Last Updated on 7th November 2020 by Sophie Nadeau
Located around a half-hour drive away from the world-famous political city of Strasbourg, Obernai is a sleepy town filled with timber-framed houses and centred around a central market square. Home to a handful of churches and all of the history, the best time to visit Obernai is towards the end of the year, when festive events are held across the city. Here’s your ultimate Obernai Christmas market guide!
Editor’s note: Please note that, due to the ongoing health crisis, the 2020 Obernai Christmas Market is cancelled.
Home to under twelve-thousand residents, the city of Obernai is the birthplace of Sainte Odile, the patron saint of Alsace. Otherwise, some of the best things to do in the town include medieval ramparts, plenty of nearby vineyards (Obernai lies along the Alsace wine route), and, of course, the annual Christmas market. In 2019, there are four Christmas markets, dotted across the city.
2020 Christmas market opening times: cancelled
Christmas Markets to visit at Obernai
Closest to the Remparts car parking space (i.e. where the medieval walls have been partially reconstructed), Place Nehrer features a miniature model village in the centre of the square and has a handful of stalls. Highlights of this festive event include artisanal candles, hats and handmade accessories, wooden decorations and carvings, and vin chaud (check out a mulled wine recipe you can make at home here).
Place du Marché
Situated in the very heart of Obernai and surrounded by a maze of pedestrian streets, which themselves are filled with many decorated houses which are typical of the Alsace region (i.e. think shuttered timber-framed houses decorated with Teddy Bears and Father Christmases), the Place du Marché is literally translated into English as ‘Market Place’.
In the past, this is where commercial trade in Obernai would have been focused. Today, the lively square remains a central focus of town life, with many of Obernai’s most frequented bars, stores, and restaurants, being located just steps away.
The Christmas market itself features a Jules Verne Carousel, as well as central decorative piece featuring a miniature Christmas village. Some of the must-visit stalls in this part of the market include a vin chaud (mulled wine) stall, a cermaic store, many artisanal Christmas decorations, a sweet stall selling traditional hard boiled sweets, and a hot chestnut stall.
Autour de Beffroi
Directly across the street from the Place du Marché, the ‘around the belfry’ Christmas Market is slightly smaller than that of Place du Marché but hosts a wealth of regional and aristanal gifts and gourmet products, as well as those from further afield in France.
We particularly enjoyed visiting ‘Tapenades et antipasti Lansaque’ and even ended up purchasing an olive tapenade to share later! Other highlights of stalls at this gourmet Bavarian-style market include a honey stand and a cheese stand vending locally sourced dairy products.
Place de l’Etoile: place des enfants
The final of the Obernai Christmas markets is less than a ten-minute walk away from that which is at Place Nehrer and is family-focused in style. After all, this Alsatian market features the likes of a Jules Verne Carousel, a Christmas train ride, and an ‘office and post box’ for Father Christmas.
Things to know before visiting Obernai
If you’re looking to see Obernai for the first time, then I highly recommend staying overnight so as to sample a handful of restaurants as well as get a feel for the town on a more local level. We personally stayed at Hôtel de la Diligence (see the full details here), which is well-located in the heart of the city and even offers some rooms overlooking the central market square.
When it comes to foodie options, while there are some ‘tourist trap’ style restaurants, the majority of food you’ll find will be traditional Alsatian-style restaurants. Think meat and dairy heavy hearty dishes which are full of carbs and low on the vegetable side! We particularly enjoyed our meal at Restaurant Soupe à Mémé which even offered a selection of vegan and vegetarian dishes at very reasonable prices.
Like many other Alsace Christmas Markets, you’ll need to bring along cash if you want to purchase any of the goods on offer. Most wooden style chalets don’t accept bank cards. If you want to purchase a vin chaud, then you’ll also need to pay a €1 deposit for the plastic cup, which will be returned to you upon returning the cup.
In 2019, the markets are open from Monday to Thursday 10 AM to 7 PM, and Friday to Sunday from 10 AM to 8 PM. On the 24th and 31st of December, the market will only be open from 10 AM to 8 PM. The Obernai Christmas market is closed on the 25th of December. Last but not least, we soon discovered that it would have been hard to get by without at least having a basic grasp of the French language. Bring along a simple French phrasebook like this one to help you get by.
How to visit Oberani (and Obernai travel tips)
Though you can reach Obernai via public transport (the train between the two Eastern French settlements takes just over half an hour), if you’re planning to see much more of the region, including smaller towns en route, then you may well want to consider renting a car. Check the best car rental comparison websites here.
While most car parks in the centre of Obernai are pretty expensive (€20 for 2.5 hours), there are several free options on the edge of town. For example, we parked at Parking Remparts which was free and just steps away from the Place Nehrer Christmas market.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for printed maps of the town as well as further information about the surrounding area, then you should be sure to check out the tourist office at Place Beffroi, 67210 Obernai. Though many French towns offer these maps for free, you’ll have to purchase a map from the tourism office if you want one.