Strasbourg is in Northeastern France, in the Alsace region, bordering on Germany. I was there for the Christmas market as one of the stops on my Alvalon Rhine River Cruise.
Strasbourg has been called the “Capital of Christmas,” and offers Europe’s oldest Christmas market, Christkindelsmarik. This market is sprawling and covers blocks. It’s really a collection of eleven different markets set amidst timbered architecture and the towering steeples of the gothic Notre Dame cathedral. Meandering cobbled streets lead you through market after market. A huge Christmas tree is the centerpiece of Place Kleber which is flanked by stalls selling goods, food and spiced wine.
At Christkindelsmarik you get all the usual Christmas market smells that are so heavenly at the German markets, but here you will find some French goodies like crepes, macaroons, and brioche. Familiar market staples like giant pretzels and cookies, but in Strasbourg they have “Je’ Taime” written on them. It’s a feast of smells, including the ever present spiced wine of Vin Chaud (Gluhwien in German). You can get non-alcoholic hot apple cider drinks and Lait de Poule, a traditional eggnog drink spiked with alcohol. You can also find a variety of Christmas beers in festive bottles.
Over 300 wood stalls are filled with Christmas tree ornaments, crafts and holiday inspired goods. You can easily spend a day here, strolling down decorated streets and sampling the regional food while taking in the spirited atmosphere.
Decor ranges from subtle and elegant to all out loud and flashy (which is fun for the kids). I’d never seen stuffed animals hanging from buildings before. Real stuffed animals–furry ones. Those, and presents wrapped with big bows dandling from storefronts and windows. Expect to see some storks as Strasbourg is famous for their storks and they are believed to bring good luck.
My favorite thing about the market, apart from the atmosphere, were the buskers. I came across some fantastic buskers that were on par with any famous band out there. Live music performed in a natural, raw setting is liberating. Find out more about Christmastime in Strasbourg here.