Europe

Christmas Markets & Fairy Tales in Strasbourg & Colmar, France

Over the weekend, Chris and I took off on a weekend city break to France. We had heard about Strasbourg’s Christmas markets and had seen photos of the charming village of Colmar and we we were eager to check them out.

We flew into EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse on Friday night, and I was immediately confused. Which way to go?? Exits to three different countries?! I had never seen anything like this before! (Here’s an interesting article about the story of this unique airport.)

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We stayed at a hotel close to the airport that night. I had been fighting off a cold, so I was hoping to get a solid night’s rest before our early train in the morning.


On Saturday, we woke up early and caught an 8:00 train to Strasbourg. Once we got there, we stopped our AirBnB to drop our bags off. Our host spoke no English whatsoever, but we had corresponded on AirBnB via the auto translate feature built into the app prior to arriving. When communicating in person, we just smiled and gestured a lot! Next, we were ready to explore the city!

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There was a cool Christmas market right in front of our AirBnB, complete with fun wooden games!

We began to meander, wandering around the many Christmas markets and quaint little streets and shops. We debated whether we could buy some Christmas gifts and get them back safely, but mostly ended up empty-handed. We did drink some excellent vin chaud, though!

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At the recommendation of our friend Andrew, who studied in Strasbourg during college, we went for a boat ride on the canal. There were headphones on the seats so we could listen to an audio guide as we traveled along the canal. I was thinking it was a pretty silly and strange audio guide until I realized I was listening to the kid’s channel! As we were traveling around Strasbourg’s “Petite France,” I switched over to the adult version and learned that  “this charming district takes its name from a terrible disease, syphilis. In the sixteenth century, the soldiers of Francis I afflicted with the ‘French disease’, as the Germans called it, were treated in a hospital located nearby.” (A much more adult-y fact!)

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As we traveled up and down the canal, we had some nice views of the city’s charming timber houses .

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After the boat ride, we continued exploring the many Christmas markets and decorated squares of Strasbourg. Wow, did this place know how to do Christmas!

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As the Christmas markets ended, we were pretty frozen, so we grabbed a nice dinner at a French bistro (complete with escargot!) and a beer at a local bar before turning in for the night.

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The next morning, we woke up early, had breakfast at our AirBnB, fumbled a French French “thank you for your hospitality” to our  host, and made our way to the train station.

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The Strasbourg train station!

It was a quick train ride to Colmar on the French TGV, and before we knew it, we were in the Petite-Venice area of town. It was so beautiful and charming; definitely straight out of a fairy tale! In fact, rumor has it that the Alsace region (where Colmar is located) was the inspiration for The Beauty and the Beast! (Cue the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack.  “There goes the baker with his tray like always, the same old bread and rolls to seeeeeellll…”)

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We kept exploring and found ourselves bumping into numerous Christmas markets. Unfortunately, many areas got pretty crowded as the morning went on, but we still managed to get a snack, some mulled wine, and a Christmas gift or two.

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When we couldn’t take the cold anymore, we stopped for lunch at a little cafe and shared a charcuterie board. So very French.

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With just a little time left in Colmar, we explored a few more streets and markets on our way back to the train station.

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Two train rides and a very strange walk later, we made it back to the airport in Basel. On our 15-minute walk from the train station to the airport, we walked through a random residential neighborhood, crossed over a highway, and even walked over a covered bridge. Every few minutes or so, I would ask Chris, “Where ARE we?? Are you suuuure we’re going the right way?” to which Chris would reply, “Ummmm, I think so?”

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Neither of us had ever traveled to an airport via a covered wooden footbridge before!

After nearly getting one of my beloved Christmas market purchases confiscated (the security lady actually charades-style acted out how I could beat someone over the head with the rolling pin), my lovely husband circled back and checked our bag. Luckily, we had time to spare, so we relaxed in the airport lounge while we waited for our flight. (It was the coolest looking lounge we’d ever seen!) We were tired but happy, and ready to get home to warm(er) London. Au revoir for now, France!

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