Monday, May 27, 2024

In Strasbourg, France, during the holiday season, a restaurant’s facade is adorned with Santa-capped teddy bears. The stuffed polar bear decorations at another restaurant create a Yuletide arms race with the giant, gift-wrapped packages, glittering white deer, and oversize gingerbread men affixed to buildings. Lights hang above cobblestone lanes in the central medieval quarter, which is lined with food and gift stalls, turning it into a Christmas maze. The central Place Kléber features a nearly 100-foot-tall Christmas tree with lights flashing and glowing, synchronized to carols.

Christmas markets across Europe pop up like fairy-dusted street fairs, offering handmade ceramics, warmed wine, and a variety of food. Visitors shuffle among the merry warrens, holding their cellphone cameras high.

River cruises on the Rhine, Danube, or Main provide a popular way to visit the markets in France, Germany, Switzerland, and beyond at a cost of roughly $2,000 to $4,000 a week. An alternative is to use trains to get around. Along the Rhine, trains run continuously between Strasbourg and Basel, Switzerland, allowing access to market cities and towns en route.

Taking a tour of the old town on an island in the River Ill in Strasbourg, which includes two to three million visitors throughout the season, is helpful to find your way around the markets and experience local food.

A visit to the Alsatian Museum in Strasbourg provides more context on the city’s seasonal festivities, and a trip to Basel introduces visitors to unique food offerings.

In Colmar, visitors can attend six official markets and enjoy the city’s museums. Easy access to Colmar from Strasbourg allows visitors to explore the Alsace Wine Route, and experience villages such as Riquewihr, Kaysersberg, and Obernai, whose Christmas festivals offer a modern take on the traditional holiday experience.

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