I love Christmas markets and planning a visit to a Christmas market in Europe to brighten up the dark December month. But I’ve been to quite a few already and I really wanted to see something new and exciting. As I visited the enchanting Alsace region in France in the summer, I decided to head back in the winter to visit some of the best Alsace Christmas markets in Colmar and Strasbourg. Here are my 9 reasons why I think you should visit the Alsace Christmas markets in 2023!
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Alsace Christmas Markets
If you open any history book (or Wikipedia) the list of dates and occupations in the Alsace region is long and confusing. The region has German roots and a French heartbeat.
The language Alsatian is only spoken by a few but leaves nearly everyone confused. When you visit this region in the northwest of France, on the left bank of the River Rhine, you’ll be overwhelmed by rolling hills full of (white) wine, charming villages, and hearty dishes fit for winter but with a French touch.
You buy buttery croissants for breakfast, salty pretzels for lunch, and sauerkraut or Choucroute for dinner. But the mixture is not just in the language or the food. The whole region is full of different building styles, customs, and a sense of proud Alsatian heritage.
Perfect for a winter holiday or Christmas market trip!
Why you should visit the Alsatian Christmas Markets in 2023
With the travel ban surrounding Corona well behind us, you might have gone on a nice summer holiday already. Now is the perfect time to broaden your horizons and even consider a trip in winter!
With those dark gloomy December evenings, you want to go somewhere to brighten your horizon, and tingle your senses as well as your tastebuds. I think the Christmas markets in the Alsace are perfect for that!
But why go to the Christmas markets in Colmar or Strasbourg you ask me? Here are my 9 very good excuses to visit the Alsace Christmas Markets this year and why you should visit them in 2023!
1. You want somewhere new to visit
If you’re anything like me, and like to travel in December, you might have visited the big Christmas markets of Europe already. You’ve been to the Cologne Christmas market or visited London or Brussels or even Dublin’s Christmas markets already.
You want to explore something new and exciting. And the Christmas markets of Colmar and Strasbourg are just that!
The stalls sell different ornaments, toys, and food to try. You’re in a whole new region, with a mixture of cultures. If you haven’t been before, then an Alsace Christmas market is really something new and different!
2. You look for an original Christmas market destination
If you’re back in the office or at a birthday party at home, it seems like everyone is visiting the same places and their Christmas markets. Of course, the German Christmas markets are among the most favorite Christmas markets in Europe.
But you want to be original. And maybe you want something different. Surprise everyone, and yourself, with a visit to the Christmas markets in the Alsace.
Move away from the mainstream opinion and explore and discover for yourself!
Tip: The Alsace Christmas markets have different things to entertain adults (wine carrousel) and children (fairground, ice rink, etc.) so it really is a family affair.
3. You want to go off the beaten path
Although the Alsace Christmas Markets are popular with locals (especially on the weekends) I feel the region is not yet firmly put on the map of must-visit Christmas Markets in Europe.
Where the markets in Cologne and Düsseldorf have busloads of daytrippers delivered to their main market square by noon, the Alsace markets see a lot of independent travelers for Christmas.
Although it is not hard to visit the Alsace region in France, as it is well connected with Paris, Switzerland, and South-West Germany, you need a little more time to get to the Alsace. And have time to explore the different Christmas markets in the region.
Tip: Book your accommodations as far ahead in advance as possible, especially if you travel on a weekend
4. You’re looking for great Christmas gifts
If you’re looking for surprising new gifts to stuff the stockings at home, or want to bring home a nice local memento, these Christmas markets are a shopping heaven.
On the markets, you’ll find a nice mixture of the best that local craftsmen and cooks have to offer. We came home with baskets of delicious jams, fruity and savory for Christmas. And we stocked up on some out-of-this-world chocolate and hazelnut spreads.
But we also looked at amazing toys for kids, kitchen utensils, wooden products, copper and brass kitchenware, hand-embroidered Christmas angels, and lovely candle holders.
Tip: Although most vendors offer wireless payment, cash is still highly appreciated.
5. You like amazing food
Imagine French delicacies combined with hearty German comfort food. Mix that in with some of the best local produce, curating skills, and hundreds of years of traditions and you have yourself the recipe to the Alsatian cuisine.
Tarte flambée, bread flambée with all the cheeses in the world, quiche Lorraine, sausages, hot apple wine, French mulled wine, steaming heaps of cabbage, fried beignets, sweets as far as the eye can see. It was very hard to make a good decision on what to eat as the foods on display looked amazing!
We arrived quite early in Strasbourg and found it was a very good time for a savory lunch. In Colmar, we were a little bit later in the day, also on a Saturday and I felt the little stalls were not equipped for the high demand of all those hungry people.
Tip: I highly recommend making reservations at one of the many restaurants if you’d like to have a sit-down dinner. Or bring a truckload of patience as the food stalls are small and in high demand.
6. You love cute villages and cities
If you travel from Strasbourg, south to Colmar, and further south to Mulhouse, you pass one amazing cute village after the other. Some or really small, and some are bigger, but they each have charming cobbled streets, amazing market squares, wine houses left right and center, cheese shops, and Christmas decorations all over the place.
The houses seem to hug each other, or at least lean into each other to stay upright. The wooden beams are a testament to time, and so are the tiny glass-tinted windows. No wonder Disney found their inspiration for the village of Beaty and the Beast in this region!
Besides the interesting Christmas Markets, the region of Alsace has plenty of charming towns and villages to keep you entertained. Each village has of course its own (smaller) Christmas market but we’ll get to that a little later.
Tip: Parking is a hassle around the little villages. You’re much better off taking the train or bus between villages.
7. You want to visit more than one Christmas market
Although the Alsace is the smallest region of France, it does offer quite a lot to keep you entertained for at least a week, maybe even two!
But because of its size and great infrastructure, the main towns with the charming Christmas markets, are located conveniently close to each other.
For example, the train between Colmar and Strasbourg takes a little over half an hour. You can easily base yourself in one place, and still visit some of the other Christmas markets in the Alsace. This is a great place to visit more than one Christmas market on a weekend.
Tip: If you’ll plan on doing a lot of (train) travel, check if SNCF has any discount cards that apply to you.
8. You want to travel during the Christmas and New Year’s break
Contrary to most Christmas markets in Belgium and Germany, most Christmas markets in the Alsace don’t close on December 24th. They have different opening hours on actual Christmas day, but some are still open after Christmas.
Perfect if you still want to travel, after the holidays and before New Year’s!
For example, the Christmas market in Colmar is in 2023 till the 29th of December. The Mulhouse Christmas Market is open until the 27th of December and lovely Obernai has their Christmas market open until the 31st of December.
Tip: Always check the opening times and dates before going!
9. You want to travel sustainably and support locals
Some of the bigger Christmas markets in Germany have people and merchants flock to them from all over the country and Europe. And who can blame them? Because it is a good way to make some extra money.
But with products from big chain stores or even produced in the Far East, it doesn’t feel very authentic.
Now, of course, I’m sure some of those goods are also sold at the Alsace Christmas Markets. But I felt the merchants and the goods were very authentic. Most products are locally sourced, food is regional and according to Alsatian recipes.
And because of the small distances between towns and cities in the Alsace, it is perfect to get around with public transport. Good to lower your carbon footprint!
Now, of course, just like other Christmas markets, there is a lot of focus on meats, beers, and buying stuff. But to me, it felt not over-commercialized and really authentic.
Christmas Markets in Alsace in 2023
2023 is promising to be a festival of lights, foods, and delightful Christmas charm in the Alsace region. Stock up on your favorite white wines, cured meats, pâtés, sauces, and jams. Don’t forget some nice stocking stuffers for the little ones and unique hand-crafted gifts.
If you’re not into buying Christmas gifts, the Christmas markets are a treasure trove of people-watching, charming streets with enchanting lights and cozy family time.
Let me walk you through some of the biggest highlights of Alsatian Christmas charm for 2023.
Strasbourg Christmas Market
The Strasbourg Christmas Markets are the place to go if you like grandeur, great food, and glamorous European glitz. One of the seats of the European Parliament, Strasbourg attracts a wide range of diplomats, vendors, and tourists. The Christmas market in Strasbourg is one of the biggest in Europe. No wonder it is called Strasbourg Capital of Christmas.
Dates: 24th November till 24th of December 2023
When: most dates from 11.30 am until 9.00 pm
Where: Broglie Square, Cathedral Square, Castle Square, Kléber Square, Fish Market Square, Temple Neuf Square, Saint-Thomas Square, Benjamin Zix Square, on the terrace of the Rohan Palace, as well as on Gutenberg Street and Hallebardes Street.
What else is there to see? You cannot miss a visit to the Cathedral of Strasbourg with its astronomical clock. A tour of the channels, Petite France, or a visit to the parliament is also fun!
How to get to Strasbourg
Strasbourg is located in the north of the Alsace region, 500 km from Paris. By car, it will take you almost 5 hours, but by high-speed train, it is only 2 hours.
Stuttgart in Germany is only 150km away, or 1.5 hours by train. From Strasbourg, twice-hourly trains run south to Colmar and Mulhouse.
From Strasbourg’s train station, it is a short and clearly marked stroll to the center of town with all the Christmas markets. You can easily walk around the city and between the different Christmas markets on foot.
I explored Strasbourg on my own with my husband. If you want a little more guidance and learn about Alsatian Christmas traditions, here are some fun Christmas markets tours in Strasbourg:
- Nightly walking tour with mulled wine
- Bike tour of Strasbourg Christmas markets
- Afternoon walking tour with a local guide
Where to stay in Strasbourg
Strasbourg has a wide range of accommodations to offer, from Formula hotels, and business hotels, to small boutique hotels and apartments for rent. Check the location though, Strasbourg is a big city and you preferably want to stay in the main center. Some recommendations:
- Hôtel & Spa Le Bouclier: located in the Petit-France area and decorated with chandeliers, hardwood floors, and many options to make your stay fabulous. Not a budget option at all!
- Hôtel LÉONOR: Comfortable small boutique hotel with a really modern design but with warm materials and decor. And an affordable option considering its location.
- Hotel Roses: Just situated outside the main ring of the old town, this hotel offers small rooms but colorful decorations, and depending on the time of booking, rooms go for less than €100
Colmar Christmas Market
When you say Alsace, you say Colmar. This charming medieval town with wood-timbered houses, meandering streets, and cute canals is home to some of the finest restaurants in the region. Add in a wide range of shops, Christmas stalls, and kilometers of Christmas lights, you have the ultimate recipe for a magical Christmas market town!
Dates: 23rd November till 29th of December 2023
When: most dates from 10.00 am until 7.00 pm and 8 pm on Friday, Saturday, Sunday
Where: The whole old town center of Colmar is one big open-air Christmas market, wandering from one square to the next. Some places for the markets: Place de la Cathédrale, Place des Dominicains, Place de l’Ancienne Douane, Place Jeanne d’Arc
Looking for a little more guidance and information about the Christmas markets and traditions in Colmar? Take a walking tour with a local!
Other interesting things to do are: exploring Little Venice area (by boat!) or the covered food market.
How to get to Colmar
Colmar is located 75km south of Strasbourg. By car, it will take you at least an hour (traffic permitted). By train, it is just a mere 30 minutes from Strasbourg or an hour from Basel Switzerland. From Paris, it will take 2.5 hours by train.
The train station of Colmar is located in the city. From there, it is a 1.5 km flat walk to the old town. Signs are posted everywhere with Marché de Noel.
Where to stay in Colmar
Colmar is very popular and its small cobbled stone streets and wood-timbered houses leave little room for big hotels. You’ll mainly find small boutique accommodations and apartment rentals here.
As Colmar is so popular and the smaller accommodations fill up quickly, I strongly advise to book as far ahead in advance as possible for you.
- Relais & Châteaux La Maison Des Têtes: Located only a stone’s throw from the main church of Colmar, this hotel oozes old Alsatian charm. Spacious rooms, quality finishes, Michelin-renowned restaurant, and its location boosts up the price.
- Ibis Styles Colmar Centre: If you don’t mind that you’re not staying in the old part of the center, this chain hotel, situated in an 18th-century brewery offers big rooms with charm. Prices are around €115-130 for a standard double room.
- Hotel Le Colombier: Is located on the edge of the old town in the Little Venice district. Here you’ll find decent-sized rooms with warm decor and a top location to boost. You pay a little extra, but the location is fab!
Other cute Christmas markets in the Alsace
If you have a longer weekend in the region or maybe even a couple of days to spare, I highly recommend some of the other, very charming villages, close to Colmar to explore. And they have equally charming Christmas markets.
Now, of course, in such a small village, the markets are not that big and things might become a bit of a blur. Things might start to look a lot alike after a couple of Christmas markets, but if you have the time, I can highly recommend the following Christmas markets in the Alsace too.
Ribeauville and Riquewihr Christmas market
Ribeauville and Riquewihr are two very small, charming, medieval Alsatian villages, located just north of Colmar.
In Ribeauville, on the first two weekends of December (2-3 December and 9-10 December), you’ll find a magical medieval market fair. Full of medieval animations, Advent cheer, and foods, you’ll be transported back in time.
Riquewihr is lovely to visit, any time of the year, but between November 25th and December 21st, 2023, the town is transformed into a festival of Christmas lights and decorations. Here you’ll be transported into a time of childhood nostalgia, mixed with modern-day Christmas delights to warm your souls and fill your bellies!
There are a few tours you can take, to really take in all the Christmas markets in the Alsace region, also the little villages.
Eguisheim Christmas market
Another medieval, charming village, south of Colmar. Eguisheim is one of my all-time favorites in the Alsace. From November 24th until December 20th, 2023 (except 24, 25, and 26 December) the town center is home to local vendors, craftsmen, and their products and produce.
All these villages are only 30 minutes by bus from Colmar and have car parks located outside their main centers. Convenient Christmas shuttle buses run between these villages and Colmar on the weekends of December. For more details on the Alsace Christmas market shuttle, check here.
Alsace Christmas Market
So there you have it. If you’re looking for a new place to explore Christmas markets, you want to go somewhere original and get away from the beaten path then you’ll find that you can find great Christmas gifts, amazing food, and charming and enchanting villages in the Alsace.
If you decide to head to the Alsace you can easily visit more than one Christmas market on your trip, even explore some Christmas markets after Christmas, and support local merchants and vendors.
What is there not to like? I hope I inspired you to consider visiting the Alsace Christmas markets in 2023 and helped you plan a trip to the Alsace in December.
Let me know if you have any questions. You can drop them in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you.