The spirit of Christmas is alive in the Alsatian city of Strasbourg. No wonder it’s referred to as the “Capital of Christmas.” Everywhere you turn, there are wooden chalets selling all sorts of adorable holiday trinkets, mulled wine, and traditional Alsatian dishes. If you’re still pondering the best place to spend Christmas this year, why not consider spending the long weekend in France and celebrate Christmas in Strasbourg. Here are some suggestions on what you can do while visiting.
Christmas in Strasbourg
There are at least a dozen or so Christmas markets all around Strasbourg’s Old Town and every single one of them has unique offerings. It’s almost impossible to check out each stall but odds are you’ll find presents for everyone on your Christmas list. Some specializes on handmade ornaments, while some sell sketches made by regional artists. There are also plenty of wooden sculptures courtesy of highly skilled craftsmen from small towns located in the Black Forest region. The main market affably name Christkindelsmärik or “market of the infant Jesus,” shouldn’t be missed while the smaller ones by the Strasbourg Cathedral and along the River Ill are definitely worth spending some time in.
You’re in France after all so it’s almost sacrilegious not to drink wine. Fortunately for wine lovers, not only does the area surrounding Strasbourg have plenty of excellent wineries, it also hosts one of the most interesting cellars you’ll ever see in the world. The Cave Historique des Hospices de Strasbourg sits right underneath Strasbourg Hospital where you can see dozens of wooden barrels filled with some of the regions best wines. What’s more, visits are free of charge and tastings are often available for guests. If you find a liking for a particular wine, you’ll be pleased to know that you can purchase it right then and there. Don’t forget to check out the 15th century vintage, bottled way back in 1472, and said to be the oldest wine in a barrel available.
Go on a boat ride
The best way to see the beautiful architecture of Strasbourg, particularly during the holiday season, is through a boat ride along the River Ill. It circles the charming island of Le Petite France, which provides visitors with lovely views of colorfully restored houses that feature Alsatian architecture at its finest. It also passes through the modern side of Strasbourg highlighting the most important buildings within the city (Strasbourg is the official seat of the European Parliament.) Batorama is the prominent boat tour company in Strasbourg offering two types of tours available in 12 different languages.
Go to church at Strasbourg Cathedral
Christmas in Strasbourg isn’t complete without paying a visit to the Strasbourg Cathedral. The 15th century church is a prime example of late Gothic and Romanesque architecture and once held the title of tallest building in the world for well over two centuries. The cathedral’s unique pinkish hue is due to the type of stone quarried from the Vosges Mountain. On a nice and clear day, the pinnacle of the church can also be seen from several miles away.
One of the most interesting features of the cathedral sits just right of the nave. An astronomical clock over three stories high features prominently and is surprisingly accurate up until this day. A number of mathematicians, artists, and technicians continue to maintain this impressive piece of engineering and design and thanks to their skill and dedication, future generations will continue to enjoy this unique attraction.
Check out Old Town Square
Just like any major Medieval European city, Strasbourg’s Old Town Square is worth visiting, not only for the extravagant manger scene and dizzying Christmas tree, but also because of the curious architecture that surrounds it. If you were to stay and spend Christmas in Strasbourg, I highly recommend that you begin your visit here. It’s central location makes for a great starting point with the cathedral, Petite France, and Quai Saint Nicholas all within ten minutes walk.
Sample Alsatian cuisine
Hearty and tasty meals await anyone who decides to spend Christmas in Strasbourg. Just as it is with tasting regional wine, sampling Alsatian cuisine is practically a must when visiting Strasbourg, particularly specialties that are usually just available during the holidays. Mulled wine made from regional grapes and assorted baked goods are sold are almost every Christmas market. They make perfect accompaniments for tarte flambées, foie gras, and choucroute.