That’s it, winter is coming! The days are getting shorter, the temperatures are dropping. Good news for lovers of gingerbread and mulled wine, the Christmas market season is starting.
A little reminder before starting our tour in Alsace: in general, the Christmas markets open their doors during the Advent period, more or less 4 weeks from the end of November to Christmas. So do not plan to visit them between Christmas and New Year, you will most certainly find closed chalets.
But what are the Christmas markets to visit to discover and enjoy the magic of this time of year?
A little piece of History to start …
The first Christmas market, which was then called Christkindelsmärik (“market of the baby Jesus” in Alsatian), took place in Strasbourg in 1570.
At the time, it was an opportunity for parents to prepare St Nicolas (December 6) by buying toys and sweets. It is therefore in line with Alsatian end-of-year traditions …
Read the article carefully to the end for a quick summary of the specialties to absolutely taste during your visit … But let’s start our exploration!
The TOP Christmas markets in Alsace:
… and around:
Freiburg im Breisgau
1 – Strasbourg, capital of Christmas, the essential
If only one had to be chosen, it would be, according to many, the Strasbourg Christmas market that should be the one … It is true that this market has existed for centuries (1570), and the Alsatian capital lends a magnificent setting to enhance it.
After a little too commercial drifts, the town hall has restored order by imposing a little more authenticity in the products offered.
Place de la Cathédrale
The main places:
- Place Kléber: the great Strasbourg square and its decorated Christmas tree
- Cathedral Square: the main market, at the foot of the cathedral
- Place Broglie: where it all began …
- Place Gutenberg: small square between the cathedral and Place Kléber, which celebrates a different country each year
- Place Grimmeissen (Petite France): more remote and more intimate market
To get there:
Strasbourg is very visited and traffic and parking can be difficult … I invite you to use the car parks associated with the quite performing tram (P + R).
You can also plan to come by train to be directly downtown.
For more information, you can visit the website dedicated to the Strasbourg Christmas market.
If you are in Strasbourg and want to enjoy the atmosphere of the Christmas markets in the city or even in the region, you can also book a guided tour:
2 – Colmar, the fairytale
Colmar may not be the oldest market, but how beautiful it is!
The city center, already magnificent to visit the rest of the year, becomes magical during the Christmas period. A huge amount of work is done for the decorations and illuminations, the inhabitants also putting their hands in the dough. To do !
Place des Dominicains
Place Jeanne d'Arc
Place de l'Ancienne Douane
La Petite Venise
The main places:
- Place des Dominicains: the main market
- Place Jeanne d’Arc: local products in a setting of half-timbered houses
- Place de l’Ancienne Douane: do not hesitate to enter the Koïfhus (building dating from the Middle Ages)
- La Petite Venise (Little Venice): the magical place for photographers and instagrammers
As for Strasbourg, if you are in Colmar and wish to take the opportunity to discover other Christmas markets in the region, you can book this tour …
3 – Mulhouse, forgotten
Of course, Mulhouse is not the prettiest town in Alsace, doesn’t matter if it is during or outside Christmas period. Nevertheless, its market on the Place de la Réunion is worth going there, for its chalets and its small Ferris wheel.
Place de la Réunion
Square de la Bourse
Place des Cordiers
The main places:
- Place de la Réunion: chalets and ferris wheel
- Square de la Bourse: children’s market
- Place des Cordiers: for foodies
For more information, you can consult the website dedicated to the Mulhouse Christmas market.
4 – Riquewihr, the medieval
Riquewihr is, in my opinion, one of the most authentic villages and Christmas markets you can find.
First of all, the setting of this medieval city, still in the heart of its fortified enclosure, is magical in itself.
So now imagine the charm of the decorations, illuminations and smells of the Christmas market to further enrich the decor. A must !
5 – Ribeauvillé, a journey through time
Ribeauvillé is another town which has managed to conserve its medieval center, with its traditional architecture.
Particularity here, its Christmas market relies on historical reconstruction. The animations and the period costumes take you back in time. If you’re looking to see what Alsace used to look like, Ribeauvillé is the place to go!
6 – Kaysersberg, the authentic
With Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé, Kaysersberg is another town with a preserved medieval center.
You will appreciate your discovery even more by visiting the market after dark. The half-timbering, the decorations and the chalets will form the complete decoration of this Christmas period.
7 – Eguisheim, the setting
Some of you may already know Eguisheim, ranked among the most beautiful villages in France.
Add to that the Christmas ingredients and you will have a tasty and successful Christmas market recipe.
8 – Thann, the confidential
I couldn’t finish this tour of the Christmas markets in Alsace without talking about a town that I know very well (I was a high school student there), Thann.
This town, the southern gateway to the famous Route des Vins d’Alsace, also has its market. Smaller than the previous ones, but it is worth it for the decor offered by its collegiate church and its illuminations.
Here is my selection of Christmas markets to visit in Alsace. This list is far from exhaustive and many gems are hidden in the villages of the region. Do not hesitate to explore and also to find out about the measures taken by each market (security, masks, health pass, …). You can find all the information on Christmas markets (but not only) on the website dedicated to the Christmas period in Alsace.
The tradition of Christmas markets is no longer an Alsatian exclusivity. If you stay in the area, you can also visit the markets in neighboring regions (we can see that just after).
Christmas markets in neighboring France
Many towns in France have adopted this Alsatian tradition and offer their own Christmas markets. In particular, you can visit those of:
Christmas markets in Switzerland
Switzerland is also rich in Christmas markets. For those closest to Alsace, I recommend:
- Bâle (Basel)
Christmas markets in Germany
The large German markets will be further away, but you can already indulge yourself in:
- Freiburg im Brisgau
There you go, I believe that you already have something to take care of when you visit the Christmas markets, and that you will be able to take advantage of this magical period.
As promised in the introduction, I can’t let you walk the aisles of the markets without giving you a small list of culinary specialties to try …
The specialties to delight your taste buds in the markets:
Now that you have chosen your destination, you may be wondering which specialties you absolutely must taste, eat in or take home. Small preview:
- Mulled wine: a must for warming up. White wine, red wine, … Each chalet has its recipe. It’s up to you to discover them!
- Bredala (or bredele, depending on the canton): dry cakes traditionally made in all families. Easy to take home (long shelf life)
- Mannala (or Mannele): brioche in the shape of a man, generally eaten at St Nicolas (December 6)
- Berawecka: traditional pastry made with dried and candied fruits. A delight with a hot drink or foie gras
I hope this article will be useful to you, and look forward to discovering your photos on the Christmas markets in my region …
On which one will we meet each other?