Christmas is a time for tradition and celebration in Alsace. Christmas markets take place in almost every village from late November until the end of the year, and it’s possible to jump from place to place in search of unique products and seasonal entertainment.
Colmar kicks off the season at the end of November when the Christmas Market begins. Stalls set up on lighted and decorated pedestrian streets around Place des Dominicains, Petite Venise, Place de l’Ancienne Douane, and Place Jeanne d’Arc. You can take a break by visiting the indoor market inside the Koïfhus, the medieval customs building. In addition to local artist products, you’ll find live entertainment and an electric train set up around a snow-covered mountain.
Outside on the square, look for stalls set around the old fountain and along the waterfront. Around the Dominican Church, you’ll find huts offering Christmas trees and traditional decorations. This is also the place to pick up a snack or hot drink. In Little Venise, a Children’s Market is set up with a nativity scene, stalls selling hot cider, and a decorated carousel. Santa himself has been known to drop by.
Strasbourg‘s Christmas Market draws more than two million visitors each December. Alsace claims to have started the tradition of decorating a tree at Christmas time, and Strasbourg has held Christkindelsmärik (market of the Christ child) since 1570. This makes it one of the oldest in France and, perhaps, in Europe. The city’s extravaganza has repeatedly been voted the best Christmas market in Europe by the European Best Destinations Organization based in Brussels.
Throughout the day and into the evening vendors offer holiday art, crafts, and food for sale. After dark, the market glows with colored lights and visitors are treated to live music concerts, seasonal shows, and special exhibits. A huge decorated tree stands over Place Kléber, the largest public square in the center of the city, and hundreds of people gather around the historical buildings as Strasbourg truly becomes the Capital of Christmas.
Mulhouse uses its reputation as the birthplace of the region’s textile industry to host an extraordinary festival from late November through December. Designers and craftsmen create an original fabric every year to hang on the vendor stalls during the Christmas Market. Place de la Réunion, the town square, and nearby streets decorate extravagantly with the lush cloth and colorful lights. In addition to about a hundred decorated vendor huts, the market features a towering Ferris wheel and an ice-skating rink.
Many of the outlying villages such as Ribeauvillé, Obernai, and Eguisheim celebrate as residents might have in medieval times. The towns create a market hosted by locals dressed as fiddlers, rogues, and strolling musicians. Vendor huts feature regional products and local crafts. After dark, colored lights illuminate the cobblestone streets for shoppers and those going to concerts and plays.