It is no coincidence that the city of Strasbourg, France holds the title of “Christmas capital”. From the end of November, the towns and villages of Alsace adorn themselves with their most beautiful decorations and the scent of gingerbread mingles with that of mulled wine. Join the party by discovering 5 festive experiences to live in the heart of this beautiful region which has been perpetuating traditions for more than four centuries.
In Strasbourg, the launch of the Advent period festivities rhymes with the inauguration of nearly 400 chalets spread across ten sites on the Big Island. From the first evening, locals and visitors alike gather on Place Broglie where the oldest Christmas market in France takes place, the historic Christkindelsmärik (market of the child Jesus). Among the other must-see sites: the Village du Partage in Place Kléber, the Delights of Alsace market on the terrace of the Palais Rohan and the Irrésistibles Petits Producteurs d’Alsace market in Square Louise Weiss.
A little further south, about 75 km from the capital, the city of Colmar is also a must. The inhabitants of the region will tell you that they have a weakness for the six markets of this small municipality which reflect the authentic atmosphere of an Alsatian Christmas. For the occasion, the old town puts on its most beautiful finery and transports visitors to a setting straight out of a fairy tale.
Depending on your wishes and the time you have, you can plan to visit other markets such as those in the villages crossed by the Alsace Wine Route, namely Ribeauvillé, Riquewihr and Kaysersberg.
Every year, the half-timbered houses, shop windows, streets, churches and emblematic monuments of the towns and villages of Alsace are adorned with thousands of lights and garlands. Day and night, you will enjoy a different decor, but just as magical.
From November, the Grand Sapin, an essential symbol of Strasbourg, stands proudly in the heart of the iconic Place Kléber. To the delight of young and old, put on your skates and practice your most beautiful pirouettes while admiring this majestic conifer 30 meters high which offers a light and musical entertainment every hour from 5 p.m. Also treat yourself to a magical stroll along the Quai des Bateliers where nearly 400 stars light up the sky.
From gingerbread to pretzels, via foie gras, sauerkraut and flame küeche, several markets and institutions invite you to discover the specialties of the region. Don't forget to let yourself be tempted by the traditional bredele, small Alsatian cakes that take on different shapes and flavors, and the mannele, brioche dough figures that are particularly popular with children. Make a detour to Maison Christian, in Strasbourg, to marvel at the magnificent decorated facade and to stock up on delicacies.
Also remember to book a table in an Alsatian winstub. These establishments, which still serve Alsace wines in rutscherle, typical small glasses, as well as quality traditional cuisine, became widespread in the 1870s. On the Grande Île in Strasbourg, go to Chez Yvonne to savor a dish of garnished sauerkraut, ham or cockerel in Riesling.
In a slightly more modern spirit, head to Mama Bubbele to taste the mythical Flammekuëche (Alsatian tarte flambée). It is a thin bread dough covered with fresh cream, onions and smoked bacon. In addition to the traditional version, the establishment offers 14 other variations to satisfy all culinary desires.
In December, several concerts take place in churches and theaters in the region. This is an opportunity to immerse yourself fully in the festive atmosphere by letting yourself be lulled by sweet melodies. Take a look at the program offered by the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra and the Strasbourg Conservatory so you don't miss a thing.
And to immerse yourself in the traditions of yesteryear, a visit to the Alsatian Museum in Strasbourg will lead you to discover objects, costumes and furniture typical of the region. As Christmas approaches, the establishment also offers thematic workshops where you can learn the golden rules of decorating a tree over the centuries and explore the Alsatian rituals linked to this great celebration.
Finally, during your visit to Colmar, enjoy a unique experience as illuminated boats welcome children's choirs who interpret traditional Christmas carols while navigating through the canals of the Petite Venise district. An absolutely magical moment!
To fully enjoy the festive side of the event, let yourself be tempted by a glass of mulled wine. During the Advent period, this hot drink can be enjoyed at any time of the day. From market to market, you will find the comforting scents of cinnamon, citrus fruits and cloves.
In addition to the traditional version concocted with red wine, merchants offer you different recipes for mulled wine with Riesling or Pinot Blanc from Alsace. This is an opportunity to meet the winegrowers and taste quality local products!