It’s time to add Strasbourg, France to your travel bucket list! Check out our guide and a few key reasons why everyone should visit Strasbourg during Christmas.
What a privilege to travel to France during the notable Alsace Christmas markets, window shop along their beautifully lit cobblestone streets, and bask in the beauty of shared appreciation for Christmas goodness. Come for the markets and historic vibes. Stay for elegance, shopping, and grandeur of Strasbourg.
FIVE RAPID-FIRE FAQ’S
- Should I use card or cash? Mostly cash. Find a bank or ATM to take out euros in cash in advance. (More about this later in the blog.)
- What are the hours of the Christmas Markets? Strasbourg’s markets are open 11 am-8 pm daily during the Christmas season.
- Can you walk from one Christmas Market to the next? Yes! It’s easy and highly encouraged.
- Do I need to eat before I come? No! Christmas markets are basically a food crawl.
- What should I wear? Check the weather before, but typically a sweater, pants, a good jacket, and comfy shoes will do just fine. There’s very little places to sit, so you’ll be on your feet a lot!
NAVIGATING THE LANGUAGE
French is the national language. We found most people we encountered spoke good enough English to convey what was needed. If you encounter any language barrier, this can always be quickly remedied using Google Translate and plenty of hand signals and pointing. While you definitely don’t need to know French to enjoy Strasbourg, here are a few words that are helpful to know while exploring during Christmas:
- Bonjour/ Bonsoir – pronounced bohn-joor / bohn-swah – means hello / good evening
- Merci – pronounced mare-see – means thanks/thank you
- Vin Chaud – pronounced vahn showd – means mulled wine
THE BEST PARTS
- The understated elegance of Strasbourg at Christmas time. From streets lined with angels, chandeliers, and dangling white lights to high-end designer stores lining the streets, keeping your jaw from hitting the floor around each corner of the city center will be difficult.
- Strasbourg’s ultra grand Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg. Speaking of jaw-dropping, this cathedral and the market surrounding it combine Christmas’s awe and wonder with oversized yet intricate architecture.
- The shopping. Strasbourg offered some of the best shopping at the Christmas markets we’ve seen in our European Market adventures. Shopping outside the markets is a little too easy since the markets are scattered throughout the city’s main shopping streets.
WOAH, THAT’S DIFFERENT!
- The massive and historic Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg is unique in the fact that it only has one spire. It’s truly…inspiring. 😉
- You’ll find many teddy bears adorning the outside of many shops in central Strasbourg! Perfect for photo ops and inspiration for souvenirs for little ones.
- Licorice fans rejoice! The mulled wine (known in France as vin chaud) relies on the star anise spice quite heavily. Not a fan of the pungent taste? Try the hot apple cider (jus de pomme – chaud) instead.
STRASBOURG’S CHRISTMAS MARKETS
With almost a dozen Christmas markets in Strasbourg, it’s nearly impossible to see them all in one day. Instead of rushing to see everything, we took our time and visited a handful of the most central markets. The Strasbourg Christmas Market at Place de la Cathédrale is the best place to start. Walk down the street filled with floating angles and teddy bears adorning the shops to see the jaw-dropping backdrop of the massive cathedral behind the glowing Christmas market stalls. Within a few steps of this market, you’ll find two other smaller markets on either side of the cathedrals markets.
The Christkindelsmärik at Place Broglie is also one of the largest markets. You’ll find many shopping booths, plenty of sweet treats, and good options for grabbing a hearty dinner that isn’t a form of sausage. We had a delicious pork knuckle and spaetzle that hit the spot in the misty evening after a long day of munching around!
The Petit France area also has a few small popular markets. While the walk from Place Kléber is full of charming little shops, we wouldn’t say there’s too much to do or see. Hence the “petit” (small) in Petit France. That being said, the stalls there offered a few unique gift ideas that we didn’t see anywhere else.
The markets are typically open from 11 am – 8 pm daily from around the last Friday in November until a day or two before New Year. Visiting on a weekday will have far less crowded than on the weekends. Instead of counting markets to make sure you stop at each one, ditch the map, wander the stunning Strasbourg streets for a few hours, and enjoy the views along the way.
In France, you’ll need euros when you visit. If you’re wondering if you should bring cash or card to the Christmas markets, the answer is yes – both! Some vendors take cards, but you’ll almost always need cash for smaller purchases (less than $20).
Before you go, you need to know how “deposits” work at Strasbourg’s Christmas Markets. When you want to buy mulled wine (vin chaud), you’ll approach a stall that says the drink is 3 euros (for example). However, it will typically cost an additional 3 or 4 euros when it’s time to pay. This essentially covers the cost of the mug. If you’d like to take the mug home as a souvenir, congrats! It’s yours. If you’d like to return it to the stall, hand it back to them and say you’re returning it, then they’ll give you a 3-4 euro deposit back!
How much cash do you need?
It’s best to assume about $15-20 per meal for markets in France. Hot drinks typically cost between 3-7 euros with an additional average 3 euro deposit for mugs. Dishes such as tarte flambe cost around 9-10 euros. Hot dogs of most kinds cost between 5-10 euros, depending on the type. Sweet treats and desserts, on average, range between 3 and 12 euros.
If you’re looking to buy a more precious and pricier souvenir, you’ll be glad to have your card on hand, so you’re not limited by your small bills. Always make sure to ask the vendor before ordering or deciding to purchase anything which payment method they will take. (Even if your german language skills are poor and your English is limited, this question can be easily communicated by holding up your credit card and asking, “do you take card?” They will quickly answer with either hand gestures or a verbal yes or no.) If you can, use your traveling expenses to rack up those travel credit card reward points when you can, y’all! We love that the Capital One Venture X card gives us 2x points on everything from glüwhein to ghost tours.
A helpful note about taking out foreign currency in cash:
The best practice (and cheapest) for having cash on hand in a new country is to go to your bank 5-10 business days before your trip and ask them for the new currency. Depending on your bank, this transaction will either be free or just a few dollars.
If you’re like us and realize the airplane tires hit foreign soil that we forgot to do this, then find an ATM to take out euros in cash! Yes, you can do this even with an international debit card and even some credit cards. There will typically be a small transaction fee along with the exchange rate. It’s still cheaper to take out cash this way than to go to a money exchange or Western Union.
FOODS & DRINKS TO TRY
- Tarte Flambée – imagine a flat, savory crepe with a creamy sauce, ham, and onions. It’s a local specialty!
- Alsace wine – this area of France boasts its own wine region, and it does not disappoint! Our favorite local wine was the pinot blanc.
- Crêpes – can’t leave France without trying one of these favorite french desserts made right before your eyes at a market stall!
- Foie gras – in case you’re a little more adventurous, the Gourmet Market offered this, and we found it to be absolutely delicious…even though it’s duck liver. Trust us! The French know their flavors.
WHERE WE STAYED
- 4-Star luxury under $300 right across the walking bridge from Strasbourg City Center.
- The staff was very helpful, friendly, and spoke excellent English. When we arrived a few hours before check in, they offered tea and coffee, and stowed our bags. Once it was time to check in, the porter showed us to our room, gave us a tour of our room’s features along with a few tips for our stay.
- Make sure to book the deluxe room for access to the absolutely stunning terrace. Instead of individual balconies, this hotel features one long, wooden terrace for the deluxe rooms which overlooks the charming patio, cheerfully decorated for Christmas.
- The rooms have so many touches of little luxuries. Chocolates on the bedside table, a toilet room separate from the bathroom, cozy robes & slippers, towel warmers, and vanity kits which include nail files, cotton pads, and a hair tie – this hotel really thinks of everything.
- The breakfast is a little pricey, but worth the convenience and atmosphere. At $26 per person, you get access to any cooked-to-order hot foods such as omelettes, eggs, or crêpes as well as an unlimited breakfast buffet of fresh oats, yoghurts, juices, coffee, and of course a variety of flavorful cheeses and freshly baked french breads and much more.
HOW TO GET AROUND STRASBOURG
Get your walking shoes on! The only ideal way to navigate the city is by foot. You could rent a bike through Velhop, but why not take the opportunity to stroll around town and visit the sites? Much of the city is blocked off to cars during Christmas to ensure the markets are safe for pedestrians. The best way to get to Strasbourg from other cities is by train or car. If you’d like to rent a car, keep in mind that you will only use it for a little while in the city. The central train station in Strasbourg is about a 5-15 minute rideshare (Uber or FreeNow work just fine!) from just about everywhere in the city. They also have a fantastic inner-city metro system with trams that take you around the city center. There’s even a major stop outside the Place Broglie market for easy access elsewhere.