Alsace is a magical land, rich in history, traditions and food and wine culture. We discovered it by car - and for a short part by walking - following the well-known Route des Vins d'Alsace - the Alsace Wine Route - a driving, hiking and biking route that winds around the area's most popular wine-growing areas and some charming medieval villages. So here for you are 5 must-see towns and villages and some useful tips.
We love... Alsace!
Alsace is a magical land, rich in history, tradition and food and wine culture. Situated on the edge of French territory, just a few kilometres from the German border, the region has been alternately under the control of France and Germany over the centuries, and the German influence is still quite recognizable today in the gastronomic culture and style of buildings. We chose to visit this peculiar region during a long spring weekend, traveling by car-and to a small extent on foot-the well-known Route des Vins d’Alsace – the Alsace Wine Route – a driving, hiking and biking route that goes through the most popular wine areas and some charming medieval villages. We also decided to combine the tour with a short visit to Colmar, one of the region’s tourist capitals and a city of undisputed charm.
So in this article we list 5 must-see cities and villages in the region and some useful tips.
Where to stay and eat in Colmar
For a short stay, our advice is to choose one of the many hotels in the old town of Colmar, so that you can move around freely on foot. The historic centre is in fact entirely car-free and the town is small enough to get around on foot without too much effort.
We stayed at the Mercure Colmar Centre Unterlinden, Rue Golbery 15. It is located in the northern part of the city, within walking distance of the centre and the Unterlinden Museum. The hotel offers comfortable and reasonably priced accommodation and also has a garage for your car for a fee. In short, we recommend it.
As for food, on the other hand, throughout Alsace you will find several well-priced options. The Tarte flambée – a kind of very thin pizza topped with bacon, onions and cheese – is a good choice for a quick and cheap meal. Apart from the very famous Restaurant La Soï and La Stub (famous but very small and where it is almost impossible to book in advance), we had good ones here and here in Colmar. If instead you want to treat yourself with a nice dinner of excellent quality, we suggest booking a table at Restaurant Le Quai 21 (Quai de la Poissonnerie 21) – truly the best dinner we have had in the city – or at Au Vieux Porche, at Rue des 3 Châteaux 16 in Eguisheim.
However, given the high number of tourists, our advice is to always book restaurants well in advance for your dinners!
The small French town of Colmar is a real gem waiting to be discovered. Situated on the edge of French territory, just a few kilometers from the German border, the town is very popular during the Christmas season, when one of the most famous and picturesque Christmas markets in Europe is hosted here. In Colmar you will find an excellently preserved medieval old town, picturesque canals and waterways, and an excellent wine and food culture to discover. If you want to learn more, you can catch up with this post we wrote about this enchanting town.
Located just a 15-minute drive from Colmar, Eguisheim is a truly charming little medieval town. A large parking lot at the eastern entrance to the town (Parking de la Mairie) will allow you to leave your car and reach the center in a few minutes. Here you will be greeted by narrow cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses of a thousand colors.
Finally, right in the heart of the village you will find an elegant little church in a slightly elevated position and a fountain.
But Eguisheim is also famous because it is home to a large number of storks that, during the spring, return to populate the many large nests built above the roofs and spires of the churches. Truly amazing!
Finally, a small tip: plan your visit in the late afternoon and treat yourself with a nice dinner at the restaurant Au Vieux Porche on Rue des 3 Châteaux 16: you will find traditional food of excellent quality. Plus, after dinner you will have a chance to admire the village at night!
We reached Riquewihr on foot, at the end of a pleasant walk along the Route des Vins, and we were absolutely fascinated. This small Alsatian town is said to have inspired the cartoonists of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” cartoon. The truth is that, cartoons aside, the town is absolutely photogenic and perfectly preserved. The west gateway to the town, the famous Dolmer tower, is a real gem and, although it is incredibly simple in its exterior facade (like any other defensive fortification after all…) in the one that looks out over the village it takes on the appearance of a tall half-timbered house with exposed beams adorned with flowers throughout the spring and summer.
To visit, we suggest you walk down the Rue du Général de Gaulle – the main street – full of craft stores, bakeries and small restaurants.
However, for a quick lunch in town we suggest a Tarte Flambée in the private courtyard of La Dime restaurant.
We also arrived in Ribeauville by walking the Route des Vins. We reached the town in its northern part, not far from the visitors’ parking lot. Although this part of the town is also interesting, its historic heart lies just to the south and winds around the Grand’Rue, the main street of the village. Also here the characteristic half-timbered buildings, flower-decked balconies, and ancient fountains are the masters. However, our advice is not to limit yourself to walking along the Grand’Rue – as most tourists usually do, making it too crowded – but to lose yourself in the small side streets and alleys that can really provide pleasant surprises.
Finally, for a quick lunch or snack, we suggest you buy something at the Boulangerie, Pâtisserie Kayser Eric – Grand’Rue 93 – a traditional bakery that sells excellent sweet and savory products.
Small and cozy, the village of Bergheim is the last one we visited along the Route des Vines. At the western entrance to the town you will find a large parking lot where you can leave your car. From here you can access the historic center through the ancient Porte Haute, an austere town gate. Again, the heart of the city is the Grand Rue, which you can walk down until you reach Place du docteur Pierre Walter and the Hotel de Ville. But as always, our suggestion is to lose yourself along the alleys and side streets and, if you have more time, to follow the perimeter of the old fortifications along the northeast side.
Arriving by public transport
Arriving by car
See the location in Google Maps. Alsace can also be reached by car, but our advice is to get there starting from Colmar or Strasbourg. To find the best travel option for you, as always we suggest you use Google Maps. The major towns and cities have many paid parking options. At this link you will find information on parking in Colmar with a handy map and useful information.
Alsace is definitely popular and super visited. Our advice is, if possible, to avoid holidays and summer and visit during less crowded periods. That way you can enjoy the city and its picturesque sights to the fullest.
A great many other villages in Alsace are worth a visit, and although it is possible to visit many of them in a short time, a quick visit would not do justice to the beauty of the places. Not to mention that the best is only visible to those who have the patience to go looking for it! So…make a careful selection and take your time!
If you still have some time left and feel like extending this tour, for the villages of Alsace, we suggest you add a visit to Turckheim and Kaysersberg.
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