Alsace is pretty much where modern Christmas started almost 500 years ago. It was the first place to hold a Christmas market, to have Christmas trees in homes and it’s where the Christmas bauble was invented!
Located in north-eastern France, Alsace, like Lorraine, is unlike other French regions in that its culture is heavily influenced by its neighbour Germany. From its population’s wonderfully German accent, to the food and architecture, a Germanic influence can be found everywhere you go. Its famous gastronomy includes spiced local sausages, sauerkraut, foie gras, eau de vie, mulled wine, spiced breads, Bredele (traditional spiced biscuits), the famous Yule log, locally brewed beer and the region’s celebrated wines.
Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace is also known as the “Capital of Christmas”. More than 100 Christmas markets are held in the region each year from the big, bright, bold markets attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors to the smaller, less touristy but equally delightful Christmas markets of the villages.
The best Christmas Markets Alsace 2023
Strasbourg Christmas Market
Where it all began…
The oldest and one of the largest Christmas markets in France with more than 300 stalls and every year, a thirty-metre tall Christmas tree decorated with colourful ornaments and shimmering lights. It is in fact the highest decorated Christmas tree in Europe.
The atmosphere that prevails in Strasbourg as Christmas approaches is unique. The city is adorned in its most beautiful finery, the houses are richly decorated… At nightfall, the magic comes alive. The windows light up and the streets and squares, all connected by a network of light, give off their different scents amid sparkling decors. The “Carré d’Or” is especially spectacular, such as the rue des Hallebardes, with its magnificent crystal chandeliers. And, at the heart of this latticework of light, the Cathedral stands proud, shining like a jewel. Throughout December, Strasbourg is the most illuminated city in Europe.
Strasbourg’s historical neighbourhood, La Petite France, is one of the city’s attractions where the light is known for being particularly beautiful. Take a walk around its cobblestone roads and medieval buildings, bathed in festive radiance.
Mulhouse Christmas Market
The Mulhouse Christmas Market features half-timbered chalets offering high quality products, exceptional fabric (not surprising in this land of textiles) and fine foods. There are regional delicacies from the Alsace and great artisan gifts. The scent of cinnamon and mulled wine combined with the magical illuminations make this a shopping pleasure.
A unique tradition takes place at the Renaissance former town hall which is transformed into a giant advent calendar. Every night in the lead up to Christmas, a window is opened and lit up!
While you’re in Mulhouse, don’t miss the incredible Cité de l’Automobile, the world’s biggest car museum.
When? From 24 November to 27 December 2023. Place de la Réunion
Colmar Christmas Market
There’s a lovely market in the picturesque old town which is beautifully decorated for the season. A tradition of the town is to attach candles to branches of holly and fir trees to ward off evil for the four weeks before Christmas, making for some spectacular illuminations.
There are five Christmas markets in Colmar that specialise in children’s gifts, antiques, arts and crafts and gastronomy.
Petite Venise for children. The market features a giant letter box for posting letters to Father Christmas, there’s a Christmas carousel and gifts aimed at children.
Covered Market of the Koïfhus. Located in a 14th and 15th century building with an eclectic mix of art and antiques from artisans and specialists in the crafts arenas as well as antiques.
Christmas Market Place de l’Ancienne Douane. Stalls are set up around the Schwendi Fountain erected by Auguste Bartholdi (the famed sculptor of the iconic Statue of Liberty).
Christmas Market Place Jeanne d’Arc. A great place to buy regional food products of Alsace.
Christmas Market Place des Dominicains. A very pretty and festive location for the Christmas stalls set up beneath the 4th century stained-glass windows of the Dominican Church.
When? 23 November to 29 December 2023 Details: www.noel-colmar.com/en/
Smaller but gorgeous markets in Alsace
It might not surprise you to know that mostly – Christmas in France is all about food… so buckle up, or maybe unbuckle your belt, for a fun, festive and foodie podcast: The A to Z of Christmas in France