Alsace, France is perhaps best known for its vineyards, beautiful villages, and festive Christmas markets. If Alsace sounds familiar to you, it might be because of your high school world history lessons. Alsace-Lorraine is territory that’s historically flopped between the French and German governments, with the most recent switch being after WWII. Because of this shared heritage, German culture remains very present, especially in Alsatian food.
Strasbourg and Colmar are two of the top French destinations during the holidays, and Strasbourg is even known as “the capital of Christmas.” In both towns, you’ll find lavishly-decorated storefronts and homes, picturesque canals, and bustling Christmas markets.
I’d already been to both Strasbourg and Colmar, but I wanted to explore the smaller villages in the region. I decided on Riquewihr, Eguiseheim, and Ribeauvillé. All three of these villages were actually inspiration for the town in Beauty and the Beast, which lets you know just how quaint they are!
Getting around Alsace without a car is a little complicated, but I was able to visit all of these villages via bus, either from Séléstat or Colmar. One of the buses I took was a special Christmas shuttle, or “navette de Noël.” In the description of each village, I’ll give further details on how to get there.
*Dates vary each year, so double-check before planning.
Christmas in Alsace: 3 Fairytale Villages to Visit
Christmas Market: November 29-December 22 (weekdays 10am-6:30pm, weekends 10am-7:30pm)
How to get there: Line 106 from Colmar or Ribeauvillé. Tickets are 2,80€ one way, or 5€ round trip. In the warmer months, I might’ve actually biked from Ribeauvillé since it’s only 3 miles away, and you pass through vineyards on the Route des Vins.
What I liked about it: This was my favorite village of the three that I visited, maybe because it was the most bustling. The Christmas market was the largest, though still modestly-sized compared to those in larger towns like Colmar. I loved the hints of green from the hibernating wisteria–I can only imagine how pretty the village is in the spring when the flowers are blooming. I also was tempted by a lot of regional specialties, from macaroons (the coconut ones) to spaetzle (kind of like a German mac n cheese, often with bacon).
Christmas Market: December 7-8 and 14-15 (10am-7pm on Saturday, 10am-6pm on Sunday)
How to get there: I took the coach bus from the train station in Séléstat. With a youth discount card (carte jeune), tickets were 1,40€ one way, or 2,80€ round trip. You can buy tickets online here.
What I liked about it: This village was especially picturesque because of the hills and castle ruins in the distance. Unfortunately, the Christmas market only runs a few days each year, and I just happened to miss the last day earlier that week. Still, the village is charming and worth a stroll through. The bus from Séléstat actually goes through several lovely villages, and I wish I could’ve stopped at more. I was especially drawn to Bergheim.
Christmas Market: November 29-December 30 (closed Dec 24-26); 9am-7pm Sunday-Friday, 9am-8pm Saturdays
How to get there: I took a train from Séléstat to Colmar, then the Christmas shuttle to Eguisheim. The stop is right across the street from the train station, next to a little wooden stand. Tickets are 5€ during the week, and 8€ on weekends. You can use the ticket all day, so be sure to keep it for your return trip.
What I liked about it: I had high expectations for this village, especially since it’s known as one of the prettiest towns in France. The main square in Eguisheim also inspired that in Beauty and the Beast, so it’s supposed to especially dreamy. The village is quite quaint, but I thought the other two were equally lovely. It definitely feels much quieter and timeless as it’s nestled in the hillside though. The residential circle around the town featured colorful homes and a handful of artisan shops. The Christmas market was small, but still interesting to poke around. There definitely seemed to be more wineries here, which are a great opportunity for tastings. The gift sets were also the cutest (the box was designed like a typical colorful Alsatian house) and also not too expensive–I saw a few at 7€/bottle.
Where to Stay
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I stayed in an Airbnb in Séléstat, but it’s clear that Colmar is the city with the easiest access to these villages, thanks to the Christmas shuttles that run to all 3 locations (and more!). You can expect Airbnbs in Colmar to be a lot pricier, however, since it’s a more popular destination.
You can also try Booking.com for hotels and apartments in Colmar.
If you’re willing to brave the cold and wait around a bit for buses, exploring Alsace’s villages without a car is doable. These three spots are especially festive and quaint–if you need help getting into the Christmas cheer, villages on the Route des Vins are the place to go.
For another post on holiday travel in France, see my guide to the Festival of Lights in Lyon, France.