Alsace Road Trip: My Suggested Itinerary

With candy-coloured villages that look like they could be in a children’s bedtime story and an abundance of gastronomically-heavy sins governed by centuries of traditions, and with a culturally complex heritage, Alsace is unquestionably a sight for sore eyes.

Panoramas stretching between Strasbourg and Mulhouse, flanked by the soaring Vosges mountains, are dotted with ruby-coloured fortresses, rolling hills striped with luxuriant vines fueled by the mighty Rhine River, and make for an infinitely interesting incursion into la province.

Miraculously unscathed by the widespread ravages of both great wards —at least, nowhere as extensively as other French and German regions— Alsace is culturally sandwiched between Germany and France and yet has only been officially part of the latter since 1945. It was, however, regularly contested and handed over by both countries as their frontiers evolved ever since the Thirty Year’s War.

A glass of Alsace wine is like a summer dress or a flower in spring, it’s the ray of sunshine that simply makes life brighter.” – Christian Dior

The local dialect is, in fact, much closely related to Swabian and Swiss German than it is to the region’s national language, French.

This is precisely what made me so interested in the region at first; that dual identity. How it is so definitely French in some ways, yet infinitely German in others, and how, at times, it is neither, simply 100% Alsatian.

In preparation for your trip to Alsace, here are a few places I myself have visited (believe it or not but I did squeeze in a few cultural stops, not just wineries) and which I strongly recommend. Bon voyage!

Alsace Road Trip: A Few Noteworthy Stops

STRASBOURG

Alsace Road Trip - historic buildings of Strasbourg

Alsace Road Trip - Strasbourg center Alsace Road Trip - oldest house in Strasbourg Alsace Road Trip - medieval Petite France in Strasbourg Alsace Road Trip - beautiful StrasbourgAlsace Road Trip - Petite France in Strasbourg

As the seat of the European Parliament and many international organisations, Strasbourg has so many different faces it’s hard to find the right word to describe it. Über-modern in some areas, beautifully historic in others, it boasts an eclectic combination in both its culture and its architecture―it is, appropriately, Alsace’s capital city.

The first place you want to visit in Strasbourg is the Petite France neighbourhood, the oldest part of the city. It comprises multi-centennial half-timber houses, numerous canals, impossibly charming cobblestone streets and mature trees, which, in addition to being picture-perfect, certainly make for an enjoyable backdrop for an indulgent post-dinner stroll.

Speaking of which, I recommend that you try the famous flammkuchen, a traditional Alsatian pizza with extra thin crust topped with crème fraiche, lardons and thinly sliced onions.

Another important stop is the Strasbourg Cathedral. It was the world’s highest structure for well over 200 years (and now the 6th tallest church), it’s one of the finest works of the late Gothic architecture. Visible far across the plains of Alsace and sometimes as far as the Black Forest on clear days, Strasbourg Cathedral is famous for its intricate, detailed carvings and its characteristic pinkish hue. Entry is free of charge.

If you visit in the summer, make sure to plan some time to attend the very entertaining daily light show at 10 PM.

http://www.otstrasbourg.fr/en/

http://www.cathedrale-strasbourg.fr

Riquewihr

Alsace Road Trip - alleys of Riquewihr
Alsace Road Trip - My Suggested Itinerary - Colmar
 

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Alsace Road Trip - wine shops in Riquewihr
Alsace Road Trip - stunning medieval Riquewihr
 

Alsace Road Trip - main street in Riquewihr

My favourite place on the entire itinerary! This is a “postcard” kind of place, with impeccably preserved timbered houses in various rainbow colours.

It’s a very small village, with just one main pedestrian street, but I can’t stress how much it is worth going. It felt like walking in a medieval dream as if everything had remained untouched for the past six centuries. The main street is flanked by local artisans, flowers, wine cellars, cafés and quaint B&Bs.

Shortly after Riquewihr, you will be entering the heart of the vineyard region. Don’t hesitate to stop and explore, go winery-hopping (with moderation, of course, unless you want to walk all the way back!) and taste the many wines the region is famous for, like riesling and gewürtztraminer, as well as crémant, the Alsatian alternative to Champagne.

http://www.ribeauville-riquewihr.com/en

Kaysersberg

Alsace Road Trip - My Suggested Itinerary - stunning Kaysersberg Alsace Road Trip - My Suggested Itinerary - Kaysersberg Alsace Road Trip - My Suggested Itinerary - Kaysersberg village Alsace Road Trip - My Suggested Itinerary - Kaysersberg castle

The second idyllic village on this Alsace road trip didn’t disappoint. It is a little bigger than Riquewihr in size and boasts the same type of medieval charm, except this time, the postcard is complete with castle ruins.

One of the best reasons to go to Kaysersberg is to enjoy the magnificent view of the village and the surrounding vineyards from the castle remains – although your calves may not agree at first, the view from atop the guard tower is infinitely worth the short hike.

You will not be able to enter the village with your car, but it’s just as well since you get to walk by the canal and its beautiful houses on your way to the main square. Enjoy the pedestrian life, grab some ice cream and sit at one of the many terraces and indulge in some good old-fashioned people watching.

http://www.kaysersberg.com/en

Colmar

Alsace Road Trip - My Suggested Itinerary - things to do in Colmar
Alsace Road Trip - My Suggested Itinerary - streets of Colmar
 

Alsace Road Trip - My Suggested Itinerary - storybook Colmar Alsace Road Trip - My Suggested Itinerary - romantic Colmar canals Alsace Road Trip - My Suggested Itinerary - Colmar terraces Alsace Road Trip - My Suggested Itinerary - Colmar storefronts Alsace Road Trip - My Suggested Itinerary - Colmar canals Alsace Road Trip - My Suggested Itinerary - Colmar at night

Alsace Road Trip - My Suggested Itinerary - beautiful Colmar
Alsace Road Trip - My Suggested Itinerary - Eating Bretzels
 

Last but not least on this idyllic Alsace road trip, Colmar.

Not a village by any means, Colmar is a midsized French town with an attractive historical centre that is easily walkable.

There are many interesting sights in Colmar in addition to its magical atmosphere, such as the House of the Heads, whose facade is, unsurprisingly, decorated with 111 heads. Nothing creepy, rest assured, it is in fact quite a work of art.

Nearby is also the famous Pfister house, St.Martin’s church, Bartholdi Museum (the architect behind the Statue of Liberty) and the Little Venice neighbourhood (something about the canals…).

For dinner, I opted for another typical Alsatian winstub called Restaurant des Tanneurs and was impressed with the cosy feeling of the place, decorated with large wooden beams and dim lights.

http://www.tourisme-colmar.com/en

Alsace Road Trip – Additional Stops

Alsace Road Trip - My Suggested Itinerary - Alsace wine glass

Alsace Road Trip - My Suggested Itinerary - Strasbourg terraces
Alsace Road Trip - My Suggested Itinerary - Alsace wineries
 

Alsace Road Trip - My Suggested Itinerary - romantic Colmar

  • Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle: That’s when the Alsace road trip actually begins! Hop in your car and head south to the stunning Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle, an important stop between Strasbourg and the smaller vineyard villages. Nestled in the Vosges mountains, it dates back to the 12th century and is a sight for sore eyes, both the castle itself and the scenery of the Alsatian plains. It is everything like what we, modern-age people, imagine what a medieval fortress looked like. http://www.haut-koenigsbourg.fr/en

 

  • Beautiful villages of Alsace: The local tourism board, Tourisme Alsace, is a great resources to plan your trip and find noteworthy sights for you to stop at along the way:
    • Obernai
    • Eguishem
    • Turckheim
    • Mittelbergheim
    • Hunawihr
    • Dambach-la-Ville

 

  • Alsace Wine Route: Pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it? Check out Wines of Alsace for inspiration, if you’re looking for a specific vigneron or fancy a particular cépage. Obviously, do not drink and drive. EVER.

 

  • Hike in the Vosges: there are plenty of bucolic, postcard-worthy hikes to be done in Alsace especially as you inch closer to the Vosges mountain range; Le Ballon is the tallest peak at just 1400 metres via the iconic Route des Crêtes.

 

  • Neuf-Brisach: an exceptional 17th-century fortified town designed by the illustrious Vauban, Louis XIV’s military engineer, later on Marshal of France, and considered the foremost engineer of his time; his most fervent admirors claim that he strengthened the French identity by consolidating the Hexagon’s borders with his unsurmountable fortresses. Neuf-Brisach is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

33 Comments on Alsace Road Trip: My Suggested Itinerary

  1. John
    September 15, 2011 at 4:26 pm (7 years ago)

    Good summary of what Alsace has to offer on a short visit. There’s lots more to see such as the EcoMusée or the First World War Trenches (in rock) or even the ski resorts.
    I visited the Alsace some years back. Loved it. Always make a point of passing through on a journey to / from Chamonix.

    Reply
  2. Andrew
    January 11, 2012 at 8:29 pm (6 years ago)

    Haut Koenigsberg was a highlight on a roadtrip years ago. I would love to go again but it really requires a car. Just last year some friends and I went to Riquewier on a wine fest day. It really is pretty. Hope you have fun.
    If you venture over the river to Freiburg let me know. We can do beers.

    Reply
  3. Madaboutravel
    January 11, 2012 at 8:59 pm (6 years ago)

    Great itinerary… I do have some family in the north of France, and I think it would be a great idea to visit these places before getting to them. So, thanks a lot! I’ll keep reading you!

    Reply
  4. Pamela
    February 4, 2014 at 3:49 am (4 years ago)

    Hi, I am planning my week-long trip to Alsace and came across your blog, which is almost exactly what I had in mind.

    However, I will be taking the public transportation (trains and busses) – travelling alone – renting a car may be too expensive for me.

    Would you happen to know anything about the local transportation and bnbs?

    Did you stay overnight at Riquewihr?

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres
      February 4, 2014 at 3:00 pm (4 years ago)

      Hello Pamela, as I traveled by car I am not familiar with how easy it is to tour Alsace with public transit. But if you want to see vineyards and tiny villages, renting a car may be the only option. I did not stay overnight in Riquewihr, opting for nearby Colmar. Let me know if you have other questions!

      Reply
      • Pamela
        February 4, 2014 at 10:14 pm (4 years ago)

        Hi Marie-Eve,

        Thank you for the reply, really appreciate it. Your blog is so informative! Love it! Keep it up and I will be following your recommendations and adventures closely!

        Cheers!

  5. Clive
    October 7, 2014 at 12:29 pm (4 years ago)

    Having lived in Colmar from 95 – 00 then I have to agree there are many delightful towns and villages to visit all along the route des vins between Strasbourg and Mulhouse. But do also take the time to go up into the Vosges and take some walks along the ‘route des cretes’ (peaks) which runs generally along the highest points and eat in the small ferme auberge restaurants.

    One minor correction: Alsace was French from end of WW1, indeed only German from 1870 to 1918.

    Reply
  6. Laura @ 2ndAvenue
    June 8, 2015 at 1:59 pm (3 years ago)

    Three cheers for Strasbourg! I’ve visited the city in summer, fall, and winter – and loved it in all seasons :) Strasbourg’s Christmas markets are particularly magical (although very crowded).

    I’d also recommend Eguisheim, near Colmar. Tiny streets, half-timbered houses, and a circular plan to the village that makes it very easy to explore the whole thing on foot. And a castle that’s the birthplace of a pope! (Pope St Leo IX was born in Eguisheim in 1002.)

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      June 11, 2015 at 10:24 am (3 years ago)

      I heard such good things about the Christmas markets there! I need to visit one day. I’ve also seen fantastic photos of Eguisheim, it looks divine!

      Reply
  7. R. Ourand
    June 18, 2015 at 1:02 am (3 years ago)

    In visiting Colmar, if you don’t go to the Musée Unterlinden, you will have missed some of the greatest treasures that the region has to offer. Also, in Strasbourg, your visit to the cathedral should include stepping out to the south façade to see Ecclesia and Synagoga, two of the most beautiful medieval sculptures. The towns of Obernai, Sélestat, etc. are all worth a visit.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      June 18, 2015 at 11:38 am (3 years ago)

      Good to know, thanks for the suggestions!

      Reply
  8. Stoff Besley
    September 17, 2015 at 9:05 am (3 years ago)

    It’s only an hour away from where I grew up!!!!! I love Alsace! Love the food, the wine (Riesling and Gewurztraminer), the views from the top of Les Vosges and all the little villages and towns with traditional “Colombages”…

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      September 30, 2015 at 11:06 am (3 years ago)

      Yes, these houses are so beautiful! Lucky you for growing up in that area.

      Reply
  9. Ed
    May 9, 2016 at 9:07 pm (2 years ago)

    I’ve been reading your nice blog of travels in France, which I landed on while searching for pictures on Cassis in Provence.

    I absolutely loved the old, medieval and renaissance era half-timbered houses and buildings in Strasbourg. I wish I had visisted medieval, walled village of Riquewihr, but I visited instead Obernai, which is bigger but very charming and very Alsatian looking.

    By the way, I have to correct or at least confirm. Alsace was French before WWII. Its initial and longest association with Germany was when it was acquired by the Holy Roman Empire (which included most of present-day Germany) in the early Middle Ages . It became part of France for the first time in the late 1600s until 1871 (some 200 years), after which it became part of the German Empire (for some 50 years) until it returned to France in 1918. It became “German” a 3rd and very brief time from 1940 to 1944, after which it returned to France once again. Finally, Colmar is a town rather than a village–a small town for sure–but not a village.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      May 9, 2016 at 10:25 pm (2 years ago)

      That is good to know Ed, thanks!

      Reply
  10. Lolo
    June 2, 2016 at 4:47 pm (2 years ago)

    Ok, every time I look up a half-timbered town, I find your blog! :) I LOOOOVE half-timbered towns! That’s the best part of living in Germany!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      June 2, 2016 at 6:27 pm (2 years ago)

      Ha, I have the monopoly on half-timbered towns! ;-)

      Reply
  11. Sandy
    February 16, 2017 at 9:15 pm (1 year ago)

    Absolutely beautiful pictures. Colmar has been on my mind forever. Finally heading there in a couple of weeks. Would really help to hear from you on a few things if possible:
    Travel
    1. I am taking a train from Basel to Colmar. Would you know if the station is close to the city centre? Or rather Little Venice as its called
    Stay
    2. What is the best area to stay in?
    3. Any hotels or interesting places of stay you’d recommend? Something pretty super comfy (luxurious is also good) & totally safe.
    Inspired by your Itinerary
    4. I am without a car. Any alternative way of getting to the villages would be swell. I want to visit Riquewihr for sure. Any ideas?
    Thanks much

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      March 14, 2017 at 1:56 pm (1 year ago)

      The train station is about a 10-minute walk from the Little Venice area. I haven’t stayed overnight in Colmar so I can’t speak for hotels, unfortunately – everything will be safe though, as Alsace is a very safe place. It will be difficult to get to Riquewihr without a car and independently; there are interesting group tours leaving from Colmar:

      – Small-Group Gems of Alsace Day Tour from Colmar http://tidd.ly/ee9304f2
      – Private Tour: Alsace Wine Tasting Day Trip from Colmar http://tidd.ly/564a1979
      – Alsace Full Day Wine Tour from Colmar http://tidd.ly/b06b9b8
      – Private Tour: Alsace Villages and Wine Day Trip from Colmar http://tidd.ly/6bc1d3eb

      Reply
  12. Seraina
    October 13, 2017 at 7:27 am (8 months ago)

    Hey Marie, thanks for this informative post. I’m heading to Strasbourg for the weekend and reading what you have to say about this city made me so much more excited to go :-) Seraina

    Reply
  13. Vincent
    January 4, 2018 at 10:29 am (6 months ago)

    If you can, go on Strasbourg for Christmas time.
    The city as a big christmas market, the most wellknown in France.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      February 19, 2018 at 10:42 pm (4 months ago)

      Very true!

      Reply
  14. Margaret
    April 30, 2018 at 9:37 am (2 months ago)

    we will be in the area for the month of September, and your photoos are stunning. Much better than a lot of guide books and online websites. Can;t wait to see the villages in person.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      May 2, 2018 at 6:04 pm (2 months ago)

      Enjoy your trip Margaret!

      Reply

7Pingbacks & Trackbacks on Alsace Road Trip: My Suggested Itinerary

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