At the Christmas markets to Basel and Colmar

At the Christmas markets to Basel and Colmar

Christmas markets are not only about Prague, Dresden or Vienna. Every year, I strive to visit at least one of the less famous ones and this year Marci’s and mine choice fell upon Swiss Basel and French Colmar.

Why Basel?

We both are keeping an eye on prices of flight tickets during a year and this time we found out that November prices from Prague to Basel dropped under a thousand CZK. The flights themselves were pretty well scheduled – we departed from Prague on Friday noon and arrived back on Monday morning, which fitted perfectly to our working routine. According to Google, Christmas market in Basel was supposed to be one of the best in the Europe and furthermore Basel seemed to be a very nice city too. That’s simply something we couldn’t resist. We added Colmar to our plans shortly before our departure.


Basel is unusual city. It lies on a borderline of three countries – France, Switzerland and Germany. Its airport officially belongs to all three countries even though it is located at the French side. Locals don’t call the airport any other way but the EuroAirport. You may find here the only international tram connection in the World they say.

As in the rest of Switzerland, the accommodation was quite expensive. If you choose to stay at a hotel, you may actually get a free public transport ticket for both days. Swiss public transport is just perfect. Even better than in Prague, I dare say! All bus and tram lines are going unbelievably often and everywhere you need. Considering how big the city is, the network is just amazing. Another wonderful thing is that the whole city is well covered with city maps, travel signs and most of the tram stops have displays with next available departures (what a shame they don’t count with possible delays). We normally don’t choose a hotel accommodation, but the perk in form of the public transport ticket simply had to be used.  We paid about one thousand Czech Crowns per night and person.

My favourite tram line no. 17

We took walks in daylight and at night too. It was always nice. The historical city centre is truly historical – narrow, wonky streets with old houses, churches and honourable public buildings. Basel’s squares Münsterplatz, Barfüsserplatz, St. Alban-Tor Park and Marktplatz are definitely worth your visit. Basel has always been very important centre for business and commerce and the same applies nowadays too. The tallest Swiss building can be observed here as well as very interesting piece of modern architecture – Congress centre with its surroundings.

Christmas markets were located at the Münsterplatz and Barfüsserplatz. They both were tiny and nothing extra. The products you could buy there were something that caught my eye though. They were truly Christmassy and Swiss made! Comparing to Wroclaw, where you could buy nearly everything including electronics, this was very refreshing experience. We were at the markets in November so I believe that later on there could be seen much more of Christmas atmosphere.

If you’re not keen on Christmas markets only but you’re interested in the city itself just like us, I’d recommend taking one of the Free Tours. I’ve chosen a historical one, which introduced Basel from the ancient times until nowadays. Only a single wall reminded the ancient times actually. A tour guide told us many things about Basel’s history and took us to different historic places. The only disadvantage was that we went 3 times to Münsterplatz because it was significant in several times. I enjoyed the tour a lot but Marci wasn’t as excited about it as myself.

Before the time to leave Basel came, we had decided to visit quite boring mini zoo Tierpark with entrance free of charge. We had to get back to the city centre on foot because of a Neo-Nazi strike that disrupted the public transport.


On Saturday, we set off to Colmar. We got to the train station on the French side with the free tram ticket. That way we were sincerely hoping for a better price of a train than a direct ride from Basel could offer. In the end, we paid nice €6 per person on a weekend group ticket, which was far better than a regular fare.

Colmar is a lot smaller than Basel. It was nearly impossible to find a last minute accommodation for reasonable price. Therefore, we had to ride 15 km out from Colmar, that brought us to the kindest and nicest AirBnB host I’ve ever met. This was in Gunsbach and the host even offered us a lift from Colmar to his place, back to the Christmas market and then to his house. In the morning, Frederic served us an absolute masterpiece breakfast, which we couldn’t possibly have a chance to finish! On a top of that, he gained our favour by a bowl of sweets that was awaiting us in our room. Top!

Colmar was fabulous. The historical centre is even more interesting than Basel’s. There were not only already mentioned wonky streets but wonky houses too. Each of them was very colourful and decorated differently. Local Christmas markets were already in full speed here. Evenings here were very similar to those at Old Town Square in Prague. However, as a contrast to Prague, the markets here were not placed only on squares but in surrounding streets too. The perfect Christmas mood was breathing at us from everywhere. Colmar is so small that it makes no sense to list here all places to visit. Just grab a map and enjoy a stroll around the historic town centre!


We had a free afternoon on Sunday therefore, we’ve checked a map and discovered UNESCO sightseeing place – Breisach. In particular, there is an UNESCO fort Neuf Brisach, which is remarkably similar to Czech Terezin.

Breisach itself is located just behind the German border and there is a charming church on a top of a hill above the town.


As it is our custom, we tried hitchhiking again. We actually did not use any other way of transport on Sunday and managed to get to Colmar, Breisach and later to the EuroAirport. The total distance travelled was 140 km by six different cars. With one exception (a rarely used highway slip road), we never waited more than 10 minutes for our next car.

French at barricades

For a few weeks, there were the Yellow vest strikes in France and we had a chance to experience them. Anyone else back in the Czech Republic is could probably see just drastic TV shots from Paris with radicals as main heroes. However, our experience was quite the opposite. In Colmar, we had to wait for our hosts, who had been delayed by the demonstrators. They explained us what is actually going on and they never said a word against the demonstrators. On Sunday, we stopped a guy from the other side of the barricade. He slept just a few hours last days because the rest of the time he had spent on the barricades. It was very interesting to see how nervous he always got when we rode past a police patrol. He told us one thing by which he gained my full respect – every evening he opens the barricades to all incoming tourists so that they have no difficulties on their journey. He simply didn’t want them to be punished for the French political situation.

We could see the real barricade at Breisachem’s borderline. We travelled with a cool bloke who studied informatics in Germany in order to work at French mountain rescue service. He did not say a word against the barricades too. On contrary, when we were stopped by a lady he had a nice cheerful chat with her, proudly showed her his passengers and carried on. Our journey back to Colmar was even more interesting. We hitch-hiked a biker and his wife. This time we passed two of the barricades. At each of them, they had their friends so they always had a nice warm chat with them and together they had a good laugh too. At the second barricade, a woman with her young son even offered us Christmas sweets.

To sum up our whole experience – it was far from what our Czech media are trying to present to us.


Both Basel and Colmar are beautiful historical places. Colmar’s Christmas markets are the most beautiful I’ve ever had a chance to visit. I can simply recommend these.




translation by Radka