Alsace Road Trip: My Suggested Itinerary

Fate would have it that the first adventure I would undertake as a new expat in France was an Alsace road trip, something I was glad to cross off my bucket list. I didn’t need much talking into; I’m a big fan of white wine and 15th-century architecture and trust me, it doesn’t get any better than Alsace for both of these things.

Culturally sandwiched between France and Germany, Alsace has only been part of the French territory since World War II. It obviously retains a strong German heritage, from the local dialect to the traditional meals and iconic architecture – and 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.

But besides this intriguing culture, I was also drawn to the vineyards and picturesque villages. Alsace is, after all, one of the most beautiful areas in France, and one of the most visited – rightfully so, if you ask me. Let’s see what I did while I was there.

Alsace Road Trip: A Few Noteworthy Stops

 

Strasbourg

alsace road trip
alsace road trip
 

alsace road tripalsace road tripalsace road tripalsace road tripalsace road tripEuropean Parliament in Strasbourg

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 mixture in both its culture and its architecture – it is, appropriately, Alsace’s capital city.

The first place you want to visit is Petite France neighbourhood, the oldest part of the city. It includes miraculously well-kept half-timber houses, numerous canals, cobblestone streets and mature trees, which makes for a nice post-al-fresco-dinner stroll in the evening. It is basically romantic France in a nutshell. Speaking of which, I recommend that you try the famous flammkuchen, a traditional Alsatian pizza with extra thin crust.

Another important stop is the Strasbourg Cathedral. Once the world’s highest building (and now the 6th tallest church), it’s one of the finest work of late Gothic architecture, easily recognizable not only because of its detailed carvings but also because of its distinct pinkish hue. It is, honestly, the most impressive church I have ever seen (entry is free of charge). If you visit in the summer, make sure to plan some time to attend the very entertaining light show at 10 PM.

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.

Riquewihr

alsace road tripalsace road tripalsace road trip

alsace road trip
alsace road trip
 

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 10 centuries. The main street is filled with 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 version of Champagne.

I stopped in Hunawihr because there was an open-door event with discounts, and it was a great deal – there will be signs indicating where the local sales are alongside the road. Wine-makers know their stuff, and they are happy to answer your questions in order to make sure you find a wine that suits your taste.

Kaysersberg

Alsace road tripAlsace road tripAlsace road trip

The second idyllic village on this Alsace road trip didn’t disappoint. It is a little bigger than Riquewihr and it is every bit as beautiful. 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 – definitely worth the small hike to the top. You will not be able to enter the village with the 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.

Colmar

alsace road tripalsace road trip

alsace road trip
alsace road trip
 
alsace road trip

Last but not least on this idyllic road trip, Colmar is slightly bigger than the previous ones but still easily walkable. There are many interesting sights, 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 cozy feeling of the place, decorated with large wooden beams and dim lights. There is also a large terrace outside for the nicer days.

Alsace Road Trip: A Few Tips

  • You should plan around 4 days, maybe more if you plan on visiting vineyards and tasting samples (keeping lots of water in the car might be a good idea). It does sound like a short amount of time considering you will be visiting five different places, the distance between the villages is minimal so it is easily doable.
  • Do not drink and drive! EVER!
  • For accommodation, I suggest staying out of town centres as parking can be a hassle. I stayed in Ibis hotels along the way.
  • Other interesting stops: hike in the Vosges mountains, stop in Alsace’s third city in Mulhouse, visit the quaint villages of Obernai and Eguishem, frollic through a vineyard.

25 Comments on Alsace Road Trip: My Suggested Itinerary

  1. John
    September 15, 2011 at 4:26 pm (6 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 (5 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 (5 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 (3 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 (3 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 (3 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 (2 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 (2 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 (2 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 (2 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 (2 years ago)

      Good to know, thanks for the suggestions!

      Reply
  8. Stoff Besley
    September 17, 2015 at 9:05 am (2 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 (1 year 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 (11 months 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 (11 months ago)

      That is good to know Ed, thanks!

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

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

      Reply
  11. Sandy
    February 16, 2017 at 9:15 pm (1 month 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 (2 weeks 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

5Pingbacks & Trackbacks on Alsace Road Trip: My Suggested Itinerary

  1. […] Alsace Roadtrip – an Itinerary – Okay, this post was a bit freaky, cause it was something we have done…to almost the letter.  If you live in Southern Germany or get a chance to drive over the border into France to the Alsace region, then follow this very nice itinerary.  This would make a nice weekend trip.  Follow the tips in the blogpost and add the following….eat at least one Flammkucken, get some famous French pottery that this area is known for (also from Soufflenheim and Ribeauville)…read the Girl with Java Curl’s write-up with some of the cool pottery she saw (and I am sure bought)….grab some local wines..and if your husband is lukewarm to the idea, tell him about the really cool Maginot Line sites you can check out…he’ll amaze all his friends who haven’t been yet. […]

  2. […] There are few places like this in the word. Places that remain untouched, perfectly preserved, very postcard-ish. Well, Strasbourg is one of these places, and I was lucky enough to visit during my Alsace roadtrip. […]

  3. […] Experience the German France of Strasbourg and Colmar – done! […]

  4. […] wine: probably my favorite discovery during the roadtrip. This type of wine is rather dry and just a little bit acid, but very refreshing and aromatic. I […]

  5. […] how many sights and things to do there are in the area, you’d be crazy to say no. I think a roadtrip is the best way to explore the region, because you’ll want to stop just about everywhere to […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment *






1,3K Shares