Do you like the holiday season, Christmas markets, Xmas shopping, pretty lights, festive decorations, road trips, castle hotels and delicious French food in some of the most beautiful fairytale villages of Europe? Then I've got you covered with this blog! And if you love Christmas as much as I do, then you must have been looking for Christmas markets from end of November already as well! I always try to extend this festive season with its pretty lights, gifts, good food and holiday cheer as long as possible.
That's also why I'm quite annoyed that most Christmas markets and decorations in my homeland the Netherlands start so late in the season and only last 1 or 2 weeks up to Christmas itself. Such a short time to enjoy the festive cheer, drink mulled wine and do some really authentic Xmas shopping.
Therefore this year I decided to start early by looking up some Christmas markets abroad. And what place better for this than THE Christmas Capital Strasbourg, with the oldest Christmas market of Europe, dating back to 1570! The markets and decorations here start already on the 22nd of November and consist of 11 different markets spread out over several squares with 300 chalets, that even stay until the end of the year!
I went there 2 weeks ago on an ultimate girls road trip with 3 of my favourite business ladies from the Netherlands; Remke from Bold-sl.nl, Lieke from LittleWanderBook.com and Karine from TheDigitalistas.com.
We drove there in style in a Peugeot 508 SW, a classy station wagon with extra space for our Christmas presents. Even though it’s easy to fly directly to Strasbourg, the distance from The Hague is just 600 kms and about a 6 hour drive without traffic jams.
Besides the fact that a girls road trip is super fun and I love exploring France in the comfortable and stylish cars of Peugeot, this way we had extra space for all our excess luggage. And of course now we could go all out on our gourmet and Xmas shopping spree, as this region has so much to offer in delicious wines, good food, authentic craftmanship and delicacies.
We also wanted to see more of the cute towns below Strasbourg in the Alsace region, known for their fairytale settings and extensive Christmas decorations from end of November.
You can follow our exact route and see all our favourite stops on this custom Google Map:
Although I had tested several Peugeot models already, as you could have read in my previous road trip blogs here, here and here, the Peugeot 508 SW was new for me, and proved perfect for a long distance drive with 4 girls.
As the successor of the 508, the 508 SW still has the stylish low and dynamic silhouette, but with extra storage space and a few upgrades.
As you can see the car looks elegant, but is also quite spacious and comfortable with the newest signature i-Cockpit®. It drives smoothly and has many luxurious functions, focused on efficiency, safety and ultimate comfort, such as Night Vision, adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go function, Lane Positioning, Full Park Assist among others.
With Full LED headlights, adaptive LED tail lights, impressive grille and dynamic shape this car looks stylish from the outside, but the leather interior is impressive as well.
And with its panoramic roof, premium FOCAL® hifi-sound system, Connect 3D Navigation with TomTom® Traffic, 4 USB charging portals, and spacious backseats this car was enjoyable for everyone, but the well fitted ergonomic front seats with 5 multipoint massage programs definitely took the cake, and made driving an extra pleasure! Find out more on the Peugeot website.
Chateau de l'Ile Hotel, Restaurant & Spa
If you go to Strasbourg a stay at the classy 5 star castle hotel Chateau de l'Ile should not be missed! This 19th century chateau with its half-timbered style and flowery balconies represents the Alsatian architecture so well.
Quietly located in a 4 hectares nature park in Strasbourg Ostwald, just a 15 minutes’ drive from the city center. Besides the stunning building itself with 62 uniquely decorated rooms (mine had a spacious rooftop terrace), it has an extensive Spa, 2 restaurants to choose from, serving excellent food, and plenty of free parking space.
Get an impression through this gallery, don't forget to slide:
Find out more and book your stay directly: Chateau de l'Ile website.
Rich with culture, gastronomy and history, this city has a multitude of heritage sites, which got the entire town center listed as a UNESCO Site.
Unfortunately we didn’t have a lot of time to explore Strasbourg, but I can recommend the following activities here:
Do a boat tour with Batorama.com.
Go to the panoramic terrace of the Vauban Dam in Petite France to get a nice view over the covered bridges, the canals and the Cathedral.
Climb the Cathedral to get a great view of the city from the viewing platform.
The whole Petite France district is stunning with its photogenic Alsatian buildings and restaurants like these:
The Christmas Market of Strasbourg has often been named one of the most beautiful in Europe, and actually spreads out into many streets and squares of the city center. The giant fir tree in Place Kleber is also renowned and there are several activities and concerts organized here throughout the holiday season.
The most interesting Christmas Markets are located at:
Kleber square, with the big decorated fir tree and ice rink,
Petite France (place Benjamin-Zix and place des Meuniers for local producers),
In front of Rohan Palace for gastronomy,
And of course the big market around Place de la Cathedral.
Be aware that is gets quite busy this time of year, so if you want to take pictures, like we did, it can be quite a challenge. Other photogenic spots where you can try your luck are:
Rue des Orfèvres, a very nicely decorated street,
and Rue du Vieux marché aux poisons, for the sign: ‘Strasbourg Capitale de Noël'
Besides Strasbourg I really enjoyed the smaller towns in the Alsace region, like:
This historic village, less than an hours’ drive from Strasbourg is one of my favourites of this trip, and it was obvious why Kaysersberg holds the label ‘City of Character’. It’s surrounded by mountains, vineyards and nature, since it’s located in the Parc naturel régional des Ballons des Vosges.
With its ancient castle, cute cobble stone streets, quaint bridges and combination of colorful and traditional half-timbered houses, this place is the epitome of a fairytale village, especially this time of year with all the fairy lights and decorations.
Right now it's even more stunning at night, all illuminated, since the residents of Kaysersberg take Christmas decorating seriously! The Christmas market here is more cozy and intimate with old Advent traditions and authentic gifts, but do note that it’s only open in the weekends from 29 November until the 23rd of December.
For high quality food in an authentic atmosphere we can highly recommend restaurant Art is Show, see for yourself:
Another fairytale village nearby is Riquewihr, and you will immediately see upon arrival why this Medieval place is listed as one of the most beautiful of France.
With its quaint and colorful houses, churches, magical décor, stunning setting amidst the vineyards, and surrounded by ancient ramparts it must be gorgeous any time a of year. But during Advent it’s even more enchanting with the decorations, lights and delicious food all around.
Even though the main street is flooded with people this time of year, the side streets are still quiet and perfect for those Instagrammable pics. And with a rich history, 2 city walls and location along the Alsatian wine route, this village is certainly worth coming back for!
If you’re looking for a traditional restaurant serving delicious Alsatian dishes like a choucroute verte, or just a simple fillet de boeuf, I would recommend Le Manala:
The Christmas market in Riquewihr is open every day from 30 November until the 22nd of December.
This highly photogenic town must be one of the most Instagrammable in France. In fact that’s also how we found it, as the colorful half-timbered houses are well photographed and represented on social media.
Worth a visit both in summer, as during Christmas time, because it’s also super quaint, atmospheric and filled with heritage, as you can see in this gallery:
The whole town center is pedestrian area and combines quaint squares, a multitude of cute shops, authentic restaurants, canals, architectural treasures and impressive buildings dating from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.
Wandering around Colmar is a true pleasure and I loved getting lost in the small alleys. Just make sure not to miss the stunning Petite Venise area for the photogenic canals!
Christmas markets in Colmar are spread out over 6 squares and open from 22 November until 29 December.
Chateau d’Isenbourg Hotel, Restaurant & Spa
If you visit the Colmar area and want to stay in style I would recommend the 5 star hotel Chateau d'Isenbourg! Quietly located in Rouffach, a 25 minutes’ drive from Colmar in a gorgeous setting amidst the vineyards.
Situated along the Alsatian wine trail this historic hotel offers a stunning panoramic view over the town, the Vosges area, Rhine Plain and the Black Forest in the distance.
All of the 41 rooms are classy, each uniquely decorated, and I especially fell in love with my princess room with impressive ceiling painting and magnificent views over the Chateau’s own vineyards.
The building itself is stunning with ample parking spaces, the staff’s welcome was super friendly and warm, the dinner in their vaulted 16th century restaurant room with Louis XIII décor was impressive. The breakfast room and spacious outdoor terrace was fabulous, and the Spa was perfect to end an amazing, but intense trip. It provided everything we needed to relax and wind down before our drive home.
Get an impression through this gallery, and don't forget to slide:
Find out more and book your stay directly: Chateau Hotel d'Isenbourg website.
We loved the photogenic character and quaint atmosphere of the Alsace region! And the magical decorations, authentic shops and abundance of Christmas markets make this one of the best Christmas shopping destinations of Europe in my opinion!
But I’m certainly coming back in spring for the flowery decorations in these fairytale villages, and to follow the Alsatian wine route in this most eastern region of France.
To plan your own visit or road trip to this beautiful region you can go to Visit.Alsace to find out more. And go to the websites of my 3 road trip partners and France.fr to get even more inspired.
Do let me know here or via social media if you're planning to go there as well and have any more questions! Always happy to help:)