A charming city on the western banks of the Rhine River, Strasbourg’s strategic location on the Franco-German border has made it a nexus of culture and a highly-sought territory for much of its history. First inhabited by humans in the Neolithic era, and settled around 1300 B.C.E, it’s been ruled by Celts, Romans, Attila the Hun, the Holy Roman Empire, and annexed twice by Germany in its time, before returning to the French.
One of the few French cities surrounded by water (the old city centre is set upon an island), Strasbourg is where Gutenberg first invented the printing press, is home to one of the largest and most impressive Christmas markets in all of Europe; and is the perfect place to explore the rich flavours of Alsatian cuisine.
Exploring foreign culture is not only about sightseeing and trying typical food – but also about dipping into life of the locals a bit. And what’s the best way to get acquainted with it? Visiting places only the native residents know about – markets, for example.
I know it’s already June know and no one wants to talk about cold months now, but let’s begin with the most famous one over there…
There’s no place like Strasbourg at Christmas. With its 300 stalls spread out over the city centre, Strasbourg’s Christmas market is one of the oldest in Europe, harking back to 1570. Strasbourg enriches the long tradition of Christmas in Alsace and in the market you’ll find craft objects, regional produce and typical Alsatian Christmas decorations, within a warm and friendly atmosphere. The best-known markets take place in the Cathedral square, the more intimate ‘Flavours of Alsace’ foodie stalls in Place des Meuniers, and the charming vendors around the gigantic Christmas tree in Place Kléber.
And what about the rest of the year? Offering food, antiquities or just certain types of products, there’s always something to find almost every day of the the week. In my opinion it’s the best way to start a day. When you already had breakfast, you can lose yourself between racks full of poppycocks. And when you’re starving? Then you have unique chance to try all the amazing local specialties waiting on the sideboards just for you.
Marché de l’Esplanade
A typical French market with a wide range of vendors, taking place on Rue de Boston on Monday and Tuesday mornings. Locals flock to the stalls to get their weekly supplies, making it a great spot to people-watch and get a glimpse into every life in Strasbourg.
The Neudorf market on Tuesday and Saturday mornings is one of the main markets in Strasbourg. It is part open-air and part covered, with artisan crafts, baked goods, fishmongers, charcuterie, cheesemongers and several fresh produce stalls. You’ll also find Italian and Asian specialities.
A cute tiny market a few steps from the cathedral. Local florists showcase their beautiful bouquets and blooms du jour on Tuesdays and Wednesday in Rue des Grandes Arcades. Under threat of extinction, the Marché aux Fleurs has somehow managed to keep going.
On the Rue des Hallebardes and on Place Kléber on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, an open-air book market beckons. It’s a grouping of about ten bouquinistes, enough to provide a couple of hours of entertaining treasure hunting among books of every genre, age and language. You may also come across stamps and old coins. Place Kléber is an upscale shopping pedestrian square with lovely cafés and places to eat.
A flea market of a more bric-a-brac variety takes place between place de l’Étal and Place de la Grande Boucherie at the corner of Rue de la Douane every Wednesday and Saturday from 7am to around 4pm. Here you can find small objets d’art, furniture, jewelry, kitchenalia, pretty frames, antique linen and a thousand other finds. Remember the adage – as applied to any flea market – the early bird catches the worm.
What else would you expect to find on the Place du Marché aux Poissons? A fish market, of course. Every Saturday morning, this pretty setting by the river is the place to go. The local produce here is fresh and inviting, including much more than just fish; with fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses, charcuterie and products of the ‘mountain area’ farmers near Strasbourg.
Marché des Producteurs
Every Saturday morning local farmers, artisans and organic producers meet on Rue de la Douane, adjacent to Old Customs House; offering fresh produce, cheese, honey, choucroute, homemade jams and other superb quality farm-to-table items without exorbitant price tags. There’s a reason why locals in surrounding towns drive into Strasbourg to shop at this market.
Asking what to do after that, where to go for lunch, what to see after lunch? That’s what the next article will be about :)) Have a great day!