Christmas market next to Strasbourg Cathedral
The cinnamon smell of mulled wine wafting through the lovely Christmas market that surrounds the imposing cathedral in Strasbourg reminded me that the Alsace region has spent several periods of its history as part of neighbouring Germany. And also that Christmas markets are a tradition which originated in that country and other Nordic countries, yet it is perhaps in the city of Strasbourg that this tradition reaches the peak of its expression. I realised this as I strolled through the most crowded of its Christmas markets, the one by the Cathedral, where – in addition to the charming wooden huts offering crafts, Christmas products and local delicacies – I was surprised by the Christmas-decoration efforts made by many of the shops, restaurants and bars in the area.
Place de la Cathédrale
Large Christmas tree on Place Kleber in Strasbourg
As I wandered through other Christmas markets in Strasbourg, I realised that, although I have visited such markets in various countries, I cannot remember ever having seen such a big Christmas tree as the one on Place Kleber in Strasbourg, the only exception being New York City. It is brought from the forests of the Vosges and they told me it’s the biggest natural Christmas tree erected in all of Europe. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I can say it’s a very impressive tree that towers alongside a Christmas market devoted to social organisations, with a crowded skating rink adding to the Christmassy atmosphere so characteristic of this region.
Strasbourg tourist office
Place Kléber, Strasbourg
Museum of Decorative Arts in the Palais Rohan in Strasbourg
Despite being ruled by the Germans for various centuries of its long history, Strasbourg still acquired a luxurious, French-style palace, which provided perfectly fitting accommodations for King Louis XV and Napoleon. It was built in the 18th century opposite the cathedral. My visit to the Palais Rohan took me not only to the luxurious royal apartments, but also to the interesting Museum of Decorative Arts. The works that stood out for me were the large 14th-century piece representing a rooster that was once part of the original astronomical clock of Strasbourg Cathedral, and a very interesting collection of 19th-century toys.
Museum of Decorative Arts
2 Place du Château, Strasbourg
Mulhouse Christmas market
Although not as famous as other Christmas markets in Alsace, such as the ones in Strasbourg or Colmar, I assure you the one in Mulhouse is particularly lovely. This sweet little Christmas market, mainly visited by the locals and with hardly any tourists, sets up in Place de la Réunion, the town’s main square where the major monuments are to be found, such as the Protestant Church of Saint Stephen and the building that used to house the town hall, with its striking Renaissance facade. The setting formed by these historic buildings, together with a large white Ferris wheel and the market’s little wooden huts, all splendidly decorated and lit by spectacular holiday lights by night, made the Mulhouse Christmas market one of my favourite spots in Alsace.
Place de la Réunion, Mulhouse
Museum of Printed Textiles in Mulhouse
Can you imagine a museum where the museum shop is one of its greatest attractions? That is what I found when I visited the Museum of Printed Textiles, which reflects the tradition of textile production in Mulhouse since the mid-18th century, with up to 150 factories in the city at the height of production. In this museum, you can see numerous examples of all kinds of garments and fabrics designed and manufactured in Mulhouse and other places across the world. The staff told me that the Spanish tourists who visit here love the great variety of designs in the fabric products available for purchase in the shop. This is not surprising when you discover that this museum houses over six million designs produced by the Mulhouse manufacturers of the past.
Museum of Printed Textiles
14 Rue Jean Jacques Henner, Mulhouse
Ecomuseum of Alsace in Mulhouse
I have always liked the “living museums” you tend to find in northern Europe, and it was a great surprise that, in Mulhouse, I was able to visit the largest museum of this kind in France. The Ecomuseum reflects the local area, presenting almost 70 original houses and other buildings from various locations in the region of Alsace, which were transported to Ungersheim, near Mulhouse. During my visit, I was able to see various artisans working at their crafts, giving a clear idea of what life was like in an Alsatian village in the early 20th century.
Ecomuseum of Alsace
Chemin du Grosswald, Ungersheim