A Very Alsatian Christmas: Day 2 – Colmar

If we had really wanted to, we could have found a second full day’s worth of things to do in Strasbourg. That would have been one or two of the museums and then maybe some more time in the Christmas markets. Thing is, we already have most of a day on our final day that we plan to do mop-up… so three nearly full days felt a bit much.

Enter my husband who did some research and came up with today’s day trip out to the small Alsatian city of Colmar. I had never heard of this place before he mentioned it to me, but after looking at some pictures I was more than convinced that this would be an excellent Christmas Market day trip.

Colmar is only half an hour away by train and, as long as you don’t have strikes like we did, the trains are pretty frequent. It is then a 10-15 minute walk from the station to the town centre… although there are signs of Christmas stuff well before you make it into town.

For one thing, the Champ de Mars (which is a more common name for a French park than I’d realised) has a path lined with green and white Christmas trees – the path leading you to Place Rapp. The trees were lovely, but Place Rapp set the scene of a lot of what is to follow.

There is no market here, but there is an ice rink, mini-roller-coaster, carousel and a carousel bar (think a small bar in the style of a carousel, which slowly spins as it plays remixes of Christmas songs). As an overall feel, if I was to have a child and take them to a Christmas market, I would go to Colmar. There is a family-friendliness here with many markets having a ride (think cars on a track or a horseriding ride) whilst also having things for the adults to enjoy other than the liberal amounts of mulled wine. There is also a proper sized Ferris wheel, which we would have gotten on if visibility has been better.

I also think that this child of mine would probably end up loving Disney films and so Colmar would be another perfect pick. I don’t think that I have been to a more picture-perfect chocolate box kind of a town when it comes to this specific Germanic style of buildings.

Yes, Colmar is in France nowadays – but Colmar and the Alsace region has swapped hands enough times over the years that it is both French and German in influence. Makes you wonder how different things could have been if the old Kingdom of Lotheringia hadn’t quickly failed.

Anyway. Old European history aside – the old town of Colmar is utterly stunning even on a grey and rainy day like we had. It’s like a magnified version of what makes the Petit France section of Strasbourg so wonderful. Colourful timber-beamed buildings that don’t quite hit right-angles alongside other building that may have a random turret or just a lot of heads on it (okay that’s one building, but it helps with the point). You can just spend a lot of time wandering around enjoying the beauty and I can only wonder how it is during a sunny spring day.

In total, there are 6 main Christmas markets in Colmar – although the Marche Gourmand near the Cathedral is more a fancy covered food court than an actual Christmas market. Still though, this was five regular markets which were all head and shoulders above pretty much anything I have seen in the UK in recent years. Even the inside artisinal art market had some really lovely things – especially the ceramics.

Food-wise the markets in Colmar had similar offerings to Strasbourg. We’re talking a lot of Alsatian food including bretzels, tarte flambé, choucroute and the smell of Munster cheese. I think I ate a bit of everything I just listed and honestly could have gone for some of the sausage with Munster cheese… but I need to save some things for Tuesday.

There were also a lot of different things on offer at each market – again each one was not a copy-paste of the other. Some had more gift things mixed with the Christmas stalls, then others would be more oriented around different kinds of decorations (like Christmas lights disguised as leaves or flowers) which I have never seen before in a market.

In terms of setting, there are two markets that really stood out thanks to the beauty for the area. You have the market in the Place de l’Ancienne Douane – which is around the old customs house. The large building itself is all patterned roof tiles and arches – the kind of building you could imagine Disney building to hide various mechanisms. The surrounding buildings compete by having their own beauty supplemented by their decorations – which caused many a pedestrian snarl as everyone tried to get the perfect picture.

The other was the market in Petite Venise. I mean, with a name like Petite Venise it doesn’t take a genius to get why it would be so beautiful. The buildings feel more like a film set built around a lovingly maintained set of canals. This is where the self-proclaimed ‘romantic hotel’ can be found and, well, they certainly got that name right.

We ended our time in Colmar with a visit to the Carousel Bar. I had my second hot apple juice of the day and my rusty French language skills continue to get the workout it desperately needs. As an idea, the carousel bar needs to be replicated as it is such fun – even if their upbeat remix of White Christmas has been stuck in my head for the remainder of the evening.

Despite the slightly patchy service, we lucked out with the train back to Strasbourg and even managed to get seats despite many people insisting on having a seat for their rucksack. Truly never seen so many people in a single carriage do this.

Anyway, dinner was back in Strasbourg and I ended up having another choucroute garnis. The burger on the menu I liked the look of was gone so I went with this second choice. Still though, for a second choice it’s still pretty great to be having sauerkraut and all the trimmings. This picture is a pot I shared with my husband… although I would have given all the sausages a go and not looked back.

Tomorrow we are hopping over the border into Germany as we do a revisit for what might be my favourite theme park in the world: Europa Park. Fingers crossed it stays dry and there isn’t too much traffic for the coach. Honestly, I cannot wait.


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