Some of the best Christmas markets in Europe can be found in the incredibly adorable Alsace Region of France which sits just over the German border. Christmas time in Alsace is simply magical!
The region has two major cities, Strasbourg and Colmar, and a bunch of small towns that will have you feeling as if you’ve just landed between the pages of a storybook! This area is part of the famous Alsace Wine Route, with its picturesque villages and Alsatian vineyards. If you love wine, you’ll have no trouble finding wine tastings in all of the towns on our itinerary.
The Christmas season brings a magical atmosphere and the whole place turns into a Christmas wonderland! Christmas lights, Alsatian Christmas markets, and delicious food and drink. It’s one of the best places to be during the holiday season!
Europe’s Christmas Markets are bucket list worthy! Europe Winter Bucket List
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Table of Contents
About Alsace Christmas Markets
Name: Marché de Noël
Markets are traditionally held in the town square of French cities and with them bring a fun festive atmosphere. Wooden chalets selling unique gifts, traditional crafts, and handmade goods are adorned with fresh greenery and twinkling lights. Copious amounts of steaming mugs of mulled wine served up from market stalls put visitors in the holiday spirit!
food and drink
One of the very best things about Alsace Christmas markets is the tasty delights being served up. Food stalls offer up an enormous variety of traditional food during this festive season. Smells like gingerbread, spiced nuts, and roasting meats permeate the winter air.
Specialties to be on the lookout for:
- macaroons (colorful meringue cookies)
- Tarte Flambée (cracker thin “pizza” topped with Crème Fraîche (sour cream) and other savory toppings like lardons and onions)
- Foie Gras (a pate made from goose liver. Not bad! but SUPER rich!)
- Vin Chaud (spiced wine)
The traditional Christmas market, as we know it today, started in Germany. Interestingly, possession of this region of France has been back and forth between France and Germany for centuries. It has now been part of France for decades, but the area has a unique atmosphere which is a wonderful mix of French and German! As adorable as I like to think Germany is, I like to say that Alsace is like Germany on steroids!
When is the best time to visit French Christmas markets?
Most European Christmas markets begin in late November or early December and run at least through December. They are normally closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Some markets in smaller towns are only open on weekends.
DO NOT MAKE ASSUMPTIONS about opening dates. Before you book your flight or hotels you need to confirm dates. To get the most accurate information on opening dates and opening hours check the official city website, or don’t hesitate to send an email!
Important note on accommodation: Hotel rooms book up fast for this time of year. Consider locking in your accommodation as soon as you decide on your trip dates.
How long do I need for the French Christmas Markets in Alsace France?
This itinerary is for 7 days. Have less time? Pick your favorites! More time? Slow down the pace or add some of my recommended additions in this article.
7-day itinerary Alsace Christmas Markets
The markets are the stars of the show, but I’ve included plenty of things to do in this itinerary to escape crowds and warm up for a bit.
Christmas markets of Alsace overview
This itinerary includes 6 of Alsace’s most beautiful cities and villages: (plus one very special market in Germany!)
- Ravenna Gorge (Germany)
Day 1: arrival in Alsace / Colmar
Since we stayed in Colmar our itinerary starts here.
The incredibly picturesque town of Colmar is known for its well-preserved old town, colorful pastel half-timbered houses and buildings, and swan studded canals. The town is famous for its vibrant flower displays in the warmer months, but this town really turns it up for Christmas with Christmas decorations galore! After dark is magic when everything is illuminated! If you’ve been traveling all day, you may not be able to fit much in today so on the first evening why not hit the Christmas market? It’s why you came!
Google Map: Colmar Christmas Markets and Attractions
Colmar Christmas market
Colmar has 6 Christmas markets throughout town. Examples include the Gourmet market at Rue de la Montagne Verte, Place des Dominicains Christmas Market at the Eglise des Dominicains Cathedral and the indoor market at Koifhus (Old Custom House)
Official website: Noel Colmar
Other things to do in Colmar
- Explore Colmar’s narrow streets and the cute neighborhoods of Colmar’s Old Town like La Petite Venice (Little Venice), Vieille Ville, Grand Rue De Colmar, and the Fishmonger District.
- Take a romantic Canal cruise / boat ride through Little Venice (book ahead if you don’t want to be disappointed)
- Unterlinden Museum (Roman, Medieval, Monet, Renoir)
- Ice Skating: Colmar has an outdoor popup Christmas ice rink, in the evening ephemeral ice rink is adorned with a thousand and one lights!
- Churches: the 1365 Gothic Collegiale Saint-Martin (3 Kings who visited baby Jesus over the main door) Eglise St-Martin (“virgin in the rosebush” painting)
Day 2: Raveena Gorge
Make your way to Ravenna Gorge
A day trip to Ravenna Gorge Christmas Market in the Black Forest region of Germany is a “can’t miss” experience.” It’s one of my all-time favorite Christmas Markets. This magical market is located under a railroad duct that’s lit by projected lights that oscillate from one beautiful color to the next! It’s the perfect location for an enchanting market! The day we visited the area was blanketed in heavy snow and it was breathtaking!
Tickets for this market go on sale in October and are limited so plan to purchase tickets in advance. Sign up at the HochSchwarzwald website to get access to the presale.
Planning tip: This market is only open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Switch up your itinerary as needed.
Getting to Ravenna Gorge
Avoid driving on potentially snowy roads by taking a shuttle bus from one of the following locations:
- Hinterzarten train station
- Himmelreich train station
- Titisee Kurhaus car park
- Freiburg Train Station. (We made a road trip to Freiburg im Breisgau and then took the shuttle. 1 hour drive from Colmar. Taking the train or bus is a great option too.)
Day 3: Day trip to the small villages of Alsace
Let’s take a “full day” day trip to some of the most beautiful villages in France. This area is surrounded by vineyards and renowned for its wine production. What these quaint villages have in common are cobblestone streets and narrow winding lanes, colorful half-timbered houses and well-preserved medieval architecture, and a whole bunch of traditional Alsatian charm! You’ll feel as if you’ve landed in the Middle Ages! Stop back by your favorite towns to see them romantically lit after dark.
travel time for the day: 50 km / 1 hr 20 minutes (round trip from Colmar)
Christmas Market Shuttle
I love the freedom of having a car but there is a handy Christmas Market Shuttle that leaves from Colmar. See the Navette de Noel website for routes and timetables, Tickets can sell out so purchase tickets in advance.
Towns on the shuttle route:
Take a tour:
Rather have a tour guide?
Enchanting Christmas Experience From Colmar: You’ll be able to explore these historical villages at your own pace: (No need to worry about parking! Let the driver take care of that!) Kaysersberg, Riquewihr, and Eguisheim. This tour includes a wine tasting in Ribeauvillé, where you can enjoy white wine (like gewürztraminer), red wines (such as pinot noir), and crémant (white and rose). Book it now on Get Your Guide!
Statue of Liberty
As you head out of town, stop and see the life-size Statue of Liberty. Auguste Bartholdi, who sculpted Lady Liberty, was from Colmar.
- Distance to Riquewihr: 15 km
is often considered one of the most beautiful villages in the country. It’s quite popular during market season and is renowned for its wine production, particularly its Alsatian Riesling. I’d suggest arriving as early as possible because parking was scarce.
Google Map: Riquewihr Christmas Market and attractions
Riquewihr Christmas Market
This traditional Christmas market is surrounded by colorful half-timbered storybook buildings.
Official website: Christmas Alsace – Riquewihr
Other activities in Riquewihr:
- Explore the historic town: Walk the medieval ramparts with its 13th century Dolder Tower / defensive gate)
- Museums: 14th-century former prison Musée de la Tour des Voleurs (Museum of thieves with torture instruments.) The 1291 Dolder Tower houses the Musée du Dolder, featuring centuries-old weapons.
- Shop at the Käthe Wohlfahrt store
- Distance to Kayserserg: 10 km
sits in the shadow of the ruins of an old castle and is famous for its wine production, particularly its Alsatian Gewürztraminer.
Google Maps: Kaysersberg Christmas Market and attractions
Kaysersberg Christmas market
Kaysersberg Market is closed on Monday so plan accordingly. We actually toured the villages on a Monday, so it was nice to escape the market crowds and be able to enjoy this charming little village.
Official website: Noel Comar -Kaysersberg
Other activities in Kaysersberg:
- Churches: Eglise Sainte-Croix church, Chapelle Saint-Michel de Kaysersberg, Notre-Dame du Scapulaire
- Explore the town with its beautiful historic buildings and charming bridges that span the river Weiss which flows through town.
- Distance to Turckheim: 9 km
This tiny commune is delightfully historic! There was a Roman presence in Turckheim from 27 A.D. It later became an Imperial city from the year 1312. Specialty wines include Gewürztraminer and Riesling.
Google Maps: Turckheim Christmas Market and attractions
Turckheim Christmas Market
For me this was the most interesting and unique market of the day. The market area has fun Christmas themed wooden cutouts like nativity scenes, St. Nicholas, elves and more. There is also a petting zoo at the market with sheep and rabbits. There’s an indoor market/coffee shop located in the town hall for warming up. This one didn’t open till later afternoon so be sure to check times.
Official website: Turckheim Tourism
Other activities in Turckheim:
- Look for the stork’s nest on the Porte de France gate which dates to 1330
- St. Ann’s church, 12th century
- Nightwatchman Tour, by a local guide, from December 1st to the 31th December at midnight. (check the website for current times)
If you want to stay in one of the smaller towns, consider the cozy Hôtel des Deux Cléfs in Turckheim. Check rates on Booking.com
- distance to Eguisheim: 8 km
Eguisheim (ay-gush-i’m) in my opinion is the cutest of them all! ridiculously adorable! The medieval city center (Vieille ville d’Eguisheim) is enclosed by a historic defensive wall. Eguisheim’s charming central square, adorned with a beautiful fountain and surrounded by historic buildings, is simply captivating.
Google Maps: Eguisheim Christmas Market and attractions
Eguisheim Christmas Market:
is just as perfect as the town itself!
official website: Tourisme Eguisheim
Other activities in Eguisheim:
- the draw here is the town itself. Stroll the narrow lanes and ramparts of this fantastic little town
Day 4: Colmar
Spend an entire day exploring Colmar. Choose from the activities listed on Day 1.
Day 5: Strasbourg
The city of Strasbourg is known as the Capital of Christmas (Capitale de Noël) because the town really turns it up around Noel! Strasbourg is famous for its rich history and beautiful canals. Comparatively, this is a much bigger city (277,000), but the historic core is where we are headed.
Google Map: Strasbourg attractions and Christmas Markets
Strasbourg Christmas Market
Strasbourg Christkindelsmärik with over 300 wooden chalets, spread around different squares in the city, is the largest Christmas market in France. Place Broglie Market (Christkindelsmärik at the Place Broglie) is not only France’s oldest Christmas market but also one of the oldest in Europe, dating to 1570. The big Christmas tree (tallest decorated tree in Europe) is located at Place Kléber. It comes to life with a musical light show on the hour from 4-9 each evening. Other markets include Place des Meuniers Market and Rue Gutenberg market at Place Gutenberg.
Official website: Noel Strasbourg
Other activities in Strasbourg
- La Petite France, the charming medieval quarter of half-timbered houses overlooking the Ill River.
- Churches: The 11th century Strasbourg Cathedral (place de la Cathédrale) Notre Dame de Strasbourg, is one of the world’s tallest. Eglise protestante Saint Pierre le Jeune Church, arched cloisters, and really old frescos.
- Museums: Musée de l’Œuvre Notre-Dame (ancient religious artifacts) Musee Alsacien (historic old Strasbourg homes connected by wooden staircases and passageways, rural life in Alsace in the 18th and 19th centuries.) Decorative Arts Museum (living quarters and lavish apartments of the prince bishop’s and Rohan cardinals)
- Boat ride on the river. BATORAMA, boat tours operate year-round, covered and heated. There are several options so if you don’t speak French you might take a peek at their website first.
Day 6: Strasbourg
Strasbourg day 2! Choose from the activities listed on Day 1.
Day 7: Relax and revisit your favorite spot!
Tired? Take a rest! Missed something? Go back!
Nearby destinations to add to your itinerary
Have more time? Consider these options:
- Mulhouse Christmas Market
- Ribeauvillé has a medieval-themed Christmas market (acrobats, jugglers and even fire eaters, all in costume from the Middle Ages, and the aroma of roasting wild boar, wow!)
- Obernai Christmas Market
- Basel Switzerland Christmas Market (add Switzerland to your itinerary!)
- Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany (I hear it has a good market! Consider stopping by before heading to Ravenna Gorge)
Arriving in France
You have a lot of options for getting to Alsace (we flew into and out of Frankfurt)
Closest airports to Strasbourg/ Colmar France:
- Strasbourg Airport (SXB) 9.7 km
- Stuttgart Airport (STR) 107 km
- Basel Airport (BSL) 110.6 km
- Zurich Airport (ZRH) 39.9 km
High speed trains can deliver you in as little as a 2 hour train ride from:
- Frankfurt International Airport (FRA)
- Paris -Charles de Gaulle (CDG) (direct trains vailable from Gare de l’Est station)
Searching routes and booking tickets:
getting money in France
This is one trip where you are going to want to have cash on hand. Many of the market vendors only accept cash so stop at the ATM for some Euros before you leave the airport. It’s the fastest, easiest, often least expensive way to get Euros. Use your debit card and not your credit card, cash advance fees are astronomical. Refuse the Dynamic Currency Conversion (you want the transaction in Euros, not your home currency. They will charge you to convert it.)
Where to stay
Dealers Choice! Strasbourg has a bigger city vibe. For me Colmar is more atmospheric and more manageable. We opted to stay in Colmar and make day trips to Strasbourg. If you have a car, you could easily stay in one of the smaller villages. Drive times between places on this itinerary are minimal. The great thing about this trip is you can stay in one place the entire trip if you please!
Where we stayed:
Grand Hôtel Bristol: Nice hotel just across the street from the train station in Colmar. Good if you are using the train a lot (we did) but quite a distance from all the main attractions in Colmar, so expect to do a lot of walking. Book it here on Booking.com!
tip: book rooms early, check back and re-book if price goes down but it isn’t likely to during this busy time of year.
driving/public transportation combo:
This was the option we chose. You really don’t need a car while in Strasbourg and Colmar. Driving is a pain and parking is expensive. Consider renting a car just for the days when visiting the small villages and possibly Ravenna Gorge and discretionary day.
- Do yourself a big favor and secure yourself some sort of GPS navigation. It makes life a whole lot easier!
- Rental Car: Search at Booking.com or Expedia to find the best rates, then navigate to the official site for the company with the best rates and book directly.
- Add the tire chains or socks option and make sure they are in the car when you pick it up. If you get closer to the mountains there are areas where these are compulsory.
- I couldn’t find anywhere to rent a car in Colmar on the weekend so we had to take the train to Strasbourg to pick one up. FYI!
Buses are a good option for getting around. (check Rome2Rio) Alsace is easily accessible by TGV, and once you are there it is easy to get around using the local TER trains. Frequent trains run between Colmar and Strasbourg, just a short train ride apart.
Strasbourg > Colmar: 30 min
THE ALSA+ TICKET
Save money on travel in Alsace! The Alsa+ pass gives you unlimited access to the entire public transport system, including trains, trams, and buses. Sold at train station ticket booths and from regional ticket machines. Not valid on high-speed trains (TGV).
You are likely aware that there are frequent train strikes in France so be sure to have a backup plan.
first-time visitor? You may find these travel tips helpful:
Make dinner reservations, especially during this time of year. The markets are a great place to eat, for both lunch and dinner, but for sit-down meals you better have a reservation. We missed out on several restaurants because we didn’t have reservations.
Ok this is where I’m going to be brutally honest. This area is insanely crowded during the market season. I wasn’t mentally prepared. If you simply can’t face the crowds, we found the wonderful medieval markets in Germany to be somewhat less crowded.
In Alsace, you’ll find fewer crowds: the earlier the better. I’d like to say that you’ll have the same luck very late in the day but not so. Evenings are very crowded. You are going to want to see everything lit up at night but maybe do your shopping first thing and then just come back at night to see the lights, people watch, and revel in the merriment! If you can, plan to be in the smaller towns on the weekends and save the more popular markets for weekdays.
Alsace Christmas markets cruise
There are several operators that offer cruises that stop in Strasbourg and Colmar. Just google “Christmas Market Cruise Alsace” to explore your options.
Pack light, stay warm tips for winter season travel
- Layering is the key to keeping warm without the bulk. Layers can seamlessly take you from indoors to outdoors and back again. The warmest layers are fleece, wool, and down. I like fleece base layers like CuddlDuds.
- Fleece lined jeans, big thumbs up!
- Lightweight insulated boots or shoes (bonus if they are waterproof too!)
- Fleece neck gaiters, wear it as a scarf or pull it up over your face to keep it warm!
- PACKABLE down, layer them over a light fleece jacket to stay toasty warm without the bulk.
- Waterproof pants (comfortable and warm) less bulky than snow pants.
- Wool socks and wool glove liners (double the heat insulation!) and something to keep your head warm. I’m a big fan of hand warmers too.
- Waterproof outer layers like rain ponchos or an umbrella in case of rain, you don’t want to get wet on cold days!
Need to do Laundry? You could of course find a laundromat, but I don’t relish spending my time doing laundry when I’m on vacation. I always try to find a wash/dry/fold laundry service. Can’t find it? Instead, I wash my clothes out in the sink at night. Towel warmers and radiators help dry clothes faster.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do the Alsace Christmas Markets accept credit cards?
Many do not. It’s best to have cash on hand.
Which Christmas Market is better: Colmar or Strasbourg?
This is, of course, personal preference. Each has the traditional Christmas market feel that you’re in search of. I think the real difference is the town. Colmar has a smaller and more intimate feel, while Strasbourg is bigger and grander. If you are looking for that storybook feel Colmar should be your pick.
What is the most Christmassy town in France?
It’s hard to say which town would win this award but you can’t go wrong with an Alsatian Christmas market. The towns are loaded down with all manner of Christmas goodness. I like to say it’s like Christmas exploded…but in a good way!
France Travel Expenses: How much does it cost?
Here’s an estimate of the cost of a 7-day trip to medieval markets in France
(December 2023 prices)
|$1,500 (based on double occupancy)
|$220 (we had the car for 2 days)
|around $400 includes transport to Alsace (I tend to by the flex ticket which costs a little more, and make seat reservations)
|tours and admission
|$150 (you may spend more/less)
|estimated total for two people
Medieval Christmas Markets in Germany
This trip was part of a France/Germany Christmas Market trip. We hit the very best Medieval Christmas markets in Germany! oh what a trip!
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