We had the amazing opportunity to visit the Alsace region during the Christmas holidays with my husband’s parents. We took the train from Paris (such a great way to travel with our girls) and stayed for 3 days in Strasbourg. While we were there, we took another short train to Colmar for the afternoon.
“CAPITALE DE NOËL” (The Capital of Christmas)
Since we’ve moved out here to France, we’ve had multiple people tell us that we have to visit Strasbourg and that during Christmas is the best. Yes, it would be crowded, but it would also be so worth it.
In 1570, Strasbourg had the first recorded Christmas Market, then called “Christkindelsmärik” (market of the Infant Jesus). Since then, they’ve continued the tradition and now have around 300 stalls over 10 locations in the city.
Every year they have a special country themed guest village and this year was Portugal. We visited that village a couple different times and really enjoyed trying the different Portuguese food.
We stayed in an amazing apartment that overlooked the giant Christmas tree and the Village of Sharing (stalls from different charities and humanitarian organizations). It was perfect for our family and we loved that we could walk to all the Christmas markets from the apartment. It also had an incredible view that we enjoyed in the evenings and early mornings from our warm and cozy living room.
Our first day we checked out all the markets and had a great time walking around. There were tons of wonderful little stalls and between us and my in-laws, we got some beautiful wooden nativity sets, some nice winter hats, pretty Christmas ornaments, and tons of good food!
The food was really interesting as Strasbourg is on the border with Germany and at different times in history has been in either country. We had bretzels (pretzels), bratwurst, spätzle, choucroute (sauerkraut), and Adeline’s favorite: manala. I won’t say exactly how many she ate on our trip, but let’s just say that she ate more than one everyday… 😉
On our last morning, we checked out the cathedral and the famous astronomical clock that’s inside. The cathedral was beautiful and we enjoyed walking through it and pointing out the different stained glass windows to our girls.
At 12:30, you can pay a few euros per person and see the figures move around the clock. We decided to do this, but if I were to do it over, I would skip this. It was very crowded and standing only and first they showed a video that was 30 minutes long and then the actual presentation was a bit… underwhelming. It was kind of neat I guess, but very hard for our girls to wait and then unless you were in the very front, a bit difficult to see. I would have rathered admired it closer up while walking through the cathedral and been done with it. The cathedral and clock were both very beautiful to look at though and it was still a nice way to spend our last morning.
We spent part of our second day in Alsace in Colmar. About 30 minutes from Strasbourg by train, Colmar is a beautiful city full of cheerfully colored half-timbered homes.
We checked out a couple of the little Christmas Markets (they even had a specific children’s themed one complete with farm animals to look at and bubbles blowing through the air) and enjoyed walking through the city.
My favorite part of the city was the Little Venice region. It had beautifully colored buildings along the canal and was wonderful to walk through. Our girls had a lot of fun checking out the buildings and looking at any birds down in the water below.
It was a wonderful visit and I highly recommend going to Colmar if you’re in the area. There are also different museums one can visit, but we took it very easy and just enjoyed the atmosphere and little markets. It was a great place to explore and I would love to go back again in the spring or summer when all the flowers are in bloom.
Some final thoughts:
- All the stalls closed fairly early in Strasbourg. My husband and I tried going out around 8:30 one evening after the girls were in bed (while my in-laws stayed with them) and all the stalls were already closed for the night. This was a little surprising for us, but not really too much of an issue.
- It was very crowded in the different markets. We struggled knowing how to explore with our girls. The double stroller kept them safe and contained, but was hard to maneuver. Holding hands with our girls was stressful as I constantly worried about one of them getting lost (plus we traveled much slower this way). Looking back, I’m still not sure what the best way is to get two young children through the markets. Luckily we had grandparents who were so very helpful! 🙂