If you share my obsession with Pinterest, you have probably seen the photos of the brightly coloured half-timbered houses in Colmar. I had swooned over those images for years before I finally got a chance to visit Colmar this November. Colmar is a gorgeous (gorgeous!) French town in the Alsace region bordering Germany. The region is famous for wine but the reason I paid a winter visit was the Christmas market in Colmar. Whilst the neighbouring German markets are more famous, this little French town packs quite a punch. With 5 Christmas market sites spread across Colmar, this beautiful town has plenty to offer for the winter traveller. If you’re planning a December or even end November trip to France, read on to find out why you should make Colmar a must visit destination for the holidays.
Travel to Colmar
I flew into the EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg airport, which is technically located in France. Exit on the French side when you arrive and grab bus 11 to Saint-Louis train station. Pro tip: train station is called ‘Gare’ in French so look for Gare de Saint-Louis. The bus fare for one single journey was 2.50 euro at time of writing (December, 2017). At the train station, buy a ticket for Colmar in the ticket office. Don’t know about you, but I always prefer humans over machines when it comes to buying tickets abroad. My one way ticket was 13.40 euro on a weekday. Make sure you ‘activate’ the ticket in the yellow machine at the entrance. The train to Colmar was insanely comfy! The seats were like padded sofas and I could have easily fallen asleep on them. The train to Colmar takes about 45 minutes.
The Christmas Market in Colmar
Onto the fun things, you came here for the mulled wine and cute houses after all! The 5 sites spread across town are beautiful in daytime, but for the love of all Christmas chocolate, make sure you also visit at night. The markets really come into their own when lit up with the half-timbered houses as backdrop.
Place des Dominicains
I thought this was one of the most beautiful settings at night. There are about 60 stalls situated by Eglise des Dominicains, a Gothic church from late 13th century. Fairy lights cover the trees in the square, music plays in the background and in the middle you have an enormous Christmas tree. Have a look at the gorgeous Christmas tree baubles and other crafts. Whilst technically not part of the market, you should pay the store Jacques Bockel a visit. It’s situated by the square and has some incredible Christmas themed chocolate. They had a stall at Place de L’Ancienne Douane too.
Place Jeanne d’arc
This site is smaller than Place Des Dominicains but has a quite intimate layout. The idea of this site is to emulate an Alsace village and celebrate local produce. The result is a lot of food stalls and some crafts. If you want traditional Alsace food, I suggest you have a look here and also check out the stalls selling produce such as cold meats, wine and biscuits.
Place de l’Ancienne Douane
This site is where a lot of the Christmas market pictures online have been taken. Several of the buildings are covered in fairy lights and also heavily decorated with Christmas ornaments. For the young kids, there is a small fairground ride and for the adults there is mulled wine. Expect to find a fair few food and produce stalls here too. In general, there were plenty of produce stalls across the 5 sites so if you can transport it home, you should definitely have a look. I also found a stall serving gluten free and lactose free crepes here, so heads up to anyone with dietary restrictions.
This is the only indoors market and solely devoted to crafts. Located right next to Place De L’Ancienne Douane, this is where you will find an unique Christmas gift. Independents fill two big rooms and sell everything from paintings and jewellery to intricate gingerbread and vintage maps. I really loved having a look here, those gingerbread biscuits are a piece of art!
La Petite Venise
This Christmas market located in its namesake area is dedicated to children (although I enjoyed it too!). Two fairground rides fill half the square whilst a mechanical nativity scene is pretty cool. Don’t forget to have a look at the beautiful lights over the canal, this is Colmar’s most famous area after all!
What to eat at The Christmas market in Colmar
I had some really enjoyable food at the markets and there are a few things you definitely should not miss. Let’s start with my absolute favourite, which I went back for a second time; Spätzle. Spätzle are soft and chunky egg noodles.The version I had was covered in a creamy cheese sauce made from the local Munster cheese and bacon. Divine! You can find this stall in the middle of the square at La Petite Venise.
If you like sauerkraut, the Christmas market in Colmar is the place to try it. Several stalls sell it and I tried one with spätzle and bacon. Not my thing, but if you like fermented cabbage then go for it. I didn’t try this myself, but I saw plenty of people eating sausages with sauerkraut so consider trying that too. Another given purchase is obviously crepes, you’re in France after all! There are plenty of stalls selling this French delicacy so you’ll struggle to not find it. Also try bretzels which are really soft pretzels with sugar coating. For more Alsatian sweet treats, try some local biscuits. There is a stall inside Koïfhus offering a large selection so you can try a few different ones. Lastly, don’t forget the mulled wine. You’re in Alsace, the wine region, so it’ll be good!
Hopefully you feel the Christmas spirit by now! I loved my winter break in Colmar and really enjoyed wandering around all the Christmas market sites. If you’re looking for the perfect winter weekend destination in December, then make sure you head to France and Colmar. There is plenty of festive lights, Christmas cheer and hearty food to welcome you!