Although it’s just August, it’s never too early to dream about Christmas. Especially if you’re planning a trip to the capital of Christmas – the wonderful city of Strasbourg in winter. The Alsatian capital has a lot of things to offer to the tourists, but when it comes to the Christmas season, it’s probably one of the best places to be.
Strasbourg at Christmas
The city gets filled with the smell of gluhwein, people are singing carols on the streets, everything gets illuminated with Christmas lights, and people are joining their hearts to celebrate this magical event. This unique atmosphere will create memories that you will keep for a lifetime.
2019 Christmas seasons in Strasbourg will be held from November 22nd to December 30 and if you want to attend it, you’d better plan ahead. For those who don’t want to miss this magical event, here are the top 10 things to do in Strasbourg in winter.
Top 10 Things to Do In Strasbourg in Winter
1. Strasbourg Cathedral
Whether you’re visiting Strasburg in winter or at any other time of the year, seeing the Strasbourg Cathedral is an absolute must. It dates back to the 13th century and until 1874 it was the world’s tallest building. The cathedral features an impressive astronomical clock and an elaborate rose window. When exploring the Strasbourg Cathedral, it is advised to climb the north tower and get the view of the city and the Black Forest located 30 kilometers away from Strasbourg.
TIP: If you’re into shopping, you can visit Galeries Lafayette Strasbourg. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, go there to enjoy the outstanding Christmas decorations and atmosphere that will uplift your Christmas spirit.
2. Place Kléber and The Great Christmas Tree
This is the central and the largest square of Strasbourg, so it’s no wonder that a huge Christmas tree is placed here during the Christmas season.
This year, the Christmas tree will be decorated with letters to Father Christmas. There’s also a traditional Christmas market around the Christmas tree on Place Kléber. For those who like interactive activities, you can go to du Marché Gayot where another Christmas tree is set up and participate in the decorative craft workshops to make your input in making the tree more beautiful.
You might also want to check out this post on the 7 best & biggest Christmas Markets in Europe
3. La Petite France
A picture-postcard quarter and the most photogenic area in Strasbourg with quaint old structures from the 1500s and 1600s.
It’s also known as Tanner’s Quarters because, in the old days, fishermen, millers, and tanners lived here. Narrow winding streets, old timbered buildings that managed to preserve their charm and authenticity and mill wheels and weirs will make you feel like you’re lost in another century. Make sure to visit some of the local restaurants that serve traditional Alsatian specialties.
4. Neustadt (New Town)
This vibrant part of the city is a recent addition to the UNESCO World Heritage list. The notable places to see here are the former imperial palace – the Palais du Rhin, the National Theatre of Strasbourg and Place de la République. During the Christmas season, Neustadt will allow you to admire numerous nativity scenes recreated in different styles. In case you’re especially interested in nativity scenes, you can take a nativity scene tour.
5. Barrage Vauban
This fortified bridge played a very important role in the defense of Strasbourg during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. When the defenses were enabled, the construction of the bridge would raise the level of the river so that it flooded the suburbs and blocked the enemy. Now it’s a beautiful bridge with a viewing terrace where you can observe the beauty of Petite France and Ponts Couverts.
6. Ponts Couverts
Speaking about bridges, you should also see the Ponts Couverts that’s a series of defensive bridges and towers along the River Ill. These bridges are very old and along with Barrage Vauban and the Place Kleber, they are a part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. Ponts Couverts became obsolete after the construction of Barrage Vauban that could handle the defensive function alone.
7. Christmas Markets
Christmas markets in Strasbourg attract almost two million visitors a year. The Strasbourg Market of the Infant Jesus or Christkindmarkt was established in the mid-16th century which makes it one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe and the very first of its kind in France. Most of the Christmas markets are centered on Strasbourg Cathedral and the Place Kléber, but to tell the truth, they’re all around the city. If you enjoy food then I recommend taking a Strasbourg Food Tour with one of my favorite companies, Eating Europe.
Interesting fact: Strasbourg became the Capital of Christmas in 1992 when the deputy to the Strasbourg’s Mayor offered to open market stalls in various squares across the city.
Numerous Christmas trees, handcrafts, illuminations, bredele cakes, nativity scenes, magnificent wooden chalets, hot wine (or gluhwein) and of course the magic in the air is what you should expect to see from the Capital of Christmas. Make sure to try gluhwein. It’s usually served in festive cups that you can keep as a memory after you finish your drink.
8. Palais des Rohan
A breathtaking Episcopal palace and an outstanding example of French Baroque-Rococo architecture. It was erected in the 1720s for Cardinal Armand-Gaston de Rohan-Soubise. Don’t try to remember the name, just explore the exterior and interior of the palace until you notice that your jaw has dropped. It’s what usually happens when the amount of beauty becomes unbearable. Today you can find several interesting museums inside the palace.
9. Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Strasbourg
In addition to the museums in Palas des Rohan, I recommend you to visit the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. It’s located along the river and features an impressive collection of modern art dating from the epoch of Impressionism and until today.
10. River Cruise with Batorama
It’s always a great idea to explore the city from the river provided it has one. The Batorama will take you to the 70-minute journey where you will see river Barrage Vauban, Ponts Couverts, Petite France, the Neustadt imperial quarter, and the modern European institutions. If the weather is fine, the boats get uncovered, which opens a great panorama on the city. Taking a boat trip during Christmas time in the evening is even more fun because you will get a chance to see the magic holiday illumination.
Top 3 Tours in Strasbourg
In case you still wonder what to do in Strasbourg, I can recommend you 3 tours and three day trips that you can take from this winter fairytale city:
- Private Walking Tour through Strasbourg Historical Center – a very interesting tour that supposes two hours of walking and exploring Strasbourg’s historical center. You’ll see the exterior of Strasbourg Cathedral, numerous gothic cathedrals, take photos of Janus Fountain and explore the old bridges from the 13th century.
- Strasbourg Christmas Market Tour – one of the best ways to experience the holiday spirit is to take a tour through the oldest Christmas market in Europe. Dive into the atmosphere, taste local specialties and shop for gifts.
- 75-Minute Sightseeing Tour by Pedicab – if you like tours but don’t like walking, this 75-minute pedicab tour is for you. You’ll see the main sites of Strasbourg, get advice on the best shops, bars, and restaurants and learn interesting facts about the city from your personal driver.
Top 3 Day Trips from Strasbourg
If you’re planning to spend more time in Strasbourg, then you may consider some of these exciting day trips:
- Full-Day Highlights of the Alsace Tour – although Strasbourg is a highlight of the Alsace region, there’s a lot more to explore in this area. On this day tour from Strasbourg, you will visit Eguisheim and Colmar, follow the Wine Route to Haut Koenigsbourg Castle and see the fortifications of Riquewihr.
- Day Trip to Colmar – an option for those who want to spend a whole day in Colmar, a beautiful old town in Switzerland. You can use a train, a bus or a plane to get there.
- Alsace Half-Day Wine Tour – spend a day to discover some of the best wines of France and find out the 7 types of wines in Alsace. On this tour, you’ll also have a chance to walk the beautiful streets of Obernai commune.
Places to Stay in Strasbourg
- EtC Hôtel – a hotel with a peaceful environment, modern guestrooms and a perfect location. Breakfast is included.
- Hotel Rohan – located in the historic center of Strasbourg, Hotel Rohan has elegant rooms and two beautiful terraces.
- Ibis Strasbourg Centre Les Halles – this is a hotel for those who like tranquility because all rooms are soundproof. They serve tasty breakfasts.
- Hotel Maison Rouge – a historic hotel that features old stained-glass windows and individually decorated rooms. Located in walking distance to most of the major attractions.
- Régent Contades, BW Premier Collection – a luxury hotel with Belle-Époque décor, soundproof rooms and free access to the sauna.
Places to Eat In Strasbourg
- Mi Casa Es Tu Casa – fresh and homemade Spanish tapas is served at Mi Casa Es Tu Casa. Sangria, stuffed peppers, chorizos, tortilla, and fried squid – you will find it all here.
- La Chaine d’Or – this oldest Alsatian brewery has many surprises for you. Tasty and diverse cuisine and a great value for money.
- La Cloche à Fromage Restaurant – heaven for cheese lovers and an excellent restaurant for those who like haute cuisine.
After learning everything about Strasbourg in winter, make yourself a promise to celebrate at least one Christmas season in this wonderful Capital of Christmas.