Happy New Year everyone! Bonne année! A new year, new beginnings, back to school today…and yet, I’ve still got one more christmassy post for you. Indulge me! I know most of you are probably done with the festivities, but technically it’s still the Christmas period – today is the 11th day of Christmas – and over here in France we’re indulging in gorgeous buttery, almondy galettes des rois for Epiphany. Les Fêtes are not over yet.
What I want to share with you is our day-trip to Strasbourg, self-proclaimed Capitale de Noël (Christmas Capital). It was one of the best things about our Holidays but I didn’t get time to write about it earlier. We visited for the day from Nancy where we were spending Christmas. It was grey, drizzling and cold – certainly not great for photos though I did my best to capture its beauty – but it was possibly the most “christmassy” I’ve ever felt in France…
Strasbourg is the capital of Alsace, a region in the East of France bordering Germany and Switzerland. Owing to its historical and cultural connections with Germany it can appear outwardly more Germanic than French. Reading place names and menus serving local food specialities you could be forgiven for thinking you’d crossed over the border into Germany at times. And for me with an “anglosaxon” idea of Christmas, it is this Germanic touch that gives the town more Christmas spirit than many other parts of France.
Strasbourg has had a Christmas market since 1570 and its 444th edition in 2014 was crowned “Best Christmas Market in Europe” by the organisation European Best Destinations. With 11 different markets mainly spread throughout the UNESCO World Heritage Grand Île area of central Strasbourg, all offering a tempting selection of local crafts, Christmas decorations and traditional food, rather than the tat available at many markets, I could easily see why it won. Add to that the beautiful decorations on the already gorgeous half-timbered building facades and I fell completely under its spell.
As I mentioned above, central Strasbourg is a UNESCO World Heritage area, with its medieval centre and imposing Gothic Cathedral located on an island, the Grand Île, on the Ill river (a tributary of the Rhine). The Cathedral was once the tallest building in the world (until 1874) and even today it is the 6th tallest church. It is certainly impressive. Inside it houses an astronomical clock that draws large crowds every fifteen minutes when its figurines ring bells and parade across the front.
One of the prettiest areas is known as Petite-France. It has numerous canals, covered bridges and brightly coloured half-timbered houses. But its name has a less pretty history. The reason it is called “little France” has nothing to do with patriotic reasons but is somewhat bizarrely a corruption of the old German word for syphilis! A hospice for syphilis sufferers was built here in the 15th century, which back then was called the “French disease” Franzosenkrankheit in German, hence the French connection.
Alsatian food is heavily influenced by German cuisine which made a delicious seasonal change for us southerners. During our one day visit we managed to eat bretzels, flammekuche (thin pizza-like dish made with crème fraîche, onions and lardons), knacks (Frankfurter sausages), bredele (traditional Christmas biscuits) and kougelhopf (marble cake baked in a traditional dome shape), washed down with steaming cups of vin chaud and hot chocolate!
As night fell the illuminations came on and turned the city into a sparkling magical world, but unfortunately most of my photos didn’t work well enough to be published here. One street was sponsored by the luxury crystal manufacturer Baccarat and had amazing crystal chandeliers in gauze boxes hanging across it. Original and beautiful.
Amongst the 11 different markets there was a children’s area, where in a heated tent kids could play hundreds of different traditional wooden board games and take part in craft workshops and magic shows. It was a perfect place to sit and warm up for a while and very well appreciated by both young and old in the cold damp weather.
I’m sure Strasbourg has much more to offer than just Christmas markets and I’d love to go back in the spring, on a lovely sunny day, to explore some more. Have you been? Or did you go to any Christmas markets these holidays? Do tell!
Exploring the Walls and Beaches of St Malo
Nantes and its Fabulous Giant Elephant
It’s so full of history and beauty, I hope you get there soon Cathy.
Oh do Ashley, you won’t regret it!
Strasbourg is a lovely place but really comes alive as the “Capital of Noël” during the holidays.
Why thank you! The kids’ tent was a godsend, not only because it was so much fun, but because it was heated too!! You really should try and get there next year, it’s great.
You always have such fascinating facts Phoebe! Strasbourg looks stunning, especially during Christmas. May well be tempted to visit next year and explore the markets. I particularly like the sound of the tent for children with all the craft activities. Thanks for linking to #citytripping
I keep reading about these fabulous Christmas markets – really must try and get away in December sometime to visit one. Strasbourg itself, even without the markets, looks beautiful too.
So Jealous! I was thinking of going this year but we’re moving so everything is a bit all over the place. But, for sure, next year!! Seriously booking it in January!
Strasbourg’s Christmas markets have always sounded amazing – it really does look wonderfully festive as well, and so much history if you visit outside those times. Somewhere I would love to go one day. And I had never heard that about Petite France, what a great story behind the name! Thanks for linking up to #citytripping
je ne savais pas cette particularité Dom, je ne peux pas imaginer dimanche matin sans croissants! De temps en temps oui, mais pas chaque dimanche. Merci de ton commentaire super intéressant!
I hope you get there one day Ninja Cat!
J’ai eu la chance d’habiter presque 2 ans Ã Â Strasbourg et tout ce que tu décris les photos ravivent tous mes lointains souvenirs ! Il y fait bon vivre Ã Â toutes les saisons , mais évidemment Noêl est encore plus chaleureux !!Il y a une particularité : pas de boulangerie ni de patisserie ouverte le dimanche (repos dominical ) alors tant pis pour les croissants croustillants du matin….Il faut aller les chercher chez ” les français de l’intérieur ” , autrement dit un peu plus loin de la frontière…
what a pretty city I would love to go there
Thank you 🙂
It’s a great place for a quick trip Fritha. Go for it!
I’m interested to hear that you say Alsace decorates more than Germany, that surprises me.
Brilliant Courtney! 😀
That’s great Tikva, I’m so pleased.
Thanks for hosting the hop!
It’s a lovely place for a weekend trip.
This shots are awesome and gives a very clear image of beauti of this place.
wow it looks absolutely stunning! I am desperate for a trip somewhere! x
Phoebe, I love Strasbourg! I’ve never been there for the Christmas market, but I might have to go next year. It is so pretty, and all of Alsace gets into decorating like no place I’ve ever been before. I love your pics! Thanks for linking up with Weekend Travel Inspiration!
So magical! Everything about Strasbourg looks picturesque and Christmasy. I’m officially adding their Xmas markets to my bucket list!
It looks as though you suspect some kind of connection between Catherine and me!
Love this post we are planning a trip to Strasbourg and now I am even more excited.
Oh wow, these photos look amazing; what a great place to visit for some Christmas cheer!
Thanks for linking up with #WeekendBlogHop!
I hope to do lots of weekend breaks once the kids are older – this is definitely on my list
Gorgeous pics, love all the Christmas decorations! xx
How lovely, I’m delighted you’ll show your family my photos.
It was very tasty!!!
It really is picturesque. 🙂
Richard, would you and Catherine write a guest post for me on your cruise….? It would be great I’m sure.
Good to hear from another person who has enjoyed this beautiful city.
Make it a plan Lori, you’ll love it!
Another fan of Christmas in Strasbourg. 🙂
Thanks for your kind words, I’m glad you enjoyed my post, it means a lot coming from you Gretta.
Even on a grey day…:)
Thanks, it certainly was.
That sounds lovely Catherine, what a great way to spend Christmas, and what a great time to cruise that area. Maybe you could write a guest blog for me?
I just had a look at your blog Marianne and saw some similar shots!
Yup, it claims to be the oldest Christmas market in the world.
It certainly is very attractive Wendy
I’m sure you won’t be disappointed Natalye
OH MY GOODNESS! I taught here for a month and I fell in love with it. I can’t wait to show my family where I was in all its glory!
What beautiful pictures, all that food look delicious
Looks so picturesque. Seems to have a magical feel about the place.
We were almost Christmas-marketed out in Austria, Slovakia and Hungary, but clearly need to visit the ones in Strasbourg too. Lincoln cathedral, incidentally, was once the tallest building anywhere, until the spire collapsed in a storm some hundreds of years ago. Over 500 feet.
It has been some years since ive been to Strasbourg but I love it as place to visit for a weekend x
Strasbourg looks fab and it’s been on my list of places t visit for quite sometime now. I’m now living my trip through your photos. I think I need to visit next Christmas! x
I love Strasbourg at Christmas time! I went two years ago, and it is truly the most decorated town I have seen for the holidays! I really enjoyed the La Petite France section of town, but had no idea where the name came from – so interesting!
This is really interesting and I love the photos. I went to Strasbourg with my family when I was about 12 and I still have a painted wooden box which my Mum bought me at the market there. I’d love to go back, especially now that I’ve read this post.
Wow it looks totally beautiful! x
What beautiful photos. It looks so Christmassy and atmospheric.
Yes Strasbourg looks lovely. We cruised down the Danube for Christmas and new year and we saw many Christmas markets in Austria and Hungary they too were full of yummy things to eat and very tasteful decorations to buy.
I went to Strasbourg this winter as well so I recognized many of the places in the photographs 🙂 Sounds like you had a nice trip.
Wow it looks beautiful. I can’t believe the Christmas market has been going on for that long. I would love to visit.
I’m glad I’ve inspired you Cynthia and I’m pleased to hear from someone else who isn’t quite over Christmas!
I liked them too!
Yes it was Sonya!
Thanks Geoffrey 🙂
How wonderful to have spent so much time there Betty, I can imagine it’s a place to leave one’s heart.
What a gorgeous town, love the buildings
Sure was Corinna!
The little local Christmas markets can be lovely, I know ours is here in Provence.
Looks so charming! This is definitely high up on my France destination list!
You would love it for sure Christine, and I’d love to go with you! If only we weren’t so far apart!!
Oh my goodness- Strasbourg is beautiful and so glorious looking around Christmas! I’ve never yet been, but this post contains all the convincing I needed. Such beautiful architecture, and the German influence is so interesting. Looks like you had a fantastic time. I agree about the 12 days of Christmas… I had no intention of taking the tree down until January 6th or after 🙂
Love those gingerbread docorations. How sweet are they!
What a beautiful place – looks like a lovely day out!
Great pics and great blog, well done Phoebe!
Oh how I love Strasbourg! After going there once right after Christmas — some of the markets are already closed then — I was lucky enough to spend 3 10-day periods there doing a study program for my job. I “lived” there for part of January, part of April/May, and then part of June. I fell in love with the city and it is beautiful at any time of year, although apparently it can get quite hot during the summer.
I loved taking the trams, revelling in the architecture, and enjoying the excellent food and wine.
We had a Christmas market in our Breton village, we weren’t expecting much but it was lovely and the whole canton turned out for it, a huge success. We also went in to Rennes and saw the son et lumiere display they have each year as well as the market.
It looks wonderful! I want to go, I know I would love it!!