Strasbourg is home to one of the oldest and most famous Christmas Markets in the whole of Europe. From late November until the end of December, the city is transformed – and it now attracts around two million visitors each year!
This is a place where children’s eyes shine – a place where fairy tales could quite easily come to life…
In fact, lots of fairy tale characters grace the buildings here!
Strasbourg considers itself ‘The Capital of Christmas’ – and on arrival at the futuristic train station, there are posters and billboards promoting ‘Strasbourg Capital de Noël’. The city is a beautiful mix of old and new. Arriving at such a modern structure it seems hard to fathom that after just a short walk; you could be stepping back in time – into the magical atmosphere of the Medieval heart of the Grande-Île.
The Strasbourg Grande-Île is surrounded by a beautiful waterway and this area is completely reserved for pedestrians visiting the Christmas Markets.
Over three hundred little market stalls are dotted between beautiful buildings. There are all kinds of wonderful Christmas tree decorations on sale – from hand-made fine-painted glass baubles, to rustic wooden rocking horses. There are also lights, carousels, artisan foods and all kinds of crafts. As well as the Markets, visitors can enjoy artistic and music events around the city from concerts and exhibitions to cruises, walks, games and organised events.
At the centre of the Grande-Île is the completely awe-inspiring Notre Dame Cathedral.
Breathtakingly beautiful inside and out, the Cathedral really is worth a visit. It is one of the best examples of Gothic architecture and is the highest surviving structure built entirely in the Middle Ages. I would suggest getting there early to avoid the queues that form outside.
Over the Christmas season there is also a wonderful Nativity inside the Cathedral that stretches for a good twenty meters along the wall of the Nave. (It is definitely the largest Nativity I have ever seen and I would have included a photo but visitors are requested not to take photos inside…)
The stone facades of the Cathedral are covered in hundreds of sculptures of fantastic creatures and there are some fabulous gargoyles to be seen and photographed. This chap looked rather forlorn in the rain…
But it is at night when Strasbourg really starts to sparkle.
Virtually every building and alleyway is lit with rows of tiny fairy lights – some have lanterns and even ornate outdoor chandeliers!
The buildings themselves are covered with angels, fairytale characters, traditional Christmas story characters, St Nicholas and of course scenes from the Nativity itself. They adorn shops, restaurants and hotels. It is a true celebration felt throughout the city.
The market stalls are warm and welcoming, with all kinds of Yuletide souvenirs; and the aroma of gingerbread spices and sweet treats waft around the streets.
But of course, no Christmas market would be complete without the delicious spicy scent of mulled wine in the air – and there is a LOT of warm mulled wine flowing here…. just to keep out the chill of course! Strasbourg at Christmas is a sparkly, heart-warming experience and once you have been touched by it’s magic, it is a place you will want to return to.