Some comments on our recent trip to the Christmas markets + Paris with our 6 and 8 year old boys. We spent 20 nights and were focusing on markets we thought would be fun with kids. Our goal was to do at least one cultural attraction or tour per city that might appeal to the kids in addition to the markets. Totally opposite of many people's advice to pick cities you want to visit and the markets are a bonus -- we picked markets that sounded good for kids and the cities were a bonus. We didn't plan on doing a lot of shopping at the markets as we were saving that for Seiffen.
Colmar (4 nights) -- a charming town and a great choice for a home base for us. We loved at the lights and decorations everywhere. The markets in Colmar had the three best kids rides we saw in our travels: the galloping horses, Santa's swing/bubble machine, and a Dumbo-esque ride that featured sleighs being pulled by reindeer. We didn't find the children's market at Petite Venise to be particularly child-centric though it did have two of the above rides (horses and swing/bubbles). The markets served mulled wine in plastic cups instead of ceramic mugs. The markets were on the smaller side and weren't too far apart. We planned our day trips around wanting to be in Colmar on a Wednesday to see Santa and the school children caroling on the canal. This turned out to be stressful due to a lack of information about the where exactly the caroling would happen on the canal, a delayed start, and an extremely aggressive large crowd of people wanting to see. Our cultural activity for Colmar was a trip to the Bartholdi museum but it was a bit boring for us. On a whim, we decided to join one of the little boat tours that runs along the canal -- it was surprisingly delightful.
Strasbourg (day trip) -- the markets were bigger here and had a more hectic feel than in Colmar. Not much for the kids beyond carousels. Our cultural activity was going in the cathedral to look at the clock. We were at the Strasbourg markets the day before the shootings -- we contemplated shuffling the days around due to jet lag but are so incredibly thankful that we kept to the original schedule and were not there the following day.
Basel (day trip) -- THIS WAS ONE OF THE BEST DAYS OF MY LIFE!! We went to the Paper Museum and made paper, printed, did type setting, and made mottled paper. Our kids loved all the hands on activities but weren't interested in looking at any equipment if they weren't allowed to use it. Then we went to the children's Fairy Tale Christmas market (it's part of the market at Munsterplatz). It was incredible! There were so many amazing hands on activities for kids. You have to convert your Swiss Francs or Euros 1:1 into "fairy tale money" in order to do the activities (they will let you convert back if you have extra left over). There is a little wooden booth outside but adjacent to the Fairy Tale market where you have to get the fairy tale money. Our boys worked with the blacksmiths (who were amazing!) and it is mind blowing to watch your kids hammering hot iron into candle sticks and heart pendants. There were lots of other cool activities -- you could use power tools to make a functional (as opposed to decorative) nutcracker, wood burn your own designs onto a sword or shield, cook campfire bread on a stick on an open fire, decorate cookies, etc. There was a little train zipping through the heart of the fairy tale market with the conductor yelling "whoo! whoo!" as it zipped right across the walkways of the market. It all felt pretty magical. We strolled over to the market at Barfusserplatz and the atmosphere was quite jolly. People were happy and there were animatronic moose heads singing (in Swiss German?) and FONDUE DOGS!!!!! (hollowed out half baguettes filled with fondue!!!) Everyone we met at the museum & markets spoke many languages including English. FYI, the last train back to Colmar leaves before the markets close!