Joyeux Noël – A Day in Strasbourg

I’ll admit, it’s been hard this holiday season not being in Texas with family and friends.  Since we have a bit of the expat holiday blues, we are trying to make the holidays as festive as we can, and make our time together here really special. I have all the cheesy Christmas movies saved on Netflix, I bought a cute little Charlie Brown tree, and I’ve prepared one heck of a Christmas playlist.
And one thing is for certain – Europe knows how to celebrate Christmas.  Every year, in towns throughout most of Europe, there are Christmas markets with handmade wooden booths selling ornaments, decorations, and food.  We have quite a few Christmas markets on our list for this year in Germany, but Strasbourg, France, is known for putting on one of the very best.  And with it only being an hour train ride, of course we had to go check it out! Once we stepped off the train, we spent our first hour strolling around to see some of the more popular Strasbourg landmarks. Apparently one of the best ways to see Strasbourg is to take a river cruise.  There are plenty of boats available even during the winter.  Although we opted out for this trip,  we plan to be back during the summer for a warm and sunny river cruise experience!

It took us no time to fall in love with Strasbourg.  It is the perfect, quaint mix of German gingerbread style with a French flair.  You get on a train in Germany, and an hour later everyone is speaking French and wearing berets (yes, French women apparently do wear berets). The streets are lined with adorable shops that sell pastries, cookies, truffles, macarons, and all the delicious French desserts!  It looks like Germany, but feels like France.

Strasbourg is also home to Cathedral de Notre-Dame, which is one of the most impressive cathedrals in Europe.  The first version of the church was built in 1015, but later burned, and was rebuilt in the 12th century in the Gothic style that was en vogue at that time.  We walked around the outside, but unfortunately the line was longer than we wanted to wait in, and we had to get to the markets!
Once we walked around the river and cathedral, and filled our bellies with some great Alsacian food, it was Christmas market time!
The markets had beautiful, unique ornaments, decorations, and even Christmas villages that were made to look like old French maisonettes.  And of course, no Christmas market would be complete without a mug of Glühwein!
Glühwein is a spiced, mulled wine that is simmered with orange and spices and served warm.  This Christmas market staple is warm, spicy, and has been known to be pretty sneaky during cold Christmas markets, if you know what I mean.  Typically, at markets, it’s served in a cute Christmas-y mug with the name of the market, which makes for a fun souvenir.  Stay tuned – I will post my glühwein recipe later this week!
The very best part of Strasbourg at Christmas is the incredible street decorations! Every street is decorated, and most businesses and restaurants are decorated in some unique Christmas theme.  How can you be a Scrooge with teddy bears all over the buildings?
We had a wonderful time strolling the markets during the day, but the magic really begins at night when the lights all come on!  The streets became really crowded, but we didn’t even mind – it was truly magical!
We left on the train that night with bellies full of macarons and full hearts.  And we loved it so much we plan to book for a weekend next Christmas.  Joyeux Noël!

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