Dabbling in Jet Lag
Wondering if Alsace is worth visiting?
Well, you’re in the right place.
I’ve been living in the capital of Alsace, Strasbourg, since 2019. Not only that, but I’ve also traveled extensively in the region. From Saverne to Mulhouse, Eguisheim to Thann, there isn’t a village I haven’t been to.
Its landscapes are breathtaking, its cuisine is tasty, and its villages are the most beautiful that I’ve seen in France.
In this post, I’ll share what makes Alsace so special, and 17 reasons why you should add it to your bucket list.
Is Alsace Worth Visiting?
Yes, Alsace is definitely worth visiting.
Located in eastern France, Alsace is a region where history and culture are rooted in tradition, and locals hold on to their heritage.
It’s a mix of French and German customs that is exceptionally unique.
But what drew me to this part of France was its fairytale-like charm. The region boasts picturesque half-timbered houses, cobblestone streets, and vibrant flowering balconies.
A stroll down Quai de la Poissonnerie in Colmar or Place Benjamin Zix in Strasbourg is like walking through the pages of a storybook. It’s enchanting, breathtaking, and mesmerizing all at once.
Then, there’s the Alsace Wine Route. It weaves around all these quaint villages, passing vineyards, castles, and local wineries. Over the years, I must have biked it more than a dozen times. And I always stumble on something I haven’t seen before.
Alsace is also a year-round destination. In the spring and summer, you can enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, cycling, or boating on the Rhine River. In the fall, there are festivals, colorful foliage, and crisp weather. Then, in the winter, there are the infamous Christmas markets.
Whether you’re a history buff, a wine lover, or a nature enthusiast, Alsace is a great place to visit if you’ve never been before.
17 Reasons to Visit Alsace
From fairytale-like villages to medieval castles, Alsace is the perfect place for anyone who wants to get off the typical tourist path. It’s a region that’s full of history, culture, and natural beauty.
Without further ado, here are 17 reasons why you should add it to your itinerary.
1. Alsace Wine Route
If there’s one reason to visit Alsace, it’s the Alsace Wine Route.
Spanning 170 kilometers (105 miles), this is the oldest wine route in France. It weaves through rolling vineyards and quaint villages, each with its own brand of wine.
Most wineries have tastings where you can engage with local producers and learn about their process. Best of all, most make their wine on-site, so you can even visit centuries-old wine cellars.
The most common way to visit the Alsace Wine Route is by bike. But you can also rent a car, take the train, or even walk sections of it. I’ve done all four and, if I’m short on time, I prefer to travel by car or train.
Some of the prettiest places to visit are Eguisheim, Colmar, Riquewihr, and Turckheim. I’ve been to each one dozens of times, and I never get sick of the colorful timber-framed houses.
But if you’re interested in going to dedicated wine villages, then Mittelbergheim and Dambach-la-Ville are second to none.
2. Historic Strasbourg
Since 2019, I’ve been lucky enough to call Strasbourg home. I’ve fallen in love with its traditions, history, and food.
Strasbourg’s Grande Île, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a treasure trove of medieval churches, half-timbered houses, and historical landmarks.
Dominating the cityscape is the Strasbourg Cathedral. Its Gothic architecture and towering spire make it one of the most impressive cathedrals in France. Then, there’s La Petite France. It’s a quaint quarter known for its canals and well-preserved timbered houses.
The city is also one of the capitals of Europe and home to institutions like the European Parliament.
3. Delicious Food
Alsatian food is a flavorful fusion of German and French culinary traditions. From the pizza-like tarte flambée to the hearty choucroute garnie, there are a lot of savory dishes to try.
Then, there are regional pastries, such as kougelhopf and streusel, a must-try for any food enthusiast.
And let’s not forget about the local wines. Alsace is renowned for its white wines, especially Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Pair either with a traditional dish, and you’ll be in heaven.
So, where is the best place to try all this deliciousness?
I’ve tried Alsatian food in every town I’ve been to, and nothing beats Strasbourg’s take on traditional cuisine. It has the most variety of restaurants, eateries, and bistros.
Some of my favorite places to eat are:
- Aux Armes de Strasbourg
- Restaurant de la Victoire
- Restaurant Au Gurtlerhoft
4. Fairytale-Like Villages
The villages here sit on the foothills of the Vosges Mountains, surrounded by vineyards. Some are so small they only have a few hundred people. They’ve even kept their original medieval architecture.
But their most charming characteristic is their colorful half-timbered houses.
In Riquewihr and Colmar, you’ll find rows of blue, red, yellow, and pink houses decorated with hanging baskets of geraniums. And in Eguisheim and Turckheim, they are covered in hanging vines.
I’ve been traveling in Alsace and visiting these towns since 2019, and when I think I’ve found my favorite, I stumble on another one.
5. Year-Round Destination
No matter what time of year it is, Alsace is a great destination to visit.
In the spring, cherry trees line parks and gardens, and the vineyards show their first signs of life. The weather is pleasantly fresh, perfect for bike rides and scenic hikes.
Summertime in Alsace is full of festivals and celebrations. The most known is the Colmar International Festival. It’s also the perfect time to explore Alsace’s famed wine route.
As autumn paints the landscape in hues of red and gold, local vineyards begin harvesting. The air is crisp, and the tourist crowds are low. It’s my favorite time of year.
When winter rolls around, snow blankets the region and the Christmas markets open their doors. There are also tons of outdoor activities like skiing and snowshoeing.
6. Breathtaking Landscapes
Alsace sits between the Rhine River and the Vosges Mountains, making its landscape beautiful and varied.
It’s home to two regional parks, including the Northern Vosges Regional Nature Park and the Ballons des Vosges Nature Park. These protected areas boast diverse ecosystems, from high-altitude pastures to peat bogs.
I’ve hiked hundreds of paths in both parks, and the views never disappoint. Some of my favorites are from Château de Haut-Bar and Rocher d’Ostein.
Scattered between the mountain tops are crystal-clear mountain lakes. The most spectacular is the Lac Blanc. From its observation deck, Observatoire Belmont, you’ll have an unencumbered view of the lake and surrounding valley.
Then, there’s the Lac de Kruth-Wildenstein. This off-the-beaten-path spot is perfect for a serene day of hiking and picnicking. And, best of all, you’ll have the place to yourself.
7. Welcoming Locals
While Alsace is most known for its rich cultural heritage, the people make this region worth visiting. Alsatians have a warm and welcoming nature and will make you feel right at home.
No matter where I go, I’m always greeted with a friendly smile and helpful advice. Whether it’s recommendations on the best restaurants to try or getting directions, Alsatians are always happy to help. It makes traveling much more enjoyable.
8. Stunning Architecture
Every town in Alsace has a story to tell through its architecture. There are so many magnificent structures to see you could spend a lifetime exploring.
Below I’ve listed the top architectural landmarks per town:
- The Strasbourg Cathedral
- Lycée International des Pontonniers
- Maison Kammerzell
- Ponts Couverts
- Rohan Palace
- Half-timbered houses on Quai Poissonnerie
- Maison Pfister
- La Maison des Têtes
- Château du Haut-Barr
- Château Rohan
- Hôtel de Ville
- Tour du Bollwerk
Then, there is the Route Romane d’Alsace.
This fascinating trail follows the evolution of Romanesque structures into Gothic architecture. It starts in a northern town called Altenstadt and finishes in Feldbach.
There are more than 120 sites along the way, but my favorites were the Saint Peter and Paul Churches in Rosheim, Andlau, and Wissembourg.
9. Christmas Markets
As the last colorful autumn leaves fall and the winter cold sets in, Alsace revamps itself for the holiday season. Villages and towns are filled with wooden chalets and decorated with festive ornaments and lights.
The first Christmas markets open at the end of November.
The largest and most known is the Strasbourg Christmas market. Here locals sell homemade crafts, traditional treats like pain d’épices, and mulled wine.
By the second week of December, most other Christmas markets are open.
Of these, Colmar was my favorite. It’s less visited than the one in Strasbourg, and I found the decorations even more festive (if that’s possible).
Equally picturesque is the one in Kaysersberg. Its quaint stalls offer an intimate experience that you won’t find in either Colmar or Strasbourg.
10. Fantastic Museums
Alsace is home to some of the most fascinating museums in the country.
The two cities that are most known for their museums are Strasbourg and Mulhouse.
In Strasbourg, the Alsatian Museum offers insight into traditional Alsatian life and culture. It’s set in three-half-timbered houses from the 17th century and showcases regional crafts, costumes, and much more.
Then, there’s Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, which houses a remarkable collection from the 19th century to the present. From paintings and sculptures to multimedia exhibits, it’s a must for art lovers.
Mulhouse was a leader during the Industrial Revolution. So, many of its museums are dedicated to this part of its history.
The Cité de l’Automobile houses one of the largest collections of Bugatti vehicles, while Cité du Train offers a fascinating journey through the history of trains and railways in France.
But my favorite was the Electropolis Museum. It shows the evolution of electricity through movies, artifacts, and hands-on exhibits. It was the most engaging museum that I’ve been to in Alsace.
Oddly, the most visited museum in the region, the Unterlinden Museum, isn’t in either of these towns. It’s actually in Colmar. It showcases an extensive collection of fine arts and archaeology. But the biggest draw is the Isenheim Altarpiece.
11. Lots of Outdoor Activities
Alsace is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, and it’s one of the reasons I love living here.
The Vosges Mountains are perfect for hiking and mountain biking. Trails are well-maintained and marked, making it ideal for anyone who wants to get out and explore.
Of the hundreds of hikes that I’ve done, the hike to the Grand Ballon remains my favorite. It’s the tallest peak in the Vosges Mountains at 1424 meters (4671 feet), so I had a bird’s-eye view over the region.
For adventure seekers, there are opportunities for rock climbing, paragliding, and even hot air balloon rides. In the winter, you can hit the slopes at one of the many ski resorts.
Then, if you prefer something quieter, you’ll find plenty of parks where you can picnic or go for a stroll. Strasbourg’s Parc de l’Orangerie and Colmar’s Parc du Champ de Mars are two places I visit the most for these activities.
12. Fascinating History
Alsace’s past is marked by a series of territorial shifts between France and Germany. The result is a cultural fusion that has influenced the language, architecture, and food.
Its history began with the Roman Empire in antiquity and later joined the Holy Roman Empire.
But its more recent history has had the most impact on the region. From 1871 to 1945, Alsace changed hands between France and Germany four times.
Today, evidence of this rich history is everywhere.
But the most significant site is the former Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp. It’s the only Nazi concentration camp that was built in France. And it’s here that an estimated 22,000 people lost their lives.
Today, it serves as a memorial dedicated to remembering the victims and educating visitors about the atrocities committed during the Holocaust.
13. Majestic Castles
The castles of Alsace are one of the biggest draws to the region. They tell fascinating stories of power, conflict, and resilience.
One of the most iconic is the Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg. It was built in the Middle Ages and has since undergone massive restorations. Today, you can tour its halls and learn about its history. It also offers some of the best views over the region.
Not far away is the Château de Kaysersberg, another medieval fortress that once served as a lookout.
But my favorite was Château du Hohlandsbourg. It’s one of the largest fortified castles in Alsace, and the views from its terrace rival that of Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg. I visited as part of a hike from Colmar to Eguisheim, but you can also go by car.
The region also has lesser-known castles, like Château d’Andlau and Château de Spesbourg. But Ribeauvillé’s Château de Saint-Ulrich is the most underrated. It’s mostly intact, the views are incredible, and it’s free to visit!
14. Local Breweries
Did you know that Alsace is the leading brewing region in France?
For instance, Météor has been brewing in Alsace for seven generations, while Kronenbourg is the largest brewery in the country.
But it’s not just big-name brands that are here.
Craft beer and microbreweries are scattered across the region.
The most unique of these are Brasserie Boum’R and Brasserie TAAL. You can even visit for a tour of their facilities and learn about their beer-making process. And the best part is, you’ll get to sample some beer at the end.
15. Easy to Get Around
Whether you’re taking the train, driving, cycling, or hiking, traveling through Alsace couldn’t be easier.
The regional train, TER Grand Est, offers frequent services between major towns and cities. For example, if you want to get from Strasbourg to Colmar, a one-way ticket costs €15 and takes only 30 minutes. It’s that convenient, efficient, and affordable.
If you prefer to drive, roads in Alsace are well-maintained and easy to navigate.
You can also rent a bike and explore the stunning countryside on two wheels. There are two main paths: the Rhine Cycle Route and the Alsace Wine Route. I’ve biked both several times, and it’s one of my favorite ways to travel without a vehicle.
Helpful Tip: Smaller towns like Eguisheim do not have a train station. So, the best way to visit these is with a tour or by car.
Finally, Strasbourg and Mulhouse have excellent tram systems, making it easy to get around the two biggest cities in the region.
16. Pass Alsace
Pass Alsace is an all-inclusive pass that provides access to more than 60 sites.
There are five types of passes – 24-hour, 48-hour, three-day, five-day, and Strasbourg/Northern Alsace three-day. The three and five-day options are valid for three and five non-consecutive days within a 14-day period, making them very flexible.
Some popular sites included are the Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg, the Unterlinden Museum, and the Humanist Library. You can even visit three museums of your choice in Strasbourg.
Helpful Tip: Some sites have annual closures, so there are different passes for winter and summer.
From my experience, only the three and five-day passes are worth it. The 24-hour and 48-hour passes are too expensive for what you’ll be able to do in that amount of time.
17. Beautiful Cathedrals
The cathedrals in Alsace are as impressive as the landscapes. The most known among these is the Strasbourg Cathedral.
But it isn’t the only church worth visiting in Alsace.
Mulhouse’s Temple Saint-Étienne is an impressive example of Gothic Revival architecture.
Then, there is Hunawihr’s fortified Saint-Jacques-le-Majeur church. It sits atop a small hill surrounded by vineyards and framed by mountains. It’s easily one of the most picturesque spots in the area.
Last but not least is Mont Sainte-Odile. This former convent is located high in the Vosges Mountains and is one of the symbols of Alsace. From its main terrace, you’ll have unencumbered views of the valley below, and, on a clear day, you can even see the Strasbourg Cathedral.
Conclusion: Is Alsace Worth Visiting?
As cliché as it might sound, Alsace is an enchanting destination. It ticks that box with fairytale towns that look straight out of a Disney film. But that’s only the start. It’s also full of history, gorgeous landscapes, and indulgent food.
Whether you’re an architecture enthusiast, history buff, or wine connoisseur, there are lots of reasons to visit. And no matter what you choose to do, Alsace is sure to offer an unforgettable experience.
All that’s left to do is to plan your trip, so why not start with a four day trip to Alsace?
Read More Articles About France
I hope you enjoyed my post and found it useful. Here are some other articles that I think you might find interesting.
- The Ultimate 10-Day Eastern France Itinerary
- 22 Amazing Day Trips from Colmar (A Local’s Guide)
- 18 Best Things to Do in Strasbourg on Sunday (from a Local)