Who doesn’t love a good Christmas market? I had the good fortune to visit more than I can count on a two day trip to Strasbourg and Colmar, in the Alsace region of eastern France.
Strasbourg boasts that it is the Christmas Capital, and I challenge any city to try and do better. Strasbourg has a clear lock on Christmas cheer, covering itself from head to toe with decorations, charm, and ornaments. The city is larger than I expected and after getting off the train and asking for directions to the Christmas market, I was greeted with bewildered looks. It’s impossible to get clear directions because the whole town is a Christmas market. Every single store has outdone themselves with decorated windows and facades. Aside from the Christmas chachkas that adorn many stalls, once you dig deeper, you can find really amazing handcrafts, baked goods, leather work, and decorations. Don’t settle for just seeing the stalls. There are great boutiques, so take your time, visit the regular stores, and wander down alleys. Also, food is plentiful! In every direction you can find bretzels (pretzels), vin chaud, and cookies. I had been dying for a waffle (gaufre) and though I never managed to get one from a stall, I think I got lucky and had the most amazing, warm, delicate, Nutella covered waffle from one of the regular shops (Gaufre et Cie). My first clue that it was going to be good: the local policemen were getting their waffles there. I did have a Nutella covered face, but it was all in a days work.
Next stop – Colmar. What a delight! Even though Strasbourg claims to be the Christmas Capital, Colmar isn’t far behind. Colmar has maintained all of the old world charm, but minus the kitsch and minus the throngs of people. I managed 5 markets in Colmar in about 5 hours – whew! -all the while, lugging around tons of stuff. Don’t ask and don’t tell my husband! Although there were some mass-produced items, I found so many incredible handcrafts and local goods that I couldn’t help myself…. which is saying something because I am not a shopper. Exquisite marzipan cherries and fruits, hand-made calligraphy designs, breathtaking gingerbread houses, and more. Strasbourg is on a grander scale and a real joy to visit, but Colmar with its cobblestone streets and quaint Alsatian architecture is not to be missed!