Visiting the Alsace Christmas Markets is one of the most exciting things to do in France over the holidays. The Alsace region, bordering Germany and Switzerland, is filled with charming storybook towns that are magical in December.
Strasbourg, one of the most beautiful cities in France and self proclaimed Capital of Christmas, greets 2 million visitors per year for the Strasbourg Christmas Markets. It’s the largest, most festive spot in France and the reason it has a well earned spot on our Europe Bucket List.
Strasbourg and Colmar may have the biggest Christmas markets, but each village showcases something special. The true adventure is meandering through the whole Alsace region to sample a variety of Christmas markets. Below you will find our favorites.
History of Christmas Markets in France
The tradition of Christmas markets originally comes from the Germanic Cultures. The earliest record goes back to the 1300s in Germany. The celebration was a part of the festival of St. Nicolas (a saint in Christianity). But, the Christmas markets as we know them today, began a couple of hundred years later.
Christmas markets signal the beginning of Advent. For centuries, they have brought light to long winter nights. In addition to shopping, they have fun activities, delicious food, sweet treats (just imagine – homemade gingerbread and traditional pastries), mulled wine, and the most festive atmosphere.
Even now, Christmas markets in Strasbourg are considered one of the best. Quite frankly, they set the tone for all the rest in France. Experience the magic of the holidays and bring home gifts that are truly unique.
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Best Time to Visit Alsace Christmas Markets
Typically, the festivities begin on the last weekend of November and close on the 24th or 31st of December. The best time to visit Christmas markets in France is early evening. The combination of darkness and lights make the atmosphere even more magical. If you prefer to stay away from crowds, avoid exploring the markets during weekends.
How to Get to the Christmas Markets in Strasbourg and Colmar
Start your Alsace Christmas market journey in Strasbourg or Colmar. The most convenient way to get there is fly into Strasbourg airport (SXB). There are non-stop flights to Strasbourg Airport from many European countries. You can also fly into Basel Airport, 40 minutes away from Colmar.
Many visitors also arrive to the Alsace region by train or car. The TGV from Paris to Strasbourg is a quick 2 hour trip. Driving will take you a few hours longer.
Once you’re in the Alsace region, it’s easiest to get around by car but you can also use trains and Uber. All of the markets you will find here are along the one hour driving route between Strasbourg and Colmar.
5 Magical Alsace Christmas Markets in France
While there are Christmas markets all over France, Strasbourg is known for the biggest and best. But it’s not the only game in town. There are so many Alsace hidden gems to explore. Whether you are a fan of the wondrous holiday or a Grinch at heart – you will surely have a good time. With our help, discover the best fairytale Alsace Christmas markets in France.
Strasbourg Christmas Markets
Strasbourg is home to the oldest Christmas market in Europe. Typically, it has around 300 stalls, offering delicious snacks and handmade crafts. Although the most popular market is nestled in the centre, you will find a variety of them spread around the city (all within walking distance). So whether you prefer a traditional or a more unusual experience, you will find one that suits your taste and needs.
While it’s fun during the day, Strasbourg literally sparkles at night. Buildings, streets and alleyways are lavishly decorated and illuminated with the most striking displays of lights. In Place Kléber, the glistening 100 foot Christmas tree stands at the center of it all. Don’t miss the Strasbourg Cathedral.
In the capital of Christmas, you can easily eat your heart away. When exploring the market, make sure to try bretzels (soft pretzels), crêpes, bredeles (star-shaped cookies) and tartes flambés. Strasbourg in December is truly wondrous.
Best Strasbourg Christmas Markets to Visit:
- Place de la Cathédrale de Strasbourg
- Place Broglie Christkindelsmärik
- Place Gutenberg Christmas market
- Place Kléber (near the Christmas tree)
Where to Stay in Strasbourg for Alsace Christmas Markets
Strasbourg has so many luxurious accommodations. These are all within walking distance of the markets and will add an extra touch of excitement to your trip.
Colmar Christmas Markets
Nestled between Strasbourg and Basel, many think Colmar is prettiest town in the Alsace region. The storybook architecture, with cobblestone streets and canals running through town, add to the allure. Even if you are visiting at a different time of year, it’s a stunning place to see. But Christmas makes it come alive and become even more enchanting.
The Place de l’Ancienne Douane Christmas market is a must. Set in a beautiful square lined with kiosks, this market is frequented by locals and tourists alike. The six Colmar Christmas markets run in a row through the town of half-timbered houses, reminiscent of fairytales. With the bright lights, colorful decor and big crowds, it has an exciting Disneyland feel.
Expect to find handmade gifts like ornaments, jewelry, embroidered linens, candles, toys, candies and more. Foodies should stop by the gourmet market that focuses on mouth-watering foods. Things you should taste in Colmar include Springerle (anise-flavoured cookies), breder (Christmas biscuits), berawecka (bread with dried fruit), foie gras, and mulled wine.
If you have your kids in tow, they will love the rides, ice skating, buildings decked out in teddy bears, and a chance to see Santa.
Best Colmar Christmas Markets to see:
- Place de l’Ancienne Douane
- Place de la Cathédrale (for foodies)
- The Petite Venise Children’s Christmas Market (when visiting with kids)
- The Artisan Arts Market at Place des Dominicains (for handmade gifts)
Where to Stay for Colmar Christmas Markets
Colmar is a great place to stay to see the markets there and the neighboring villages of Rebeauvillé and Kaysersberg.
Obernai Christmas Market
Over the years, the market in Obernai – situated along the gorgeous Alsace Wine Route – has become one of the most impressive events in the area. So if you are looking for gastronomy that will make your taste buds do a happy dance or unique gifts to give your loved ones, you surely can’t miss this Christmas market, which dates back to 1301.
Among other Alsace Christmas markets, the one in Obernai stands out as specifically focused on foodies. While you indulge in some delicious spice bread, sauerkraut or Christmas beer, don’t forget to talk with the producers who are behind the magic. They will happily share the secrets of the process.
All the shopaholics out there should get their hands on wreaths, Christmas baubles and other exceptional things.
Where to Stay for Obernai Christmas Markets
Since Obernai is 20 minutes from Strasbourg, you can pick one town to stay overnight in order to visit both places. Stay in Obernai if you prefer a small, quieter town that closes early. If you want to be in the middle of the action, choose a hotel in Strasbourg.
Kaysersberg Christmas Market
When the time of Advent begins in this beautiful town, you are in for a treat. Located just behind the impressive Saine-Croix church, Kayersberg is definitely one of the best Christmas markets in France. This is a great market to visit during the day so you can do the short, easy walk up to Chåteau du Schlossberg and get a lovely bird’s-eye-view of the village.
First, warm yourself up with some mulled Alsatian wine or perhaps taste the local fare, including kougelhop, mannele and berawecka, and a variety of cheeses (it is France – after all). In the village, you will also get the chance to explore the farmer’s market – an excellent place to taste regional products, for example, honey and all kinds of jams.
If you stay until evening, you’ll enjoy the gorgeously illuminated Christmas lights.
Rebeauvillé Christmas Market
If you are looking for a truly unforgettable French Christmas market experience, the one in Rebeauvillé should definitely be on your bucket list. One of the most beautiful wine-growing villages seems to become even more gorgeous during the holidays.
It will feel like you have travelled centuries back to medieval times. With its fire jugglers, fiddlers, dancing lords and ladies, and enthusiastic storytellers. It might seem unusual at first, but the authentic atmosphere, makes it perhaps the most loved Christmas market in France.
Don’t forget to try medieval specialities! Try the slowly simmering soups, the delicious boar, barley wine or beer, and the sweet apple juice. You are guaranteed to make memories that will last a lifetime.
Tips for Visiting Christmas Markets in France:
- Don’t forget your Covid documentation. It is currently planned that Christmas markets will take place as usual, but most likely, they will be subject to restrictions. Therefore remember to keep the important documents with you.
- Bring cash with you. Most Christmas markets don’t accept credit cards, so remember to pay a visit to ATM before your adventure.
- Dress properly. Christmas markets are typically outdoors, so it is essential to stay warm and wear comfortable shoes. Of course, a cup of mulled wine can do wonders too.
- Be patient. It is best not to buy anything straightaway. Usually, Christmas markets are pretty big. If you make a purchase immediately, you might regret it because you might stumble upon something better on the next corner.
- Keep your things close to you. Christmas markets can get a bit crowded. That, of course, is great for pickpocketers. So to avoid any unpleasant situations, always keep your belongings with you.
Without a doubt, Christmas markets are an exciting part of the holiday season. One might enjoy them for the lovely atmosphere, others – for the delicious food. After all – what can be better than yummy gingerbread? The Alsace Christmas Markets in France are definitely a place to enjoy a bit of sparkle and believe in the miracle of the holiday.
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