Carnet de Voyage: Festive Wonderland in Alsace (Part I)

Carnet de Voyage: Festive Wonderland in Alsace (Part I)

Travel notes from the real France. Carnet de Voyage is a weekly personal travel story in France sent in by readers. If you’d like to write a story for Carnet de Voyage, head here for details on how to submit.

Driving through the gated entrance of Camping de Strasbourg in Alsace, my partner and I breathed a collective sigh of relief. After a few days of driving from South-West England and crossing the waters via the Eurotunnel, we were overjoyed to have finally arrived in Strasbourg. The prospect of evenings free from driving was a welcomed change – and it also meant we could both indulge in a guilt-free glass (or two) of wine. 

Not only did this campsite offer exceptional facilities in a picturesque location surrounded by trees, but it also provided us with a comforting sense of security. This was especially important as we would be leaving our beloved cat in the van while we venture out into the city centre. 

We arrived a day earlier before the official start of the Christmas markets, and we couldn’t resist going into the heart of Strasbourg to get our bearings. Camping de Strasbourg is just a short 10-minute walk from the nearest tram station, offering easy access to the city, thus rendering it the perfect basecamp for the weekend. 

As we strolled through the pedestrianised streets of Strasbourg, we stumbled upon a gem. l’Alsace a Boire, a cosy wine shop offering delightful Alsatian wines and beers, paired with bretzels (pretzels) served with a variety of mouthwatering dips and accompaniments such as cheese and charcuterie boards. We indulged in Gewürztraminer followed by a glass of Pinot Gris and a Crémant d’Alsace, guided by a friendly and knowledgeable waitress who shared her expertise with passion. 

Tilly enjoying the ride © Sarrah Turner

Whispers of Strasbourg’s renowned Christmas Markets reached our ears – from the waitress and some other locals – so we eagerly returned the next day, ready to immerse ourselves in the festive wonderland. 

Stepping off the tram, we immediately followed the crowd leading us to the beautiful display of twinkling lights in Place Kléber. – home to Strasbourg’s grand Christmas tree. It felt like stepping into a magical (albeit cramped) snow globe! Rows of wooden stalls sold various knick-knacks, sweets, gifts, and delicious smelling snacks. Dozens of families were dispersed throughout, looking and pointing, faces filled with smiles and laughter. 

Amidst the joyful chaos, we found solace on a perch just in front of the majestic towering tree in the middle of the square. A cup of vin chaud in hand, we savoured the festive ambiance and took in the mesmerising atmosphere, filled with childlike excitement. 

Like stepping into a life-size Christmas snow-globe © Sarrah Turner

As we ventured further into the Christmas market, our senses were treated to an array of enticing aromas. Grumbeerekiechle, a mouthwatering grated potato pancake, tickled our taste buds, and Choucroute Garnie tempted us with its hearty flavours. It unfortunately left us feeling a bit disappointed due to being served unexpectedly cold. 

We had a new mission: find something warm to eat. That’s when the delicious smell of currywursts and herbed potatoes caught our attention. Without hesitation, we indulged in this delightful dish that not only warmed our stomachs but also offered a much-needed break from all the walking. 

A moment of calm in the Village de l’Avent © Sarrah Turner

While every corner of Strasbourg was draped in a festive symphony, we also craved moments of tranquillity. That’s when we stumbled upon Le Village de l’Avent at Louise Wisse Square. This hidden gem proved to be a family-friendly haven, with workshops, a stage, and a welcoming atmosphere. We took a break from the hustle and bustle, sipping on vin chaud and browsing through stalls filled with unique Christmas gifts for our loved ones (and also ourselves). It was the perfect place to immerse in the festive spirit while having a more intimate and relaxed experience. 

Later in the evening, we were captivated by the stunning gothic architecture of Eglise Protestante Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune. From ancient cloisters dating back to the 11th century to awe-inspiring frescoes and a magnificent organ, the church offered a serene intermission for reflection and awe. It was a moment of quiet contemplation amidst the vibrant energy of Strasbourg, reminding us to appreciate the rich history and cultural heritage of the places we explore. 

Read our other Carnet de Voyage entries here.

Lead photo credit : The huge Christmas tree in Strasbourg © Sarrah Turner

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A recent BA Graphic Design graduate from Falmouth University, Sarrah is a travel writer and editorial assistant at France Media Group. Keen to give everything a try, she is a big believer in “you learn something new every day.” From designing to marketing and writing, her interests and curiosity are constantly evolving.

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