Often referred to as the cradle of the Alsace textile industry, even today it’s hard not to miss the gleaming modern factories when heading into Thann by car. Home to a museum and fantastic example of a Gothic church in the typical Alsatian Gothic style, the best time of the year to visit is in the festive period when the town is decked out with an abundance of decorations. Here’s your guide to the Thann Christmas market.
Thann Christmas Market Dates 2019 | 22/11/2019 to 24/12/2019
Introducing Thann, an overlooked town in the foot of the Vosges Mountains
Situated in the Grand-Est, the tiny town of Thann can be found close to the borders with both Switzerland and Germany and boasts a population of just under eight thousand residents. Surrounded by swathes of vineyards, the Southern Alsace town lies at the entrance to the Alsace wine route, one of the best cultural wine routes in Europe.
Other than the annual Christmas market, some of the best things to do in Thann include marvelling at the fantastic tympanum of the Gothic Collegiate Church of Saint Thiébaut and visiting the Museum of the Friends of Thann, which is set against the backdrop of a former wheat market.
If you have a little more time while in Thann, you might consider hiking up to Engelbourg Castle, which is accessible only via footpaths and hiking trails. Presiding over the rest of the town, the ruins of the historic monument date back to the 17th-century and are known locally as the ‘witch’s eye’ due to their unusual appearance when viewed from Thann.
Thann Christmas Market Guide
When first driving into the town by car, I was a little apprehensive as to what we would find as we approached Thann’s centre, and therefore the Thann market surrounding the Gothic architecture of the Collegiate Church (the ecclesiastical building is well a worth a visit in of itself, even if the Christmas Market isn’t in town during your visit).
After all, unlike many of the other Alsatian towns we had the pleasure of visiting, Thann wasn’t decked out in decorations, nor were there any twinkling lights hanging above any of the roads. However, we soon found a space to park up (there’s free parking throughout the town) and headed towards the historic city centre, which comprises of just a handful of streets surrounding the main church.
Head to the heart of Thann, and you’ll soon discover a myriad of Christmas lights and decorations, including a decorated ‘tree tunnel’ to reach the first of the Thann Christmas Markets. All within a couple of hundred metres of one another and surrounding the church, market stalls and vendors are to be found at Place Joffre, Place St Thiébaut and Place De Lattre de Tassigny.
Highlights of the Christmas stalls (there are around two dozen stalls in total, all surrounded by a seas of Christmas trees), include several artisanal stands selling a selection of handcrafted goods and gifts. For example, there are plenty of knitted hats and scarves, as well as silver jewellery, and handmade soy candles.
In terms of food offerings, due to the small nature of Thann Christmas Market, there are fewer options than at some of the larger Alsace events. With this being said, there’s the traditional Spätzle (pasta served with a creamy lardon sauce), as well as crêpes and plenty of vin chaud. In terms of vegetarian Christmas food, we were delighted to discover a stand selling vegetarian pad thai, as well as vegetarian spring rolls (‘nems’ in French).
One peculiarity with the Christmas Market of Thann is the sheer number of ‘sapins’ (fir trees) dotted around the town. Each decorated in a different style, these trees are gathered from various villages across the region (17 in total) and each represents the village in question. In pride of place, the largest tree to be seen is that of Thann, which in turn is decorated in 2km worth of twinkling fairy lights.
Things to know before visiting Thann Christmas Market
Little in size and in population, Thann is home to its own train station, which in turn offers links to the rest of the Alsace, France, and beyond. Like every other European Christmas Market, you’ll need cash to purchase most of the goods at the stalls. Few chalets have card-reading facilities and so cash is essential to purchase both goods and foodstuffs (not to mention vin chaud!)
You should note that despite reading several websites across the internet which stated that the nearby town of Cernay also holds its own Christmas market, it, in fact, does not. There is no Christmas Market at Cernay. Instead, there is a three-day long event during the middle of December so as not to detract from the main event in nearby Thann.
While you’ll largely find that people have a good understanding of English, it’s only polite to learn a few words of the local language, in this case, French. Bring along a French phrasebook like this one to help you get by. Like many other Alsace towns, Thann is full of cobbled lanes and so be sure to wear your comfiest walking shoes! Winter in France is cold, especially in the Alsace, and so pack a warm winter jacket like this one!
Otherwise, you should know that the Christmas Market opening times are as follows; Monday to Thursday : 2pm – 7pm, Friday : 2pm – 8pm, Saturday : 10am – 8 pm, Sunday : 10am -7pm . On the 24th Dec: 10am – 5pm.