We joke from time to time that my heritage can’t be Canadian, I’m always cold and today is no exception. The wind is howling and knocking over the patio chairs we haven’t brought in yet, the doors upstairs are clacking in their frames and I’m doing loads of laundry after a busy weekend and bundled up knowing it’s time to start the fire, but feeling like I’d rather take a nap instead.
In ten days it’ll be winter, and our anniversary. It was this time, last year, that we found ourselves in the Alsace region of France in the city of Strasbourg for the last hurrah of the Christmas markets. I enjoyed every possible moment to have mulled wine from a little ceramic cup I bought to mark the occasion and combing every stand for something just right. If you get the chance, I highly recommend a visit. There is something about the entire city that comes alive as they embrace the season because it really is their speciality.
The region is quite different from many others in France because it switched from German to French rule many times during the wars. The food and wine, you’ll notice, are strikingly a little bit German (or is some German food a little bit French…?) and you might hear a language that’s unfamiliar when you’re visiting. Alsatian is the language of choice for many who were fed up with the changing rule of the territory and decided to carry on in the local dialect even to this day.
We arrived late and to such a warm welcome in our hotel with the lobby having mulled wine at the ready every afternoon along with spiced cookies and breads (pain épices) to snack on before heading into the cold. Trust me, you need all the warmth you can get and a few added calories so don’t forget warm mittens, a large scarf and a parka because they will get great use here.
Just barely outside of the hotel, there was a flower market selling Gui (mistletoe,) wreaths, berries and flowers as I took ideas hoping I could find something similar for my wedding bouquet when we got home. The centre of Strasbourg becomes almost entirely pedestrian and there are booths set up quite literally everywhere. From rolling pins to Christmas decor, wooden toys and jewellery and of course gauffres (waffles), crepes and roasted chestnuts. There’s something for everyone. My favourite, of course, was always stopping for the mandatory mug of mulled wine to keep warm, you can often choose between white or red wine bases and if you don’t fancy buying your ceramic cup, you can pick up a plastic one on consignment that you can pick up or drop off anywhere that sells wine. The entire city is lit up and lively with music to be enjoyed on the streets, cathedrals to visit and the stick-to-your-ribs Alsatian cuisine waiting to be discovered.
Here are a few places we enjoyed and that you might as well:
Les Trois Chevaliers – great for dinner but reserve or you might not get a table
La Corde à Linge – a great casual place for Alsatian specialities
Local beer and wine (wines of Alsace are served in glasses with green stems)
Eat a flammekueche, a local flatbread pizza with a creme fraiche base, bacon lardons, onion and cheese
Eat a Choucroute Garnie – this is a plate you must share as it’s copious. Sourkraut, sausage, potatoes, ham and the whole bit
A happy hour pint at Les BerThoM (go early or you’ll never get a seat!)
The clock inside Notre Dame de Strasbourg
The city as night falls and it becomes vibrant with light
Audioguided visit of the Cave des Hospices de Strasbourg (or ask if they’ll be doing a tasting)
The half-timbered houses and locks of la Petite France
The markets… obviously…
Have you ever been to Strasbourg at Christmas or do you have a favourite winter market you like to visit. Tell me about it below in the comments. I’m always up for a detour!