The day after Christmas we headed to Colmar, which may just be the most adorable town in France. Colmar is in the Alsace region of France near the German border and has been on our travel list for a while. When we found out that their Christmas markets were open until New Year’s, we decided that it would be a great way to finish off our holiday season!
Colmar is an absolutely gorgeous small town with its German style half-timbered houses and canals that remind you of Venice. In fact, the neighborhood on the canals is called Petite Venise and in summer you can rent boats and paddle around town! Colmar is about 3 1/2 hours from Geneva and after we settled into our hotel, we had a magical time walking around the 5 different markets all around town.
The setting was so festive with all the lights everywhere and lots of vin chaud flowing! The kids enjoyed hot chocolate, the pens with animals, the Christmas lights, and the rides. They rode a carousel and then found the highlight-life size horses that galloped around a track. There was a snow machine that blew foam snow out and Christmas carols playing…it was great! Except for the fact that we sent Jonah on his own and my husband (the overprotective one) convinced me that he was going to fall off. I had a minor panic attack for the first lap as he went around and I envisioned him falling off this high horse onto the bricks (of course this attraction would never fly in the US…no safety belts, no age limits-just parental judgement, and no soft landing aside from some pine branches strewn over the bricks!). But Jonah did great and loved it so by the second lap I was able to relax. The boys loved the horses so much that we rode them at least once every day we were there! I hope they will remember it forever, but if not I’ll be happy to show them the pictures and tell them the story.
The next morning we walked the markets again to see the town during daylight. And we also found the most delicious breakfast spot. Bagelstein had American style bagels with a French twist (fois gras bagel anyone?!). It was a super cool little cafe and very friendly staff-we may or may not have had breakfast there the next day as well. 😉
I would love to visit this town again in the summer, but truly it is gorgeous anytime!
In the afternoon, we drove along the Alsace wine route. This region is famous for its German style rieslings, gewurtzraminers, and also pinot noirs. We stopped and walked through one little village that was having its own Christmas market and then stopped at another village to do a tasting and buy a few bottles.
Colmar is only 30 minutes from Strasbourg, so we drove over and enjoyed walking around the lovely Old Town. The Christmas market in Strasbourg is very famous, but unfortunately it was already finished for the season. By this point, we had gotten our fill of Christmas markets, so it was nice to just wander around a bit. We had a delicious dinner at Hotel Rohan where we tried one of the local specialties, tarte flambee, basically a very thin crust pizza.
We were so impressed by the huge, Gothic style cathedral that was constructed from 1176 to 1439. Until 1874, it was the world’s tallest building and even today remains the sixth tallest church in the world. The building is really beautiful and you can view it from the inside as well.
On our last morning, we wanted to go ice skating and ride what was apparently the largest indoor carousel in Europe, but unfortunately neither opened until late afternoon so we decided just to head back home a bit early. We had a really great time and absolutely enjoyed this part of France. We’d love to go back sometime in the summer, there are even more things to see and do including a stork sanctuary in one of the towns on the Alsace wine trail. The region is famous for their resident storks and many of the towns build nests on the tops of the buildings for the storks. We drove by the sanctuary, which is closed in winter, and we were lucky enough to see some storks in their nests as well as in some of the nests on top of the buildings! It was a great trip, for sure.