A lasting memory of these two northeastern French cities may be the dozens of intricate shop signs, the majestic swans a-swimming and the amazing outdoor Christmas decorations.
We visited Strasbourg and Colmar in late November when both cities were actively preparing for the Christmas season and we saw some of the largest, most alluring, outdoor holiday decorations we had ever seen. From flying pigs to over-sized teddy bears, each city was wonderfully decorated for the season.
Along with the intricate and amazing shop signs we captured, in many cities we had seen and taken photographs of eye catching weather vanes. In Strasbourg and Colmar so many of both shop signs and weather vanes caught our attention we wanted to share a couple of our favorites from 2018 here and we put many more in the Photo Gallery linked down further.
On a whim, we decided to explore Strasbourg, France; the capital of the Alsace region. So glad we decided to visit this attractive city which was just an hour north, by train, from where we were staying in Mulhouse.
The cobbled streets of the Grand Île and Petite France quarters are filled with charm as are the magnificent hundreds of years old timber-framed buildings. As with many cities situated near the German border, Strasbourg has been the recipient of a long tug of war between France and Germany. This outstanding city is a beautiful cross between the two cultures which is clearly demonstrated in the architecture and especially the wine and delicious cuisine.
The massive sandstone cathedral, Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg, for more than 225 years, up to 1874, was the highest building in the world. And it is still the tallest surviving structure that was entirely built during the medieval period, with much of the architecture dating back to the early 1100’s.
La Petite France
Considered one of the most photogenic areas in the city, this walk-able district of waterways and locks is beautiful. The whole area is home to many quaint old half-timbered houses dating from the 1500’s and 1600’s. As we strolled past we couldn’t stop thinking that more than a few looked top heavy and not one had a straight wall in any direction. They obviously are stable, however.
The time we spent in Strasbourg was too brief in this city with so many wonderful attractions. The Saint-Pierre le Jeune, a church that for 200 years was divided in two and used by both Protestants and Catholics. The Église Saint-Thomas, the only German style church in France and where in 1778, Mozart played the same organ that exists here today. Always an attraction for us are the museums specifically covering local history, so the Musée Historique de Strasbourg would have been interesting and the European Parliament which was available to tour but our schedule just didn’t allow for it. These and more will be on our agenda on a return visit.
Due to a few special family commitments, we were only able to schedule one Christmas market visit this year before returning to the United States. Colmar was at the top of our list and luckily their Christmas market opened early.
If you are searching for holiday spirit, the Magic of Christmas is alive and well in beguiling Colmar. We spent one night here in order to fill the few remaining spaces in our suitcases at Colmar’s coveted Christmas market. The entire town is strewn with Christmas lights and decorated like a fairy tale. There are actually five separate Christmas mini-villages with a total of 180 stalls, spread throughout the town. We found most stalls specialized in just a handful of authentic gifts and rarely duplicated by other stalls.
Visiting Colmar at this time of year, one cannot help feel festive as the Christmas magic seeps right into you. We kept peaking out our hotel room window, gazing down on this view while we anxiously waited for the market to open in the morning.
This area of Colmar is pedestrian friendly and as we wandered the colorful streets you couldn’t miss the large and striking St Martin’s Church. Église Saint-Martin is one of the older churches we have visited. It was built between 1234 and 1365 and there is archaeological evidence that another church was built on this same site dating back to 1000.
It was a challenge to get a great photo here as it was surrounded by Christmas markets, fair rides and other festivities.
We may have been overwhelmed by the magnificent Christmas displays and markets, but Colmar, like Strasbourg, invites a return visit.
We had hoped to visit the Musée Bartholdi, which celebrates the creator of the Statue of Liberty, Auguste Bartholdi, but ran out of time. While researching the town we also found numerous monuments, churches and museums that peaked our interest. Something we will see on a return visit. The outstanding half-timbered medieval buildings alone are worth a second glance. There is an area of canals known as La Petite Venise (Little Venice), that we walked through at night but would have been fun to explore in the daylight.
In general, we travel slowly and try to truly experience each place we visit. We know we aren’t going to see everything this big old world has to discover and there is always something exciting to catch our attention around the next corner or intriguing to visit at the next location but we do try to pace ourselves and truly enjoy the cities we do visit. However, this time, exciting news back home beckoned and shortened this particular visit.
We hope each of you enjoyed the holiday season.
Santé from the alsatians,
Ted and Julia