The Strasbourg Christmas market is the oldest in France, and also the most famous Christmas event in the country. Its 300 chalets are spread over several locations across the Grande Île, the historic centre of Strasbourg. You’ll find them on place Broglie, in front of the lofty cathedral or at the picturesque Petite-France district. At nightfall, the French capital of Christmas sparkles with a thousand lights in a fairy-tale setting. I’m pleased to present you this discovery guide of the Strasbourg Christmas market. Hopefully, the Alsatian town won’t have secrets anymore for you!
What you’ll discover in this Christmas guide!
I took great care in writing an article to be as complete as possible. It is based on my visits to the Strasbourg Christmas market. Here’s what you’ll get:
- the history of the Strasbourg Christmas market: from the Middle-Ages to the present day.
- the discovery trail of Christmas in Strasbourg : the itinerary I created and followed to explore the great sites of Christmas in the Grande Île.
- my useful tips: accommodation, restaurants, access and public transports, dates and times, when to come and avoid the crowd, weather, what to wear, cultural events, activities, location of public washrooms, links to useful websites…
Thank you for reading this guide and Joyeux Noël ! ?
The history of the Strasbourg Christmas market
From the origins of the medieval Christmas market to the 2020s, this exceptional Strasbourg event boasts a rich history… let’s go back in time.
The Strasbourg Saint-Nicolas market
In the Middle-Ages, Strasbourg used to organise a Saint-Nicolas market (Klausenmärik) on the cathedral square. This type of market was common to many towns in the Holy Roman Empire. Therefore, a Saint-Nicolas market had been attested in Vienna, Austria since 1294.
The commercial event took place around the 6th December, date of the feast of Saint Nicholas (Saint-Nicolas in French). There were stalls selling gingerbread, fabric, clothes, candles, and other local produce.
The Child Jesus market
The Reformation changed it all. The cult of the saints wasn’t in odour of sanctify with the protestants. The Saint-Nicolas market was seen as a “survival of papacy”. Also, in 1570, the protestant preacher Johanner Flinner launched from the pulpit of the cathedral a call to abandon once and for all the cult of the saints.
The Council of the XXI (a sort of a municipal council) was persuaded and forbad the Saint-Nicolas market to take place. From now on, the children ought to know that their presents were offered by Child Jesus, and not by Saint-Nicolas!
However, there have been winners and losers. The latter were the stall keepers. They had everything to lose from the cancellation of the market. In order to please them, the municipal council tried to straddle the fence. It agreed to open a market which would take place on the last week before the 25 December. Thus centred on the Feast of the Nativity, the market was renamed “Christkindelsmärik“. Which means in English: the market of Child Jesus. This is the year 1570. The year when the ‘modern’ Christmas market was born. Other German cities would eventually transform their Saint-Nicolas markets into Christmas markets: Nurnberg in 1628, Munich, Rothenburg, Cologne…
The location of the Christmas market changed many times. The first editions took place on the cathedral square. In 1863, the Christkindelsmärik was organised on place Kléber. It was then associated to the Christmas Fair that took over from Boxing Day (26 December) and lasted 18 days.
The market found its last location on place Broglie from 1870. It was at that time that the stalls (with their sheet stretched on wooden studs) were replaced by small wooden chalets.
In 1991, the Strasbourg Christmas market was spread out across several locations in the old town. It returned to its original place on the cathedral square.
France’s premier Christmas market
When I started to research on the Christmas market traditions, I was surprised to learn that Strasbourg was the only market organised in France until the 1980s. Those of Mulhouse, Colmar, Montbéliard, Metz and Kaysersberg are much more recent. At the time, the Christmas market phenomenon was only limited to the Germanic lands (Germany, Austria…).
The renewal of the Christmas market
Besides, towards the end of the 1980s the Strasbourg Christmas market seemed to be running out of steam. Its renewal was due to the Alsatian hotel owners’ association. The occupancy rates were considered insufficient (36%). December and January were the months of the year with the lowest numbers of visitors. The regional authorities decided to work on promoting Strasbourg and Alsace during the festive season.
After a few years, the tenacity of the Alsace region began to bear fruit. With a broad media coverage, the whole of France had the chance to hear about the great Christmas event.
In 1992 Strasbourg introduced the concept of “Capital of Christmas“. As soon as 1994, under the mayorship of Catherine Trautmann, a giant Christmas tree was set up in place Kléber.
The Christmas market madness spread across all France
Strasbourg inspired others. First in Alsace. Most of the region’s town started to organise their own Christmas markets: Colmar, Mulhouse, Haguenau, Sélestat, Obernai… with a special mention to Kaysersberg. The little wine-town was one of the first to hold a traditional Christmas market (1987).
Then, in the 2000s, a Christmas madness took over the whole country. Already in Paris where until 2016 a giant Christmas market (far from the Strasbourg tradition) took place on the Champs-Elysées. The main cities of France felt compelled to open their own markets, regardless of their own traditions: from Rouen to Lille and Nice to Toulouse.
The success of a Christmas market exported abroad!
Faced with this success, the Strasbourg Christmas market was invited by major capitals of the world: Tokyo (2009 and 2010), Moscow (2012 and 2013), Beijing (2015), Taipei (2016) and Seoul (2017).
In 2019, New York City hosts the “Strasbourg-Alsace Christmas market” (Marché de Noël de Strasbourg-Alsace). Around thirty wooden chalets take over Bowling Green Park (Lower Manhattan), next to the site of the original Dutch fort of New Amsterdam. The event takes place from 6 to 22 December and is organised by the Alsatian cities of Strasbourg, Mulhouse and Colmar. By the way, the latter is the hometown of French sculptor Bartholdi who designed the Statue of Liberty.
New Yorkers and visitors will admire the wonderful illuminated Christmas tree which will be decorated with hand-made ornaments. They’ll discover in the stalls items and local produce shipped from Alsace (pottery, household items, Christmas decorations…) without forgetting local produce: Alsatian sauerkraut, Flammenkuchen, gingerbread, and the famous bredeles (Alsatian Christmas cookies)… but not foie-gras as the specialty food product will be forbidden in NY from 2022.
The Strasbourg Christmas market today
In 2014 and 2015, the Christmas market of Strasbourg was voted “Europe’s best Christmas Market” by travel organisation Europe Best Vacation based on thousands of votes through social networks, ahead of famous destinations such as Vienna, Dresden, Nuremberg, Cologne and Basel.
In 2019, the Christmas market celebrates its 450th edition since its creation.
Each year from the end of November to Christmas, the event welcomes 2 million visitors (in comparison, the metropolis of Strasbourg has a population of 475,000)
In order to banish “made in China” items and other products that don’t respect the traditions based on authenticity, the municipality has issued in 2011 a Quality policy. A committee keeps watch on the selection of stall-keepers’ application. This to ensure that the nature and quality of the products offered for sale respect the local Christmas traditions.
In addition more than 500 cultural events are organised during the Christmas market: concerts, theatre plays, exhibitions, shows…
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The guest country of the Strasbourg Christmas market
Each year a guest country is invited to take part to the Strasbourg Christmas market. It has the honour to set up its stalls at the market on place Gutenberg:
- 2009 – Russia
- 2011 – Switzerland
- 2012 – Georgia
- 2013 – Croatia (as the new member of the EU)
- 2014 – Belgium
- 2015 – Luxembourg
- 2016 – Portugal
- 2017 – Iceland
- 2018 – Finland
- 2019 – Lebanon
The most beautiful Christmas trail in Strasbourg
In December 2018 we went on a Christmas trip in Alsace-Lorraine. It was made up of 10 stages, from Nancy to Mulhouse. The 6th stage brought us to Strasbourg, a must-see destination of Christmas!
This stage allowed me to update my knowledge on the event as my previous visit dated back to 2012. Within 6 years, many things had changed. Nowadays, the villages of Christmas are only found within the limits of the Grande-Île to enhance overall coherent and reinforce security.
I’m pleased to present you this Christmas trail through the streets of Strasbourg.
It allowed me to discover the most beautiful sites of Christmas in Strasbourg: the Christmas markets of course, but also the great Christmas tree, the street decorations and illuminations. Without forgetting the giant Nativity scene at the cathedral. Follow the guide!
[Can’t see the map? Click here to display it on Google Map.]
About the itinerary :
- Length of the discovery-trail : 5.5 km (3.4 miles)
- Duration of the walk : from 3 to 4hrs… but it will take much longer if you take the time to explore the Christmas markets and wish to visit the city’s museums.
If the itinerary seems too long for you, follow it partially and/or cut it into two parts, such as:
- during the day – visit of the cathedral and climb to the panoramic terrace, Batorama cruise of the River Ill, visit of the museums (Œuvre Notre-Dame, Palais Rohan, Contemporary Arts museum…), shopping in the old town…
- in the evening – discovery of the Christmas markets and the street illuminations.
How long do you need to stay in Strasbourg?
To take full advantage of Christmas in Strasbourg (Christmas markets, museums, shopping, etc), I recommend to stay at least two full days (and definitely two nights!)
This Christmas trail in Strasbourg links all the Christmas markets across the old town, such as:
- The traditional Christkindelsmärik on Place Broglie
- The market on place de la Cathédrale and the market on Place du Château
- The Petite France district and the Three Kings market on place Benjamin Zix
- The Carré d’Or market on place du Temple Neuf
- The great Christmas tree on Place Kléber
Ok, let’s start the visit with our starting point: the hotel!
A confortable hotel within walking distance of the Christmas market!
In 2018, we reached Strasbourg from the region of Haguenau by car. We parked our vehicle at the Hoenheim Gare Park-and-Ride. From there we took the tram to place de la République (I’ll tell you more on the useful tips section below).
But when we visited Strasbourg in 2012, we stayed at the Novotel Strasbourg-Centre-Halles****, 4 Quai Kléber. I grant you that the location does not cling with the idea we have of picture-postcard Strasbourg. But we found the hotel comfortable (and the rooms have since been renovated in 2017). A bonus is the proximity of the Christmas market and the railway station, which make it a very good base.
And the view from our room gave onto the lively quays of the River Ill and the tram station “Ancienne Synagogue Les Halles“.
The day is coming to an end. Now that the suitcases have been unpacked, it is time to start our exciting Christmas trail in Strasbourg…
Entering the Grande Île
Cross the River Ill on Pont de Paris.
In 2016, the Christmas market was reorganised to enhance security measures. The totality of chalets were re-centered within the Grande Île, Strasbourg’s historic centre. On the bridges that connect to the Grande Île are security check points that filter visitors’ entry.
Walk on rue du Noyer. To your left is the Printemps department store, renovated in 2013. Admire the Christmas shop windows. Cross the place de l’Homme de Fer, a tram hub (lines A, B, C, D and E). This station is not served from 11am to 8pm (and until 9pm on Fridays and 10pm on Saturdays).
Proceed to the adjacent place Kléber.
Place Kléber and Strasbourg’s great Christmas tree
Here we are in the hear of Christmas in Strasbourg. Place Kléber is a an inevitable crossroads for the people of Strasbourg and visitors alike. This is definitely due to the majestic Christmas tree.
For the presence of such as tree on the square is a local and must-have tradition. Each year, a 30 metre-tall Christmas tree is cut in the Vosges mountains. The tree is selected and prepared by the National Forests Office (ONF). The 2019 tree was cut in the forest of Bœrsch, near Obernai. Decorated with great care, it symbolises the festive season in Strasbourg.
Its preparation and decoration require many hours of work. It includes 250 ornaments, 6.5 km of light garland, 7km of electric cables… and of course, each light is a LED in order to greatly reduce energy consumption.
Besides, the ornementation is renewed each year, according to a specific theme.
- In 2018, the theme was “Letter to Father Christmas“. In addition to light baubles and stars, there were office stamps, mailboxes, children drawings…
- The theme for 2019 is “Yesteryear Toys“. The organisers wished to replacing children at the heart of the festivities. On the tree are spinning tops, small cars, rocking horses, dolls and elves.
The Alsatian village under the tree
Under the tree, notice a model of an Alsatian village with houses lit from inside. It reproduces a typical village in Alsace with its two churches: one is Catholic and the other Protestant.
The scenography you won’t want to miss!
One has to admire the majestic tree at nightfall when it sparkles. Make sure to come in place Kléber just before 5pm (from 22 Nov. to 24 Dec. 2019). Then the great tree comes to life during a 5 minute-long light and sound show. Really astonishing!
The outdoor ice-skating rink next to the Christmas tree!
In front of the long façade of the Aubette building is the outdoor ice-skating rink.
Over 625 m² (including 100 m² dedicated to children), this is where you can strap on the blades and hit the slick stuff by the majestic Christmas tree! You can rent the skates on site.
The Village of Sharing
In Strasbourg, it was tradition among the locals to come and put presents under the tree for the most needy. This generous move continues today. The Village of Sharing has naturally found its place next to the Christmas tree.
The chalets of this distinctive Christmas market exclusively houses charitable associations. This presence in the heart of the city gives the visitors an opportunity to help the most needy with their donations.
Walk down the street of rue des Grandes Arcades towards place Gutenberg. This shopping street is illuminated with light garlands taking the shape of giant twinkling manneles (gingerbread men) framed by two red curtains.
The Christmas market in place Gutenberg and the blue tree
On any given days of the year, place Gutenberg is a vibrant square with a great atmosphere. During the Advent period, the place is an enchantment at nightfall thanks to its Christmas market and its… blue tree!
The Blue Tree is a luminous decoration that has found its place in Strasbourg for many years. This grand tree is accompanied by a blue bear that children much enjoy.
Each year the chalets and wooden sheds of the square host the stall-keepers of the guest country of the Strasbourg Christmas market. Visitors are invited to discover the artisanal, cultural and gastronomic Christmas traditions of that particular country.
Following Finland in 2018, the guest country for the 2019 edition of the Strasbourg Christmas market is Lebanon, and more specifically the town of Byblos.
From place Gutenberg, head to the cathedral by rue Mercière.
The Christmas lights of rue Mercière
If there is one place in Strasbourg that I found amazing for taking photos is the majestic perspective of rue Mercière. It leads to the no-less majestic façade of the lofty Gothic cathedral.
The sight of the western front of the cathedral behind garlands of luminous angels sounding the trumpet is breathtaking.
A very photogenic place… it definitely makes a great post on Instagram 🙂
Observe the beautiful Christmas decorations on the windows of the Bollinger House (at the corner of the street to the right).
Walk along rue Mercière all the way to place de la Cathédrale.
Strasbourg Christmas market on the Cathedral square
We’re surrounded by the festive atmosphere…
A lofty Gothic cathedral wonderfully lit up at night, wooden chalets decorated with great care, luminous garlands above us, half-timbered façades surrounding the square… what more could we ask for?
Right here we realise that yes, we are indeed in the Capital of Christmas. What we’ve seen so far was great, but here is the ultimate place!
The square of the cathedral hosts a Christmas market dedicated to handicraft. In their wooden sheds the stall-keepers offer quality items for sale, in reference to the preparation of Christmas (decorations…) and gift ideas (wooden toys, teddies…). Without forgetting eating areas with a great range of Alsatian food (pretzels, manneles, kugelhopf and the traditional mulled wine).
The Nativity scene of the cathedral
The magnificent tapestry of the cathedral
Another great discovery inside the cathedral: the tapestries from the 17th century suspended in the nave.
This amazing collection of 14 tapestries is only displayed during the Advent period. They relate the life of the Virgin Mary. Richelieu commissioned them for Notre-Dame de Paris. The Cathedral of Strasbourg acquired the collection in 1739.
The great Advent Wreath suspended in the nave is made by local florists from Strasbourg.
Leave the cathedral and turn to the left towards the adjacent place du château.
Strasbourg Christmas market on place du château
Place du château is a square bordered by the cathedral, the old building of the Œuvre Notre-Dame museum, and the historic complex of Palais Rohan.
Recently renovated, the square welcomes the chalets of a small Christmas market.
A chalet stands out from the others: La Féérie de Noël – Käthe Wohlfahrt. If you follow my blog, you’d probably have crossed that name before… Indeed, it is the famous Christmas store in Riquewihr (an Alsatian village on the Wine Route).
Join the cathedral square and enter into the narrow rue du Maroquin to the left.
The Christmas decorations of rue du Maroquin
What makes the Strasbourg Christmas market a success is the involvement of shop-keepers and residents in decorating their façades, windows and balconies.
The rue du Maroquin is certainly no exception to the rule.
At nightfall, decorations and illuminations do the trick to create an enchanting atmosphere.
This lovely street gives onto place du marché-aux-cochons-de-lait.
Place du marché-aux-cochons-de-lait
Literally “Square of the market of suckling pigs“… what an odd name you may say! But forget that for an instant as this charming little square is a real treat for the eyes!
The light garlands and the spire of the cathedral provide a beautiful scenery.
At the end of the square, turn left to reach the place du marché-aux-poissons.
The Alsatian Christmas delicacies market around Palais Rohan
Around Palais Rohan are several chalets making up for the Alsatian Christmas delicacies market. Stroll on rue Rohan, place du marché aux poissons and the patio of Palais Rohan to tickle your taste buds to the max!
Walking passed the chalets was a mouth-watering experience for us. We simply loved going from one chalet to another, discovering the best of Alsatian gastronomy. And the list is rather long: bredeles, beers, gingerbread, mulled wine, Alsatian wines, foie gras…
There, we made great encounters:
- the bakers of Strasbourg and region,
- the wine-growers of the Couronne d’Or,
- the local farmer-producers of foie gras,
- the Tribe of the Alsatian Wine Gourmets, and
- the corporation of the traditional brewers.
As for us, we had our eyes wide open for the multitude of bredeles: butterbredle, schwoewebredle, zimtsterne, makrone, anisbredle, anisschnitte… You don’t understand their names? Well, it doesn’t really matter, you’ll have long forgotten these tricky names once tasted!
From the patio of Palais Rohan which borders the River Ill, make your way to rue du Vieux Marché-aux-Poissons via place de la Grande Boucherie.
The Gate of Lights, “Strasbourg, capital of Christmas”
At the intersection of rue du Vieux-Marché-aux-Poissons and pont au Corbeau stands the famous light arch. The one you’d probably have seen on promotional brochures, magazines or news stories.
The Gate of Lights is a tall arch twinkling in gold and white, supported by two giant bears. It marks the (southern) entrance to Strasbourg, Capital of Christmas. It opens onto rue du Vieux-Marché-aux-Poissons, continued by rue des Grandes Arcades, all the way to the great Christmas tree in place Kléber. This shopping street is decorated by light garlands in the shape of manneles (that we’ve seen before).
As for us, the trail leads to other horizons!
The bridge of pont du corbeau and the courtyard of Cour du corbeau
Warning! This stage is optional because it leads you outside the security-precinct of the Grande Île. It means that you’ll have to go through security on your way back to the historic centre. Depending on the number of people queuing at the check point, you may want to stay within the Grande Île to save time and hassle. You’ll decide on the spot!
Cross the bridge of pont du Corbeau (and by the way make sure you admire the view to the historic buildings of the Great Butchery and the Old Customs) to join place du Corbeau.
Find the passageway signalled by the luminous sign: “Hôtel**** Cour du Corbeau”.
Once under the porch you’ll find one of the most beautiful inner courtyards of Strasbourg: la cour du Corbeau. With its corbel arches, sculpted window frames and its wooden small footbridge, this courtyard is a fine example of Renaissance architecture in the Rhine region. The site hosts a hotel**** which provides a beautiful Christmas decorations.
Retrace your steps to the Grande Île and turn left on rue de la Douane.
Rue des Tonneliers
Notice on your right the little rue des Tonneliers. Hung above the street are 22 twinkling barrels. This is a reference to the history of the street. Tonneliers is French for cooper. In the past, barrels delivered to the docks were rolled onto the little street on their way to the shops of the old town.
Then walk along quai Saint-Thomas by the River Ill. Turn right on rue Jean Sturm to reach place Saint-Thomas.
Strasbourg Christmas market in place Saint-Thomas
Place Saint-Thomas welcomes a convivial Christmas market much appreciated by local residents.
The protestant church of Saint-Thomas is very old (construction started in 1196). The massive tower is of Romanesque style. The sanctuary became a protestant church in 1524.
Walk down rue de la Monnaie continued by rue des Dentelles.
Rue des Dentelles and its boutiques
Rue des Dentelles is a picturesque shopping street of Strasbourg. Here, you won’t find the best and worst of your high street shops. This is the place for a few worth-mentioning stores…
Here’s a few good and useful spots:
Souvenir shop Bequia (14, rue des Dentelles), specialised in gifts and souvenirs from Alsace.
Pain d’épices Mireille Oster (14, rue des Dentelles). A true institution in Strasbourg. Well, everybody knows that Christmas rimes with gingerbread. This is a golden opportunity to get delicious treats made with passion! ?? Find out more: the website of Mireille Oster
Plaisirs d’Alsace (13, rue des Dentelles). A boutique dedicated to Alsace! It offers for sale made in Alsace items according to traditional craftsmanship: pottery, Kelsch fabric, decorations… ?? Find out more: the website of Plaisirs d’Alsace
Un Noël en Alsace (10, rue des Dentelles). This boutique dedicated to Christmas is open all year-round! You’ll find a great range of Christmas decorations, some which are difficult to find elsewhere in France. ?? Find our more: the website of Un Noël en Alsace
At the end of rue des Dentelles is place Benjamin Zix and its Christmas market.
The Christmas market of La Petite-France
Place Benjamin Zix immerses ourselves in the Christmas atmosphere of an Alsatian village. The historic district of La Petite-France is famous for its joie de vivre and the fine half-timbered houses from a Bygone era.
As for now, a Christmas market takes over the little square, named for the occasion: “Three Kings Market” (le marché des Rois Mages). The Three Kings? They refer to the Wise Men. Raise your head to the top of the Tanners’ House and you’ll see them watching over us!
The chalets of the Three Kings market offer local handicraft.
And, there’s always something to make us salivate: bredeles, mulled wine and Christmas beer.
The picture-postcard Rue du Bain-aux-Plantes
Take rue du Bain-aux-Plantes, one of Strasbourg’s most touristy streets, with fine timbered houses from the Renaissance era.
Here, the street seen from place Benjamin Zix:
And there, rue du Bain-aux-Plantes seen from the intersection with rue des moulins:
You can also make a small detour by rue des Moulins to admire the view from the little bridge.
From rue du Bain aux Plantes, a narrow passage (rue des Meuniers) allows you to reach the next stage: place des Meuniers.
Strasbourg Christmas market in place des Meuniers
What’s the name of this Christmas market? The Market of the Dedicated Small Alsatian Producers (in French: “Le marché des irréductibles petits producteurs d’Alsace”).
Under this long name lies a great initiative: to give the small local producers an exclusive exposure.
Thus, under sparkling stars, these Alsatian producers are busy offering quality local products in small production:
- locally-made jams,
- hot apple juice,
- chocolate produced from cocoa bean,
- mustard and horseradish,
- biodynamic Alsace wines,
- free-range munster cheese made out of raw milk,
- garlic pesto,
- egg liquor,
- Dampfnudles (little steamed breads),
- mushroom pies,
- organic vegetable soup,
- warm toasts…
Just around the corner is the OFF Christmas Market (place Grimmeissen) that I haven’t been able to visit because of a lack of time.
The market is an interesting and innovative concept where you’re invited to experience the festive season through mindful consumption.
After having visited the market in place des Meuniers, take rue du Fossé des Tanneurs to the left.
La Grand’Rue de Strasbourg à Noël
At the intersection with Grand’Rue, admire the giant chandelier with its many magical and tasty details.
Walk along Grand Rue up to the intersection with rue des Francs Bourgeois, then continue straight ahead on rue Gutenberg.
Grand’Rue follows the line of an ancient Roman way. This paved street, pleasant and fully pedestrian, is borded by boutiques and buildings from the 16th to the 18th centuries.
Then, you reach place Gutenberg:
Cross the square to reach rue des Hallebardes.
The Baccarat chandeliers of rue des Hallebardes
Rue des Hallebardes is pride to present the passersby its light garlands… which are a rather special. Indeed, they were made by the famous Baccarat crystalware!
Since 1999, the Baccarat store (at 44, rue des Hallebardes) has been at the origins of this splendid lighting.
Each of the 9 crystal chandeliers is protected inside a glass box against theft and projectiles).
Absent in 2000 (they were in Athens) and in 2016 (they decorated rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, Paris for the inauguration of the new Baccarat store), the chandeliers are now part of the local Christmas decorations and participate to the reputation of the Lorraine crystalware.
On your right the street opens onto the Cathedral square where we’ve been earlier. Make a little detour to admire one last time the lofty church and the remarkable Kammerzell House to your left.
Turn back and enter the narrow street of rue des Orfèvres.
The Christmas decorations of rue des Orfèvres
We are now entering into one of these enchanting places that may have been copied but has never been equalled.
Rue des Orfèvres is a very narrow street – maybe too narrow for some people who don’t like big crowds. On busy days, you’ll walk as fast as a snail!
The reason why this little street draws so much attention is simple. Just look around at the fabulous Christmas decorations on the façades. They have been installed by the shopkeepers of the Carré d’Or (the name given to this particular district).
Some of the most beautiful decorated façades
The products of some ill-famous stores equal the elaborate decorations of their façades:
- pâtisserie Naegel (number 9)
- chocolaterie Weiss (number 7)
- pharmacie de la Rose (number 6)
- fromagerie de la maison Lorho (number 3)
- artisan-boucher Frick-Lutz (number 16)
- Winstub Le Saint Sépulcre (number 15)
- pâtisserie Maison Gross (number 17)
- marchands de thé Dammann Frères (number 19)
- boulangerie Westermann (number 1)
The Christmas market in place du Marché-Neuf
Opposite number 5, we walked through a passageway that led us to the small square of place du Marché-Neuf. There, we found a little Christmas market dedicated to handicraft products.
Rue des Orfèvres leads to place du Temple-Neuf and its Christmas market.
Strasbourg Christmas market in place du Temple-Neuf
The Christmas market of Carré d’Or is organised by the association of the Carré d’Or shop-keepers. It occupies the square in front of the protestant church Temple Neuf.
In a festive atmosphere, you’ll find a wide range of quality products, such as:
- Christmas decorations (baubles, Advent wreaths),
- craft pottery,
- hats, wool felt, and caps,
- decorative figurines in metal,
- perfumed soaps,
- little Alsatian houses made of terracotta,
- foie gras,
- organic honeys,
- traditional sweets from the Vosges,
- roasted almonds,
- marrons glacés,
- fair-trade coffee roasted in Alsace,
- craft beers,
- mulled wine,
- and much more…
The Porcus butchery’ decoration!
Before leaving the square, you’ll probably have noticed the façade of the Porcus Butchery. Each year it is richly decorated with chef pigs!
Head to rue des étudiants. Notice at the corner with rue de l’Outre the painted façade of the pâtisserie Christian. It reminded me similar façades I saw in Mulhouse and Basel. The pastry shop is at the origin of its Christmas decoration.
Follow rue des étudiants up to place Broglie.
Strasbourg’s oldest Christmas market: Christkindelsmärik
I saved the best for last!
Especially if, like me, you’re a big fan of Christmas decorations.
We learnt before that the history of Strasbourg Christmas market started in 1570. Originally based on the Cathedral square, this market moved to different locations. This until 1870 when it stayed for good in place Broglie. At that time – and until the early 1990s, this was the only one location of the Strasbourg Christmas market.
Let’s enter the legendary Christmas market by passing under a light arch, the Christkindelsmärik!
On the long place Broglie
The market occupies the entire length of place Broglie. It is a cluster of many wooden chalet criss-crossed by narrow lanes… Again, on busy day, you can’t walk at a speed of more than 1cm per hour!
In a shared chalet, various groups of skilled workers reveal to the curious their products and expertise: brewer, wood industry, upholsterer…
My favourite stalls at the Christkindelsmärik
However, my favourite stalls are those selling Christmas decorations. After all, what’s a Christmas market without any sellers of baubles, tinsels and other ornaments? At the Christkindelsmärik, there is something for every taste: ornaments carefully sort out by colour, tree toppers, light garlands (made in China of course for I’m not certain they make these in Alsace! ?), beautiful Christmas pyramids, candle bridges. In fact, many Christmas decorations that originate from neighbouring Germany!
The Christmas tree market
Finally, what I like in a Christmas market, is the space left for selling Christmas trees. I love the scent of pine trees. We passed by the Christmas tree market at day time. It is situated near the statue of Maréchal Leclerc. The market also sell holly and mistletoe.
Despite the crowd, the Christkindelsmärik still have a convivial and warm atmosphere.
Back to square one!
All that remains for us is to find our way back to the hotel.
One last thing though – when you walk on rue de la Mésange you’ll admire a new feature introduced in the 2019 edition: a forest of 22 giant trees of gold and white colours.
Other sites to discover off the trail
This itinerary makes a good base to explore Strasbourg at Christmas time. You can limit the walk to a few stages along the trail, particularly if you have a few days in front of you. However there is a number of other sites to discover, which you’ll probably do during your visit.
This way, you only need to look a little more closely on these little (or big!) details that make Strasbourg the Capital of Christmas: light garlands, store front decorations, delicious smell of Christmas, street animations…
A few more addresses…
If you don’t have enough of Christmas in Strasbourg, here’s a selection of other sites to see:
- Rue du 22 novembre : raise your head to admire the 15 giant Christmas baubles, sparkling in silver and gold.
- Ponts Couverts (Covered bridges) : discover this historical site beyond the Petite-France district. I love it on a misty day or at sunset. Make sure you climb to the panoramic terrace of the Vauban dam for a unique view of the city and the cathedral in the distance.
- The Alsatian Museum : during the Advent period, the museum display temporary exhibitions on the Christmas traditions in Alsace. You’ll learn more about the Christmas characters of Christmas: Saint-Nicolas, Hans Trapp and Christkindel. ?? Find out more.
- La Promenade aux étoiles : recently rehabilitated, the quays of the River Ill are illuminated with stars and fireflies. The bridges Saint-Nicolas, Corbeau and Rohan are also lit up. You’ll get to see historical buildings such as the Saint-Guillaume and Saint-Etienne churches, the Old Customs and the Alsatian museum.
- The squares of Saint-Etienne, Mathias Mérian and Marché Gayot offer a number of workshops, animations and shows for kids, as well as concerts and musical shows.
- Les Galeries Lafayette (rue des Francs Bourgeois, just around the corner from place Kléber), enter the department store if you fancy shopping while staying in Strasbourg! ?? Find out more.
Strasbourg Christmas market: useful tips
Before ending this comprehensive article on Strasbourg Christmas market, here’s a few useful tips that will help you plan your stay and visit in the capital of Alsace…
Your stay in Strasbourg
My advice: don’t wait the last minute to book your stay in Strasbourg!
The Christmas season in Strasbourg draws a huge crowd and accommodation becomes scarce in the city. Just think, some tour operators book hotels more than a year ahead…
To book your accommodation in Strasbourg, click on this affiliate link which will direct you to our partner booking.com, or navigate within the following map:
Eating in Strasbourg
You’ll find a vast choice of food options in each of the Christmas markets.
Most of them offer traditional Alsatian dishes such as sauerkraut, tartes flambées, pretzels, mulled wine, Christmas beers, bredeles, kugelhopf, gingerbread and more.
As for restaurants, you’ll be spoilt for choice too. That said, if you really want to taste an authentic cuisine (that is not pre-cooked and/or not prepared in the restaurant), the advice is to look away from the main touristy sights.
However, a few restaurants do well in the historic centre… here’s a non-exhaustive list:
- Le Stras (9, rue des Dentelles),
- Winstub Le Tire-Bouchon (5, rue des tailleurs de pierre),
- Winstub Le Saint-Sépulcre (15, rue des Orfèvres),
- Au Pont du Corbeau (21, quai Saint-Nicolas).
- In 2012, we had a great meal at Aux Sales Gosses (56 boulevard Clemenceau).
As it is Christmas time, if you’re able to, remember to book your table in advance!
Dates and times of Strasbourg Christmas market
The 450th edition of Strasbourg Christmas market takes place from 22 November to 30 December 2019.
Be aware that from 26 to 30 December, only a small part of the Christmas market will be open (places de la Cathédrale, du Château, de la Grande Boucherie, du Marché-aux-poissons, and rue / terrasse du Palais Rohan).
The guest country in 2019 is Lebanon.
I advise you to visit the official site of the Christmas market to ensure dates and times are correct. Indeed some events can be modified or cancelled. For safety reasons, security forces can stop you and check your identity. If needed, the emergency number is 112.
How to break away from the crowd at the Strasbourg Christmas market?
For some people, the crowd doesn’t bother them. But if you’re like me, you’d hate these moments when too many people make the streets impracticable!
For the narrow lanes of the Christmas markets and other small streets in town (such as rue des Orfèvres) are conducive to “pedestrian traffic jam”! It can easily lead to unpleasant moments. When your nerves are being tested… and if on top of that someone accidentally bumps into you, a glass of mulled wine in one hand, c’est la catastrophe ! ?
I have two tips to give you:
- 1st Tip : avoid coming on week-ends and during the French Christmas holidays. (21 December – 6 January) This advice also applies to all Christmas markets in Alsace-Lorraine.
- 2nd Tip : keep from going to the Christmas market on the first days following the inauguration (22-24 November 2019). Media coverage is such that everybody wants to find out at the same time…
However these tips won’t help you much if you can only visit the Strasbourg Christmas market on a week-end.
Here’s 5 things to think about:
1) Out of all the Advent week-ends, choose those that occur during the first two weeks of December. That is between:
- the 2nd week-end after the inauguration (29 Nov-01 Dec in 2019) and
- the last weekend before the start of the French school holidays (that is the 13-14-15 December 2019).
2) There is less people visiting the Christmas market in the morning… but in return, you won’t get to see the lights and experience the wonderful night atmosphere.
3) If you wish to visit the most popular sites (market of place Broglie, rue des Orfèvres…): choose Friday night – or even better Sunday night. If possible, avoid Saturday night.
4) Beware the week when MEPs meet in plenary session at the European Parliament (from 16 to 19 December 2019). Most hotels in Strasbourg will sell out.
5) Finally, to really avoid the crowd, there’s a radical way… come to Strasbourg from 26 December. Sure, most of the Christmas markets will be closed, but the Christmas lights and decorations will still be in place. And, to console yourself, some Christmas markets will stay open until 30 December: place de la cathédrale, place du château and around Palais Rohan.
As for me, I choose to visit Strasbourg Christmas market on a Friday, one week after its inauguration. As you can see on my photos, the crowd was not that big and I could take many beautiful photos comfortably! ?
How to get to Strasbourg ?
Get to Strasbourg by train:
- from Paris Gare de l’Est, the TGV Est-Européen reaches Strasbourg in 1.50hrs only.
- TGV depart from Lille, Nantes, Dijon (2hrs) et Lyon (3.40hrs).
Strasbourg is linked to Paris and other main cities of France with an excellent motorway and road network:
- Paris-Strasbourg : 490 kms (4.50hrs)
- Basel-Strasbourg : 135 kms (1.50hrs)
- Bruxelles-Strasbourg : 440 km (4.35hrs)
- Caen-Strasbourg : 740 kms (7.15hrs)
- Calais-Strasbourg : 620 kms (5.40hrs)
- Cherbourg-Strasbourg : 860 kms (8.15hrs)
- Geneva-Strasbourg : 390 kms (4.15hrs)
- Le Havre-Strasbourg : 700 kms (6.30hrs)
- Lille-Strasbourg : 525 kms (5.20hrs)
- Lyon-Strasbourg : 490 kms (4.55hrs)
- Luxembourg-Strasbourg : 230 kms ( 2.50hrs)
- Saint-Malo-Strasbourg : 900 kms (8.25hrs)
The Alsatian capital has its own airport (SXB) with regular flights to/from Ajaccio, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Biarritz, Bordeaux, Bruxelles, Lille, Lyon, Madrid, Marseille, Montpellier, Munich, Nantes, Nice, Pau, Rennes and Toulouse.
?? Find out more.
How to get around in Strasbourg?
The sites of Strasbourg Christmas market are all situated within the Grande Île, the central island which is entirely dedicated to pedestrians for the occasion.
Prefer the Park-and-Ride (P+R)!
If you come to Strasbourg by car, just follow our example: park your can into one of the P+R carparks situated on the outskirts of town. In doing this you’ll avoid the stress of driving in the city desperately looking for a car slot.
For €4.10 (in 2018), we enjoyed a car slot for the whole day and a return ticket in tramway for all the car occupants.
My tip: check out the site strasmap.eu to know about the location and occupancy rates of each P+R carpark in real time.
The public transport network in Strasbourg
The tram network of Strasbourg is modified during the Christmas market (24 Nov to 24 Dec). This concerns the tram lines that cross the Grande Île:
- Broglie station (trams B, C and F): not served
- Place de l’Homme de Fer station (trams A, B, C, D and F): not served from 11am to 8pm every day (until 9pm on Fridays and 10pm on Saturdays)
- and Langstross Grand’Rue Station (trams A and D): not served from 11am to 10pm on Saturdays and from 11am to 8pm on Sundays.
The closest stations to the Grande Île which are served as usual are:
- Ancienne Synagogue Les Halles Station (trams A and D)
- Faubourg National Station (trams B and F)
- République Station (trams B, C, E and F)
- and Porte de l’Hôpital Station (trams A and D)
What’s the weather like in the Strasbourg Christmas market?
Of course I’m no divining rod… and I won’t be able to predict what the weather will look like during your visit to the Strasbourg Christmas market.
However one can’t deny that December in Europe (and particularly in Alsace) is a cold month.
Overall, the weather in December 2017 and 2018 was pretty awful.
- During the day, the average temperatures ranged from 6°C to 8°C.
- At nightfall, temperatures averaged 6°C to 8°C.
- That being said, it is possible for temperatures to fall below 0°C.
Usually Strasbourg receives a lot of rain in December (116mm in 2017 and 133mm in 2018).
All of which means that you have to wear accordingly.
What to wear at the Strasbourg Christmas market?
- Put on warm clothes you feel comfortable with. A warm coat will do.
- Wear gloves, a scarf and, if needed a cap or a hat
- Put on a good pair of comfortable shoes (you’re going to walk a lot!). Why not shoes with a thick sole to protect your foot from the cold of the pavement.
- Take your umbrella with you
A few ideas to get you warmed up:
- Drink a glass of mulled wine at the Christmas market
- Some food areas provides outdoor heating
- Visit the city’s museum
- Take on a cruise on the River Ill with Batorama
Join the Christmas cultural events in Strasbourg!
Strasbourg at Christmas time is not just about Christmas markets.
The Advent period gives everyone the opportunity to join a great number of cultural events.
For a full list of events, exhibitions, workshops and shows, check out the official programme of Strasbourg, Capital of Christmas. A few examples:
- Touristic cruise on the River Ill with Batorama. A great idea to take a rest after a long walk in the city-centre. We took place inside a heated boat – a true glass bubble – and enjoyed discovering the city from the water. Children will love following the adventures of captain Hans Trapp and its parrot, Coco as they are looking for Santa’s elves.
- Guided tours organised by the Tourist Office of Strasbourg. Talks are led by a guide (approximately 1.30 hrs). Night walks in the illuminated city are also offered.
- Treasure hunt in the footsteps of Santa Claus to discover the Christmas traditions and customs in Alsace.
- Christmas Mass at the Cathedral, organised by the Christmas market stallholders and traders, and the chaplaincy of festivity craftsmen. 24 December at 7pm.
- Christmas-themed talks – locally known as Stammtisch de Noël at the Old Customs House (held in French!)
- The Four Advent Concerts. Strasbourg celebrates the Advent period with 4 exceptional concerts (free entrance subject to available space).
- Christmas concerts. Various locations (cathedral, churches…) welcome Christmas concerts during the festive season.
Activities and touristic visits in Strasbourg
Click on the following link to get access to a wide range of activities and touristic visits in Strasbourg:
Where to find the public toilets in Strasbourg?
What about satisfying a natural need in Strasbourg? Great news, there is a number of public toilets across the city-centre:
- near the cathedral, place du château (Sunday to Thursday, 7am-8pm, Friday until 9pm and Saturday until 10pm)
- place d’Austerlitz (Sunday to Thursday, 7am-8pm, Friday until 9pm and Saturday until 10pm)
- near the Christmas tree, place Kléber (Sunday to Thursday, 7am-8pm, Friday until 9pm and Saturday until 10pm)
- place Broglie (Sunday to Thursday, 7am-8pm, Friday until 9pm and Saturday until 10pm)
- next to the Vauban dam and Covered Bridges (Ponts Couverts), place du quartier blanc (everyday from 7am-8pm)
- opposite the Saint-Guillaume protestant church, quai des pêcheurs (everyday from 7am-8pm)
These opening hours are in place during the Christmas market until 24 December.
And of course, make the most of it when you are in restaurants, cafés, department stores, museums, theatres, and administrative buildings.
Strasbourg, an ideal base to discover Northern Alsace at Christmas time!
Strasbourg, head city of the département of Bas-Rhin, is ideally located for discovering other Christmas markets. A few ideas:
- The Christmas market in Obernai
- To the South, the Sélestat Christmas market
- The Winter Wonderland in Saverne
- The Christmas market in Haguenau
- At the north tip of Alsace, the authentic Christmas market of Wissembourg
And in Germany:
- Kehl Christmas market, easily accessible by tram from Strasbourg-centre (find out more)
- distant of 60 kms, the Christmas market of Baden-Baden (find out more)
- The Christmas market of Karlshuhe (find out more)
- Adventsmarkt – the Advent market in Gengenbach (find out more)
Find out more on the web
- Read this article in French on our blog Mon Grand-Est.
- The official site of Christmas in Strasbourg
- Strasbourg’s Tourist Board site
- The page “Christmas in Alsace” sur le site Visit.Alsace
- To get around in Strasbourg: the site of the Compagnie des Transports Strasbourgeois (CTS)
- The list of public toilets in Strasbourg
When sharing your photos of Strasbourg Christmas market on social media, use the hashtags #CapitaledeNoël and #FrenchChristmas ?
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