There is nothing in the world quite like the Christmas season in Europe. By the first Advent weekend, many European cities have transformed themselves into fairytale winter wonderlands. There are festive sparkles, Christmas markets with wooden chalets, snow-capped cathedrals, seasonal cookies and cakes in the shops’ display windows, roasted chestnuts stands, and of course, the hot Glühwein (mulled wine). I love travelling around to visit different Christmas markets in December and absorb as much as festiveness as I possibly can. If you ask me what my favourite places are to visit this time of the year, it has to be Strasbourg and Colmar, in the Alsace region of France. That’s why I returned again this year to check out “Les Marches de Noël 2021”.
Madeline Lu wearing the Portofino Automatic 34 at the Pink House in Colmar
Petit Venice in Colmar
The Portofino Automatic 34 Ref. IW357405 at Petit Venice
Place de l’Ancienne Douane in Colmar
HOW TO GET THERE
The most convenient and economic way to travel to Strasbourg and Colmar is by train. Both towns are fairly small with limited space for driving and parking. Taking public transportation and walking are the best way to get around. Since it is only a short 30 minutes train ride between the two towns, it is better to stay in one town and take a day trip to visit the other. I always choose to stay at Strasbourg since it has better train connections and has more to offer to its visitors.
Strasbourg and Colmar Christmas markets are two of the best, biggest and oldest in Europe. The first Christkindlmarkt in Strasbourg is even dated back to 1570. There are over 300 wooden chalets spread around different squares of the city and bring all the traditions of a typical Alsatian Christmas to life.
Where to Stay - La Cour du Corbeau Hotel
Situated in the heart of Strasbourg, a short five minutes stroll from the Cathedral, La Cour du Corbeau is one of the oldest hotels in Europe, dating back to 16th century. Over the past five-hundreds years, the hotel has welcomed a number of famous travellers and gone through many ups and downs. Finally, in 2009, La Cour du Corbeau went through a huge transformation and reopened its doors as a hotel. I chose to stay here not only for the obvious charm that the building possesses with its Renaissance architecture, but also its convenient location in the near proximity of the Christmas markets and tram stop. My favourite room is No. 209 (for two people), which has floor-to-ceiling windows to the charming courtyard.
Where to Eat - Maison Kammerzell
Maison Kammerzell, or Kammerzellhaus in German, is considered one of the most beautiful brasseries in the world and must-see in Strasbourg. It is situated right on the Place de la Cathedral, the heart of the city. The original architecture of the building of Maison Kammerzell is a great show piece of the regional’s artistic past. Wooden sculptures, frescoes, spiral staircases are just some of the notable details. Must try the foie gras and any dishes that include Sauerkraut.
Must-Visit Christmas Markets in Strasbourg
La Petite France
This is a historic quarter and located at the Western end of the Grande Île. In the Middle Ages, this was the home to the city’s tanners, millers and fishermen. Now it is one of Strasbourg’s most scenic attractions. Petite France is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This is the largest square at the centre of Strasbourg. It was named after the Strasbourg-born French revolutionary general Jean-Baptiste Kléber. There is a statue of him in the square with this remains in vault buried under. The giant Christmas Tree, around 30 meters, is displayed here every year.
This is another main square of Strasbourg. It is notable for its prestigious surroundings: The Opera House, the City Hall, the Governor’s Palace, the Prefect’s Palace, the Strasbourg building of the Banque de France and the historic Mess building. I love the market stalls here the most as they have the most diverse offerings.
Must-Visit Christmas Markets in Colmar
There are six Christmas markets dotted across the Colmar historical centre.
Place des Dominicains
Lies in the shadows of the former Dominican Church, this is one of the largest Christmas markets in Colmar. You can find everything that is expected from a traditional European market, from vin chaud to handcrafted goods. This is also one of the markets where you can drink your Glühwein from a mug rather than a plastic cup.
Place Jeanne d’Arc
Situated amidst a sea of timber-framed houses, the Square of Place Jeanne d’Arc is dedicated to foodstuffs and other goods that originate in the Alsace and beyond. You will find local wines, gingerbread, Christmas Bredele, and more!
The most picturesque parts of Colmar. Definitely make plenty of snaps of the colourful timber-framed houses with the river canal. You will find the Colmar Children’s Christmas Market here with highlights such as a mechanical Nativity Scene and posting a letter to Father Christmas!
Place de l’Ancienne Douane
English as “Ancient Customs Square”, here has one of the largest Christmas Markets in Colmar. There are about fifty chalets selling everything from Alsace produce to Christmas decorations. It is the most beautiful here in the evenings when the former Customs House is illuminated with a thousand twinkling lights.
Place de la Cathedrale
The ultimate foodie experience is to be discovered at Place de la Cathedrale. A selection of nine chalets set under a covering (making this the other ‘semi-indoor’ Christmas Market in Colmar), the cabins are arranged in a semi-circle around tables where you can sit and enjoy your gourmet finds on small benches.
Koïfhus (Colmar Indoor Christmas Market)
It is an indoor Christmas market where you can enjoy the best of the festive cheer sheltered from the elements. Situated in a building steps away from the Place de l’Ancienne Douane, the indoor market places a particular focus on handcrafted goods and vintage products.
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