A Weekend in Strasbourg Christmas Market in Alsace
Time flies as it's already been a week since I returned from Strasbourg in France. It's high time that I tell you my little stay and I tell you about the Strasbourg Christmas market. For the Christmas freak that I am, Alsace represents for me the ultimate mecca at this time of the year (as Germany also).
Who has not heard of the Strasbourg Christmas Market? Not me anyway, and it's been three or four years that I wanted to go. I dreamed of a weekend in Strasbourg for Christmas for a few years now. There were all the excuses for this getaway. This year, with a good holiday week before Christmas, I was not to miss the opportunity. So I booked my tickets, find a hotel room and three weeks later, my dream became finally a reality.
Of course, the purists say that the Christmas market has become "commercial" and that to have an authentic market, you have to go to Colmar or the surrounding villages, like Kaysersberg. Logistically it was not possible, so we left for Strasbourg and its half-timber houses!
Day 1: Strasbourg by night
We finally left on the morning of December 20th. Around 5:30 pm in the evening, we finally arrived in Strasbourg! We stay in an apartment, in the district of Neudorf. We decided to go out at night, despite the cold (it was about 0 degrees) to enjoy the last moments before the Christmas markets close shop.
The trams did not have stops within the perimeter of the Christmas markets. So we go down to a stop very close to the city, and what a surprise to see that we arrive by the "main" entry, with the famous illuminations "Strasbourg, Capital of Christmas"! I had the impression to embed myself in the Instagram photos that I saw circulating, to tell the truth.
We did not really know where we were going. We were carried away by the crowd, and we came across the Strasbourg cathedral of Notre Dame. It is rather impressive, especially when one sees it at the end of this street, that it overhangs easily of the height of its 142m. Illuminations and Christmas markets here and there guided our walk. Everywhere, the words and names were in German. I, who have never been interested in the Germanic language, was a little lost!
After hanging out in the Christmas market at the foot of the cathedral and drinking a mulled wine, we were (a bit) hungry. It is true that we had missed lunch, and that our bellies cried foul. After a few minutes of walk in the streets, we find a restaurant of Alsatian specialties.
The hunger was right ahead of us and we cracked for burgers. I did not know this chain of burgers and I was pleasantly surprised by their burger with Alsatian cheese. We returned just after, and take some photos while waiting for the tram.
Day 2: Petite France and Cathedral
I wake up rather hard the next day. As the day before, the temperatures are not very inviting but we have a more elaborate program than the day before. As the day before, I tried the specialty (flambe pie) for breakfast. I really like this cheese, but I admit to having trouble finishing my plate every time.
After breakfast, we walk to Petite France, the most emblematic district of Strasbourg. We put on the ski socks so as not to burst in the cold winter as the day before, and go! I totally fell in love with this unusual place! We go to Petite France and we make a few stops in Christmas markets encountered on the way, like the Alsatian specialty market. I discovered the wild rose.
I'm learning decidedly every day! How to know that you arrived at Petite France? When you only see timber everywhere and the river that runs through Strasbourg and delimits the island that is the center. Certainly, that day and throughout our stay, the sky was overcast and immediately gave this less welcoming air, but I really liked this place.
We then returned to the cathedral square, visiting other Christmas markets. The half-timbered houses give charm to this place. There are cottages with both food, gingerbread, Christmas decorations. As always, we find mulled wine, and bredeles (these are biscuits that are an Alsatian specialty with each family having its own recipe). There are also other specialties like tea and hot water bottles. There was also a village in Place Gutenberg representing Iceland. As I understand it, each year a country is honored and has its own Christmas market.
The cathedral had its head immersed the fog. We wanted to visit the interior which apparently contains an astronomical clock that rings every quarter of an hour. I admit to being a little disappointed as the clock is really impressive, but the announcement of the quarters of an hour much less. There is only one character who has moved, and very briefly. The good thing is that we did not have our noses out, in the cold.
I then made a tour at the post office (for nothing there are too many people). Then we went back, at the time when the city was illuminated.
Once back, we have this time booked a restaurant of Alsatian specialties. We had dinner at the one whose specialty was roesti. It's a kind of dish of potato au gratin, quite simply. Sorry if Alsatians read this and rebel against this poor description.
I took a Reblochon and a blue bead, and I loved it! I did not think it could be so good. We took Gewurztraminer to accompany everything. This very fruity white wine suits me. I tasted it for the first time last year at Christmas with friends, and I already loved it.
We then take a small walk to Place Kleber to see the famous fig tree, the inescapable symbol of this market. It was really huge. Like Notre Dame Cathedral, it seemed to taunt the surrounding buildings. Beside the buildings are fully bright which adds charm to the place.
Day 3: Vauban Dam
On the last day, the wake up was even more difficult, until I see that Santa Claus has gone ahead! Our train was scheduled at the end of the day.
For this last afternoon in Strasbourg, we had lunch at a tea room offering lunch specialties. It was a simple meal but we ate quite well, especially with cookies and muffins for the rest of the day. Then we head to the Vauban Dam which offers a beautiful view of Strasbourg and especially the district of Petite France.
Then, as said above, we went to the station. I was rather eager because I absolutely wanted to take pictures of the station. I found it really beautiful! It is an old building wrapped in a kind of glass shell. After this short passage through the station, we went back to collect all our belongings.
Then for one last time, we go by a Christmas market (the one in front of the Opera National du Rhin). We were motivated to brave the rain and especially the crowd that swarmed at that time! With two packets of bredeles, hot chestnuts, and hop, we board the train, to Grenoble.
Despite the cold (between -3 and +3 degrees, bad weather and the short time we spent visiting Strasbourg, I still found this city charming. I was distressed by the names of the streets and restaurant menus written in German and the culinary specialties. I think that in the spring, the city must be very pretty because I often saw pots of plants and flowers decorate the edges of windows and railings bridges.