Strasbourg Day Trip: Your Guide to the Capital of Christmas
By Alex Aviza
France knows how to celebrate the holiday season. Paris boasts lovely decorations and Christmas markets each year. Strasbourg is situated in the Alsace region of France right next to the German border. It is one of the largest cities in France, with a rich historic past and vibrant student scene today. Strasbourg is also home to the oldest Christmas markets in the world, dating back to 1570. Francophiles from all over the world visit each year. Strasbourg is a great city for a day or weekend trip from Paris, especially during the holiday season. Here is your guide for taking on the Capital of Christmas, as it is fondly referred to.
Transportation (Getting to/from Paris)
The distance from Paris to Strasbourg is about a two-hour train ride on the TGV (very fast train). This option is very straightforward for a day trip, as it directly takes you from Paris l’Est train station to Strasbourg Gare. There are also bus options, via OuiBus and Flixbus, but it may take longer. Once in Strasbourg, the tram is the simplest way to get around the city. For safety reasons, the tram does not actually stop anywhere on the main island of the city, but it does stop right before and after. Strasbourg is very walkable, and getting to the center is quite easy. Taxis and Uber are readily available options as well. If you want to stay for the weekend, it is worthwhile to book a hotel or AirBnb in advance, as they fill up quickly during the season.
The Christmas Markets
The “Marchés de Noël,” or Christmas markets, are set up all over the city from mid-morning until 9 at night. Each local will be able to tell you what their favorite market is because each one has a definitive feel that differs from the last. By going to several, you will truly get a local, Alsacien experience. The market at Place Broglie is a personal go-to for food. There is no shortage of classic baked goods like gingerbread and small Christmas cakes, as well as authentic local cuisine to try, such as sausage et tarte flambées (flatbreads with meat and cheese).
Beyond the (incredible!) food, there are also local vendors showcasing various holiday-themed decorations and ornaments. Their trinkets make for great, local holiday gifts. The most well-known market is located in the center of the city, right next to the Strasbourg Cathedral. The impressive architecture is unlike anything in Paris, which makes this day trip such a unique experience. As it gets darker, the city lights up. The most famous and intricately decorated street is Rue des Orfèvres. Every corner is illuminated and absolutely spectacular.
Strasbourg is much more casual than Paris, so the most important thing is to bundle up and enjoy some vin chaud under the lights!