The famous Christkindelsmärik in Strasbourg, dating back to 1570, is the oldest Christmas market in France – but we have found a worthy alternative!
Christkindelsmärikis won the title of ‘Best Christmas Market in Europe’ last year, and is a hugely popular attraction. But less than an hour away, another Alsatian city, Colmar, also goes all out in the lead-up to Christmas, providing a less crowded, but definitely as festive and maybe even more colourful, alternative to the region’s capital.
With its many fountains, cobbled squares, ancient churches and half-timbered medieval and Renaissance houses painted in various hues, the charming city of Colmar turns its historic centre into a winter wonderland to celebrate the spirit of Christmas each year. All the buildings are decorated with lights and festive ornaments, and there are five seperate markets spread over five different locations, each focusing on different products and crafts, giving visitors the perfect excuse to wander through the streets to the sound of Christmas carols and jingling bells.
On Place des Dominicains, the stained glass windows of the 14th century Dominican church, which dominates the 65 stalls, creates a peaceful atmosphere, while on Place de l’Ancienne Douane, some 40 chalets surround a fountain adorned by a statute by the city’s most famous son, French sculptor August Bartholdi, who also designed the Statute of Liberty.
Over on Place Jeanne d’Arc, the market celebrates Alsatian food with a large array of local products that range from mulled wines and brandy to bredels and Pain d’épices, while the one set up in between the canals of the “Petite Venise” is a paradise for children, offering a wooden horse merry-go-round, an animated Nativity scene and 44 stalls crammed with toys, stuffed animals and gingerbread.
Finally, the covered market of the Koifhus, located in the 15th-century Customs House, specializes in art objects and antiques (furnitures, jewels, second-hand books…).
Every year, the city really gets into the Christmas spirit and if you want to experience the magic of the season for yourself, it is very easy to do so. Colmar is on the main railway from Strasbourg to Mulhouse and Basel (Switzerland). Air France offers daily flights to Strasbourg from Nice and EasyJet flies Nice – Basel every day except Wednesday.
Lead image via Office de Tourisme de Colmar; all other photos © Florence Dubosc