Visiting an Alsace Christmas Market is one of the most exciting things to do in France over the holidays. The Alsace region, bordering Germany and Switzerland, is filled with charming storybook towns that are magical in December.
Strasbourg, the self-proclaimed Capital of Christmas, welcomes 2 million visitors annually for the Strasbourg Christmas Markets. It’s one of the most festive and beautiful cities in France for the holidays.
The Colmar Christmas Market is the other large, must-see market, but what truly makes Christmas in Alsace unique is the smaller hidden gems that each have their own distinctive charm.
You’ll find all the details you need to plan your trip below. So put these 6 Alsace Christmas markets on your Europe Bucket List and enjoy!
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History of Christmas Markets in France
The tradition of Christmas markets originally comes from the Germanic Cultures. The earliest record goes back to the 1300s in Germany. The celebration was a part of the festival of St. Nicolas (a saint in Christianity).
Christmas markets as we know them today, began a couple of hundred years later. They signal the beginning of Advent. For centuries, they have brought light to long winter nights.
In addition to shopping, Christmas markets have fun activities, delicious food, sweet treats (just imagine – homemade gingerbread and traditional pastries), mulled wine, and the most festive atmosphere.
Even now, Christmas markets in Strasbourg are considered one of the best. Quite frankly, they set the tone for all the rest in France. Experience the magic of the holidays and bring home gifts that are truly unique.
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Best Time to Visit Alsace Christmas Markets
Typically, the festivities begin on the last weekend of November and close on the 24th or 31st of December. The best time to visit Christmas markets in France is early evening.
The combination of darkness and lights make the atmosphere even more magical. If you prefer to stay away from crowds, avoid exploring the markets during weekends.
How to Get to the Christmas Markets in Strasbourg and Colmar
Start your Alsace Christmas market journey in Strasbourg or Colmar. The most convenient way to get there is fly into Strasbourg airport (SXB).
- Airplane: There are non-stop flights to Strasbourg Airport from many European countries. You can also fly into Basel Airport, 40 minutes away from Colmar.
- Train: The TGV from Paris Gare de L’Est to Strasbourg is a quick 2:30 hour trip. Make sure to buy your tickets in advance because the price goes up the closer you get to the date of travel.
- Rental Car: We spent a few days in Paris, then booked a car through Discover Cars to pick up at Gare du Nord. Driving from Paris to Strasbourg takes 5 hours. We stopped in Reims and Metz along the way.
- Bus: This is the cheapest way to get from Paris to Strasbourg. The trip takes 6-7 hours.
Once you’re in the Alsace region, it’s easiest to get around by car but you can also use trains and Uber. All of the markets you will find here are along the one hour driving route between Strasbourg and Mulhouse.
6 Magical Alsace Christmas Markets in France
While there are Christmas markets all over France, Strasbourg is known for the biggest and best. It’s truly a sight to be seen and you can easily spend a few days citing all the markets around the city.
But it’s not the only game in town. There are so many Alsace hidden gems to explore. Whether you are a fan of the wondrous holiday or a Grinch at heart – you will surely have a good time.
With our help, discover the best fairytale Alsace Christmas markets in France.
Strasbourg Christmas Markets
Strasbourg is home to the oldest Christmas market in Europe. Typically, it has around 300 stalls, offering delicious snacks and handmade crafts.
Although the most popular market is nestled in the center at Place Kléber, you will find a variety of markets spread around the city (all within walking distance).
So whether you prefer a traditional or a more unusual experience, you will find one that suits your taste and needs.
While it’s fun during the day, Strasbourg literally sparkles at night. Buildings, streets and alleyways are lavishly decorated and illuminated with the most striking displays of lights.
In Place Kléber, the glistening 100 foot Christmas tree stands at the center of it all. Don’t miss the Strasbourg Cathedral.
In the capital of Christmas, you can eat your way through all of the stalls filled with delicious dishes and treats. Make sure to try bretzels (soft pretzels), crêpes, bredeles (star-shaped cookies) and tartes flambés.
One of the most impressive looking treats is the boules mousse (chocolate shell filled with cream filling). Vin chaud (hot wine) is everywhere and the perfect warm drink on a cold day.
- Why the Strasbourg Christmas Market is worth visiting: It’s the biggest market with an incredible selection of food and gifts. Plus you have a chance to explore all the sites on the Grand-Île, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Dates: November 24 – December 24
Best Strasbourg Christmas Markets to Visit:
- Place de la Cathédrale de Strasbourg
- Place Broglie Christkindelsmärik – the best food
- Place Gutenberg Christmas market
- Place Kléber (near the Christmas tree) – the best shopping
Where to Stay in Strasbourg for Alsace Christmas Markets
Strasbourg has so many luxurious accommodations. These are all within walking distance of the markets and will add an extra touch of excitement to your trip.
We stayed at the Okko Hotels Strasbourg Centre (8.3). It’s in the newer part of town and you can walk 15 minutes to the center or take the 5 minute tram. The hotel was modern, comfortable and had a nice area for guests with food and drinks.
If you want to stay closer to the markets, we recommend Hôtel & Spa Le Bouclier D’or (9.2) or Pavillon Régent Petite France (9.0). For a lovely vacation rental, Le Carré d’or – Appartement avec vue Cathédrale (9.9) is a spacious 2 bedroom.
Colmar Christmas Markets
Nestled between Strasbourg and Basel, many think Colmar is prettiest town in the Alsace region. The storybook architecture, with cobblestone streets and canals running through town, add to the allure.
Even if you are visiting at a different time of year, it’s a stunning place to see. But Christmas makes it come alive and become even more enchanting.
The Place de l’Ancienne Douane Christmas market is a must. Set in a beautiful square lined with kiosks, this market is frequented by locals and tourists alike.
The six Colmar Christmas markets run in a row through the town of half-timbered houses, reminiscent of fairytales. With the bright lights, colorful decor and big crowds, it has an exciting Disneyland feel.
Expect to find handmade gifts like ornaments, jewelry, embroidered linens, candles, toys, candies and more. Foodies should stop by the gourmet market that focuses on mouth-watering foods.
Things you should taste in Colmar include Springerle (anise-flavoured cookies), breder (Christmas biscuits), berawecka (bread with dried fruit), foie gras, and mulled wine.
Colmar is one of the best places in Europe to visit with kids at Christmas. They will love the rides, ice skating, buildings decked out in teddy bears, and a chance to see Santa.
- Why the Colmar Christmas Market is worth visiting: This is a great market for the family with everything lit up in neon, building adorned in teddy bears and lots of kiddie rides. Definitely visit at night.
- Dates: November 24 – December 29
Best Colmar Christmas Markets to See:
- Place de l’Ancienne Douane
- Place de la Cathédrale (for foodies)
- The Petite Venise Children’s Christmas Market (when visiting with kids)
- The Artisan Arts Market at Place des Dominicains (for handmade gifts)
Where to Stay for Colmar Christmas Markets
Colmar is a great place to stay to see the markets there and the neighboring villages of Ribeauville and Kaysersberg.
La Maison Des Têtes (9) or L’Esquisse Hotel & Spa (9.1) are beautifully designed boutique hotels in the city center. For an apartment stay, Reflets Sur La Lauch (9.8) has options for smaller or bigger groups and is fully equipped.
Obernai Christmas Market
Over the years, the market in Obernai – situated along the gorgeous Alsace Wine Route – has become one of the most impressive events in the area.
So if you are looking for gastronomy that will make your taste buds do a happy dance or unique gifts to give your loved ones, you surely can’t miss this Christmas market, which dates back to 1301.
Among other Alsace Christmas markets, the one in Obernai stands out as specifically focused on foodies. Our favorites were the taste flambé and the Riesling soup.
While you indulge in some delicious spice bread, sauerkraut, sausages or Christmas beer, don’t forget to talk with the producers who are behind the magic. They will happily share the secrets of their process.
All the shopaholics out there should get their hands on wreaths, Christmas baubles and other holiday items.
- Why the Obernai Christmas Market is worth visiting: Obernai is so charming. The Christmas Market has an old world feel and the food is gourmet fare. We loved this market and staying overnight in Obernai.
- Dates: November 24 – December 31 from 10 AM to 7 PM (closed on December 25)
Where to Stay for Obernai Christmas Markets
Since Obernai is 20 minutes from Strasbourg, you can pick one town to stay overnight in order to visit both places. Stay in Obernai if you prefer a small, quieter town that closes early. The market shuts down at 7 PM.
If you want to be in the middle of the action, you can continue staying in Strasbourg but we opted to stay our second night in Obernai at Hotel La Diligence (8.8) in the prettiest room overlooking the square.
Another hotel option is Le Parc Hôtel Obernai & Yonaguni Spa (8.8) or La Fontaine Sainte Odile (9.9) for a spacious apartment on the square that sleeps 6.
Kaysersberg Christmas Market
When the time of Advent begins in this beautiful town, you are in for a treat. Located just behind the impressive Saine-Croix church, Kayersberg is definitely one of the best Christmas markets in France.
This is a great market to visit during the day so you can do the short, easy walk up to Chåteau du Schlossberg and get a lovely bird’s-eye-view of the village.
First, warm yourself up with some mulled Alsatian wine or perhaps taste the local fare, including kougelhop, mannele and berawecka, and a variety of cheeses (it is France – after all). In the village, you will also get the chance to explore the farmer’s market – an excellent place to taste regional products, for example, honey and all kinds of jams.
If you stay until evening, you’ll enjoy the gorgeously illuminated Christmas lights.
We visited during the week when the market was closed but the town’s shops and restaurants are still very festive. They also host a Christmas Treasure Hunt through the tourist office from November 25 – January 6.
- Why the Keyserberg Christmas Market is worth visiting: It’s called the Authentic Alsace Christmas Market and it feel like it’s right out of a storybook.
- Dates: Advent Weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) November 24 – December 17 from 10 AM – 8 PM.
Ribeauville Christmas Market
If you are looking for a truly unforgettable French Christmas market experience, the one in Ribeauville should definitely be on your bucket list. One of the most beautiful wine-growing villages seems to become even more gorgeous during the holidays.
It will feel like you have travelled centuries back to medieval times. With its fire jugglers, fiddlers, dancing lords and ladies, and enthusiastic storytellers.
It might seem unusual at first, but the authentic atmosphere, makes it perhaps the most loved Christmas market in France.
Don’t forget to try medieval specialities! Try the slowly simmering soups, the delicious boar, barley wine or beer, and the sweet apple juice. You are guaranteed to make memories that will last a lifetime.
- Why the Ribeauville Christmas Market is worth visiting: This medieval Christmas Market and the town feel like a step back in time. With fortified castle ruins and buildings dating back to the 13th century, it’s one of the oldest Alsace villages.
- Dates: December 2, 3, 9 & 10
Mulhouse Christmas Market
The interesting thing about Mulhouse is how different it is than the rest of the cities in Alsace. The buildings have beautiful architecture and there are quite a few museums.
This was our last Alsace Christmas Market and it was nice but not as distinctive as all the others. That said, if you are traveling through the train station or it’s on your road trip, it’s worth a quick visit.
This smaller sized market takes place in Place de la Réunion. It’s a striking venue with Saint-Etienne church lit up in the brightest red. I broke down and bought a bag of cookies that I could not stop eating. Delicious!
You’ll also find artisan crafts and fabrics that are worth it if you collect those sorts of things.
- Why the Mulhouse Christmas Market is worth visiting: It’s the smallest of the bigger city markets in a beautiful square and the artisans have nice things. Visit this market if it fits your schedule but don’t drive out of your way.
- Dates: November 24 – December 27 from 11 AM to 8 PM (longer hours on weekends 10 AM to 9PM) Closed Christmas Day.
Tips for Visiting Christmas Markets in France:
- Bring cash with you. Most Christmas markets don’t accept credit cards, so remember to pay a visit to ATM before your adventure.
- Dress properly. Christmas markets are typically outdoors, so it is essential to stay warm and wear comfortable shoes. Of course, a cup of mulled wine can do wonders too.
- Be patient. It is best not to buy anything straightaway. Usually, Christmas markets are pretty big. If you make a purchase immediately, you might regret it because you might stumble upon something better on the next corner.
- Keep your things close to you. Christmas markets can get a bit crowded. That, of course, is great for pickpocketers. We highly recommend an anti-theft bag or theft-proof backpack that has a built in lock to protect your belongings.
Final Thoughts About Christmas in Alsace
Without a doubt, Christmas markets are an exciting part of the holiday season. One might enjoy them for the lovely atmosphere, others – for the delicious food. After all – what can be better than yummy gingerbread?
The Alsace Christmas Markets in France are definitely a place to enjoy a bit of sparkle and believe in the miracle of the holiday.
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