There is truly no better way to get in the holiday spirit than by spending Christmas in the Alsace. The Alsace is an area in Eastern France, near Germany and Switzerland. The land has been fought over for years – being owned by the Germans, French, back to the Germans, back to the French, etc. So the area has a lot of German influence. It’s also located on the west bank of the upper Rhine giving this area an incredible climate to make exceptionally good wine. The Alsace is best known for its rieslings and more generally, whites over reds. (By the way, if you want to visit the Alsace in the warmer months and do a wine tour of the area – read this post).
Having spent Christmas in this particular area of France, I can assure you that it is quite magical. All of the villages in the Alsace truly come alive with the Christmas spirit. Outdoor Christmas markets, Christmas music playing everywhere you go, children giggling on Christmas carousels that have been installed, and the smell of raclette fills the air. Below you’ll find a complete guide to Christmas in the Alsace so that you too can get in the holiday spirit!
A Guide to Spending Christmas in the Alsace
When to Visit the Alsace for Christmas
Generally, the Christmas markets in the Alsace begin opening up the last weekend of November and stay open until New Year’s Day. However, before visiting I’d make sure to look this up in case something has changed the year you’re planning to travel to France. You can find opening dates here.
Of course, this area brings many tourists, especially on the weekends. If you can, I’d opt for visiting during the week, a couple of weeks before Christmas Day. However, anytime you can make it to the Alsace is magical and if you can only visit on the weekend, then it’s still worth it.
How to Get to the Alsace
The Alsace is an easy train ride from Paris if you’re already in France. It’s also easy to get to from neighboring countries like Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, or Luxembourg. For purposes of this post, I’m going to share with you how to get to the Alsace from Paris.
From Paris, there are two options you can choose from – renting a car and driving to the Alsace; or taking the train. I’ve done both and would recommend either option.
RENTING A CAR
If you want to drive through the villages, I highly recommend taking a car to the Alsace. But if you’re not interested in making the 5+ hour drive to the region, you could take a train and then rent a car when you arrive. I rented a car in Paris using Discover Cars, and picked it up from the Gare du Nord train station. While getting in and out of Paris was tricky with traffic – overall, it wasn’t a bad experience. (Please note, if you’re an American who is renting a car in France you need your passport, drivers license, and international drivers license).
TAKING A TRAIN
If you want to take a train from Paris to the Alsace region, I suggest searching for tickets on Omio. Please note: the closer you book to Christmas, the busier it will be. I highly recommend booking train travel a couple of months in advance to ensure you get a seat.
If you are visiting the Alsace from Paris, don’t miss: The Ultimate Paris Travel Guide
Where to Stay in the Alsace at Christmas
Two of the biggest towns in the Alsace and arguably the most popular are Strasbourg and Colmar. Both times I’ve traveled to the Alsace I’ve based myself in Colmar and highly recommend it. (I also highly recommend staying at Hotel Saint-Martin or in this Airbnb). I would also recommend staying in one of the smaller and more quiet villages in the region, but keep in mind – if you’re traveling by train in might be more difficult and expensive to reach these areas. However, if you’re traveling by car I suggest looking into staying in Riquewihr.
These are some of the most popular villages in the Alsace: Colmar, Eugisheim, Kaysersberg, Ribeauvillé, and Riquewihr. (Although there are many more, which you can see here).
A 2-Day Proposed Itinerary
If you have 2 days to spend in the Alsace at Christmas, this is how I would do it…
Arrive to Colmar by train or car. Spend the first day exploring Colmar and seeing the unique Christmas markets. Don’t miss visiting the covered market (Marché Couvert Colmar) to taste different foods and try the traditional flammekueche. I highly suggest pastries from L’endarine which is found in the market.
On day two I suggest getting in your car (or renting one if you came by train) and driving around the villages in the Alsace – especially Riquewihr! Although if you have the time I also recommend Eguisheim (which is the village that inspired Beauty and the Beast). At this time I also suggest doing a bit of research and visiting a winery so that you can try Alsatian wine! Once you get back to Colmar, eat dinner at Aux Trois Poissons (reservations should be made ahead of time).
I hope that you enjoy this trip as much as I did!
For a more visual look at Christmas in Alsace, make sure to check out my Instagram page/highlight reel by searching “France 2” under my highlights, or “#ppinfrance”.
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