There are many good things about living in Europe and one of these is flexibility to be in another country even for the weekend. But, I must say that for past 7 years living in Munich, I did not know about this beautiful French region that lies on the western border of Germany. But since my husband mentioned about this region, I was desperately waiting for an opportunity to visit. And last month, we took the chance of the long weekend and drove there for 4 days. The rest I will leave on the post below and the pictures 🙂
Alsace is a historic and cultural region in eastern France (on border with Germany and Switzerland). It lies on the west bank of River Rhine and the Vosges mountains. The region is famous for the villages along the wine route as these villages and towns offer colorful half-timbered houses. The region is also very famous for its cuisine.
FAMOUS BIG CITIES
It is a city of art with a very nice historic center. The old town is very charming with a lot of prestigious monuments. Of course, the architecture of the houses tops everything.
While in Colmar:
- Stroll in the neighborhood of Little Venice
- Visit the Tanners Quarter for the House of Heads
- Maison Pfister
- Kaifhus (old custom house)
- The Collegiate Church of St. Martin, the Dominican Church
- Unterlinden Museum
Fun Fact: Did you know that the sculptor who designed the Statue of Liberty (name: Bartholdi) was from Colmar and the replica of the statue in Colmar was dedicated to commemorating 100th anniversary of his death on July 04, 2004. The replica stands on the roundabout close to Colmar airport (north entrance of the city from the highway).
Straßbourg is 73km north of Colmar and is one of the most famous cities in the region. It is a big city that offers a lot to see and admire. We did not visit Straßbourg during our 4 days trip as we stayed around Colmar and explored that side of Alsace. Though, I have been to Straßbourg before and would totally recommend to make a stopover for few hours if you are passing by.
Colmar is a must visit, but apart from that, there are so many beautiful villages only 30 to 40 minutes distance from Colmar, that you can choose as many as you like based on your time and interest.
Kaysersberg: My top favorite with lovely old medieval houses
Ribeauvillé: very popular due to the views to the 3 castles of Ribeaupierre up the hill
Riquewihr: Another must visit, small, walled medieval town
Husseren-les-Châteaux: Wine Route’s highest point
Eguisheim: A bit less crowded, lovely streets and great restaurants
You can pretty much choose any small village in Alsace and you won’t be disappointed. There are some very famous ones close to Straßbourg as well, but to visit it all, you need about 10 days at least. But our stay was enough to get the flavour.
Tip: During the day, most of villages are pretty crowded with the day tourists, so I would recommend that you also visit some of these villages an hour or two before it gets dark. That will change the whole perspective of the same village. And also, it is good to take some shots of the great architecture. (Otherwise you can choose to get up really early and head there.)
OTHER THINGS TO DO
Alsace has a lot to offer and you can easily spend two weeks here and still would have something left to do. But, depending on time and your interest, you can make priorities. Apart from the villages above, you have some other interesting activities as well.
Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg – Orchwiller:
This medieval castle mountain with the medieval fortress of the Haut-Koenigsbourg is the most famous castle in the area. But, to go there, either go really early when it opens or before the closing timing. Otherwise, you will have to wait in the long queue of the cars trying to get to the castle. There were so many cars on the street going up the hill that we simply returned without visiting.
- Volerie des Aigles: This is an Eagle Park in the ruins of the medieval castle of Kintzheim.
- Montagne des singes: Walking the 24ha forest among the Barbary Macaques.
Cité du train – Mulhouse:
Now this one is for the car lovers. It is said to be the largest car museum in the world, showcasing 400 classic, prestige and racing cars which trace the history of automobile.
Ecomusée d’Alsace – Ungersheim:
It is an outdoor museum depicting the old life that used to be in these Alsatian villages. There is a fee for the visit.
WHERE TO EAT
- Au Vieuo Porche – Eguisheim
- Brendelstub -Riquewihr
- Le Pavillon Gourmand – Eguisheim
- Bistrot Gourmand breakfast – Colmar
Tip: Flammkuchen and pancakes (crepes) are good almost everywhere in Alsace. This is the region where Flammkuchen originates from. When in Colmar, try the flammkuchen place in the Little Venice area, exactly where the boat tours start. Also, do not miss macrons from Macarons de Riquewihr (They have a bakery both in Colmar and Riquewihr).
WHERE TO STAY:
If you are by car, you can stay almost anywhere in Alsace and can make day trips easily to all villages. Otherwise Colmar or Straßbourg is your choice. I personally really liked the village Kaysersberg and found it very nice for staying. Though, it will be very quiet after the day tourists are gone (which is super cool if you like it).
There are so many nice bed and breakfasts or boutique hotels, but if you plan to visit between June and Sep, book at least two to three months in advance. I saw some places that I would have loved to stay but could not reserve as they were booked out.
We stayed at Chataeu d’Isenbourg and absolutely loved it by all means. It is proper Alsace old castle experience with a French touch. And not just the place is awesome, but the people there are very nice and make your stay even more special. This castle on the famous wine route dates back to 16th and 17th centuries and is perfectly located for enjoying Alsace. It offers gorgeous views over the village of Rouffach, the Vosges foothills and also the Black Forest in the distance. It is a perfect place to pamper yourself and relax. If possible, select a room on the second floor with views over Rouffach.
This place was booked out, but I would love to return for this.
HOW LONG AND WHEN TO VISIT:
Alsace gets quite cold in winters, so the best time is of course summer (end of May till Sep). But Jul/Aug can be very crowded because of holidays. Also, it is very popular area for bicycle tours between the villages, and peak summer can be a bit too warm for bicycling.
And as I said above, you can easily spend a whole week or two here and still won’t cover it all, but to get the feeling of the area, you can stay for 2 to 3 nights and visit either Colmar or Straßbourg and 2 to 3 nearby small villages.
I hope you enjoyed the post and would add this to your travel wish list.