IF YOU’RE ALL ABOUT THE SENSES…
As the oldest festive market in France, it probably comes as no surprise that the self-proclaimed ‘Capital of Christmas’ (or Capitale de Noel) features on this list.
Records show a market popping up during the festive season all the way back in 1570. Cast your minds back to a time when people didn’t brush their teeth and corsets were a fashion statement and not a costume of painful torture (at least, amongst the rich!) Today, Strasbourg’s Christmas Market is a bit different. It draws in around two million visitors every year, inviting each person on a sensory journey you’re unlikely to find at any other Christmas Market across the country.
Strasbourg is a small town in the Alsace region of France, which borders Germany. It is a fusion of the two countries in many ways: you can order some German-style sauerkraut by asking for it in French as choucroute – I guess that’s what happens when you’re juggled between two countries for years on end. Though now officially French, and in that sense, very French in many ways, a heavy German influence is distinctly present in Strasbourg. This makes the Christmas festivities that much more exciting…for the senses, if nothing else.
The first market in Strasbourg (called Christkindelsmärik) took place at Place Broglie. Initially, it was open for three days prior to Christmas Eve and its main purpose was to sell provisions for the upcoming holidays. I’m talking everything from spiced bread to candles to herbs. Today, things are a bit different; however, the charming markets in Strasbourg remain part of a long-standing, authentic Christmas tradition that you don’t want to miss out on.
Let yourself be carried away across the Grande Île, a UNESCO world heritage site, where up to 300 wooden chalets set up shop and display their delights and delicacies. Decorated with warm, dimly lit fairy lights as the scent of warm gingerbread and mulled wine lingers heavily in the air, you’ll find yourself transported into an enchanting atmosphere rich with festive cheer. It’s the kind of place I think Dr Seuss had in mind when he was describing ‘Whoville’ in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Strasbourg’s Christkindelsmärik is abundant in lights and decorations.
Stalls sell a French-German fusion of classic Christmas stock. I’m talking everything from Advent wreaths and ornaments to delicious Bredele, the tiny, traditional butter biscuits from the Alsace you can snack on as you wander, weaving at leisure amongst the crowds and little wooden chalets. Artisans show off their items in stalls that stretch on as far as the eye can see, all leading up to a towering, beautifully decorated Christmas tree, which is, in turn, dwarfed by the Gothically ornate Strasbourg Cathedral. Talk about a backdrop! You might as well be captured in a postcard!
At Strasbourg, it is all about what you can see, what you can smell, and what you can hear. ‘Decking the halls’ is taken to a whole new level, here. Day or night, the markets in Strasbourg make you feel as though you are walking in a golden-lit, cinnamon scented, mulled wine infused winter wonderland. Can you think of anything better?
Maybe I’m just a sucker for fairy lights. Maybe I’m just addicted to the almondy, fruity, brioche-like kugelhopf you can buy from the Artisan bakers who show their wares amongst the row of wooden chalets. Either way, Strasbourg is the place to visit if you want to immerse yourself in festivities that celebrate the magic of Christmas, along with the magic of your senses. Breathe in the delights of the festive period; take it all in. You won’t regret it!