Alsace tips… Top travel guide with the most beautiful places in Alsace
Are you looking for new travel inspiration? How about a trip to Alsace? Located right on the German border, the region in north-eastern France is known for delicious food, great scenery and charming cities. In my Alsace tips, I show you the most beautiful sights, the most exciting landscapes and the best specialties, including my personal travel highlights, so that you are perfectly prepared for your next vacation in France.
Facts about Alsace
Our journey takes us to the north-east of France and to the borders of Germany and Switzerland. You will notice straight away that Alsace is very centrally located and is ideal for a short trip or a road trip. The diverse landscape stretches across the Vosges on one side and the Rhine on the other, while the region is divided into the departments of Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin.
Since the borders between Germany and France have been shifted again and again over the centuries, you will often encounter the German language in Alsace and older people in particular often still speak German very well there or even their own dialect, which is known as Elsatian German. Some city names or buildings also seem more German than French.
An important branch of the economy is viticulture, which is why you can not only do wine tastings or wine tours everywhere, but also an enchanting hilly landscape full of vines awaits you, which can be perfectly explored on an Alsace road trip. In general, enjoyment is very important in Alsace and you can expect wonderful landscapes and a lot of deceleration.
Everywhere in Alsace you will encounter the heraldic animal – the stork. Whether as a real animal, as a decoration or in the form of cuddly toys, which are ideal as gifts for your loved ones. Incidentally, in France the stork is called la cigogne.
The top highlights in Alsace
Right at the beginning I will introduce you to the top highlights in Alsace, in the course of the Alsace tips the individual points will be discussed in more detail, but this way you will get an overview of what awaits you on your trip.
Our Lady’s Cathedral in Strasbourg
Cities like Strasbourg & Colmar
idyllic villages like Eguisheim
Wine-growing regions of Alsace
Arrival in Alsace
Arriving in Alsace by car
Alsace is very centrally located and is perfect for a day trip for those who live further south. But you can also get there from Berlin in less than eight hours. Since there is so much to discover in Alsace and the landscape is really a dream, arriving by car is definitely a good idea.
The advantages are that you are very flexible on site and can make your trip more spontaneous. You can also easily reach sights in the middle of nature with your own car.
I can especially warmly recommend the Alsatian Wine Route (called Routes des vins d’Alsace there), which takes you right through the region. A 135 km long section is now even equipped with a cycle path, which is why it is also worth taking a bike tour in Alsace and visiting the numerous sights on this route in this way.
Campsites in Alsace
Camp Au Clair Ruisseau / Gerstheim
Camping de Strasbourg
Les Vosges du Nord
Camping de l’Ill / Colmar
Le Parc de la Fecht
Camping Les Cigognes
Camping Le Medieval
Round trip through Alsace
Since many sights are close together in the region and the landscape in between is simply beautiful, a round trip through Alsace is a good idea.
By car you can perfectly explore the Alsatian Wine Route, which runs in a north-south direction on the edge of the Vosges and is a highlight of the Alsace tips. The road is called Route des Vins d’Alsace in French and is marked by signs. Of course you can also deviate from the route, but the route described there is not considered particularly beautiful without reason.
However, the route is very crowded, especially in the high season and the sometimes tiny places like Riquewihr cannot withstand the masses of tourism and the result is overcrowded streets and a shortage of parking spaces. Also during the grape harvest you should note that not all regions are freely accessible while the harvest is taking place there.
Best travel time for Alsace
Determining the travel time is of course very important when planning your trip to Alsace, which is why the climate there is discussed right at the beginning of the Alsace tips. Depending on how and where you travel, the time of year is definitely crucial.
If you are planning a camping holiday or road trip through Alsace, the summer months are of course recommended. However, the Vosges also invite you to a fairytale winter holiday, the idyllic small towns in particular are also beautiful in winter and the Christmas season in Alsace in particular is highly recommended.
Generally speaking, the climate in Alsace is considered pleasant because spring arrives early. The summers can be quite hot, especially in the Rhine valley, but especially in the heights of the Vosges you can expect fresher temperatures even in midsummer.
To give you a better overview for your travel planning, we have put together a climate table for Alsace here:
Month Temperature (°C) Hours of sunshine
January -1 – 4 4th
February -1 – 5 5th
March 2 – 11 7
April 5 – 16 10
May 8 – 19 9
June 11 – 22 10
July 13 – 25 11
August 13 – 24 11
September 10th – 20th 9th
October 7 – 15 6
Nov 3 – 9 5
December 1 – 5 5
Places to visit in Alsace
When you think of cities worth seeing in Alsace, you can probably think of a few. In my Alsace tips, I will introduce you to the most famous cities, but also to the most beautiful villages in Alsace, which you certainly do not know all of.
Strasbourg – one of the most beautiful cities in the world
Strasbourg is one of the most important Alsace tips and one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Right on the border with Germany, it is a great travel destination for practical reasons alone. The great cathedral, the Strasbourg Cathedral, is now over a thousand years old and has also gone down in European architectural history. The Minster is also considered a symbol and landmark of the city.
Picturesque half-timbered houses are lined up around the cathedral. Incidentally, what is special here is the alternation between German and French architecture. The entire center of the city has also been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its beauty and uniqueness.
Things to see in Strasbourg
Here you will also find the Maison Kammerzell, a particularly impressive half-timbered house that now houses a well-known restaurant. The district of La Petite France is also particularly popular with tourists. The canal, framed by colorful half-timbered houses, cobblestone streets and the typical Alsatian cuisine characterize the district and thus spread a rustic French charm.
Another great building in Strasbourg is the Palais Rohan, which alone is a highlight from an architectural point of view. But it also houses three different museums on different floors.
The Grande Île is an island in the center of the city. It is surrounded by the river Ill and the Canal du Faux-Rempart, a branching canal of the Ill, where you can take boat trips, for example.
Also worth mentioning in the most important Alsace tips is the Strasbourg Christmas market. It is said to be one of the oldest in Europe and the people of Strasbourg really work to make it the most beautiful one. The already beautiful alleys are lovingly decorated and there is a huge Christmas tree on the Place Kléber. Strasbourg thus resembles a winter wonderland at Christmas time.
Another highlight is the park of the Orangerie in French Parc de l’Orangerie, the park is popular with tourists and locals alike. Here you can go for wonderful walks, admire the lake with its waterfall and admire storks, the symbolic animal of the region, all year round.
Mulhouse – versatile city with beautiful Renaissance houses
The second largest city in Alsace should not be missing from my Alsace tips: Mulhouse. It is known as the city of a thousand chimneys. The name developed during the industrialization, since then the city has been optically beautified and is now considered a successful combination of tradition and modernity.
The historic center is particularly beautiful, where you can still find lots of medieval buildings. You can also look forward to great pastry shops, lots of shopping opportunities and fantastic restaurants.
The Mulhouse market, which takes place three times a week, is actually the largest market in north-eastern France, with over 300 stalls offering not only food but also antiques and clothing.
Colmar – The city where Christmas is all year round
The city of Colmar is located about 70 km south of Strasbourg. Characterized by half-timbered houses and cobblestone streets, the cityscape resembles Strasbourg. However, the canals are more reminiscent of another tourist metropolis, namely Venice. In Colmar there is even a district called “Little Venice”.
The Lauch river runs here, reflecting the charm of Venice. The most popular bridge for holiday snaps can be found on Rue Turenne. From here you can capture the charm of the district with its half-timbered houses. And like in Venice, you can also be taken across the river in small wooden boats.
The most famous buildings in the city are the St. Martin Cathedral and the Pfisterhaus. The Pfisterhaus was built in 1537 for a milliner and, although it has medieval features, it is the first example of Colmar’s architectural Renaissance.
If you are looking for typical products from the region, you will come across the terroir market in the market hall. This was built in 1865 and here you will find the best Alsatian specialties. But beware: the market is closed on Sundays.
Christmas market in Colmar and other activities
It is not without reason that Colmar was chosen as the city with the most beautiful Christmas market in France in 2017. But even if you travel to Colmar outside of the Christmas period, Christmas is there (at least in some shops) all year round. For example, in shops like La Magie de Noël you can let yourself be enchanted by original Christmas tree decorations even in summer.
Colmar also has great museums to offer. The Unterlinden Museum is a renowned art museum with a large collection of paintings and sculptures from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The most important exhibit is the world-famous Isenheim Altar. Also worth seeing is the Bartholdi Museum around the birthplace of the sculptor Auguste Bartholdi, who created the New York Statue of Liberty. You can also admire a 12 meter high copy of the famous New York sight in Colmar.
By the way, one of my personal top Alsace tips for Colmar are the delicious traditional baked goods, for example from the Boulangerie l’Artisane.
Ribeauvillé – Beautiful place surrounded by vineyards
Ribeauvillé is a charming little town surrounded by vines and mountains. The village is also called Ville fleurie, which means “flower-bedecked city”. Around Ribeauvillé are the imposing ruins of the three fortified castles that housed the three lords of the city in the Middle Ages, as well as parts of the city walls and fortified towers.
The place with its beautiful surroundings is a dream destination for hiking fans. The Wine Route, which meanders south from Strasbourg, also passes Ribeauvillé.
But there is also a lot to admire in the city itself. The old town hall and the musicians’ house with old facade decorations are impressive. Two kilometers outside of town is the Jardins des Papillons, the butterfly garden. Here you can see butterflies from three continents up close while strolling through a colorful park full of flowers.
Riquewihr – neighboring town of Ribeauvillé
Ribeauvillé and Riquewihr are neighboring towns and are only 5 km apart. Riquewihr is a small community that offers a beautiful and well-preserved old town. The small village has maintained its traditions for centuries, preserving its particular architecture and the high quality of its wines.
That’s why the village is also known as the “Pearl of the Alsatian wine region”. Half-timbered houses lined up close together with the most unusual carvings, bay windows and pretty courtyards characterize the picture, some of which even date back to the 13th century.
Wine lovers in particular will be in heaven, but Riquewihr is also known for a type of coconut macaroons, which are a typical local delicacy.
Eguisheim – idyllic village near Colmar
The town of Eguisheim, which is considered one of the most beautiful in France and is only a few kilometers west of Colmar, should not be missing from my Alsace tips. Eguisheim is small but beautiful. It is quite an experience to walk along the streets along the half-timbered houses, all of which are decorated with flowers. The three castles that rise on the hill of the Schlossberg are particularly impressive.
Eguisheim also hosts the oldest wine festival in Alsace: the Vignerons Festival. The wine cellars are open for two days to taste the wines and Alsatian specialties. Every year more than 20000 people gather there to celebrate this festival.
Kaysersberg – medieval town on the Wine Route
The idyllic town of Kaysersberg is located in Upper Alsace near Colmar and, like so many other places in the region, impresses with its medieval charm and beautiful half-timbered houses. The streets are also paved and the Weiss River flows through the cozy old town, completing the picturesque picture.
It’s worth just strolling through the cozy streets and taking a seat in one of the typical French cafés or restaurants. If you visit the city on Mondays, you can visit the weekly market, where, in addition to fruit and vegetables, Alsatian specialties are also offered. Incidentally, the special city also became known through the Nobel Prize winner Albert Schweitzer, who was born there.
Other great places in Alsace
Turckheim – close to Colmar but away from the main tourism
Sights in Alsace
When planning your trip, it makes sense to include the sights of Alsace that interest you in the itinerary. In my Alsace tips I present you the most important sights.
The Cathedral of Our Lady in Strasbourg – one of the most important Gothic buildings
In French the cathedral is called Notre Dame de Strasbourg and it is one of the highlights in Alsace. The tower is 142 meters high and the facade is a beautiful pink as the church is built of sandstone. The Cathedral of Our Lady in Strasbourg is also considered one of the most important Gothic buildings and is also one of the largest sandstone buildings in Europe.
In addition to the numerous statues and impressive paintings, the cathedral platform in particular is highly recommended, because once you have mastered the 330 steps, a fantastic view over the city awaits you afterwards.
Hohkönigsburg – fairytale castle with a fantastic view over the Vosges
The famous Haut-Koenigsbourg is also considered the Neuschwanstein of France and is called Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg in Alsace. It is enthroned at an altitude of over 750 meters on a mountain on the edge of the Vosges and is popular with international tourists due to its sublime location and beauty. In order to be able to visit the castle in a relaxed manner, we recommend a visit in the early morning, when you are almost alone and can see everything undisturbed.
Since you can enjoy the view much better when the weather is nice, it is advisable to pay a little attention to the weather when visiting the castle. Because if the visibility is good, you can see the Rhine Valley as far as the Val-de-Villé Valley of the Vosges and sometimes even see the top of the Strasbourg Cathedral.
The impressive complex looks old and fairytale-like and originally dates from the 12th century. However, it was soon destroyed and the reconstruction did not last long. It was restored in the early 1500s in the style of the 1500s and has been one of the highlights of the area for many years.
Incidentally, the castle has been the setting for well-known cinema films several times and also served as an inspiration for the makers of Lord of the Rings for Minas Tirith.
Monastery on Mount Sainte-Odile – beautiful complex near Strasbourg
The Mount Sainte-Odile in French is not only a great hiking destination, there is also an impressive monastery complex, the Hohenburg Monastery. The complex was already built around 690. An order of nuns still lives there today and the monastery is also an important place of pilgrimage. Even if you are not Christian, a visit is definitely worthwhile, as the complex is really impressive and the area around the monastery is also highly recommended.
If you like hiking, then this is also the perfect opportunity. Along the dry stone wall, an 11 km long hiking trail leads around the monastery, which is also perfect for families. If you would like to experience a longer stay on Mount Sainte Odile, you can even spend the night in the monastery.
Activities in Alsace
In addition to the well-known cities and their sights, there are of course plenty of leisure activities and activities in Alsace that you can pursue. People who are particularly close to nature will get their money’s worth in the diverse landscape of this beautiful region.
Hiking in particular is a popular and valued leisure activity. The Großer Belchen, for example, is a great destination for hiking professionals or skiing enthusiasts. It is the highest mountain in the Vosges at 1,424 meters and a trip there is worthwhile for the breathtaking view alone. Incidentally, in Alsace, the mountain is called the Grand Ballon.
If you are traveling by car, it is definitely worth driving along the Wine Route. Since part of the wine route has also been developed for bicycles, you can rent bicycles and explore the area with them. Especially because many sights and beautiful places are close together, a bike tour is a good idea.
The Canal de la Marne au Rhin is also a great option for touring, either as a day trip or by hiring a houseboat for a leisurely chug along the canal, exploring Alsace along the way.
If you like drinking wine, you are in the right place in Alsace, because the region is known worldwide for its white wine, which often consists of grape varieties such as Sylvaner, Riesling, Muscat or Gewürztraminer. There are still a lot of wine tours taking place, where you can learn a lot about cultivation and pressing in addition to the tasting.
Other Alsace activities
Another of my Alsace tips is La Montagne des Singes, an animal park that you can visit from March to November. The Barbary monkeys living there can move freely in the fenced park, but visitors are not allowed to leave the paths, but can still admire the monkeys up close.
An absolute insider tip is the street art museum in Neuf-Brisach, the MAUSA Vauban, which is integrated into the former city fortress. The town is not far from Colmar and Freiburg and is therefore not far from popular destinations in the region. In any case, you can admire really good street art by international artists in the fortress
One of the most popular leisure activities, also for locals, is the Écomusée in Alsace. The location between Mühlhausen and Colmar makes the open-air museum perfect for a day trip. Here, too, you will find storks, which are widespread in Alsace, everywhere. When you visit this particular magnet for tourism, you will find yourself in a world where the popular art and traditions of Alsace are presented to you. You will also be able to admire exhibitions and animations.
Excursion destinations from Alsace
If you are traveling in Alsace, you are in a great and central location and, depending on how much time you have, you can make great trips to neighboring countries or regions.
The region borders Germany, which is why you can visit the neighboring regions wonderfully. The Black Forest is particularly suitable here and a day trip to Freiburg is no problem at all if you are in Colmar, for example. Near Freiburg is also the globally popular Europapark, which you can also plan into your trip.
In the west, Alsace also borders on the Lorraine region, where you will find a landscape that is partly similar to that in Alsace. There are viticulture in places, otherwise the region captivates with a beautiful landscape with many enchanted forests and lakes. Cities like Nancy and Metz are also definitely worth a visit. A little further west is the Champagne region, which is also beautiful.
You can also easily travel to Switzerland from Alsace. By car, for example, you need about 1.5 hours from Strasbourg to Basel.
Eating and drinking in Alsace
Alsace stands for enjoyment, which is why the following Alsace tips deal with the specialties of the region. By the way, some culinary specialties are not easily perishable and are therefore ideal as a souvenir for loved ones. But if you prefer to bring something non-edible as a souvenir, then a Gugelhupf pan is recommended, which you can find in many tourist shops. Apart from that, you can always bring the heraldic animal of the region, the stork, with you. Especially as a cuddly toy, key chain or in a snow globe, you will come across him on almost every corner. But now to the culinary highlights of the region.
The Alsatian tarte flambée
When you think of food from Alsace, you probably think of Alsatian tarte flambée. It is the most famous dish from the region and is also considered a specialty of the surrounding areas. The thin dough is spread with a sour cream cream and topped with onions and bacon. In the meantime, there are of course many different toppings, some with vegan or vegetarian variations.
Incidentally, the tarte flambée used to be used to estimate the oven temperature before the bread was baked in it. Depending on how quickly it got dark, you had to wait a bit before baking the bread or add more wood. Even today, the delicious specialty is often baked in a wood-fired oven at very high temperatures.
The Alsatian Gugelhupf
The Gugelhupf is written Kougelhopf or Kouglof in Alsace and is very common there and in the surrounding regions. Depending on taste, raisins, almonds or other ingredients are added to the yeast dough and then baked in the characteristic shape. You absolutely have to try the cake during your trip to Alsace, it is also an excellent gift.
There are many legends surrounding the history of the specialty. What is certain, however, is that the form even existed in Roman times and that the recipe is also many centuries old. As with many dishes, the origin of the cake is disputed, but the French are firmly convinced that the cake has its origins in Ribeauvillé, where a festival is held in its honor every year.
Other specialties in Alsace
Alsatian sauerkraut may even be THE specialty of the region. It is called choucroute there and is mainly eaten with meat or fish. Simply cut the cabbage and sprinkle with salt. It then ferments in an airtight container for at least two weeks. The specialty goes well with the typical wines of the region.
Another widespread specialty comes from the Vosges: Munster cheese, which is called Munster-Géromé in Alsace and is made from the milk of Vosges cattle. You will find the cheese is often served on tarte flambée or with fried potatoes.
Baeckeoffe is a typical Alsatian stew made from meat, white wine and vegetables, cooked in clay tureens. You can also buy these special pots in Alsace and, like the Gugelhupf pan, they make a great souvenir.
Alsace is also known for its wine. You will see vineyards everywhere and encounter the grape varieties that are common there, such as Riesling or Gewürztraminer. The wine goes very well with the culinary specialties and is often served with lunch and dinner.
So you see, in Alsace there are some dishes that are common in the region or even have their origins in Alsace. Many dishes are hearty and meat-heavy, although there are increasing numbers of vegan or vegetarian restaurants in cities in particular, which offer the specialties of the area in a way that is suitable for all diets.