Hi, It’s Ronnie here. Now it will come as no shock that Kristie and I love visiting Christmas markets, I mean, what’s not to love?
While all are magical in their own way, there are some that leave a permanent mark on your heart. For us, certain cities will always draw us back, like moths to a flame and one of those cities is Strasbourg.
By way of a quick geography lesson, the region of Alsace sits between both Germany and France. It has been ruled by both at different stages throughout history and while the spoken language is French, there is definitely a ‘German’ air to the region.
Strasbourg bills itself as the Christmas capital of France and in our humble opinion, it delivers on this claim. The entire old town is converted into a magical Christmas wonderland. We chose to stay quite close to the Place Kleber (the main square in the old town). Having arrived in the afternoon, we did not venture to the markets until it was dark and as we approached the square, we were greeted by the most amazing tree with an illuminated village at its base.
We grabbed some Glühwein, or Vin Chaud as it is called in French and then went for a stroll. There are multiple themed Christmas markets dotted around the old town but, with the illuminated streets, they all merged into one giant, magical experience.
Kristie stopped to take a photo of a building festooned with lights, garlands and wreaths and that is when we saw it. Down the side-street giant illuminated angels drew our eyes up to the Cathedral, it was magical.
The next day we returned to the market that surrounded the cathedral. After stopping for some lunch in a very touristy café, Kristie noticed a large stand selling French-made linens. While I used my rudimentary French to purchase a tablecloth, we heard a very loud ‘Oh My!’ from behind us. An older, very brash lady with a strong American accent began calling out to her sister. After calling out some of what she found, something stumped her.
‘But I’ve just got to know!’ she called to the stallholder ‘what is this thing?’ The stall holder shrugged, either unable or unwilling to engage with her. Frustrated, the lady turned to me in her brash way and said with a huff ‘Do you speak Engilsh?’
‘Yes, I believe I do.’
Her eyes brightened ‘Well I suppose you do then!’ She thrusted something into my hand. ‘Please, I’ve got to know. What is this?’
‘It’s a tea-towel’
‘Tee-towel’ Her voice seemed to increase an octave ‘What on earth is a tea-towel?’ Somehow I seemed to frustrate her even further. ‘This just won’t do’ she tossed the tea-towel on the bench and stormed off.
It is funny what sticks in your mind.
In this part of the world, they ditch the bratwurst. I know, at first I thought the same thing, what kind of a Christmas market does not have sausages? But then, we discovered the Flammenbrot!
The best way to describe the flammenbrot is to think of a pizza sub minus the tomato. At some stands, pizza-like dough had been rolled into long, thin shapes, at others the base was simply a baguette cut lengthways. The base is then covered with a layer of bechemel sauce and any manner of toppings.
For me it was brie, goats cheese, gruyere and bacon. Enough said?
Wandering to the edge of the old town one evening, we found a market specialising in food from the region. It was so nice to see local producers with their wares and, while this was duck and Fois Gras country (the latter has never appealed to us), there was a section of this markets devoted to all manner of small biscuits and sweet treats. A mixed bag of buttery cookies in hand, what more could you need for an evening stroll?
There are many routes into Strasbourg. For us, it was the first stop on our trip so after arriving in Frankfurt, we took a 2 hour train to Strasbourg. The same trip can be done flying into Paris.
Strasbourg is a great place to base yourself for a few days. You can see the sites in town and then take a couple of day trips (as we did) to other towns such as Colmar or even Basel in Switzerland.
There are plenty of options for accommodation. We stayed at the Sofitel right near Place Kleber. Their breakfast was amazing!!