Trip to Alsace: The Wine Route
If you are wondering how much beauty can hide in one destination, then you must take a trip to Alsace! The small but impressive region of France is full of colors, flavors and images taken out of the fairytales of the Brothers Grimm. Alsace is located on the border with Germany and the Ill River, to which it owes its name (Elsass, the region of Ill), runs through it, while its capital is Strasbourg. Alsace is –probably- the most beautiful and picturesque region of Europe! What makes it stand out is the unique architecture of its buildings, which pose ever more frequently on the instagram profiles of simple travelers, as well as of travel bloggers. Book your tickers and get ready for a French road trip around medieval villages, castles, rivers, canals and endless vineyards.
Yes, you got that right. The wine route in Alsace (Route de vine d’ Alsace) is the region’s trademark, as it is one of the most well-known in the world! This on its own is a very good reason to put it high on your list. And if you drink an extra 1,2,3,4,5…glasses of wine, you will be completely justified. And don’t worry about side dishes. In Alsace you will find dozens of Michelin stars-awarded restaurants!
Read the Alsace guide, the wine route and visit the best places..
info Alsacea) Alsace stretches across 190km, 170km of which are vineyards! b) The white pelican is the emblem of Alsace and symbolizes fertility and fortune, while it is estimated that the region hosts more than 600 pairs of the species! c) Its restaurants collect the most Michelin stars in France! d) The Statue of Liberty is the work of Auguste Bartholdi, who was born in Colmar! e) Strasbourg hosts the official seat of the European Parliament!
What to do in Alsace
1) The Alsace wine route (Route de vine d’ Alsace) The wine route is the most picturesque route in France and it crosses, almost, the entire region of Alsace. Starting at the town of Marlenheim, a.k.a. the gate of the Alsace wine route, it passes through 70(!) villages and crosses 170km before it reaches the final destination, the small town of Thann. Along the route you will come across some of the most picturesque towns and villages, such as Colmar, Riquewihr, Ribeauvillé, Eguisheim, Obernai and Kaysersberg, and you will get lost inside the endless vineyards that surround them.
Mini info: a) The vineyards add up to 156,000 acres! b) 140,000,000 bottles of wine are produced yearly! c) The capital of the wine route is considered to be Colmar!
In Alsace all kinds of wines are produced; red, rosé and white, from seven varieties of grapes. You must simply choose among fresh and fruity, such as the Pinot Blanc, the Sylvaner, the Riesling and the Muscat d’Alsace, strong and intense aromas, such as the Pinot Gris and the Gewurztraminer, as well as sparkling ones, such as the Cremant d‘ Alsace.In the area you will find four wine museums (Kientzheim, Ungersheim, Mittelbergheim, Andlau) and 4,200(!) wineries, many of which (900+) are open to visitors and offer wine-tasting tours. Some, in fact, offer you the opportunity to become vine-growers for a day, helping in the harvest process.
You can cross the wine route by car, bike or horse, while in almost every village there is a small train that tours around the neighborhoods and the surrounding vineyards. Finally, there are many companies that organize group or individual trips, depending on your time and preferences, while from May to October events and festivals are being held that include shows, exhibitions, happenings and tastings (see below Tips Alsace).
2) Colmar Colmar is the most advertised and beautiful Alsatian destination. It is located half-way on the wine route and stands out for the polyphony of colors, which adorn houses, canals and walkways. Wander around the historic center, search for the renaissance buildings of Maison des Tetes and Maison Pfister, gaze at the instagram-able corner of Little Venice and take a boat ride…before the sunset.
3) Riquewihr Riquewihr is known as the “pearl of the vineyards” or “the village of the vine-growers”, as it is located among hills covered with endless vines. Nested behind medieval walls, with colorful stone houses, cobbled streets and smells from cellars, it has remained in another era and waits for you to discover it.
4) Ribeauvillé Ribeauvillé is one of Alsace’s most popular villages, this is why it is swarmed by visitors daily. The old town with the colorful houses, the fountains and squares, the abandoned castles and the two large gothic churches are pull factors. In the famous Alsatian wine-village you will find one of the oldest winemaking cooperatives.
5) Eguisheim The quiet village of Eguisheim is located a bit outside Colmar. Built in concentric circles around its castle, it is one of France’s most beautiful wine-villages. Its landmark is the square with the fountain, from where dozens of trips begin for the wine route. It also follows the Alsatian architecture, with the vivid colors and cobbled streets composing yet another medieval scenery.
Mini tip: From mid-June to mid-September free tours in French are held, by local vine-growers. Contact the tourism office for dates and schedules.
6) Obernai Obernai is probably the most “complete” location in Alsace! The Alsatian architecture is combined with the quiet and freshly-baked baguettes of Boulangerie Degermann Guillaume and offer a permanent smile to visitors. Apart from a walk inside its wonderful historic center, take the route around the walls and gaze at Alsace from the Mémorial de l’ADEIF.
7) Kaysersberg Welcome to “the emperor’s mountain”, to one of Alsace’s first wine-villages…Kaysersberg. Placed on a strategic location, under the Vosges mountains, Kaysersberg is (relatively) unknown to the tourist public, while it is one of the favorite villages of the French. The fortified bridge, at its entrance, the colorful houses and the fairytale corner totally justify their choice. Maybe it should be yours too?
8) Strasbourg Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace, has managed to combine different eras and cultures. From the historic center and the beautiful cathedral, to the postcard-like Petite France and the covered bridge, “Europe’s crossroad” offers many beautiful images. Do not miss out on a visit to the European Parliament and a passage to the German town of Kehl, via the bridge of the two rivers.
9) The wine route by bike Alsace is the dream of every cyclist, as it has over 2,500km of bicycle paths, of all levels. The wine route by bike is a totally unique experience. The dozens of bicycle routes go through majestic landscapes, picturesque villages, ruins of medieval castles and, of course, countless vineyards. Choose an e-bike by Alsa Cyclo Tours so that you climb the Alsatian slopes comfortably!
The wine route by bike, in numbers:
? Distance: 135km.
? Highest altitude: 1,350m
⏰ Duration: 5½ hours (25km/hour)
10) Statue of Liberty in ColmarThe Statue of Liberty that adorns the north entrance of Colmar is homage to its local creator, Auguste Bartholdi. The 12-meter replica of the famous monument is located in the middle of a cyclical crossroad, outside the airport. Inside Colmar you will find more of Bartholdi’s works of art, as well as the homonymous museum.
11) Castles in Alsace In Alsace you will come across more than 500 medieval castles, which indicate the region’s strategic location. Some loom on high hills, while others are inside the villages. The most significant castle in Alsace, with a wonderful panoramic view, is the Haut Kœnigsbourg. If you are ready for a different journey in time, follow the route of Alsace’s castles (Route des Chateux d’ Alsace).
12) Local Cuisine Alsace’s local cuisine consists of an amalgam of French and German flavors. It uses plain materials, such as eggs, potatoes and cabbage and has plenty of vegetarian dishes. However, most Alsatian dishes are meat-based. All dishes are combined with the famous Alsatian wines, while the meal wraps up with a traditional dessert or a Café Gourmand.
13) Christmas and Easter in Alsace Alsace is one of the most special destinations in Europe for one to spend their festive holidays. On Christmas, every Alsatian town and village gets decorated with thousands of lights and trees, while their squares host some of the most wonderful Christmas Markets in Europe. On Easter, on the other hand, the streets, houses and shops are filled with colorful eggs, bunnies and flowers, creating a beautiful Easter scenery.
14) Excursion to the Black Forest An excursion to the Black Forest will ideally complete your trip to Alsace. Tall and thick trees, waterfalls, lakes, spa towns, charming villages, impressive towns and countless cuckoo clocks(!) are only a few of the elements you will find while crossing the lush green…Black Forest. Relax at the spas of Baden-Baden, hike in the thousands of trails, walk in the town of Freiburg, climb the waterfalls of Triberg, take a boat ride in the lake Titisee and search for the world’s biggest cuckoo, in the village of Schonach. Finally, in order to replenish the calories you lose, try the delicious traditional Black Forest cake.
Mini info: There are 23,000km of hiking trails.
Food AlsaceFood in Alsace is easy business and it can satisfy even the experts of gastronomy. The Alsatian cuisine is a mix of French and German flavors, this is why in the menus you will come across many dishes that remind of the neighboring country. From gourmet restaurants, awarded with Michelin stars, to traditional taverns (winstubs), the options for local food in Alsace are plenty.
Try the traditional Tarte Flambée (thin dough with cream cheese, onions and bacon or mushrooms), the Choucroute (pickled cabbage, served with pork sausage), Coq au Reisling (rooster with wine), Foie Gras (duck liver) and Baeckeoffe (potatoes cooked with onions and meat marinated in wine). Also, the local Munster cheese, with the spicy flavor, the fresh asparagus and Alsatian wine are not absent from any table. For dessert you can enjoy some French cheesecake, café gourmand, fruit tarts, macaroons and nougat.And as for snacks in Alsace, you will find French croissants, salty pretzels and the fluffy Kouglof cake. On Christmas you should try Christolle (brioche with fruit), Mannele (human figure-shaped brioche), Gingerbread, Linzertorte (Austrian tart with jam) and Bredalas (biscuits with various flavors and shapes), while on Easter do not miss the chance to try the traditional Lamala cake (in the shape of a lamb), as well as the chocolate eggs and bunnies.
The shops with the best food in Alsace..
Bistrot Gourmand (Colmar): The small bistro is located in the center of Colmar and serves filling brunch, snacks and fresh desserts. Spécialité: the rich brunch.
L’Epicurien (Colmar): If you want to eat at a Michelin star-awarded restaurant, L’Epicurien is the best option. It is located in Little Venice and offers delicious dishes at the respective prices. Spécialité: the fluffy chocolate mousse.
Winstub du Village (Rorschwihr): The hidden gem of Alsace that serves traditional dishes, local wines and delicious desserts. Spécialité: the menu of the day.
Pizz’arôme (Strasbourg): How tasty can a vegetarian pizza be? Well, when it is served with top quality ingredients, it can satisfy even the most demanding of palates. Spécialité: Pizza with spinach and ricotta cheese. Extra tip: try the sweet pizzas and fresh desserts.
Le Hupsa Pfannala (Saint Hippolyte): In its yard, as well as in the modern interior space, they serve high-quality traditional dishes. Spécialité: the soups of the day.
Strassburger (Strasbourg): At the restaurant you will find tasty burgers that are served inside green, black, pink, brown, as well as in classic buns! Spécialité: the Strassburger.
Chez l’ oncle Freddy (Strasbourg): A restaurant with purely Alsatian cuisine. Sit at the veranda and accompany your meal with one of their wines. Spécialité: the Bouchée à la Reine.
Breakfast AlsaceΡoulaillon (Colmar): A bakery with fresh baked goods, cold sandwiches and sweets in very good prices.
Boulangerie Degermann Guillaume (Obernai): Traditional bakery that offers local salty and sweet delicacies. Bonus: their freshly-baked baguette.
Artisan boulanger (Strasbourg): French bakery chain with tasty and economical products.
Le XX Bar à vins (Strasbourg): The Le XX Bar à vins offers many wine labels, which are accompanied by the rich platters of cured meats and cheeses! Excellent option.
Πλατεία d’Austerlitz (Strasbourg): It is located in the student neighborhood of Krutenau and hosts restaurants, cafés and bars, where you can spend some moments of relaxation.
La Fleur de Sel (Colmar):A small shop with a balcony right by the canal of Little Venice. It serves food, drinks, amazing espressos as well as Café Gourmand.
Πλατεία du Marché Gayot (Strasbourg): The square of Marché Gayot is located behind Strasbourg’s cathedral and it stays alive until late at night, with beers, wine and cocktails!
Accommodation Alsace Accommodation in Alsace is not an easy case, as high quality sites are scarce and prices are pretty high. In the urban centers you will mainly find apartments and few hotels, while in the surrounding villages you can stay in hostels, camping sites, and even towers, with views to the Alsatian vineyards! A unique experience is a stay at one of the region’s wineries, which can be combined with wine-tasting tours. If you visit the region during the Christmas or Easter holidays, you must make reservations much earlier, as occupancy reaches up to 95%! The cost per night ranges between 90€ and 150€, depending on the season and location you will choose.
These are the best hotels for accommodation in Alsace..
My Sweet Homes (Colmar): The 10 cozy apartments of My Sweet Homes are housed in a traditional Alsatian building in the center of the old town. Every apartment has its own thematic décor, while all are quiet and clean. Cost per night: 110€
Hôtel Val-Vignes Colmar Haut-Koenigsbourg (Saint-Hippolyte): Plenty of amenities, clean modern and quiet rooms, parking and endless vineyards! What would be better for accommodation in Alsace? Cost per night: 95-110€
Hotel Origami (Strasbourg): The hotel Origami is one of the best options for accommodation in Strasbourg. The rooms are clean and bright, while the decoration follows the art of Origami! Cost per night: 60-80€
Le Colombier (Obernai & Colmar): The 4-star hotels are located in the two most beautiful places of Alsace. They have luxury rooms, many amenities and amazing local architecture! Cost per night: 120-160€
5 Terres Hôtel & Spa Barr (Barr): It belongs to the well-known Sofitel chain and offers modern rooms with wonderful touches and plenty of amenities. Cost per night: 120-140€
Gîte Au Coeur De Ribeauvillé (Ribeauvillé): The traditional Alsatian rooms are located in the center of Ribeauvillé. The spaces are modern, clean and suitable for many hours of relaxation. Cost per night: 100€
Transportation Alsace Alsace is small in size, this is why transportation is easy and can happen in a lot of ways. The fastest and most comfortable way is by car. A pretty good network, with a central axis (A35) and many byways, it will take you quickly and easily to the 904(!) villages, communities and towns of Alsace. Also, you can cross it by train, as it has more than 150 stations, or by bike, through one of the dozens of trails.
As for transportation inside the towns and villages of Alsace, the best means is…on foot. Of course, there is the option of the means of public transportation, which are always punctual and easy to use. Finally, in Colmar and Strasbourg you can take a boat ride in the canals, while you can add a different note to your tour by riding the small train (you will find it in a lot of villages).
- The best season to visit Alsace is May to October.
- In the summer, the temperature reaches up to 28-30°C.
- Rainfall in the region is a usual phenomenon, so you must carry an umbrella.
- In Obernai you will find the cheapest souvenirs.
- (Most) restaurants close in the afternoon and open again in early evening.
- The stores close early in the evening, around 18:00.
- The most popular holidays are Christmas, Easter, the Spring festival and the Wine festival.
- The wine route by bike is of medium difficulty, so you should prefer an e-bike.
- From May to October, in various Alsatian villages, wine festivals are being held! You can find more details here.
- Free parking spots you will find a bit outside of the villages, while parking facilities inside the villages cost 3€ per day.
- The accommodation sites located inside historic centers do not include parking spaces, while many allow pets.
- Most museums are closed every Tuesday.
- Smoking is prohibited in parks.
- For good and more economical food, prefer small villages such as Rorschwihr, Bergheim and Saint Hippolyte.
- At gas stations, only the automatic machines work in the evening.
- In order to explore Alsace and the wine route, you will need five to seven days.
- Spring and Autumn are the best seasons for cycling in Alsace.
- The boats start from two locations, Boulevard Saint Piere and the Rue Des Ecoles bridge. Caution: they are different companies.
- The Astronomical Clock is free until 11:30. For the 12:00 show you must purchase a ticket, at the right side of the church.
- Purchase the trip card for unlimited transportations within 24 hours.
- By recharging the card at the machine, you save 0,10€ on every ticket.
- With the D tram, you can go as far as the German town of Kehl.
- Many shops have daily happy hours with beers and cocktails.
- Every Sunday morning, there is a street market at the central square of the town hall.
- In early June, a hike is organized that lasts for many days and over 400km are crossed.
- The festival of Kougelhopf takes place in June.
- The most beautiful festival is the Medieval Ribeauvillé traditionally, which takes place in August and offers shows with traditional Alsatian costumes.
- The festivals of the stork and the vine-growers take place in August.
- For a visit with a tour guide at the Château, you must contact the tourism office.