The Christmas atmosphere is at its purest in the French region – Be warned! A route not suitable for grinches
With the Christmas spirit knocking at your door? The best way to give free rein to your feelings at this time of year is a visit to the Christmas markets. That’s why we’re suggesting two must-visit destinations to escape and experience the magic of the festive season: Strasbourg and Alsace!
It is no secret that this French region is famous for the atmosphere of its Christmas markets. But you have to experience it in situ to understand it. Its illuminated streets, Christmas carols, local craft products, decorations, delicacies such as pretzels or Noel’s bredels, and the aroma of mulled wine and gingerbread… all ensure a warm stroll despite the snowy days. To make sure you don’t miss a single detail, we suggest a route of the flea markets in Strasbourg and other towns in Alsace that you must visit.
Christmas markets in Strasbourg, the Capital of Christmas!
Strasbourg is not only the seat of the European Parliament and the capital of Alsace, it also boasts of being the ‘Capital of Christmas’ and not for nothing, as it has one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe, with almost 450 years of history.
A stroll through the city at this time of year is a magical walk. More than 300 stalls full of handicrafts scattered around the various squares and with the sound of choirs and carols in the background are part of this Christmas postcard that is complemented by fantastic illuminations of façades, streets and shop windows. Not forgetting the taste of traditional sweets and the aroma of cinnamon and spices that honour the spirit of the season. It is well worth a visit to Place Kléber, where every year a giant fir tree, more than 30 metres high, is installed as a symbol of Christmas in Strasbourg. It is highly recommended to go at 17.00 when the lights are switched on.
All of Strasbourg’s Christmas markets are appetising, but if you’re spoilt for choice here are the 4 must-visit Christmas markets:
1. Christkindelsmärik Market (Broglieplatz)
This historic flea market, located on Place Broglie, just 500 metres from the Cathedral and at the foot of the Opera, is the oldest flea market in the city. It is also known as the “Infant Jesus market”. It is the heart of Christmas in Strasbourg. You can find thousands of decorations and gift ideas, crafts and local products. The variety of gastronomy and the ever-present mulled wine or mulled apple juice are also worth a mention. Stop and admire the façade of the Town Hall, which this year is decorated with characters from the Christkindelsmärik story.
2. Cathedral Market (Cathedral Square)
The majestic Gothic cathedral of Strasbourg adds to the Christmas atmosphere. This flea market is one of the busiest and there is nothing more appetising than browsing one by one through its wooden stalls, where you can buy a variety of Christmas products and sample its gastronomy. Make the most unforgettable experience by climbing the bell tower of the cathedral, despite the effort of climbing 330 steps, the reward of the views will be indescribable. And don’t forget! Take a walk around the 18-metre-long monumental nativity scene installed in the eastern part of the church.
Philippe de Rexel – OTSR
3. The market of Alsatian delicacies (Place du Marché-aux-Poissons)
The best opportunity to discover Alsatian gastronomy is at this flea market. It’s not that big: about a dozen stalls offer everything from traditional bredel, mannele or gingerbread made in Alsace. There are also wines, craft beers and other delicacies from the region’s farms. If you come with children, every Wednesday there is a production and tasting workshop. It’s also the place to find a delicious gastronomic treat.
4. The OFF market (Grimmeissenplatz)
In the heart of Petite France, the Marché OFF or OFF Market is an alternative Christmas market, ideal for those looking for a more ethically responsible celebration. More than thirty stalls are set up in shipping containers. A space where people exchange, recycle and invent what is different and supportive about Christmas. You can find everything from organic, local or fair trade food, carefully renovated second-hand items, original artistic craft creations and activities that promote responsibility towards the environment.
♦ Timetables of street markets:
Every day until 23 December 11.00-20.00 (Friday 11.00-21.00 and Saturday 11.00-22.00)
24 December from 11.00-18.00. Strasbourg Capital of Christmas’ will continue until 1 January 2023 in the Village de l’Après.
♦ Map of Christmas markets
Find out here
Other markets to discover Alsace at Christmas time
Beyond the capital, there are other corners of Alsace that are also ideal for creating incredible memories at this time of year. If this French region already has its charm, in December it takes on even more charm with its Christmas markets. Here are some of the must-see markets that you must see at least once in your life.
1. Colmar at Christmas
Colmar is the starting point for getting into the Christmas spirit. The ‘Petite Venise’ covers its canals with lights as well as its buildings and monuments, while its inhabitants compete every year in a competition to decorate the façades of their houses and shop windows – a delight for the eyes! In its historic centre, not one, not two… but six Christmas markets! In its lively streets, the smells of orange and cinnamon mingle with the most original gifts and a variety of decorations and culinary specialities. Don’t leave without tasting a delicious and hot ‘vin chaud’.
The six markets are open until 29 December and are:
- The Place des Dominicains (Place des Dominicains) is noted for its Christmas tree decorations and ornaments.
- The Place de l’Ancienne Douane, where fashionable creations rub shoulders with Christmas decorations.
- The Place Jeanne d’Arc (Jeanne d’Arc Square) dedicated to authentic local products will be a delight for the palate!
- Little Venice (Petite Venise) is a real paradise for children at Christmas where they can drop off their letter to Father Christmas.
- Artisan’s Market (Au Koïfhus) to admire and buy creations of local artisans.
- The Cathedral Square (Gourmet Market) 9 huts, 9 chefs who will prepare divine dishes for you… From starter to dessert. A variety of Alsatian specialities.
♦ You can see the opening hours of the markets here
2. Mercado de Navidad en Eguisheim
Not for nothing is it listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France. Just 7 kilometres from Colmar, the Christmas atmosphere is alive and kicking in its cobbled streets, historic centre and well-kept decorations. The Christmas market focuses on Alsatian customs and traditions. The organisers are particularly keen to maintain the authentic and typical character of the market, which is why local traders, craftsmen, artists and winegrowers exclusively offer mainly local products, which has earned it the label “Christmas Towns and Villages”, a guarantee of quality in Alsace.
♦ Open until 31 December. You can see the different timetables here
3. Christmas market of gastronomy and handicrafts in Obernai
Attention lovers of the traditions of yesteryear! This market is the ideal destination to immerse yourself in the magical atmosphere of the aromas of mulled wine and spices, always with the backdrop of Christmas lights or natural fir trees that highlight the city’s architecture. In the various wooden stalls, artisans offer local products such as foie gras, gingerbread, sausages, bredels (baked biscuits typical of Alsace) or jams. It is also ideal for buying some Christmas decorations or souvenirs such as ceramics or blown glass balls, among other options. Don’t miss out on the local speciality, though, and have some Obernois mulled wine (a product made from white wine and spices) around the winegrowers’ cauldron.
♦ Open until 31 December. You can see the opening times here
4. Christmas market in Turckheim
This quirky flea market in the town of Turckheim exudes pure Christmas magic with elves wandering around the town and its famous advent calendar, depicted in three colourful decorations simulating an Alsatian house. Each of the windows is opened every day until the 25th: there is a ritual every time one is opened at 5pm, when children sing carols and discover the historical image of characters or customs kept in each window. Ideal to go with children.
♦ Open until 30 December. Check opening times here