3 Magical French Christmas Markets
Soak up the festive atmosphere and unearth an unusual gift with a Christmas trip to Alsace
(27 November-31 December)
To enjoy a Christmas market steeped in age-old tradition with both French and German influences, a visit to Strasbourg, capital of Alsace, is a must. Founded in 1570, the Christkindelsmärik is one of the oldest markets in France, and every year more than 300 stalls spread over 11 sites bring some much-needed winter warmth to Strasbourg’s pretty half-timbered squares (main picture).
The imposing Gothic cathedral makes a wonderful backdrop to the neat rows of brightly lit chalets overflowing in beautiful, handmade decorations and stocking fillers. For a slice of the city’s rich gastronomic heritage, stop at the artisan food stalls where you’ll find specialities such as Alsatian bredele, sweet Alsatian wines and kugelhopf cakes. The Christmas village in Place Saint-Thomas will keep children amused with games, live entertainment and decoration-making workshops while the grown-ups shop ’til they drop.
Tel: (Fr) 3 88 52 28 28 www.noel.strasbourg.eu
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(20 November-31 December)
Colmar, capital of the Haut-Rhin département, oozes festive charm with five Christmas markets scattered through the network of medieval streets and squares. Start your visit by soaking up the festive spirit at the Église des Dominicains where wooden huts offer home-made sweets, chocolates and wooden gifts.
The Petite Venise quarter, so-called for its collection of pretty bridges over the River Lauch, is the site of the children’s Christmas market, where you can stock up on gifts while the children ride a merry-go-round. For an indoor market experience, stop by the Koïfhus, a medieval timber building housing cabinet makers, wood sculptors, jewellers and antique dealers. If all the walking whets your appetite, then head to Place Jeanne d’Arc for wines, liqueurs, pains d’épices and hot caramel.
Tel: (Fr) 3 89 20 68 92
(21 November-23 December)
The Christmas market in Mulhouse takes pride of place in Place de la Réunion among pastel-coloured buildings and the network of tram lines. Around 80 stalls sell traditional gifts, including aprons and tableware made from the textiles for which the Haut-Rhin town is famous. Pick up a cup of piping hot vin chaud and tour the stalls, stopping to sample the display of bredele biscuits, which come in a varied mix of flavours and sizes.
What makes Mulhouse’s festivities unique is the ‘Christmas fabric’; 7,500 metres of material that adorns the hôtel de ville and other historic buildings. For a market view from on high, take a ride on the Ferris wheel and peer down at the ribbons of festive illuminations which dot the main square, before heading down to soak up the festive spirit all over again.
Tel: (Fr) 3 89 35 48 48
Like this? Then check 5 key French Christmas traditions