Alsace Roadtrip: an Itinerary

Posted on 15. Sep, 2011 by in Destinations, Europe Travel, France

Plannning an Alsace roadtrip was always a dream of mine (and I was glad to cross it off my my bucket list). I am a big fan of dry white wine and 15th century architecture and trust me, it doesn’t get any better than this for both of these things.

Culturally sandwiched between France and Germany, it has only been part of the French territory since World War II, with obvious German heritage, from the language to the traditional meals. One of the most popular reason to visit Alsace, other than its rich history, is its famous vineyards and unique villages. The region stretches from Strasbourg all the way down to Mulhouse, with Colmar being an important stop in the middle. My Alsace roadtrip covered 5 villages in 4 days, and I feel it was enough to get a good grasp on the region. Let’s have a look at my  itinerary:


View Alsace Roadtrip in a larger map

First stop: Strasbourg

Seat of the European parliament and many international organizations, it is one of my favorite urban cities in Europe so far. I loved the eclectic mixture of timber frames, the gothic Cathedral and the modern buildings on the main streets. The first place you want to visit is definitely the Petite France neighborhood, the oldest part of the city. It includes amazingly well-kept medieval buildings, canals, cobblestone streets and mature trees, which makes for a nice romantic setting, especially in the evening. Speaking of which, I recommend you opt for the Au Petit Bois Vert (2 Quai de la Bruche) restaurant for dinner, a cute eatery along the canal. Make sure you try their famous flamkuchen, a traditional Alsatian pizza with extra thin crust.

Petite France in Strasbourg during my Alsace roadtrip

Another important stop is the Strasbourg Cathedral. Once the world’s highest building (and now the 6th tallest church), it’s one of the finest work of late Gothic architecture, and is easily recognizable not only because of its detailed carvings but also because of its distinct pinkish hue. It was honestly the most impressive church I have ever seen, and truly enjoyed the visit, which is by the way free of charge. If you visit in the summer, make sure to plan some time to attend the very original and entertaining light show at 10PM.

Strasbourg Cathedral

Second stop: Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle

That’s when the Alsace roadtrip actually begins! Hop in your car and head south to the stunning Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle, which is an important stop between Strasbourg and the smaller vineyard villages. Nestled in the Vosges mountains, it dates back as far as the 12th century and is quite something for the eyes, both the castle itself and the scenery of the Alsatian plains. It is everything like what we, modern-age people, imagine what a medieval fortress looked like.

Third stop: Riquewihr

My favorite place of the whole trip! Definitely a “postcard” kind of place, it is every bit as beautiful as it must have been back then. It’s a very small village, with just one main pedestrian street but I can’t stress how much it is worth going. I felt like I was walking in a dream. The architecture is solely made of timber frame houses and varies in color, greens, yellows and reds being the most popular. The main street is filled with local artisans, flowers, wine cellars, cafés and quaint B&Bs. As much as I loved this place, words simply can’t do it justice - see for youself!

The lovely village of Riquewihr during my Alsace roadtrip

Shortly after Riquewihr, you will be entering the heart of the vineyard region. Don’t hesitate to stop and explore, go winery-hopping (with moderation of course, unless you want to walk all the way back!) and taste the many wines the region is famous for, like riesling and gewürtztraminer. I personnally stopped in Hunawihr to get a wine box because there was an open-door event with discounts, and it was a great deal. The winery employees know their stuff and are happy to answer your questions to make sure you find a wine that suits your taste.

Fourth stop: Kaysersberg

The second cute village on this Alsace roadtrip didn’t disappoint. It is a little bit bigger than Riquewihr and the best reason to go is to enjoy the view on the village from the castle remains. There is also a medieval church and a great local beer shop (Bières du Monde) on Général de Gaulle street, both of which are worth visiting. You will not be able to enter the village with the car, obviously, but it’s just as well, since you get to walk by the canal and its beautiful houses on your way to the main square.

The view from the castle tower in Kaysersberg

Fifth stop: Colmar 

Last but not least on this idyllic roadtrip, this village is slightly bigger than the previous ones but still easily walkable. There are many interesting sights, such as the House of the Heads, whose façade is, unsurprisingly, decorated with 111 heads. Nothing creepy, rest assured, it is in fact quite a work of art. Nearby is also the famous Pfister house, St.Martin’s church, Bartholdi Museum (the architect behing the Statue of Liberty) and the Little Venice neighborhood (something about the canals…). For dinner, I opted for another typical Alsatian winstub called Restaurant des Tanneurs and was impressed with the cosy feeling of the place, decorated with large wooden beams and dim lights. There is also a large terrace outside for the nicer days.

Beautiful Colmar

Voila! These 5 places are certainly enough to cover the basic Alsace roadtrip itinerary. You should plan around 4 days, maybe more if you plan on visiting vineyards and tasting samples (keeping lots of water in the car might be a good idea). It does sound like a short amount of time considering you will be visiting five different places, the distance between the villages is minimal so it is easily doable. Do not hesitate to stop along the way to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Vosges mountains, vineyards and the many quaint churches. That’s what so great about roadtrips: you’re the boss!

Have you been on an Alsace roadtrip before? Have you visited Alsace at all? What are your recommendations?

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11 Responses to “Alsace Roadtrip: an Itinerary”

  1. John

    15. Sep, 2011

    Good summary of what Alsace has to offer on a short visit. There’s lots more to see such as the EcoMusée or the First World War Trenches (in rock) or even the ski resorts.
    I visited the Alsace some years back. Loved it. Always make a point of passing through on a journey to / from Chamonix.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Andrew

    11. Jan, 2012

    Haut Koenigsberg was a highlight on a roadtrip years ago. I would love to go again but it really requires a car. Just last year some friends and I went to Riquewier on a wine fest day. It really is pretty. Hope you have fun.
    If you venture over the river to Freiburg let me know. We can do beers.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Madaboutravel

    11. Jan, 2012

    Great itinerary… I do have some family in the north of France, and I think it would be a great idea to visit these places before getting to them. So, thanks a lot! I’ll keep reading you!

    Reply to this comment
  4. Pamela

    04. Feb, 2014

    Hi, I am planning my week-long trip to Alsace and came across your blog, which is almost exactly what I had in mind.

    However, I will be taking the public transportation (trains and busses) - travelling alone - renting a car may be too expensive for me.

    Would you happen to know anything about the local transportation and bnbs?

    Did you stay overnight at Riquewihr?

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      04. Feb, 2014

      Hello Pamela, as I traveled by car I am not familiar with how easy it is to tour Alsace with public transit. But if you want to see vineyards and tiny villages, renting a car may be the only option. I did not stay overnight in Riquewihr, opting for nearby Colmar. Let me know if you have other questions!

      Reply to this comment
      • Pamela

        04. Feb, 2014

        Hi Marie-Eve,

        Thank you for the reply, really appreciate it. Your blog is so informative! Love it! Keep it up and I will be following your recommendations and adventures closely!

        Cheers!

        Reply to this comment

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