For me, the holiday season is the most magical time of the year and while I will always be home for Christmas, I absolutely love spending part of the holiday season in Europe experiencing Europe’s best Christmas markets. Germany and Austria tend to be the favourites when it comes to Christmas markets in Europe, but after several Christmas market adventures over the years I was ready to try somewhere new; I wanted to check out the Strasbourg Christmas markets.
Strasbourg, France is located in the Alsace region and is known for being a beautiful fairytale town. While most images of this city show the colourful homes covered in flowers during the spring and summer months, the truth is it might be at its most magical during the Christmas season. After all, Strasbourg is known as the capital of Christmas.
Strasbourg is said to have one of the oldest (possibly THE oldest) Christmas market in all of Europe, dating back to 1570. Today, that single market has expanded into 12 markets spread across the heart of the Old Town. There are more than 300 stalls to explore, thousands of twinkling lights lining the streets, and buildings that look like they were decorated by the elves of Santa’s toy shop. It’s a Christmas wonderland and an absolute must for anyone wanting to get into the holiday spirit. Here’s everything you need to know about the Strasbourg Christmas Markets.
Strasbourg Christmas Markets: How to Get There and Where to Stay
Strasbourg is located close to the border of Germany. It’s easy to get to by train from other regions in France (I took a direct train from Paris) or by car if you are driving.
The Strasbourg Christmas markets are located in old Strasbourg, which is located on an island in the middle of the city. It’s about a 20-minute walk from the train station, which isn’t too bad at all, however, if you can I absolutely recommend staying within the old town itself.
Keep in mind, if you stay at one of the hotels by the Notre Dame Cathedral or Kleber Square then you will be in the busiest and most touristic parts of the city. This may be fine, or you may find it a bit chaotic. Old Town is very walkable so I suggest maybe finding somewhere down a quieter side street so you can escape if you need to.
Need some suggestions on where to stay in Strasbourg for the Christmas markets? Consider:
Strasbourg Christmas Market Locations and Times
Strasbourg has about a dozen Christmas markets totalling about 300 stalls. Some were large, like the one in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Other’s were small and tucked into little squares spread throughout town.
The markets open around 11am (some open a bit earlier) and close by 8pm which is a little early compared to other European Christmas markets, but since the sun sets around 4:30 you still have lots of time to see the streets all lit up at night.
Here’s a list of the Strasbourg Christmas market locations:
- Place Kléber: Where you’ll also find the giant Christmas tree and skating rink
- Place Broglie: The Christkindelsmarik, which is said to the the original Strasbourg Christmas market
- Place du Marche-aux-Poissons, Patio of the Palais Rohan, and Rue Rohan: Food and drink based markets. Expect wine, local cookies, foie gras, and beers
- Place du Temple-Neuf
- Place de la Cathédrale: The Christmas market by the Cathedral, one of the bigger ones
- Place Gutenberg: A Lebanese village, expect lots of yummy foods!
- Place Benjamin Zix
- Place des Meuniers: This market is dedicated to local Alsatian products and businsses
- Place Grimmeissen: The OFF market which features second hand and fair trade products
- Place Saint-Thomas
- Place du Marché Gayot The Elves’ Workshop
- Place du Château
Strasbourg Christmas Markets: What Eat, Drink and Buy
Wonder what there is to buy at the Strasbourg Christmas markets Lots! Like most Christmas markets there is a good mix of goods for sale. From Christmas decorations to jewellery, artwork to accessories. There are tons of food options as well; mulled Alsace wine (red or white), cider, and hot chocolate for drinking while you are there, or bottles of wine to take with you. I also saw some craft beer stalls which were very interesting. There are plenty of chocolatiers, candy makers, and traditional Alsace cookies called bredele. You’ll also find hot dogs, baguette sandwiches, crepes, as well as some culinary dishes from different cultures including couscous and falafel.
Of course, some of the items for sale are cheesy knickknacks, but there are definitely some good finds too. I was excited to see a Kathe Wohlfahrt stall by the Notre Dame Cathedral. If you’ve never been, they have some of the most beautiful Christmas ornaments.
I prefer to wander the markets on my own and see what I find, but if you are short on time or just maybe want some more background information, you can take a guided tour with a local as well. Try this one.
Strasbourg at Christmas: The Best Lights and Displays for Photographs
You don’t get the name ‘the capital of Christmas’ for nothing. Strasbourg completely turns into a Christmas village during the holiday season with some of the best lights and displays I’ve seen. You’ll want to keep your eyes open (and up!) everywhere you go, but there are some spots you definitely want to make sure that you find during your visit. My favourites include:
The Carré D’Or Area
This little neighbourhood, not too far from the Cathedral, is one of the prettiest spots in the whole city. A couple of streets here are fully decked on from glittering light strands to greenery on doorways and teddy bear, polar bears, penguins, nutcrackers, and glittering stars above the shops. The streets can be a bit of a maze to find, so your best bet is to search for a store called ‘La Maison de Hanssen &Gretel’ which is in the heart of these streets. Wander around here and you will not be disappointed!
Notre Dame Cathedral
The Notre Dame Cathedral is beautiful from several points, but I think the best is from Rue Merciere. There are angel lights the line the street framing the tower of the Cathedral and it is stunning to see.
Teddy Bear House
Teddy bears are a common decoration on the buildings in Strasbourg, I can think of at least 4 places where I’ve seen them. However, this Teddy Bear House which can be found beside the restaurant ‘Le Gruber’ and was my favourite.
The Christmas Tree
It can’t be Christmas without a Christmas tree, and Strasbourg has a beautiful huge one that can be found at Kleber Square. Each year has a different theme to the decorations, this years was ‘the toys of yesteryear’. Fun fact: Strasbourg also has the biggest Christmas tree in all of Europe!
For all of the above spots, I recommend visiting both during the day and at night. The lights at night make it magical but during the day it’s easier to see the detail of the decorations and displays!
Strasbourg Christmas Market Safety
In 2018, the Strasbourg Christmas markets were the scene of a deadly terrorist attack that resulted in the death of 5 and injury of 11. As a result of this attack, and similar attacks that have taken place over the past couple of year around Europe, there has been a huge increase in security efforts around the Old Town and the Christmas markets.
As you cross the bridges into the old town you will pass through security checkpoints. Those with luggage (from backpacks, to purses, to suitcases) will be asked to open their luggage for inspection. It’s not particularly invasive, but do expect to have your belongings searched.
You will also notice dozens of police, military, and security guards patrolling the city and the markets. Military members do carry guns. However, remember, there is nothing to be afraid of. This is a safety precaution. I spent 4 days at the Strasbourg Christmas market and felt safe the entire time.
Other Things to do in Strasbourg at Christmas
The Strasbourg Christmas markets are absolutely magical and the highlight of a visit to Strasbourg at Christmas. However, this pretty little town does have more to offer. I also suggest taking some time to explore the following:
- Petite France: One of the most picturesque areas of Strasbourg. It’s best known for its half-timbered houses.
- The Notre-Dame Cathedral: it’s free to go in and inside you can find an astronomical clock. You can also climb up to a platform where you will be rewarded with views over the city (there is a fee for this).
- The Covered Bridges: One of the most photographed parts of the city.
- Love wine? Consider doing a full day or half-day tour to some of the area’s best wineries/
- Take advantage of being in the Alsace region and join a day trip to explore some other nearby fairytale towns. Check out this tour.
Final Tips for Visiting Strasbourg Christmas Markets
Ready to visit the Strasbourg Christmas markets? Good choice! But, before you go, here are a few tips and recommendations from someone who’s been.
- Try to come during the week rather than a weekend. I arrived on a Sunday and the markets were PACKED. To the point where I kind of just got dragged along with the crowd. However, it was much quieter during the week which gave me time to really explore the stalls.
- Book well in advance. As I said, Strasbourg is the Capital of Christmas which means it’s a hotspot for the holiday season. Not only do you risk not finding a place to stay, but, prices can also skyrocket. I booked 3 weeks before I arrived and ended up paying $750CAD for 4 nights at an Airbnb. Hotels were nearly double that!
- Strasbourg is small, but makes for a great base to visit nearby towns and markets. I used one of my days to visit Colmar, another fairytale village that was also a Christmas wonderland. Check out my Colmar Christmas Markets post.
- Make sure that markets are open when you come! The dates change every year and should be advertised online at the Strasbourg tourism website. They usually kick off the last week of November, but check online to confirm ahead of time!
- Dress warmly, but, also be prepared for rain. It wasn’t too cold when I visited (by Canadian standards) about 8C each day, but it cooled down to 2C when the sun set. It was also rainy during my visit, so I definitely recommend bringing a travel umbrella.
- Bring a backpack or reusable bag for your purchases. A lot of the vendors are trying to be eco-friendlier and cut down on plastic so will often just hand you your purchase wrapped in a bit of tissue paper. Those that do have bags, the bags tend to be tiny and don’t have handles. Bring along a backpack or reusable bag that you can use to carry around your purchases. (I love and use this foldup daypack).
Without a doubt, the Strasbourg Christmas markets are some of the best I’ve ever been to and I highly recommend a visit! I know I’ll be returning!