Can’t decide between bratwurst or saucisson? Find the best of both worlds in Strasbourg, a hidden gem bordering two of Europe’s finest holiday destinations. Sitting just inside the French border with Germany, the city’s fairy-tale houses and 11th-century cathedral make an idyllic backdrop for a Christmas market. However, there’s far more to the Grand Est capital than just the festive season. Home to the second largest student population in France, the city also has its finger firmly on the pulse of modern culture, the evidence of which can been seen by the fantastic annual events held in Strasbourg.
Autumn – Strasbourg European Fantastic Film Festival and Musica
In September, take a trip to the Strasbourg European Fantastic Film Festival, which is truly fantastic in both senses of the word. Beginning each year with France’s largest zombie walk, this celebration of all things spooky screens horror, thriller and science fiction films, showcasing both genre classics and modern greats.
If scary movies have you hiding behind the sofa though, check out the Festival Musica, which runs from late September until early October each year. The city’s magical concert halls give a platform to composers of contemporary music from across the world, captivating audiences night after night.
Winter – Christkindelsmärik: Strasbourg Christmas Market
Founded in 1570, the world-famous Christkindelsmärik is the oldest Christmas market in France, and greatly influenced by its Alsatian heritage. It all takes place beneath the magnificent Strasbourg Cathedral, which took over 400 years to construct and was the world’s tallest building for the following two centuries. No wonder it was described by Victor Hugo as a “gigantic and delicate marvel.”
Prepare to be amazed by concerts, giant Christmas trees, ice skating and delicious aromas of cinnamon, gingerbread and mulled wine from just about every street corner. If you only visit one Christmas market this winter, we highly recommend this one.
Spring – Carnaval de Strasbourg and Nuit des Musées
The Carnaval de Strasbourg takes place every spring, and is one of the most hotly-anticipated events of the year for locals. According to tradition, a huge procession through the city centre starts at exactly 14:11. For the rest of the afternoon, the streets are filled with confetti and music as colourful floats, stilt walkers, costumed performers and giant puppets go by.
If the Carnaval’s quirkier aspects leave you wanting to learn more about the city’s history, be sure to take advantage of Nuit des Musées (Museum Night). For one night only each May, all of Strasbourg’s museums allow visitors in for free until the early hours. Special light installations and family activities make this a night you won’t forget.
Summer – L’Ill aux Lumières and Festival des Artefacts
Throughout July, the city lights up in spectacular fashion for the annual “L’Ill aux Lumières”. Stroll the streets and watch as the opulent architecture of notable Strasbourg attractions is transformed with incredible light shows set to music.
If it’s live music that tickles your fancy, kick off the season in style with the Festival des Artefacts. It’s been showcasing the best of upcoming rock, hip hop and pop talent every summer for the last 20 years, regularly boasting line-ups that put the major festivals to shame.
With all of these amazing events taking place throughout the year, you’ll never be at a loss for things to do in Strasbourg, whatever the season. For further inspiration, check out our guide to France.