If you’re visiting France close to Christmastime, you must visit Strasbourg and Colmar. Just two hours by train from Paris (albeit our OUIGO train was 3 hours late…), these two cities are famous for their Christmas markets, which date back to year 1570. While Strasbourg is more well-known and slightly bigger, I preferred the markets and neighborhoods of Colmar. You can easily take a 30-minute train between the two. We decided to stay two nights in Strasbourg and just took a day trip to Colmar. A friend of a friend based in Strasbourg also recommends visiting the nearby Kaysersberg if you have time.
Strasbourg, affectionately called the Capital of Christmas, actually has many different markets with over 300 little chatlets (little stands) selling mulled wine–white and red, delicious ciders or juices such as spiced honey hot orange juice, gingerbread, pretzels, and beautiful trinkets ranging from ornaments to miniature houses. It was extremely cold and even snowed on the last day, so plenty of vin chaud was necessary to keep our hands warm. Don’t miss the big Christmas tree too!
Alsace is a cross between Germany and France, reflected most notably in the food and architecture. A famous dish is choucroute pictured above, which consists of sauerkraut, sausages, potatoes, and other salted meats. My friend Molly recommended us to try traditional dishes at Maison Kammerzell, which happened to be right next to our Airbnb. Coincidentally, we happened to rent a studio owned by the former Miss Alsace.
Another famous Alsatian dish is the Tartiflette, a very thin pizza topped with reblochon cheese, onions, potatoes, and lardons (kinda like bacon). It is absolutely delicious and can be found very easily among the various Christmas markets. If you can’t get to Alsace, the restaurant L’Alsacien in Paris is also a good option.
Walking around in Strasbourg, you can’t miss La Petite France, the historic area. We had a nice, simple breakfast at Cafe Bretelles–grab a coffee and cozy spot upstairs where there’s more room. For pastries, Molly also recommended Thierry Mulhapt, but unfortunately we tried to go there on a Sunday when they were closed.
We also had yummy fondue and raclette in Strasbourg at La Cloche à Fromage. We luckily snagged a table at opening, but I highly recommend making reservations beforehand. Raclette is a fun experience–they give you a huge block of cheese that you melt and scrape off onto potatoes and charcuterie. I still like fondue better, though a majority of my French friends strongly prefer raclette. It’s worth a try!
Outside Strasbourg’s little island of Christmas markets, there’s a building you can climb on top of and see a nice view of the city. The “Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg” is impressive in its height (466 feet) and Gothic design; in fact, it’s the 6th tallest church in the world today.
The last dish you must try in Alsace is Baeckeoffe, a French casserole dish filled with potatoes, onions, lamb, beef, pork, white wine, berries, and spices. All of the Alsacien food is quite hearty and perfect for chilly weather. In Colmar, there’s a nice restaurant called Le Baeckeoffee d’Alsace.
Both cities make for a very romantic trip with your loved one 🙂 We enjoyed strolling hand in hand with our mulled wine and spiced cider perusing all the cute Christmas stalls. This year’s markets run until December 30th, so hop on a train and go visit!