When I first came to Paris in September for work, the word was that my assignment would be “for a month.” Then it was “stay until Thanksgiving.” Finally, it was “stay until Christmas.” And while there were many reasons I was – and am – thrilled to be in Europe for so long, the first among them may well have been this: Christmas! Christmas. In. Europe.
I have always been a bit Christmas-crazy, and naturally then, one thing that has always been on my bucket list is visiting Europe’s Christmas markets. The only problem is that, as a Christmas lover in Europe, I am very spoiled for choice, as most cities have at least a market or two. Which city to choose then?
My friend had been perusing old New York Times “36 Hours In….” articles and had a suggestion: what about Strasbourg? I took a look and was immediately sold. I mean, a city billing itself the “Christmas Capital”? Sounds like the place for me.
And oh, reader, was it ever. I didn’t know quite what to expect, but Strasbourg went way above and beyond any notions I had. For starters, the city is delightfully charming – think colorful buildings with a Bavarian-village feel nestled among canals (and more on said colorful buildings and canals in a later post). And if this weren’t enough, amongst all this charm lies Christmas galore – every which way you looked, and as far as the eye could see, Christmas lights and decorations and merriment.
We started with the market nestled below Strasbourg’s own Notre Dame, but what we quickly learned was this: you run into Christmas markets everywhere in Strasbourg. And “everywhere” is not an exaggeration. On the walk to the cathedral square, we saw two markets, and after leaving the cathedral all we had to do was wander up and down the nearby streets – we were bound to run into yet another Christmas market sooner rather than later. It was remarkable.
As for the markets themselves, they were just delightful. Some highlights included: ALL the Christmas ornaments (and Nutcrackers and festive linens and glittery decorations and on and on), gingerbread everything, candles galore, fancy schmancy soaps, gourmet jams, spices, and oils, and mulled wine around every corner. I tried to exercise restraint but, man, I loved it all.
After two days in Strasbourg, I’m happy to report the city is the perfect example of one of my favorite travel occurrences: visiting a place I had almost zero preconceived notions or expectations for that wound up being perfect and blowing me away. I loved this city, and it absolutely lived up to its billing as the Capital of Christmas.
And if my effusive praise is not enough to convince you, let’s end with 472 additional photos (give or take) that might.
( ^ We kept seeing signs for “warm ale” at markets. I’ve always been taught that warm beer = no bueno. Strasbourg, explain yourself! )
( ^ Chef Boyardee nutcracker! I have more than a bit of remorse that I didn’t buy one of these guys. )
( ^ On a similar note, I have a LOT of remorse that I didn’t buy one – or many – of these bulbs. LOOK HOW GORGEOUS. I just cannot. )
( ^ The road leading up to Strasbourg’s cathedral is nothing short of magnificent, with its sparkling chorus of angels. Photos don’t do it justice. )
( ^ What magnificent pies! Only joking – these are actually soaps! )
( ^ Tarte flambée, I quickly learned, is a big thing in Alsace. I got a goat cheese variety from a market stand. SO. MUCH. CHEESE. But so, so good. )
( ^ Did I need a ballerina ornament, strictly speaking? No. Was I able to resist purchasing a ballerina ornament? No. )
( ^ On a similar note, did I need a rudolph ornament whose limbs dance when you pull a little string? Actually, yes, yes I did. )
( ^ I thought Strasbourg’s houses could not possibly get any cuter…then I saw them in miniature form. )
( ^ Note the santa climbing a ladder into the window! )
( ^ Every flavor of mustard imaginable. Like for real. )