France’s northeastern region of Alsace is known for a multitude of things: sweet wine and hardy cheese, medieval villages with cobblestoned streets and a culture with plenty of Deutsch influence from its German neighbor. But when winter comes around, the ultimate allure of Alsace is its Christmas markets.
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Home to many of the greatest and most authentic Christmas markets in Europe, the Alsace region comes alive in December along France’s eastern border. Throughout the little villages surrounding the main towns of Strasbourg and Colmar, the Alsatian people go to great lengths to make the season as magical as possible.
Drink the mulled wine, munch on the traditional bredele butter cookies, and explore handmade creations by France’s local artisans at any one of these marvelous winter wonderlands.
Commonly referred to as the “Capital of Christmas” the Strasbourg Christkindelsmärik (named in the region’s Alsatian dialect) is one of the oldest holiday markets in Europe, lighting up the city since 1570. This year’s theme “Let’s Share the Magic” encourages visitors to indulge in all the enchanting feelings as they wander through the artisans’ huts along the cobblestone streets dripping in lights and decoration. Artists, creators, boutiques, and antiquaries showcase their best selection of treasures which can serve as a unique souvenir from this divine experience.
Just south of Strasbourg, a colorful, medieval town houses a series of markets, nicknamed the “Soul of Christmas,” in the fairytale-esque Colmar. The smells of gourmet food and mulled wine permeate throughout the six town squares where individual markets are set up as mini villages. Strolling down the streets it’s important to look up, as windows and balconies are adorned with lights and decorations that seem to dance with the traditional music that fills the air.
Along the narrow streets of the Kaysersberg Valley, garlands and greenery adorn the facades of the half-timber houses in a charming atmosphere. With advent-themed wine tastings, exhibitions showcasing toys over the course of history, craftsmen selling their creations at the foot of castle ruins, and organized treasure hunts fit for a king, it will feel like wandering through the mystical village of Father Christmas himself!
A Christmas in the mountains is always a good idea. “Wihnàchta ìn da Barrie,” the Christmas market in Munster, reinforces the woodsy village environment with authentic mountain decorations. To combat the cold, the town offers plenty of ways to warm up including Munster soup tastings, cinnamon mulled wine, and log-burning fires. You can also find beer tastings, painting and sculpture exhibitions, and theatrical holiday performances.
This picturesque Christmas town comes alive in winter with their market dedicated to the area’s best craftsmen and creators, allowing visitors to explore exquisite French artistry. To enhance the spirit of this quaint village, concerts, performances, and music strolls are slated throughout December. Looking forward to this month all year, the town’s market organizers surely don’t disappoint.
For an unforgettable winter holiday in France, a trip to at least one of the markets in this region is indispensable. Who knows, you might even run into Saint Nicholas or Madame Claus!