It’s the most magical time of year: a time of family, food, gifting, and embracing traditions. However you spend the holidays, we can always look to Europe to provide festive cheer and inspiration. Let’s take a look at how the French city of Strasbourg, widely considered the “Capital of Christmas”, celebrates the season of goodwill.
Strasbourg, France: Capital of Christmas
Strasbourg is the capital city of France’s Alsace region, in northeastern France. Being close to the German border, the culture and architecture of the city show inspiration from both European countries, with late November erupting into a display of the traditional German-originated festivities.
The Strasbourg yuletide market is both the oldest in France and one of the oldest overall in the European continent. Dating back to 1570, the market stays true to the custom of Christmas markets with storefronts and building facades being beautifully decorated with lights and decoration.
Every year, a 30-meter tall fir tree occupies the heart of Place Kléber, strewn with hundreds of cherubs and 400 baubles. The tree is illuminated daily from 17:00 pm. Around 300 wooden chalets are dotted around the plaza and elsewhere, where you can pick up artisanal gifts, hand-crafted decorations, and time-honored treats.
Every year, a 30-meter tall fir tree occupies the heart of Place Kléber, strewn with hundreds of cherubs and baubles. The tree is illuminated daily from 17:00 pm. Around 300 wooden chalets are dotted around the plaza and elsewhere, where you can pick up artisanal gifts, hand-crafted decorations, and time-honored treats.
Aromatic vin chaud flows while Spätzle (cheese dumplings with pasta), tarte flambée (crispy bread topped with onions and bacon), and Knack d’Alsace (local sausage) sizzle. Bredele biscuits are the must-try dessert at Strasbourg Christkindelsmärik. Typically, they are baked with almonds, lemon zest, cinnamon, anise, and honey before being glazed, decorated, or left plain.
In addition to purchasing these cookies at the market, it is possible to attend a baking workshop at the Écomusée d'Alsace in Ungersheim. Laid out to resemble an Alsatian village, this open-air museum hosts a yearly yuletide market with food and craft stalls, horse-drawn carriage rides, and carol singing.
Beyond the Christkindelsmärik
Other points of interest in Strasbourg include Cathédrale Notre-Dame, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. Note how the sandstone changes color throughout the day and consider visiting in conjunction with the noon-time astronomical clock show. You may also climb the tower for a panoramic view of the Black Forest and Rhine River.
Wrap up warm with a mug of mulled wine and take a stroll around the canals of La Petite France before dipping into the Musée Alsacien or Palais des Rohan for regional history. The European Parliament runs tours on select dates. Further afield, you may take a day trip to nearby Sélestat – on the road to Ungersheim – to see the annual Christmas tree exhibition at Cathédrale St-George. Fir trees are suspended from the arches of the nave, as they would have been in Alsace during the 16th century.
Besides, if you appreciate great wine, Alsace is one of the world’s best wine regions, with particular emphasis on whites. Local wine is available at Strasbourg Christkindelsmärik. Once night draws in and you’re ready to retreat to a warm restaurant or your hotel, you can do so with a glass of Alsatian Riesling.
The best time to visit Strasbourg for the holidays is December, before the Christkindelsmärik wraps on 24 December. Contact me when you are ready to book your festive trip to France, Germany, or beyond.
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