The French region of Alsace is one of the most magical places in Europe to spend Christmas. Towns straight out of a book, all the streets fully decorated, Christmas markets and more. In this guide I tell you everything you need to know to spend Christmas in Alsace.
In this post you will find:
Christmas in Alsace
Alsace is a region located in the northeast of France, bordering Germany and Switzerland. What’s so special about visiting Alsace during Christmas?
Although it is the time when there is the most tourism in the area, it is completely worth visiting at this time. Every town in Alsace is filled with magic: all the streets and houses are decorated with the best Christmas lights and decorations, the Christmas markets open every day, and you can feel the Christmas spirit on every corner. If you love Christmas, Alsace is definitely one of the best destinations for you.
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How to get to Alsace
There are different ways for getting to Alsace depending from where you’re starting your trip:
- Car: As I live in Barcelona, I chose to travel to Alsace on my own car. It is a long way to get there but we really enjoyed it and also had the opportunity to visit other cities in France on our way there.
- Plane: there are 3 airports located near Alsace. The EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg is shared by 3 cities in 3 different countries, Basel in Switzerland, Mulhouse in France and Freiburg in Germany. You can also fly to Strasbourg Airport (France), which is a very good option to start your trip around Alsace. And finally there is the option of flying to Baden-Baden Airport in Germany, which is 45km from Strasbourg.
Getting around in Alsace
Once in Alsace you will want to visit the different towns and cities that make up this region. There are several options to do it:
- Car: Whether you go with your own car or rent one there, this is an excellent option to explore Alsace because it gives you the independence to move without any type of time restriction. I always book cars through Rentalcars.com which offers the best price.
- Trains and buses: All the towns in Alsace are connected by public transport so if you decide not to rent a car it is a good option. To go from Strasbourg to Colmar for example you can take the train which takes about 40 minutes.
How many days do you need in Alsace?
My recommendation is that you stay in Alsace for at least 3 days. All the towns are close and can be visited quickly because they are small, but there are cities like Strasbourg or Colmar that deserve a whole day. A possible itinerary would be: 1 day in Colmar, 1 day in Strasbourg and 1 day visiting towns (2 or 3 in one day).
Christmas markets in Alsace
One of the great attractions of visiting Alsace at Christmas are the christmas markets. In every city or town you visit you will find Christmas markets with selling Christmas decorations and traditional foods.
Christmas markets in Alsace are open from 23rd november to 30th december 2023.
Colmar and Strasbourg have many Christmas markets but towns also organize their smaller local markets.
WHAT TO VISIT IN ALSACE
Colmar is the city I chose to base myself and explore Alsace. It is a small city but it has many accommodation and restaurant options and is also well connected to the rest of the cities in Alsace. Upon arrival I recommend taking a free tour of Colmar to have a general overview of the city.
It is a beautiful and picturesque city. Every night the streets of Colmar come to life when the Christmas lights that decorate all the houses are turned on and the Christmas projections begin to play on the facades. Make sure you visit its Christmas markets, the streets of the historic center and stroll through Petite Venise, one of the most beautiful areas of Colmar.
Christmas markets in Colmar:
- Place des Dominicains: the best-known Christmas market in Colmar. They sell decorations and crafts.
- Place de l’Ancienne Douane: a market with lots of stalls selling crafts, decorations and food.
- Koïfhus:a covered market inside the old customs building. It especially sells crafts.
- Place Jeanne d’Arc: small market decorated like a traditional town in the region.
- Petite Venise: a great market to take the children as it has a lot of games to enjoy.
- Place de la Cathédrale: a market exclusively for local foods. There you can try some of the typical dishes of the Alsace region that I will tell you about later in this post.
Strasbourg is known as the capital of Christmas and is another good option to base yourself on your tour of Alsace. It is a large city, close to the border with Germany, which you undoubtedly have to visit on a trip through Alsace at Christmas.
I went to Strasbourg to spend the day from Colmar and the first thing I did was this free tour of Civitatis. With this tour we already visited several important points of the city and learned a little about its history, so I recommend that you do it as soon as you arrive.
Make sure you visit the Petite France, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Kammerzell House, the Covered Bridges and obviously the city’s Christmas markets.
Best Christmas markets in Strasbourg:
- Place Broglie (Christkindelsmärik)
- Place de la Cathédrale
- Place Kléber
- Place des Meuniers
- Place Saint Thomas
- Place Gutenberg
The towns and villages of Alsace are really beautiful. There are lots of charming little towns, Christmas markets and Christmas lights! Here’s a list of just some of them:
Riquewihr is a must-see town in Alsace. It is said that this place inspired Disney to create the town you see in Beauty and the Beast. And it cannot be denied that its streets full of those wooden houses of different colors really seem like something out of a story. This town is just 11 km from Colmar and can be reached by car, bus or tour.
Furthermore, this region is famous for its wines, so a good activity is to take a wine tasting tour like this one.
Where to stay in Alsace
If you are traveling to Alsace at Christmas, I recommend that you book your accommodation as soon as possible as prices increase as we get closer to December. My recommendation is that you stay in Colmar or Strasbourg. Both cities have a wide variety of accommodation and restaurants..
Suggested accommodation in Colmar:
- Hôtel Turenne: one of the cheapest hotels you will find during Christmas season, located near the Saint Martin church.
- Colmar Hotel: a little far from the historic center but ideal if you travel by car as it has free parking.
- Le Colombier: a beautiful hotel located in the historic center of Colmar. Very good rating and spacious rooms.
Suggested accommodation in Strasbourg:
- Hotel Esplanade: Budget hotel located in the university area of Strasbourg. Good option if you you don’t want to spend too much.
Hôtel Gutenberg: located a few meters from the Strasbourg Cathedral. A modern hotel with good reviews.
- Hôtel LÉONOR: hotel with excellent score and location in the heart of the city. One of the best accommodations you will find in the city.
Tips for spending Christmas in Alsace
- Plan your trip in advance. Above all, I recommend that you book your accommodation as soon as possible since as the Christmas date approaches, prices become very expensive.
- Start your day early. In winter the days end around 5 p.m. so it is best to start each morning’s route early and make the most of the daylight hours.
- Bring cash. Not all Christmas market stalls accept cards so I recommend always carrying some cash.
- Bring warm clothes. Winter in the north of France is usually quite cold so make sure you wear warm clothes. I recommend you read my post on what to wear in Europe in winter.
This region of France has a lot of typical foods that you have to try. These are some of the most popular dishes:
- Vin chaud: mulled wine made with spices, you will see it sold in all the Christmas markets.
- Tarte Flambée o flammenkueche: a kind of Alsatian pizza made from a very thin dough. I recommend trying the one at Flam’s restaurant in Strasbourg.
- Bretzels: very typical of this area and of Germany. They are the typical pretzels that you will see in the markets.
- Munster cheese: It is the typical cheese of the region. It has a strong flavor. You can try it in any restaurant in Alsace.
- Spätlze: a type of pasta served in this part of France and other European countries.
- Kougelhopf: a typical dessert of the region that has a “ring” shape.
- Baeckeoffe: a stew with pork and potatoes cooked over low heat that is served in a small casserole that you will see in many stores in the region.
Other useful posts:
- What to see in Colmar
- 4 days in Paris itinerary
- Where to stay in Paris: best areas and hotels
- Visiting Villa Savoye from Paris
- Tips for planning your first trip to Europe
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