There are a million places to go to celebrate Christmas, but perhaps the most magical of them all is the French region of Alsace. After all, it is the birthplace of the Christmas tree. And with a landscape filled with historical castles, charming villages and peaceful vineyards, the area offers a personality and atmosphere that lends itself perfectly to rich historical holiday traditions. One such tradition is that of the spectacular Christmas Markets of Alsace, some of which have been celebrated since the 1500’s. Here are a few to check out if you’re planning a visit during the coming months.
The massive Strasbourg Christmas market, known locally as Christkindelsmärik, spreads all along the Old Town and is among the oldest celebrated Christmas markets in all of Europe. Friendly local artisans gather in their modest wooden stalls to sell their hand-made treasures. Here you can purchase one-of-a-kind gifts and unique souvenirs made from wood, glass and other traditional materials. Dine on delectable cuisine like Christmas cakes and gingerbread and sip on a glass (or two) of the area’s famous mulled wine, known as “vin chaud”.
During the Christmas Market, the already charming area of Strasbourg is somehow transformed into an even more magical place, adorned with spectacular decorations and dazzling illuminations as far as the eye can see. Every sense will be delighted as you take in the sights, sounds, tastes and aromas of the season. There are even parades, live bands and light and sound shows to truly make the holiday come alive! If you’re looking for an unforgettable way to celebrate the holidays, the Strasbourg Christmas Market is a must-see. They don’t call it the “Capital of Christmas” for nothing.
Other Markets: Sélestat, Colmar, Eguisheim, Kaysersberg, Mulhouse and Riquewihr
Aside from the Strasbourg Christmas Market, which is spectacularly huge and incredibly impressive, Alsace is also home to a number of smaller markets that also offer unique experiences and age-old traditions. These markets are typically held in the main square of a town, which is lavishly adorned with sparkling lights and brilliant Christmas decorations. Many of the popular monuments are also dressed for the season, often illuminated in a dazzling display of the Christmas spirit making them even more fascinating to see.
Alsatian Christmas markets feature lovely little wooden stalls, called chalets, from which shoppers can purchase fantastic one-of-a-kind treasures, most of which were hand crafted using traditional methods that have been passed on for generations. Within these small stalls you’ll find everything you can imagine from hand carved Christmas ornaments and nativity figurines to unique pottery and exquisite blown glass to beautiful linens and floral art. If you’re looking for that perfect gift you’re certain to find it at one of these magnificent events.
Most of the Alsatian markets showcase an impressive Christmas tree, usually in the center of all the action, and Christmas nativity scene displays to serve as a reminder of the reason behind the hustle and bustle of the holiday events. Fresh baked pastries and delicious mulled wine are available at every turn to satiate even the most finicky of visitors. The scents that permeate the air are nothing short of mesmerizing while the sounds of season, from Christmas music to friendly locals sharing their crafts and their long-held traditions, create a truly magical atmosphere.
A trip to the Alsace region of France is certain to be memorable any time of year, but when the Christmas markets are in full force it’s nothing short of spectacular. From brilliantly decorated old towns and friendly merchants selling unique treasures to mouthwatering food and long-held holiday traditions that haven’t changed for centuries; you’ll be enchanted at every turn. And whether you’re interested in visiting Strasbourg in all its massive glory or would prefer to peruse the quieter streets of one of the smaller markets, you’ll discover that each one offers a unique and unforgettable experience. Christmas in Alsace is something you won’t want to miss.