The best French Christmas Markets are in the Alsace region of France, or so I’m told. I had to see for myself.
Ask anyone who’s scouted for the best Christmas Markets in Europe, and they’ll say Strasbourg, Colmar, and Kaysersberg in France are among the most famous. Since I’m on a mission to visit as much of France as possible, the Christmas Markets in the Alsace region were “must-dos.”
Best French Christmas Markets
Strasbourg was first on the Very Best Christmas Market tour, and, as you saw in the previous post, the city and the festivities were pretty spectacular. Colmar was an hour’s train ride away from Strasbourg. A perfect place to stay for a few days, then visit other nearby towns and markets.
Colmar, the “Venice” of Alsace
Colmar has an interesting connection to the United States. It’s the birthplace of Auguste Bartholde (1834-1904), the sculptor who designed the Statue of Liberty. So what was the first thing tour guide Max of Alsace Original Experiences wanted his two American guests to visit? The massive replica of Lady Liberty stands at the entrance to Colmar. It is the most extensive reproduction of the statue anywhere in the world. In France, Bartholdi is quite a celebrity. One of the tourist sites in the center of Colmar is a museum in his honor. I’ll have to see that next time.
Colmar is a much smaller town than Strasbourg, so right away, the difference in the holiday atmosphere was quite apparent. In the old part of the city (on the map below in yellow), there were five different Christmas marketplaces (red stars). For example, in Strasbourg, the vendors set up their food and gift items in temporary wooden huts amid busy shopping areas. The difference was that there seemed to be more handmade and authentic French items at the small stalls in Colmar. Some of the “marchés” were lined up along the canals that seemed randomly interspersed through the town. Streets were closed during market hours, so it seemed like we were in the midst of one big Christmas party.
Two favorite things about Colmar were the B&B and “dejeuner” at Le Marechal, which happened accidentally. The B&B had a last-minute cancellation, so there was “room at the inn.” The restaurant was a lucky choice through TripAdvisor. Which reminds me. If your holiday tour includes fine dining, several Michelin Star restaurants are in the Alsace area. I thought, “Good food, good price, and let’s return to shopping in the market.” Le Marechal ticked all those boxes.
Kaysersberg, the Night Market
Touring Kaysersberg at night was not exactly on the agenda, but it was dark when we’d visited Eguisheim and Riquewihr. I think that was a good thing. At nighttime, the holiday lights were stunning. With the bits of snow that were falling, it was the perfect mix.
Kaysersberg is a tiny town (see the map below); many people want to see it. So there was quite a lot of traffic getting into town. It reminded me of Christmases long ago in Charlotte, NC. My family spent hours in our car, behind lines of other cars, to see Christmas lights in McAdenville, a tiny mill town nearby.
Fortunately, our excellent tour guide, Max, from Alsace Original Experiences, knew precisely where to park within steps of the town entrance. He earned a “gold star” for that brilliant move.
Kaysersberg was decked out for the Christmas Market, especially around the route marked with red arrows. The market items seemed to all be from France — not all handmade — but fabulous. Through the shopping extravaganza, I reminded myself I had nowhere to store Christmas stuff in my apartment. I really behaved … well, sorta.
Bienvenue á Colmar et Kaysersberg