Soak up the festive atmosphere in Strasbourg

A weekend break in a city tucked into the northeast corner of France offers plenty of festive charm, as FRANCE Magazine discovers ADVERTISING FEATURE

Capital of the Alsace region, the city of Strasbourg is a quirky, cross-cultural city which walks a fine tightrope between France and Germany thanks to its position to the west of the River Rhine, just 2km from the German town of Kehl. The city’s Alsatian, French and German roots make it a fascinating place to explore at any time of year, but it is during the festive season that the city really does sparkle when it transforms itself into a veritable winter wonderland.

Few other French cities embrace the Christmas spirit quite like Strasbourg and you can’t get more festive than the city’s renowned Christkindelsmärik. Founded in 1570, it is one of the oldest markets in France and boasts a whopping 300 stalls where you’re guaranteed to find your perfect Christmas gift. Walk past crooked, half-timbered buildings with a piping hot cup of glühwein in hand and soak up the wonderful atmosphere. An impressive site is the beautiful pink granite Cathédrale de Notre Dame, a Gothic masterpiece serving as the perfect backdrop to the neatly-arranged wooden chalets overflowing in handmade decorations and stocking fillers.

For a slice of the city’s rich, gastronomic heritage make sure you stop by the artisan food markets, where you’ll find scrumptious specialities including local gingerbread biscuits known as bredele, ring-shaped kugelhopf cakes and sweet Alsatian wines.

To keep the little ones entertained there’s the children’s Christmas village in Place Saint Thomas. The square comes alive with fun games, live shows and decoration-making workshops, a perfect place to keep your little one happy while you hurry off in search of the perfect gift for them.

And when the festive sparkle becomes a little too much Strasbourg has plenty of other places to keep you busy during your weekend break. Take a batorama boat trip along the River Ill for a gorgeous view of where old meets new with the European parliament and the Barrage Vauban. For insight into the city’s role as the seat of several EU institutions wander past the ultra-modern Council of Europe buildings located on the edge of the city centre.

If art is more your thing, the city boasts the impressive Musée de Beaux-Arts, housing works by masters such as El Greco and Botticelli, while the contemporary art museum stocks an impressive range of graphic artworks, including a Belle Époque collection by Gustave Doré.

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Lose yourself in the historical centre’s network of narrow streets where for a spot of local cuisine you’ll have the pick of a number of charming winstubs. These traditional Alsatian restaurants, which are rather like a country pub, offer up hearty local fare with dishes including choucroute au canard, the tasty stew known as baeckeoffe and tartes flambées.

A visit to Strasbourg at this most special time of year is incomplete without attempting the 330-step, calf-straining climb to the top of the cathedral. Complete the ascent and you’ll be rewarded with a memorable wintry panorama over the city’s many snow-lined rooftops.

For more information on where to stay and what to visit, see www.otstrasbourg.fr

Eurotunnel Le Shuttle is the quickest way to the continent by car. Book early and get the best fares to explore Strasbourg. Visit www.eurotunnel.com or call 0870 850 8133 to book your crossing.