One of my favorite trips of all time was to see the European Christmas Markets. I grew up hearing about them, but I never saw them in person! My family is from the Alsace region of France and the towns Colmar and Strasbourg are known as two of the best Christmas Markets in all of Europe. I have spent years telling myself that I had to go and I finally did and let me tell you, if I could recommend one travel tip to you, it is to go to the Christmas Markets!
When we decided to go, we knew we wanted to visit Colmar and France, but we also wanted to visit as many as possible. So we decided to tackle 7 countries in just less than two weeks. Sound crazy? It probably was, but we had the absolute best time traveling from country to country seeing all the Christmas decorations and markets!
Zurich was not high on our list and, in my opinion, there are many better cities in Switzerland than Zurich, but we flew into Zurich because of the killer flight deals! Tickets were around $500 per person out of JFK and 35,000 miles. When I fly to Europe, I rarely ever take a direct trip from Atlanta because I can save 50% or more on flights if I book from a different city. I wrote a blog post about that here.
We loved walking through the city during the day. It was very overcast, but it was still so pretty. The first thing I noticed is that most restaurants have outdoor seating open with blankets even though it was very cold. I noticed this all over Europe and I think it is the coolest thing ever! We stayed at a very cute boutique hotel right by everything. There are so many to choose from and I almost always use Booking.com to book hotel rooms. I find that I get the best prices and the best properties with this site. They also give you good deals after you book a certain number of nights. You can find a list of hotels in this area here.
Zurich’s Christmas Market was our first one and it surprised me. I actually really loved it and recommend it to others! It is a great starting starting point! Do note that Switzerland is very, very expensive. Our most expensive (and least favorite) meals were in Zurich.
We left Zurich and took a train north to Colmar, France. I love this little town so much and it reminded me of being there with my family when I was younger. Quick side note – my grandmother’s mother was born in Alsace when it was a German territory and my grandfather (grandmother’s husband) was born in Alsace after it became a French territory. I think that is pretty neat.
If you are looking for a town that feels like it is right out of a story book, looks like a Hallmark Christmas movie, or looks like a real life gingerbread house town, Colmar is your city. It looks just like the little town in Beauty and the Beast. It is literally everything I could ask for to get me in the Christmas spirit. Every single building, window, street, etc. is decorated perfectly. As you can see from the photos, this place is a dream! Make sure this is on your list for sure!!!
After we visited Colmar, we took the train north for about 25 minutes and stopped in Strasbourg. Strasbourg, France is know as the Capital de Noël (The Capital of Christmas) and has been holding “Christkindelsmärik” around the area of the Cathedral since around 1570 making it one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe. It is also one of the most famous Christmas Markets in Europe, bringing over 2 million visitors a year during the 38 days time frame. Security is very, very tight. They check your bags and baggage when you cross over the river into the older part of town where all the Christmas Markets are located. And, yes, I said “markets” as there are over 10 around the city and over 300 stalls! It’s HUGE!
Strasbourg is very near and dear to my heart because of my family roots, but this place, along with Colmar, is an absolute must on the Christmas Market route! Every corner will take your breath away. When we turned the corner and saw the Cathédral Notre-Dame I had tears fill my eyes for the 3rd time on this trip. I was so overwhelmed with its beauty with all the holiday decor surround it. This picture does it no justice!
Make sure to visit the square with the huge Christmas tree! You can even ice skate near this area as well. I could not find a good picture of the tree in my photos, so sharing with you one from one of my favorite bloggers, @heleneinbetween!
As there are over 300 stalls all over the city, you will have no problem finding souvenirs and all kinds of Christmas goodies. Make sure to drink the mulled wine and grab a souvenir cup!
Paris is my favorite city in the world. I love it so much and I am sure you will see blog posts all over my site for years to come. This trip was a little bit different because we visited right in the middle of the “Yellow Vests” protests as they were getting very large.
Paris does have several Christmas markets around town, but the one I found a little fascinating was the La Magie de Noël (The Magic of Christmas) in Tuileries Garden next to the Louvre. It is said to be a smaller version of the one that used to line the Champs-Élysées, once the largest and most famous Marché de Noël in Paris before a dispute between its owner and the Mayor of Paris shut it down.
What is so fun and different about this Christmas Market is that it is like a carnival, too! You will find lots of French treats and goodies as well as mulled wine of course, but you will also see carnival rides, carnival games, and an ice skating rink.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague surprised me. I had never been before and was hesitant to add it to our trip, but I always heard great things about this city, so we went for it and, oh my gosh, I am so glad we did. This city is so cute and the people are so friendly. And one of the best parts? It is CHEAP to travel, stay, and eat here.
The biggest market is held in Old Town Square and is one of the prettiest parts of the city. Make sure to go to the top of the tower to look down into the square. It is an incredible view!
The stalls are similar to what you see in other cities, but they are all so great. I got the cutest hand carved magnet from one of the stalls and it is on my refrigerator will all the others!
One thing I distinctly remember about the Christmas Market in Munich is that we were desperately searching for one of those massive pretzels to take a picture with, but we could not find one! I thought it was so crazy!
The big Munich Christmas Market surround the large cathedral and the square. I found some delicious apple cider here as I was wanting a little change from all the mulled wine. Trying to figure out what all the German signs said at the stalls was quite the challenge and quite hilarious.
Oh, Innsbruck, you beautiful, beautiful city. You can’t get much better than a really cute Christmas Market with the Austrian Alps in the background. We LOVED this city, too. It was our last Christmas Market stop on our journey and it did not disappoint. We all wanted to stay many more days.
The main street ends with a glorious Christmas Tree in the center and of course, the beautiful mountains are right behind it!
We took the trip up to the top and as you can imagine, the views were insane. Half way up there was a little tiny Christmas market to stop and get a few gifts and, of course, mulled wine.