One of the most magical experiences during the Christmas season in Europe is getting to explore a Christmas Market. Widely popular throughout Central and Northern Europe, Christmas Markets are filled with festive stands selling Glühwein (hot mulled wine), Christmas decorations, and gifts. Different regions offer different regional specialties including food, decor, and traditions. Of the most famous markets, the Christmas Markets in Strasbourg, and throughout France’s Alsace region, are a classic!
While many Christmas Markets are closed throughout Europe this year, we were lucky enough to visit four towns in the Eastern French region of Alsace that are running their markets in a COVID-19-safe manner (ie., vaccine and mask requirements). Here are some of the highlights from our visit, as well as our recommendations for how to make the most of your visit to these adorable markets!
NOTE: We experienced the Alsace Christmas markets from December 1st – 5th, 2021. During this time, all markets discussed were open to those who were fully vaccinated (with proof of vaccination). In addition, those visiting the markets are required to by fully masked (using medical-grade masks in general). Please check updated news and government websites before traveling to ensure you meet all entry requirements for France and Alsace, and to ensure that the markets are still open.
Strasbourg – The “Capitale de Noël”
The center of Strasbourg feels like an intimate, historic town. However, this charming small city is also the capital of Alsace and one of the three capitals of the European Union (along with Brussels and Luxembourg). The pedestrian-friendly center of Strasbourg lies on an island surrounded by canals. To make the center even more pedestrian-friendly, central Strasbourg becomes pedestrian-only each day after 11:00 a.m. throughout the Christmas season. We loved exploring both the main boulevards and smaller lanes in Strasbourg during these times.
The Market at Place Kléber, 1 of 3 Major Christmas Markets in Strasbourg:
Strasbourg offers three huge Christmas markets, as well as several smaller groupings of market stands. The first of the main markets is in Place Kléber. This market is located only half a block from our recommended hotel in Strasbourg, Maison Rouge. From what we saw, the Place Kléber Market offers the most artisan stalls. These artisans sell items that we think are perfect for gifts: jewelry, leather goods, wood boxes, and other specialty items. This market also offers a carousel for children and Strasbourg’s main Christmas tree, which makes for a great photo op!
Christkindelsmärik: The 2nd of 3 Major Christmas Markets in Strasbourg
The second market in Strasbourg is the Christkindelsmärik in Place Broglie. This market is one of Strasbourg’s most historic markets, dating back to 1871. The Christkindelsmärik was huge, and offered a wide variety of gifts, decor, and food. In general, we saw more Christmas decorations at the Christkindelsmärik than the market in Place Kléber. Vendors sell everything from ornaments and tinsel to Christmas tree lights and even the trees themselves. For some items, prices seemed a couple of euros cheaper here than at the other two markets, but much of that was dependent on the specific vendor.
Place de la Cathédral: The Classic Christmas Market in Strasbourg
The final (and most classic) market in Strasbourg is the market that surrounds the Strasbourg Cathedral. This is actually a combination of two markets, which takes place on the Place de la Cathédral and the Place du Chateau. We loved getting to wander through the stalls while enjoying the dramatic backdrop of the Gothic Cathedral. This market offered a mix of gifts and decorations. While we saw some decorations and food that was similar to other markets, several vendor sold unique decor and gifts. For example, one such specialty stall sold hand painted Santas, and another sold Christmas pillow cases. In addition to the stalls, this market offers a huge two-story carousel for kids!
In general, all three markets in Strasbourg offered similar food. Food specialties in Strasbourg’s Christmas Markets include Glühwein, crêpes, and Alsatian dishes. Overall, the Strasbourg markets lived up to the name of being the Capital of Christmas, at least in the Alsace region, given the enormous size of the different markets!
To learn more about our favorite highlights to see in Strasbourg year-round, read this article.
While our main focus while visiting Alsace was Strasbourg, we made sure to take one day to explore the other towns in Alsace. Here are the highlights of the Christmas Markets in three towns near Strasbourg: Colmar, Kaysersberg, and Riquewihr:
2021 Christmas Markets in Colmar:
If you are looking for a smaller market that still has a lot of variety, consider visiting Colmar. Colmar hosts six markets in its various town squares, and we loved how each market had its own special characteristics. One can’t miss visiting the main market in the center of town, located at Place de l’Ancienne Douane. This market is romantically set around some of the canals in the town. We also loved Colmar’s gourmet market at Place de la Cathédrale. This gourmet market offers nine unique food stalls centered around a heated open-air tent!
Our favorite market in Colmar was at the Place des Dominicains. This was larger than many of the markets, and offered a wide variety of food, decorations, and vendors. While it is further from the other markets, it is still easily walkable and is a can’t-miss part of visiting the Colmar Markets!
Note: Finding each of the six markets is a bit of a treasure hunt. We definitely suggest picking up a map of the Colmar Christmas markets, which is offered at many market stalls. These maps and schedules will help you find where each market is throughout the town!
To learn more about our favorite recommendations for visiting Colmar year-round, read our Colmar Destination Spotlight here!
2021 Christmas Markets in Kaysersberg:
This small medieval town is located only a few minutes drive from Colmar. The market here is only open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, but it is an adorable town to visit so make sure to plan your travel days accordingly! In Kaysersberg, we visited both a food market and a separate decoration and gift market (both of which require vaccine certificates to enter).
In addition to walking through the markets, our favorite part of exploring Kaysersberg at Christmas was getting to see the decorations throughout the town! We especially enjoyed walking around to see the festive decorations on the half-timbered buildings along the main pedestrian streets in town.
2021 Christmas Markets in Riquewihr:
The final stop on our Christmas market tour was Riquewihr. We had visited this town about seven years ago, so we knew how special it is, and expected nothing less from its Christmas Market! Riquewihr is a romantic hillside town, that is centered around a medieval main street. The town looks like it came straight from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, with romantic half-timbered buildings lining the streets.
At Christmas time, Riquewihr is filled with decorations, and Christmas music is played throughout the town. Plus, an adorable Christmas Market fills the park area along part of the city wall. This market was bigger than the Kaysersberg market, with a lot more vendors selling beanies and gloves, toys, and other gifts. As usual, Riquewihr’s market also included plenty of Glühwein stands and food options.
Riquewihr also offered a food market, which was located about halfway up the main street of town. This market included gourmet foods such as specialty cheeses, pre-packaged food for gifts, and a snack area.
Logistic Notes for Visiting the Markets in Alsace:
While we have stayed in Colmar during the summer before and loved it, we suggest staying in Strasbourg if your goal is to visit the Christmas Markets. Strasbourg offers the most amount of markets, and one day trip won’t let you cover it all. Maison Rouge, a five-star Marriott Autograph Collection hotel, is perfectly located in Strasbourg in order for you to make the most of your time!
In order to visit the towns around Strasbourg, you can either take a car or take the train and shuttle. We chose to hire a driver for the day in order to see Colmar, Kaysersberg, and Riquewihr in one day. Our driver, Patrick, was fantastic, and we highly recommend him if you wish to experience a similar day. His contact information is:
- Company: My Cab C IE
- Name: Patrick Rossi
- Email: [email protected]
- Phone Number: +33 (0) 6 64 53 95 84
- Website: www.mycabcie.com
Alternatively, you can take the train from Strasbourg to Colmar, which is a fairly regular non-stop train. From there, you can take the Christmas shuttle, which does a loop of Colmar, Kaysersberg, Riquewihr, and one other town on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays (with shuttles leaving approximately 30 minutes, check the timetable online for updated times).
One suggestion: try to go on a Friday if possible. Weekends are extremely busy in these little towns. Because of this, parking, access into the markets, and moving around the towns becomes way more difficult. While some days of the week don’t work because not all of the markets are open, try to plan your time to visit on a non-weekend day.
Hopefully, this helps you plan your time in Alsace during the Christmas season! If you have any questions or need help planning your next adventure, feel free to contact us.