Christmas is our most favourite holiday and, after the summer, also our most favourite time of the year. One of our favourite things about Christmas are definitely Christmas markets. It brings us so much joy, happiness and Christmas spirit that we cannot imagine going a year without seeing any. Especially for Dominika (who comes from Slovakia where Christmas markets are very popular) it’s a tradition since she was a little child.
In 2019 we decided to visit the city with one of the most beautiful and one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe – Strasbourg (also known as the capital of Christmas). Dating back to 1570, it is a tradition of almost 500 years. Even though Christmas markets are not a typical French tradition, the region of Alsace (where Strasbourg is the capital) used to belong to Germany back then.
Kilometres of fairy lights, more than 300 wooden stands, where you can buy mulled wine, traditional food, delicious sweets, wooden figurines, delicate porcelain, Christmas decorations, handmade toys, jewellery and many other handcrafted pieces. Around 2 million people visit these incredibly charming markets every year.
Strasbourg is a very popular destination during this time of the year, which makes it also the most expensive time to visit it. We highly recommend to book the accommodation way in advance. The cheapest accommodation we could find last minute was 120 euros/night.
All the markets are located in the old town (Grande Île) so we suggest you to take the hotel there, as it is the most comfortable choice. To reach the markets you have to enter through one of the security checkpoints, where they search your belongings as an anti terrorism measure.
In total there are 11 Christmas markets across the old town which take place from late November until the end of December (2020 dates are: 20.11.2020-30.12.2020). Some of the biggest markets are held at the main squares: Place Broglie (where is also the Opera House, the City Hall, the Governor’s Palace and the Prefect’s Palace), Place Kléber (where the giant Christmas tree and ice-skating rink are), Place de la Cathédrale de Strasbourg (where is the beautiful Cathédrale Notre-Dame with the historical astronomical clock), Place Gutenberg, Place du Château (where there are half-timbered houses decorated with teddy-bears) and some smaller markets are located at: Place du Marché aux Poisson, Place du Temple Neuf, Place Saint Thomas, Place des Meuniers, Place Benjamin-Zix, Place Grimmeissen.
!!!PLEASE NOTE, THAT A LOT MIGHT CHANGE THIS YEAR BECAUSE OF COVID 19!!!
Located close to the border with Germany (and being a German region in the past), Strasbourg has influences from both countries. This is particularly noticeable in culture and architecture. As we live in Germany we noticed it right away especially with the food that is very similar to the German one.
THE MOST TRADITIONAL FOOD OF STRASBOURG:
Tarte flambée – this is one of the most famous dishes in Strasbourg. It is kind of a flatbread/pizza base with sour cream, bacon and onion
Spätzle – dense pasta made with fresh eggs (typical also for Germany, Austria and Switzerland) with munster cheese, ham or lardons
Choucroute garnie – a dish made of sausage, sour cabbage, potatoes and cuts of pork
Kougelhopf – a kind of pastry (similar to brioche) with dried fruit and almonds
Bretzel – It is the same thing as German pretzels (again, the influence of Germany) and it is a kind of savoury pastry snack
To be honest we were not big fans of the Alsatian cuisine. We preferred eating at the markets as there is a large variety of food, so you can surely find something you like or you can share some small finger food to try more things. It is also the cheapest way to eat.
Our most favourite part of Strasbourg (apart from the Christmas markets) was the historical quarter “La petite France”. Beautiful half – timbered houses neighbourhood right on the river Ill is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage. If you want to know more about Strasbourg and Alsace region, you can visit the historical museum – Musée Historique de Strasbourg. You should definitely walk across the beautiful Ponts Couverts, a group of three bridges and four towers that were built as main defensive structures. This neighbourhood is also full of small shops, bars, cafés and restaurants so when you get cold being all day out, you can get a nice cup of hot chocolate or tea to warm you up.
We spent 3 full days in Strasbourg and it was a good amount of time. We originally planned to visit Christmas markets in Colmar too, but at that time there was a public transport strike, so we couldn’t get the train to get there. However we recommend to go there too as we heard is really beautiful and magical. We will probably try to go there another time.
We hope this little guide helped you and you are going to have a fabulous time in Strasbourg. For more pictures and videos check our Instagram feed from December 2019 and the story highlight “Strasbourg”. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to comment below or contact us via email or even better via Instagram @borntotraveldiaries. Thank you for your time and stay tuned for our next diary page 🙂