

Each sells something different, from handmade candles and decorations to mulled wine, a chance at fishing for ducks for children, and stacks of that all-so-important French cheese.

Lights flood the square in a beautiful blanket of warmth and cast a new face onto the classically built Théâtre de Saint-Omer, pitched as the market’s backdrop.

Anything you can find in Paris you can find in Saint-Omer’s intimate market — and at half the price.

This is especially true of the cost of staying the night, with hotels in the capital on average costing between €146 and €187, while hotels found in Saint-Omer on average around £50 to £60.

Around the market square sit a good choice of bars, a place to enjoy a snack and some blonde beer while watching the festivities unfold.

Creperie shops offer a brief reprieve for those hunger pans, or there’s the Le St Charles restaurant for those craving something more.

Away from the market, there are the ruins of L’Abbaye St Bertin, dreamed up by Saint Omer himself, and the fantastically gothic Cathedral de Notre Dame.

At a fraction of the cost of Paris and much closer to the UK, Saint-Omer is a must-see this Christmas.

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