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very best christmas markets in France

The Very Best Christmas Markets in France

This time last year I was enjoying all that Alsace has to offer for the holiday. Over the next few weeks the Barefoot Blogger will be publishing glimpses of Strasbourg, Colmar, Equisheim, Riquewihr, Kaysersberg and Ribeauville on FaceBook, Twitter and Instagram. Please stop by for your holiday cheer!

You may only have one time in your life to experience the “best” Christmas markets in France. Join me as I revisit Alsace…

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Very Best Christmas Markets

Best Christmas Markets in France: Colmar and Kaysersberg

The very best Christmas Markets are in the Alsace region of France, or so I’m told. I had to see for myself.

Ask anyone who’s scouted around for the very best Christmas Markets in Europe and they’ll say Strasbourg, Colmar and Kaysersberg in France are the among the most famous. Being that I’m on a mission to visit as much of France as I possibly can, the Christmas Markets in the Alsace region were “must do’s.”

Strasbourg was first on the Very Best Christmas Market tour and, as you saw in the previous post, the city and the festivities were pretty spectacular. Colmar was an hour’s train ride away from Strasbourg.  A perfect place to stay for a few days, then visit other nearby towns and markets.

Colmar, the “Venice” of Alsace

Colmar has an interesting connection to the United States. It’s the birthplace of Auguste Bartholde (1834-1904), the sculptor who designed the Statue of Liberty. So what was the first thing tour guide Max of Alsace Original Experiences wanted his two American guests to visit? The huge replica of Lady Liberty that stands at the entrance to Colmar. It is the largest reproduction of the statue anywhere in the world. In France Bartholdi is quite a celebrity. One of the tourist sites in the center of Colmar is a museum in his honor. I’ll have to see that next time.

Colmar is a much smaller town than Strasbourg, so right away the difference in the holiday atmosphere was quite apparent. In the old part of the city (on the map below in yellow) there were five different Christmas marketplaces (red stars). Like in Strasbourg, the vendors had set up their food and gift items in temporary wooden huts in the midst of busy shopping areas . The difference was that there seemed to be more handmade and authentic French items at the small stalls in Colmar. Some of the “marchés” were lined up along the canals that seemed randomly interspersed through the town. Streets were closed during market hours so it seemed like we were in the midst of one big Christmas party.

Two favorite things about Colmar were the B&B – Cour de Weinhof (Weinhof Court) — and “dejeuner” at Le Marechal — both of which happened quite by accident. The B&B had a last minute cancellation, so there was “room at the inn.” The restaurant was a lucky choice through Tripadvisor  . Which reminds me. If your holiday tour includes fine dining there are several Michelin Star restaurants in the Alsace area. My thoughts were “good food, good price and let’s get back to shopping in the market.” Le Marechal ticked all those boxes.

very best Christmas Markets

 

Kaysersberg, the Night Market

Touring Kaysersberg at night was not exactly on the agenda, but by the time we’d visited Eguisheim and Riquewihr it was dark. I’m thinking that was a good thing. At nighttime the holiday lights were stunning. With the bits of snow that were falling, it was the perfect mix.

Kaysersberg is a very small town (see map below) and lots of people want to see it. So there was quite a lot of traffic getting into town. It reminded me of Christmases long ago in Charlotte, NC. My family spent hours in our car, behind lines of other cars, to see Christmas lights in McAdenville, a tiny mill town nearby. 

Fortunately, our wonderful tour guide Max, from Alsace Original Experiences, knew exactly where to go to park that was within steps of the entrance of town. He earned a “gold star” for that brilliant move.

Kaysersberg was decked out for the Christmas Market, especially around the route marked with red arrows. The market items seemed to all be from France — not all handmade — but fabuous.  All the way through the shopping extravaganza I reminded myself that I have nowhere to store Christmas stuff in my apartment. I really behaved … well, sorta.

very best Christmas Markets

Bienvenue á Colmar et Kaysersberg

Read more about Christmas Markets in France

The Very Best Christmas Markets in France

Best Christmas Markets in France: Strasbourg

The Three Most Magical Christmas Markets in France

very best Christmas Markets

Wish for France

Best Christmas Markets in France: Strasbourg

Eleven Christmas Markets in one town … oh my! Strasbourg is a busy city during the Christmas Market. Not only is it home to approximately 300,000 full-time residents, Strasbourg bulges at the seams with holiday visitors during November and December.

Known as home to one of the best Christmas markets in France, the old city of Strasbourg is closed off to traffic during the market because of the crowds. That means you walk down the center of streets filled with holiday goodies and shops on both sides. Also, it means you must carry your bags through a security check and to your hotel. Fortunately, our hotel was nearby. So after dropping off our things at Hôtel Des Arts, we set off to check out the first of eleven Christmas markets we were to visit on our two-and-a-half day stay.

The narrow streets of the old town were crowded and brightly lit. All we could think about was how glad we were that we were in Strasbourg before the “real crowds” showed up Christmas week. Well, that’s not truly all we were thinking about. Visions of choucroute, spaetzle and beef bourguignon were swirling around in our heads.

best Christmas markets in France,

The christmas markets, or areas where vendors show off their wares and food items, were set up in little wooden storefronts. They were all very similar.

The differences were that, along the way, permanent merchants lured shoppers with their over-the-top decorations and window dressings. Many spilled out onto the streets. Every alley, every turn in the road displayed street lighting and banners that were better than the one before.

Of all the attractions, the Cathedral de Notre-Dame  stood out as the city’s centerpiece.

Its majestic buttresses, vaults and arches dominated many of the streetscapes. Its presence added a special luminescence to those market stalls that were fortunate enough to surround it for the holidays.

Although our visit to Strasbourg was for the Christmas Market only, we took a boat tour along the canal that borders the old town. It was a perfect way to get an overview of the city’s history and to get a glimpse of some of the new parts of town. It’s definitely a place I would love to see again.

In Strasbourg the mix of French and German is visible in the architecture, the people, the language and the cuisine. From foie gras to spaetzle — from German beer to fine wine — Strasbourg is where the best of the best meet today in seemingly perfect harmony.

 

 

Read more about Christmas Markets in France

The Very Best Christmas Markets in France

Best Christmas Markets in France: Colmar and Kaysersberg

The Three Most Magical Christmas Markets in France

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