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Paris/Alsace at Christmas

Hello fellow travelers!

Due to a cancelled trip this month that we were able to reschedule, my wife and I will be going to France for Christmas, flying into Paris! We'll be there from December 23-31. We've been to Paris one time before in 2019, so we're fine only staying a day or two there. We really want to focus our time on the Alsace region, exploring the quaint towns and Christmas markets. For those who have been before, I have a few questions. Any advice on any of the questions would be much appreciated!

1) Thoughts on a general itinerary? We were thinking potentially December 24-26 in Paris, and then December 26-30 in Alsace, and then back to Paris on December 30 before our flight the following morning on December 31.

2) Is Paris where we should be on Christmas day? I know most places won't have much to do, but I figured Paris would potentially have more to do, see, eat that day than other places. I don't know if that's the case though.

3) Should we rent a car? We've only done trains/buses before. I don't know how easy it is to drive and what the parking situation is like. I figured if we did we would rent one in Strasbourg or Colmar?

4) What are your favorite towns/places in the region you'd recommend? We don't have a set itinerary yet. I know we'll stop in Strasbourg and Colmar, but other than that we don't have anything set in stone. Some of the places that we've looked at are Eguisheim, Riquewihr, Bergheim, Kaysersberg, and Ribeauville. Also, I know that Basel, Switzerland and Freilburg, Germany are not far. Would they be worth visiting?

5) Would you stay in one town in the region as a base? I've read that a lot of people stay in Colmar to travel to surrounding cities. We pack light so changing locations isn't a huge deal, but I don't know what is preferable in that regard.

Thanks in advance for any advice!

Posted by
1 posts

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Posted by
259 posts

The Strasbourg Christmas market ends on December 26th this year and I suspect that it is the same in the rest of the region.

Posted by
26094 posts

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Posted by
19 posts

Where did you see that the Strasbourg market ends on the 26th? I’ve seen a couple of places online that said it ended on the 30th. I really hope it’s not the 26th.

Posted by
2439 posts

@Will, I am sorry to say that it is even worse than that: many Christmas markets in Alsace typically wind down or close by 24 Dec. What I just read about Strasbourg is that it stays open until 26 Dec "at the latest", but that only the stalls that wish to do so will stay open on 24-25-26 Dec.
However, Colmar is supposed to stay open until the 29th this year.
So you should really make a beeline for Alsace if you want to see the markets. Thankfully, Alsace has more to offer than just markets.

Posted by
19 posts

Oh wow, that stinks. Thanks for the info though. The only reason I hesitate to be somewhere other than Paris on Christmas Day is that I’m concerned about not being able to find anything to do or eat that day. I assumed the smaller the city, the more difficult it would be. I don’t know if that’s the case though.

Posted by
7728 posts

You are correct about Christmas Eve and day, unless you are in a hotel with a restaurant that guarantees you reservations. There could be restaurants open but you would need to reserve in advance and if in the countryside need a car. I found a country restaurant open for Christmas Day through an ad in the local newspaper one year when we were visiting family in rural Burgundy.

Posted by
19 posts

Ok thanks. I might start looking now for reservations for a place to eat on those days.

Posted by
14415 posts

Along with the markets, many local shops (in Colmar at least -- the only place I got to in Dec) have elaborate decorations in their display windows and facades. They are likely to still be there after the 25th, at least for a few days.

All the villages are worth visiting but it's hard without a car. Most of the bus lines radiate from Colmar, not so easy to get from one village to another. Schedules are set for local needs, like getting kids to school. I recommend renting a car in Strasbourg; Colmar used to have only one company, all the main companies are in Strasbourg, at least a couple right across from the train station. Then stay in one of the villages so you avoid the relatively lengthy drive in and out of Colmar every day. I stayed at a B&B in Eguisheim and loved it.

Driving in Alsace was not difficult. You need to learn the French rules of the road, especially speed limits. On rural roads they often aren't posted. Locals seem to know where the radar/cameras are but since fines are stiff, I kept to the limits and as much as possible pulled over to let other cars pass me. The roads were in good condition, but some are narrow and most don't have shoulders. My visit was in late spring and I had to watch out for cyclists, that probably won't be an issue in winter. The drive from Strasbourg to Colmar is on a free stretch of the excellent toll road.

Posted by
6743 posts

Re the buses :

Schedules are set for local needs, like getting kids to school.

And during school holidays — like from before Christmas until after the New Year — they aren’t even operating that often (since the children are not going to school).

Posted by
259 posts

Holiday and Sunday closings are much stricter in Alsace-Moselle than in the rest of France since German laws from before 1918 are still in effect there. Rules have been loosened slightly in recent years but it still shocks a lot of us when we visit from other parts of France.

Obernai is a nice place to go (about 20 minutes by TER from Strasbourg) and is lively even on Sunday due to the hordes of German tourists.

Posted by
19 posts

Thank you so much for all these very helpful replies! I think we’re currently leaning towards renting a car and staying in one location once we get to the region.

The only things we’re struggling with now are which days to be in the region and which town to stay in.

As far as towns, we’re thinking either Eguisheim or Riquewihr for their cuteness or Colmar for it’s train station in case we decide to go to Switzerland or Germany for a day. I know Chani said she’d stayed in Eguisheim and loved it, but I’d welcome any feedback on any of those places.

The other thing we’re struggling with is whether to go straight to Strasbourg the morning we land (December 24) or spend two days in Paris first before heading into Alsace. We’re already going to have to spend our last night in Paris, so in that sense it makes sense to go straight to Alsace and group our time in Paris at the end. But the downside would be if we can’t find anything to eat on Christmas in whatever little village we end up in.

So if anyone has any opinions on either of these questions I would gladly welcome them. If not, I’m very thankful for the valuable feedback I’ve already gotten!

Posted by
929 posts

There are several places in Colmar to rent a car, including Hertz, Enterprise and Europcar. I have had reservations at all three leading up to our December trip. Right now I've settled on Europcar but could switch again if I get a better price.

Posted by
14415 posts

AFAIK you ca drive into a neighboring country. The only problem would be if you wanted to drop the car there.

Posted by
993 posts

In early December 2019 we stayed in Colmar for 5 nights and also visited Eguisheim, Kaysersberg, Freiburg, Staufen and Basel on driving day trips. We then wrapped up our trip in Paris. In hindsight we should have visited a couple more Route du Vin towns in France rather than Basel but some in our group hadn't yet visited Switzerland. We enjoyed the trip (including Basel) and felt we made the right decision regarding basing in Colmar. After landing at CDG you should take the high speed train to Alsace and then return via train into central Paris. Rent a car at your base town in Alsace (easy driving). Wrap up in Paris and then take the train or cab back to CDG. If you rent a car at CDG the drive to Alsace it will take 5-6 hours each way. We got stuck having to do this because of a transportation strike that affected the trains. Cost us a visit to Strasbourg and a wine town or two. Still had a great trip!

Posted by
1017 posts

I would go with catching the train out of CDG Terminal 2 to your home base, which I will be doing at the end of November to Strasbourg. Our plan gets us into Strasbourg around 3pm, time to check in and enjoy a walk around the town & hopefully Christmas Market before heading to bed.

Posted by
6763 posts

We spent a few days in lovely Strasbourg , rented a car and then moved to one of the charming wine villages which I strongly recommend doing. The only place in Alsace we didn’t care for was Colmar.

Posted by
259 posts

Colmar is quite nice but it is a real city rather than a village, just like Mulhouse or Strasbourg.

Posted by
19 posts

Based on what I'm hearing and researching on my own, we're leaning towards taking the train to Strasbourg as soon as we land, spending the day there, renting a car and driving to whichever little town we end up being based in (probably Eguisheim or Riquewihr). Hopefully Christmas won't be too difficult to get food in one of those towns, but I can start researching it now. We'll most likely stay 5 nights and then head back to Paris for our remaining days. Thank you all for helping me navigate these decisions! I'm very excited about the trip!

Posted by
2439 posts

If you have the car, you can always drive somewhere bigger if you struggle with food options on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. I would not worry too much about it...

Posted by
402 posts

Definitely suggest the high-speed train to Strasbourg on arrival in Paris. Strasbourg in itself is lovely, and the decorations abundant. The central square has a very large Christmas tree, and the cathedral is beautiful. We always say that walking in LaPetite area of Strasbourg is like taking a walk back in time. Almost Harry Potterish looking. We love Strasbourg and have stayed there many times. It's easily walkable and very beautiful. There are car rentals at the train station and also a block or two away. We have stayed in Colmar before, and yes it's charming, but I would think you will have better luck with dinner reservations etc. in Strasbourg. Make Strasbourg your base. The small villages you mention are wonderful for a visit and can mostly be done in a day. They are small, and pretty touristy. You can also take a train from Strasbourg over to Gegenbach, Germany easily from Strasbourg. About an hour or less in travel on the train. Save Paris for last by taking the high-speed train back and spending your last few days there. Alsace is wonderful this time of year.