Alsace is located in the east of France, right on the German border between the Vosges mountains and the Upper Rhine. With an area of approx. 8280 km², it is the smallest region in France. The administrative center is Strasbourg. Over the course of history, this region has changed its political classification several times. The official language is French, but many inhabitants still understand and speak German.
Besides Strasbourg, well-known towns and municipalities include Colmar, Riquewihr, Haguenau and Ribeauville. Alsace stands for beautiful half-timbered houses, wine-growing villages, vineyards, rich art treasures – especially in Strasbourg and Colmar – and not least for culinary delicacies such as tarte flambée and Gugelhupf. And not forgetting the dry white wines, such as Edelzwicker.
The city in Alsace delights numerous tourists every year with its original character, quaint half-timbered houses, narrow cobbled streets and canals that meander through the city. Strasbourg, also known internationally as Strasbourg, is one thing above all: beautiful! However, the city, which is characterized by a mix of German and French culture, is not only famous for its outstanding historical architecture, but also for its numerous EU institutions such as the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights.
This is why Strasbourg is also known as the European capital! At Christmas time, the city in Alsace is also known as the capital of Christmas. Absolutely deserved! Explore the streets and alleyways of the old town and the Tanners’ Quarter on foot and let yourself be enchanted by the cozy charm. The city center of Strasbourg is quite compact and therefore ideal for a weekend in a foreign city. Take a tour of discovery through one of the most beautiful cities in Europe!
If you are spending your vacation in beautiful Alsace and would like to explore the surrounding area, there is no way around a visit to the pretty town of Colmar. The old half-timbered houses decorated with flowers, which miraculously escaped major destruction during the war, are too tempting. But there is so much more that attracts visitors here again and again, makes them marvel and ensures an all-round feel-good factor.
Colmar’s old town is considered one of the most beautiful old towns in the whole of France, particularly due to its location along the Lauch river, but also because of its beautiful and well-preserved half-timbered houses. Strolling through the narrow alleyways, along the small, cozy cafés and restaurants, which invite you to linger and feast, will quickly warm your heart.
The city’s most important sights include the Pfister House, the former Koifhus customs station, St. Martin’s Minster, Colmar’s main church and the Maison des Têtes, which is decorated with 100 heads and masks.
The tour continues with the Peters bridge, from where you can enjoy a magnificent view of Krutenau, probably the most beautiful district on the River Lauch. This is where you will find the famous Little Venice, or “Pétite Venise” in French, which, with its picturesque houses and beautiful bridges, is one of the most photographed motifs in the city.
The medieval town lies gently at the foot of the vineyards. Storks fly over the houses and brood their young in the large nests on the roofs. Colorful half-timbered buildings line the old pavé streets in the time-honored old town. Riquewihr is a fairy tale come true.
The first glance at the old town makes it clear why Riquewihr is one of the most beautiful villages in France: Medieval half-timbered houses, characterful pavé alleyways, lovingly decorated fountains, fortified town walls – each of these sights transports you to a fairytale world, to a time long gone.
At the same time, they tell their stories of how the inhabitants of Riquewihr became wealthy over the course of time through skillful trade with their coveted wines. In the 16th century in particular, Riquewihr experienced an impressive boom. With the money from the wine trade, the winegrowers built their half-timbered houses and protected them with a double wall around the entire settlement.
The “Dolder” watch and bell tower is the landmark of Riquewihr. It is located at the upper end of the main street Rue due Général de Gaulle. It is 25 meters high. The side facing the town center is decorated with half-timbering. The tower was built together with the first fortification wall. It was built in the same year that the Swiss Confederation was founded, namely 1291.
Eguisheim, just a few kilometers from Colmar, is surrounded by vineyards. Eguisheim is one of the oldest and most interesting small towns in Upper Alsace. The many sights and the picturesque old town make Eguisheim a jewel of Alsace, and a walk through the ring alleys along the town wall is highly recommended. In addition to stately courtyards and vineyards, you can admire a large number of well-preserved half-timbered houses from the 16th and 17th centuries.
The two alleyways of Eguisheim within the town walls offer many romantic corners to discover. In the center of the town stands the old restored castle, the so-called Pfalz, originally an octagonal moated castle in the 8th century, in the middle of which stood the tower-like keep, also octagonal, and attached to it the palace of the Counts of Eguisheim.
The statue of Pope Leo IX, who was born here, stands at the fountain in front of the palace. In 1890, a Romanesque chapel was built on the square in his honour, which houses a relic of the town’s patron saint. St. Leo’s Day (April 19) is celebrated with special festivities in Eguisheim.
The former industrial city of Mulhouse with its almost 110,000 inhabitants is still a real insider tip for travelers. While Mulhouse used to be characterized primarily by the textile industry, mechanical engineering, chemistry and mechanics, it has now mastered the structural change to become a young, creative, open and unagitated student city. The “young people” study at the University of Mulhouse and the School of Art and Design, which perhaps explains why there is so much art, culture and cuisine to discover in Mulhouse.
The historic old town of Mulhouse is quite small and is centered around the Place de la Réunion. The top attraction here is the Temple du Saint-Etienne. The city’s main Protestant church was built in the neo-Gothic style and is an impressive sight at any time of day or night. Unfortunately, its bell tower cannot be climbed, but be sure to take a look inside the church.
L’Hôtel de Ville – the former town hall – is another gem on the square, which is very lively during the day. Today, the pink building from the 16th century houses the history museum. The façade of the former town hall is artistically painted. From the steps, you have a good view of the reunification square.
The streets around the square are almost all pedestrian zones full of stores, cafés and restaurants and invite you to store, stroll or linger.
Kaysersberg impresses with its beautiful landscape and historic buildings. If you want to visit one of the most visited towns in French Alsace, you should head to Kaysersberg. Located to the north-west of Colmar, it impresses above all with its enchanting historic old town and beautiful surroundings in the middle of the vineyards.
This results in a wonderful panorama that extends far into Alsace and has a thoroughly romantic character. But Kaysersberg has more to offer than just a fascinating view, as there are just as many sights to discover here as there are culinary delights from the region in the restaurants.
Anyone who takes a tour of Kaysersberg on foot will be impressed by the lively town and its cobbled streets.
These are lined with well-preserved half-timbered houses, which are also richly decorated on the façade, creating a picture of a historic yet vibrant town that has a lot to offer its visitors.Staufenburg Castle, which dates back to the Middle Ages, literally stands out from its surroundings.
It is still one of the town’s most popular sights today and can be visited as a well-preserved castle ruin. But the beautifully restored town houses, most of which date back to the Renaissance, also characterize the image of Kaysersberg and give a good impression of the historical importance of the region.
The picturesque bridges over the river were once important trade routes and today invite you to take leisurely walks in the surrounding area, always starting from the historic town with its cozy corners and small alleyways.
Ribeauvillé, a charming town that has managed to preserve its historical heritage, lies on the wine route between the vines and the mountains.
In the Middle Ages, the village was the seat of the Lords of Ribeaupierre (hence the name of the town of Ribeauvillé). The Ribeaupierres had 3 fortified castles built, the ruins of which still tower majestically over the town and the surrounding hills: Saint Ulrich Castle (the oldest and largest of the 3 castles), Girsberg Castle and Haut-Ribeaupierre Castle (as its name suggests, the highest of the 3 castles). All three can be reached via a footpath along the mountainside.
Of the medieval fortifications, part of the town wall and some of the defensive towers still remain. Among these towers, the most impressive is the “Tour des Bouchers”, the “Butchers’ Tower” (dating from the 13th century and rebuilt in the 18th century), whose name comes from the butchers’ association that was charged with defending the town in the event of attacks from this tower.
In the Grand’rue (main street) and its picturesque quarters lined with buildings decorated with flowers (from the 15th to the 18th century), you can see squares adorned with Renaissance-style fountains.
The small town of Obernai is located directly on the famous wine route in Alsace and is one of the few towns in the region to have completely retained its medieval character. With its historic towers, walls and ornate half-timbered houses, the dreamy little town at the foot of the Odilienberg blends into the Alsatian vineyard scenery.
Originally a Frankish settlement, Obernai was still owned by the Holy Roman Empire a few hundred years ago. In addition to the famous town wall, more than 20 impressive towers emerged from this legacy-rich past, which still characterize the medieval townscape today. Particularly worth seeing are the 60-metre-high Kappel Tower and the typical Alsatian “six-bucket fountain” from the Renaissance in the city center.
The neo-Gothic church of Saints-Pierre-et-Paul is also one of the town’s most popular sights. It is considered one of the largest neo-Gothic churches in the Alsace region. The interior of the pompous church is characterized by particularly elaborately designed walls and has an antique organ.
Above the town, sports enthusiasts can reach the national monument to the Malgré-nous after a short hike through the vineyards.
From there, you can see the entire town in good weather. For a culinary experience, head to the “Kornhaus” restaurant on the market square, which was used to store grain in the 15th century.
The historic old town with its many half-timbered houses, which still characterize Wissembourg today, is located directly on the banks of the Lauter. Some of them date back to the late Middle Ages. However, the small town in Alsace can look back on a longer history. Above all, the monastery founded in the 7th century, which soon became an abbey, ensured a steadily growing settlement.
Between the beginning of the 14th century and the late 17th century, Wissembourg was one of the Alsatian imperial towns.
The long history of the town of almost 8,000 inhabitants can be experienced on a leisurely stroll through the narrow streets. The old town is still surrounded by the remains of the old town fortifications. The towers of the abbey church of St. Peter and Paul are characteristic of the historic center.
They form the northern starting point of the Romanesque Route, which connects the Romanesque monuments in Alsace. The predominantly Gothic abbey church of Saints-Pierre-et-Paul is one of the largest places of worship in the Bas-Rhin outside Strasbourg. The 15th-century salt house, the 16th-century Maison de l’ami Fritz and the neoclassical town hall are also well worth a visit.
Due to its compact size, Wissembourg is best explored on foot. Be sure to take a turn into the inconspicuous side streets or follow one of the Lauter canals into beautifully restored residential areas.
Bergheim is a charming village along the wine route. The small Alsatian village is surrounded by its fortifications and has remained largely untouched by tourists to this day. There are several beautiful winegrowers’ houses in the village center. From the well-preserved town fortifications, you have a beautiful view of the vineyards, which are overlooked by the Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg.
Bergheim’s Gothic basilica is now open to the public. The current church was demolished in 1965 due to dilapidation and rebuilt in the early Baroque style.
The church is a single-nave hall building. The high and bright rooms give the church a warm ambience. The two side altars make the church appear wider. The church, which is a listed building, still opens its doors for regular services.
The 14th century Upper Gate, which protected the western entrance to the town, is the only gate still standing. From the gate, you walk along the main street to the other end of the village or you can also walk along the town fortifications.
From the church, it is best to walk into the Grand Rue and then through the many alleyways of the town, where you can marvel at the beautiful houses. The many beautiful and charming half-timbered houses are largely inhabited by locals.
Turckheim is located 7 kilometers west of Colmar at the foot of the Vosges mountains in Alsace. It is a tiny town off the beaten track and a stunning settlement characterized by half-timbered houses, historic town gates, storks and watchmen. Turckheim dates back to Roman times and is another beautiful town on the Alsace Wine Route that is well worth a visit.
The main pleasure of a visit is a stroll through the cobbled streets of Turckheim, lined with colorful houses and fountains. Along the way, you can admire the three fortified gates and the remaining parts of the city walls.
Turckheim is one of the few towns in France that still retains a night watchman. The night watch makes its rounds every evening at 10 pm from May 1 to October 31. Although the night watch is largely for tourist reasons, this profession prevented a town-wide fire in the 13th century!
Back in the old days, when candles and fireplaces were lit on cold evenings, night watchmen would make their rounds in the villages and towns. They reminded everyone not to forget to extinguish their candles, torches and fireplaces.
Over the centuries and with the advancement of modern technology (electricity), the role of the night watchmen became obsolete. The tradition was revived in Turckheim 50 years ago. Today, four men take it in turns to carry out this job.
Barr is the wine metropolis in Lower Alsace (Bas-Rhin) and a vacation destination for wine connoisseurs. Barr, located on the Alsace Wine Route, is well worth a short detour. Many of its citizens became wealthy here thanks to winegrowing.
This can be seen on a tour of the town from the stately half-timbered houses, some of which date back to the 14th and 15th centuries. Historic civic buildings, fountains and well-tended flowerbeds line the market square in Barr.
The town, which today has around 7000 inhabitants, was founded in the 8th century.
The Renaissance town hall, built in 1640 on the ruins of a castle, is adorned with stepped gables and bay windows. From the inner courtyard you have a good view of the rear front. From here, a staircase leads to the Protestant St. Martin’s Church from 1850.
The four lower storeys of the Romanesque tower date back to the late 12th century and are decorated with figures.
There are also Gothic elements to discover, such as the three heads under the window. The organ from 1852 was built by the Stiehr brothers from Seltz. A wine trail (Sentier Viticole) leads from the church to the Kirchberg Grand Cru vineyards.
The beautiful little town of Molsheim with its picturesque town center is located at the foot of the Vosges mountains about 30 km from Strasbourg. Molsheim has always been a center of attraction for poets and thinkers. Goethe spent some time in Molsheim as a student of French culture and Ettore Bugatti had his legendary studio here where he worked on his legendary cars.
In the center of the town is the Metzig butchers’ guild house, a prime example of the Alsatian Renaissance. Curved gables, double staircases and an astronomical clock lined with angels adorn the former guild house.
The former monastery of the Carthusians, who had already warmly welcomed Louis XIV, can be visited today. The reconstructed monks’ cells and the remains of the cloister as well as the monastery’s herb garden are a beautiful sight.
Also worth a visit is the “Église des Jesuites” on the south-eastern edge of the old town, which houses a Silbermann organ dating back to 1781.
Rosheim is la Cité Romane, the Romanesque town. It is not for nothing that this town has earned its name. Rosheim is a beautiful old winegrowing town on the Route de Vin and impresses with its medieval walls and gate towers as well as its well-preserved half-timbered houses.
The small town is located southwest of Strasbourg in the mouth of a valley.
Rosheim is home to one of the most important Romanesque buildings in Alsace, the Église St-Pierre-et-St-Paul. This pure and beautiful church is a clearly structured building made of golden yellow Vosges sandstone, richly decorated and ornate choir windows and façades. A Silbermann organ is hidden in the right aisle.
This astonishing gem of Romanesque architecture attracts numerous tourists.
The city streets have plenty of cafés and restaurants that invite you to linger and relax. Walks through the old town are worthwhile on nice days and show off the Romanesque buildings to their best advantage.
Sélestat is located between Strasbourg and Colmar. The small town, which is considered the birthplace of the Christmas tree, is not very touristy. However, the well-preserved town center with its winding alleyways is very beautiful. During the Renaissance, the former fishing village blossomed into a center of humanism. At that time, 1000 students from all over Europe studied in little Sélestat. The Humanist Library, which is housed in the corn hall, exhibits many works from the period, including the oldest surviving book in Alsace.
The mighty clock tower and the witches’ tower, where women accused of witchcraft were imprisoned in the 17th century, still remain from the town fortifications.
Also worth a visit is the Gothic church of St. George, with its modern stained glass windows, and the late Romanesque church of Sainte-Foy.
The Sarkis installation “Le Rêve” (the dream) is hidden between the ramparts to the south and the River Ill. The work consists of 300 street signs attached to the city wall with short sentences about travel, art and nature.
Kintzheim is a pretty little wine village near Colmar. It is quiet and peaceful within the medieval walls of the village. Beautiful old half-timbered houses and a late baroque town hall dating back to 1775 characterize the townscape. In the 16th century, the “Lalli”, a grimacing face at the lower gate, mockingly stuck out his movable tongue at intruders who managed to break through the outer wall, as overcoming this first hurdle did not bring the intruders inside the town.
The “Lalli” can still be admired today and a Sherman tank at the upper gate is a reminder of Kintzheim’s liberation at the end of the Second World War.
A walk around the town wall is also very beautiful. The path is lined with cherry trees and runs along the moat. Inside the walls is a beautiful winegrower’s fountain decorated with depictions of Alsatian grape varieties. The history of Alsatian wine is presented in the “Musée du Vin”.
The 16th-century Schwendi Castle is now covered in vine leaves and is home to the Saint Étienne wine brotherhood, which is dedicated to testing Alsatian wine. For families and nature lovers, the stork park, where you can experience the Alsatian landmark up close, and the eagle observatory with around 80 diurnal and nocturnal birds of prey at Kintzheim Castle are particularly recommended.
Dambach-la-Ville is probably one of the lesser-known villages in Alsace. The picturesque winegrowing town lies to the north of Sélestat on the wine route. Dambach-la-Ville owes several awards in a national competition to the lush and beautiful floral decorations that adorn the town.
The market square in the former episcopal town is very harmonious and idyllic. The town hall dates back to the Renaissance and is particularly beautiful to look at.
The town fountain is adorned with the symbol of the town, a bear with a wine cup. The town wall with the three 14th century town gates surrounding the town is virtually intact. The peaceful townscape is characterized by late Gothic oriel houses. The old bourgeois town has a 470-hectare vineyard, the largest in Alsace.
The Chapelle Saint-Sébastian is a place of interest in Dambach-la-Ville. The chapel has a Romanesque tower and a Gothic choir. The baroque high altar is richly decorated and dedicated to St. Sebastian. The chapel thus presents several different epochal styles, which gives it a special aura and effect.
The ruins of Bernstein Castle from the 12th/13th century are located close to the town. The castle at an altitude of 562 m has been renovated and the 18 m high Donjou offers a wonderful view of the Vosges panorama and the Rhine plain.
4. Mont Sainte-Odile Abbey
Mont Sainte-Odile, the holy mountain of Alsace, lies 764 meters high on the edge of the Vosges mountains near Ottrott and is the most important pilgrimage site in the Alsace region.
The colossal statue of St. Odilia sits enthroned on the tower of the monastery church above the steep slope of a huge massif of colored stone. The patron saint of Alsace looks down on her country from the Odilienberg and can be seen from afar by her many visitors. This wooded ridge is surrounded by the so-called Pagan Wall.
It was built around 1000 BC and was the fortification ring of a Celtic refuge. Ten kilometers long, three meters high and often over two meters thick, built from cyclopean sandstone blocks, which were connected without mortar only with oak staples in dovetail-shaped stone recesses, it enclosed the refuge of the Celts against external attacks.
Excavations have shown that the complex was still in use in Roman times.
Under the rule of the Franks, the high castle of the Etichones from Obernai was located on the Odilienberg. They were counts of Alsace and followers of the Frankish kings. Attich or Eticho, father of St. Odilia, also came from this family and is associated with the following legend.
3. Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg
Located on the Alsatian wine route, one of the most imposing and fascinating fortresses in Europe, the Hohkönigsburg, offers the ideal backdrop for photographers with a penchant for monuments as well as landscape and nature photography. Situated at an altitude of almost 757 m, the walls of pink Vosges sandstone can be seen from 10 to 20 km away.
From the picturesque winegrowing village of Kintzheim, it is worth taking a walk up to the Hohkönigsburg. On the way, you have a magnificent view over the Rhine valley and into the Val-de-Villé valley of the Vosges.
On a clear day, you can even see the black spire of Strasbourg Cathedral in the distance. Finally, on clear, sunny autumn days, you can enjoy a fascinating view of the Alsatian plain, the Kayserstuhl and the Black Forest from high up at the gates of Hohkönigsburg Castle.
The Hohkönigsburg itself is of course a particularly attractive motif and offers the opportunity to take numerous historical close-ups. You can join a guided tour or discover the castle on your own.
The fact that the historic building is so well preserved and open to visitors today is not least thanks to the German Emperor Wilhelm II. After being besieged and pillaged by the Swedes during the Thirty Years’ War, the castle lay in ruins for more than 250 years until the emperor had it rebuilt at the beginning of the 20th century.
Munster is the main town in the Münstetal valley in Upper Alsace and is located in the Ballons des Vosges Regional Nature Park. Tourism is an important economic factor for this town.
For many, Munster has become particularly well known for the Munster cheese produced there. The aromatic soft cheese is characterized by its strong smell and very soft paste. The specialty can be particularly enjoyed with one of the original and tasty local wines and a beautiful view of the Fecht river, which runs through the town. The guarantee of origin for the red smear cheese and the wines is provided by a sticker with the inscription “Appellation d’origine contrôlée”.
In addition to the local specialties, the town also has beautiful and relaxing thermal bath facilities.
For many, the “Route du fromage” is an ideal excursion. The famous cheese route runs above the Münster Valley. This is a particularly scenic route. Don’t forget to pack some of the local specialties as a snack.
1. Vosges Mountains
Alsace is also known as a vacation region of mountains and valleys. The Vosges mountains form the green paradise of Alsace. The Vosges mountain range is 125 km long and covers 6900 square kilometers. Hikers can trudge along an impressive 10,000 km of marked hiking trails, including various GRs long-distance hiking trails, through the gently rounded mountain formations of the Vosges with dense forests, ice-cold lakes and lush green meadows.
Most of the valleys in Alsace are nestled in the foothills of the Vosges. The mostly high passes connect the valleys with each other. For example, you can reach the Alsace Wine Route via the winding roads. The valleys not only offer pure nature, but also a rich historical heritage, such as the many castles.