In a festive extravaganza that spans eight towns and cities across France and Switzerland, we embarked on a magical journey using trains and a whimsical “Christmas bus.” Savoring the spirit of the season, we discovered the allure of Christmas markets that spring to life like fairy tales along the Rhine.
Strasbourg: A Christmas Wonderland in France
Strasbourg, France, transforms into a winter wonderland during the holiday season. Santa-capped teddy bears, towering Christmas trees, and glittering white deer adorn the medieval quarter, turning it into a Christmas maze. We explored the charming markets, sampling mulled wine and indulging in the festive atmosphere.
A cost-effective alternative to river cruises, we opted for a train adventure, spending approximately $300 on transportation and staying in vibrant Strasbourg and picturesque Colmar. This allowed us the freedom to explore at our own pace.
Strasbourg: The Capital of Christmas Cheer
Pierre Feisthauer, a knowledgeable tour guide, led us through the enchanting markets of Strasbourg, providing insights into the festive offerings. From tarte flambée to sausages and vin chaud, the culinary delights added to the seasonal joy. The Alsatian Museum delved into the history of Christmas traditions, showcasing the city’s embrace of the Protestant Reformation.
As the sun set, elaborate light displays illuminated the markets, making it a shopper’s delight. From traditional crafts to eco-conscious gifts, the markets buzzed with activity, drawing millions of visitors each season.
Basel: Swiss Christmas Delights
An 80-minute train ride from Strasbourg brought us to Basel, Switzerland, where we encountered the fondue dog and other Swiss innovations. Basel’s Christmas markets, less commercial but equally enchanting, featured crafts, jewelry, and culinary delights. From Toblerone-stuffed doughnuts to fondue feasts, the markets showcased Swiss creativity.
Exploring the city’s Magical Courtyards and the Johann Wanner Christmas House, we marveled at handblown decorations and embraced the festive spirit. Basel’s markets, a terminus for Rhine River cruises, provided a unique blend of tradition and innovation.
Colmar: An Alsatian Fairy Tale
Colmar, a short distance from Strasbourg, captivated us with its six official markets and well-preserved city center. Gourmet Market offered a luxurious dining experience amid high-top tables and a diverse menu. Colmar’s museums, including the Bartholdi Museum, provided cultural respites between shopping sprees.
Venturing into the Dominican Library and other hidden gems, we discovered the city’s rich history. Colmar’s markets, known for wooden puzzles and Munster cheese, became a hub for diverse holiday experiences.
Alsace Villages: A Charming Christmas Circuit
Exploring Alsace’s villages via Christmas buses, we traversed the Alsace Wine Route to Riquewihr and Kaysersberg. The medieval charm of Riquewihr, with its cobblestone lanes and defensive towers, enchanted us. Kaysersberg introduced us to local artisans, such as ceramic artist Lisa Muller.
Local trains led us to Obernai, where a festive delay revealed the town’s Christmas tree origins. Obernai’s tranquil atmosphere and delightful vin chaud provided a perfect culmination to our village exploration.
Mulhouse: A Modern Twist on Tradition
For a modern twist, we ventured to Mulhouse, a town steeped in 16th-century textile printing. Christmas markets here showcased a unique Christmas print, tying back to the town’s history. Mulhouse’s markets, bustling with locals enjoying Angus burgers and raclette sandwiches, offered a refreshing break from the traditional.
Our journey, filled with art prints, ceramics, and ornaments, emphasized the unique charm of Christmas markets. From the fairy-tale ambiance of Strasbourg to the modern flair of Mulhouse, our expedition along the Rhine unveiled the enchantment of Christmas markets in all their festive glory.