Dabbling in Jet Lag
Looking for the best things to do in Alsace?
I’ve been living in the capital of Alsace, Strasbourg, since 2019 and I’ve traveled extensively throughout the region. From the summit of the Grand Ballon to the hidden streets in Eguisheim, there isn’t a place I haven’t been to.
In this post, I’ll share with you 21 of the best activities and places to visit in Alsace. Whether you’re a foodie, history buff, or nature lover, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful region.
21 Best Things to Do in Alsace, France
There’s no shortage of exciting things to see and do in this part of the country. In fact, of the regions I’ve been to in France, Alsace is my favorite.
Here’s a look at the top attractions and things that I recommend you do while visiting. I’ve even included a few hidden spots to get you off the tourist path.
1. Visit the Strasbourg Cathedral
The Strasbourg Cathedral is a staggering masterpiece of Gothic architecture. This intricate marvel, which was once the tallest building in the world, took a whopping 300 years to build.
Step inside, and you’ll be just as impressed. There are the awe-inspiring stained-glass windows, the exquisite organ, and the astronomical clock.
And, if that weren’t enough, you can climb the 330 steps to the viewing platform where you’ll have an amazing panorama of the city.
I went early in the morning on a clear day and could see as far as the Vosges mountains. It was one of the coolest things I’ve done in Strasbourg.
2. Explore La Petite France
If you’re in Strasbourg, walking around La Petite France is an absolute must. This charming neighborhood is a photographer’s dream.
With its romantic canals, timber-framed houses, and flowering windowsills, it looks like a fairytale.
Some of my favorite spots are Benjamin Zix Place, Pont du Faisan, and Pont Saint-Martin.
And when I’m out for a stroll at sunrise I always go to Ponts Couverts. It’s the best time to check out the colorful houses along Quai de la Bruche.
Take your time wandering through the narrow streets and admire the quaint shops and restaurants. There’s a lot to see here.
And if you’re feeling hungry, be sure to try some traditional Alsatian dishes. The most famous restaurant in the area is La Maison Tanneurs.
3. Check out the Oldest Barrel of White Wine
Strasbourg is most known for its cathedral, but did you know it’s also home to the world’s oldest barrel of white wine?
Located in the Cave Historique des Hospices de Strasbourg, this barrel of wine dates to 1472.
It’s been opened three times – 1576, 1718, 1944 – and has remained untouched since.
The wine cellar itself dates to the 14th century so there is a ton of history here. You can take a tour of the cellar and learn about its significance in Strasbourg and Alsace. They even have wine tastings!
Admission is free, but, when I visited, I took the audio guide for €3.
There are a few informative panels, but I found the audio guide was far more detailed. It covered the history and noted nuances that I would not have seen otherwise.
4. Tour the Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg
Perched on the top of a mountain in the Vosges, the Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg is a must-visit destination in Alsace.
It was built in the 12th century to survey the surrounding valley. And, over the years, it was occupied by various ruling powers. In its last battle, the Thirty Years’ War, it was burned and left in ruins.
I visited in the Fall when the leaves were changing color. It had just rained, and the fog was rising from the Vosges mountains. It was a surreal experience.
Helpful Tip: If you’re adding a visit to the Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg to your itinerary, check the weather the day before you go. You don’t want to miss the views because it’s raining.
5. Enjoy Alsatian Cuisine
Alsace is known for its delicious hearty food.
You can’t leave without trying choucroute garnie (sauerkraut), baeckeoffe (a meat and potato casserole), and kougelhof (sweet bread with raisins).
But the most iconic dish is the tarte flambée. It’s like a thin pizza but topped with crème fraîche, onions, and bacon. Trust me, it’s worth the trip to Alsace just to try a slice.
My two favorite dishes among these are the tarte flambée and choucroute garnie. Over the years I’ve eaten tons of variations of each one, but there are a few that I haven’t forgotten.
The best traditional tarte flambée I’ve had was at La Terrasse du Marché in Colmar. And the best choucroute garnie I’ve had was at Restaurant du Gurtlerhoft in Strasbourg.
6. Visit the Unterlinden Museum
Located in Colmar, the Unterlinden Museum is the most visited museum in the region. And it holds the distinguished title of Musée de France.
Here you’ll find a remarkable collection of works dating to prehistoric times. There are even paintings from Picasso and Monet. But its most famous piece is the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald.
Of the museums I’ve visited in Alsace, I will admit that the Unterlinden Museum is one of the best. The sheer volume and breadth of exhibits were impressive. It only competes with the Alsatian Museum in Strasbourg.
7. Walk around La Petite Venise
La Petite Venise, or “Little Venice,” is a picturesque neighborhood in Colmar. It gets its name from the canals that run through it, reminiscent of the famous Italian city.
Take a stroll through this charming area and admire the colorful half-timbered houses. You’ll pass local shops and cross bridges covered in flowers. You can also take a boat tour.
I did both, and, if you have time in your itinerary, I recommend doing the same.
And my two favorite streets in this neighborhood were Quai de la Poissonnerie and Rue Turenne. The houses here are some of the most colorful I’ve seen in the region.
8. Experience the Christmas Markets
Alsace is known for its Christmas markets, and for good reason. The region transforms into a winter wonderland during the holiday season.
There are festive decorations, mulled wine, wooden chalets, and colorful lights everywhere.
Strasbourg hosts one of the oldest and largest Christmas markets in Europe. But don’t overlook the other marchés de Noël.
I really enjoyed the ones in Colmar, Ribeauvillé, and Kaysersberg.
They were far less crowded than Strasbourg’s Christmas market. And it made for a more authentic and immersive experience. I could wander around with a mug of hot mulled wine without being bombarded by other tourists.
9. Hike in the Vosges Mountains
For outdoor enthusiasts, the Vosges mountains offer some stunning hiking trails. The mountains span Alsace and are a great way to explore the region’s natural beauty.
Since 2019, I’ve done hundreds of hikes here. The trails are well-maintained and accessible for all levels, making it a great activity for families or solo hikers.
Some of the best places I’ve hiked to are the Grand Ballon, Le Hohneck, and Rocher d’Ostein. They were all moderately difficult, but the views were incredible.
I also really enjoyed hiking to Point de Vue sur le Petit Ballon. The view didn’t compare to the others, but the Fall foliage more than made up for it (photos above). There are also tons of side trails to explore.
10. Visit Mont Sainte-Odile
One of the absolute must-visit spots when you’re in Alsace is the historic Mont Sainte-Odile. It’s home to a beautiful convent that dates back over a thousand years.
Today, the church remains active, but the rest has been turned into a hotel.
You can tour the abbey and learn about its history and significance in Alsace. After all, Sainte-Odile is the patron saint of the region.
Then, of course, there are the views of the countryside. On a clear day, you can see Strasbourg’s Notre Dame Cathedral.
I visited as a two-day hike from Rosheim and spent the night in the hotel. It’s a steep hike to the top, but worth it for the unique experience. Plus, I got to watch the sunrise from the abbey’s terrace!
Helpful Tip: If you don’t want to hike, you can also drive or take a bus from Strasbourg.
11. Climb the Tour du Belvédère in Mulhouse
Mulhouse is one of the most underrated cities in the region. And while it’s most known for its museums, there are a few other attractions that shouldn’t be missed. My favorite is the Tour du Belvédère.
The tower stands at 20 meters (65 feet) and looks like a mini-Eiffel Tower.
I have vertigo and the climb was difficult for me. It was an open staircase and I could see through the steps. I was a nervous wreck until I reached the top.
If you’re not afraid of heights or willing to battle through trembling legs, it’s a must-visit spot in Mulhouse.
12. Take in the Views from Château du Haut-Barr
Dubbed the “Eye of Alsace,” Château du Haut-Barr is a medieval fortress built on sandstone cliffs in the Vosges mountains.
While details on its role in history are few, construction began in the 12th century, and it served as a lookout. Over the years it has undergone repairs and additions. But the structure you see today is from the 14th century.
You can tour the castle for free and take in the panoramas of the valley below. There are several viewpoints, but none compared to the one from the Devil’s Bridge.
It took me an hour to muster up the courage to cross it. But, as you can see in the photo above, it was completely worth it.
Helpful Tip: I visited as a day hike from Saverne, but you can also drive to the castle. There is a large parking lot with plenty of spaces.
13. Hike the Cherry Blossom Circuit
If you’re visiting in Spring, the Cherry Blossom Circuit is one of the most unique things to do in Alsace.
This 8.8-kilometer (5.4-mile) loop trail starts in Bischoffsheim and passes through a part of Alsace that is filled with pink and white cherry trees.
The trail also leads to the historic Bischenberg convent, which dates to the 15th century.
I’ve done this hike every Spring since 2019 and I’m always impressed with the sheer size of the cherry trees. My favorite street along the hike is Allée des Cerisiers. It’s a tunnel of cherry blossoms that you have to see to believe.
Helpful Tip: The easiest place to start the hike is at Parc de Bischoffsheim. There are signs posted like the one above.
14. Walk around Eguisheim
Eguisheim is one of the most picture-perfect villages in Alsace.
It’s known for its colorful half-timbered houses, narrow streets, and flower-filled windowsills. The village is surrounded by vineyards and guarded by three towering castles (Les Trois Châteaux d’Eguisheim).
Helpful Tip: If you’re visiting Les Trois Châteaux d’Eguisheim, I recommend driving the Route des Cinq Châteaux.
I’ve visited Eguisheim several times and there’s nothing I love more than strolling around. Rue du Rampart has some of the prettiest half-timbered houses. Then, there’s the Saint Léon IX fountain one of my favorite spots to relax in town.
But no trip to Eguisheim is complete without sampling some local wine. In fact, it produces some of the finest in the region.
The most prestigious wineries are Domaine Mann and Domaine Emile Beyer.
Pick up a bottle at their boutique or stop by for a tasting. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.
15. Visit the Humanist Library in Sélestat
The Humanist Library in Sélestat is one of the best places to visit in Alsace. In fact, it’s one of three cultural treasures of the region, along with the Strasbourg Cathedral and the Isenheim Altarpiece.
Here you’ll find more than a repository of books. It’s an institution, where you can learn about history, literature, science, and medicine.
The library’s vast array of works ranges from ancient to modern manuscripts. It totals more than 6000. It also features the personal library of the humanist Beatus Rhenanus.
I’m a bookworm at heart, so, of course, this tops my list of activities. I loved looking through the collections and learning about this part of France. My favorite was the Merovingian manuscript from the 7th century.
16. Bike a Section of the Alsace Wine Route
The Alsace Wine Route is one of, if not the biggest, draw to the region. It stretches 170 kilometers (105 miles) from Marlenheim to Thann, passing through charming Alsatian villages.
And one of the best ways to experience this route is by bike. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced cyclist, there are sections of the route that cater to all levels. You can rent a bike in a village along the way or join an organized tour.
I’ve biked several sections of the Alsace Wine Route and each time I discover a new favorite winery or picturesque village.
Some of the prettiest places I’ve been to are Riquewihr, Ribeauvillé, Kaysersberg, and Mittelbergheim.
17. Discover the Écomusée d’Alsace
If you want to learn about the traditional way of life in Alsace, then a visit to the Écomusée d’Alsace is an absolute must.
This open-air museum showcases 80 authentic Alsatian buildings. There’s a farmhouse, a bakery, a schoolhouse, and much more.
You can even wander through the different buildings to see what they look like. Plus, there are usually demonstrations of traditional crafts like pottery-making and woodcarving.
I really loved learning how milk was turned into butter and cheese back in the day. And they showed every step of the process from milking the cow to churning the butter.
The museum also hosts various events throughout the year, so be sure to check their calendar.
Helpful Tip: The museum is temporarily closed until the 2nd of December 2023.
18. Try Munster Cheese in Munster
No visit to Alsace is complete without trying out one of its most iconic delicacies – Munster cheese.
This strong-smelling and creamy-textured cheese is produced in the Vosges. But the name Munster comes from the village in Alsace where the cheese is aged.
So, of course, the best place to try this cheese is in the village of Munster itself.
You can stop by a restaurant that serves dishes featuring Munster cheese or visit a fromagerie. My favorite fromagerie, or cheese shop, is Maison Dischinger.
After you’ve tasted this delicious cheese, I recommend hiking to Narrentstein. It’s my favorite view of Munster and a great way to digest a hearty Alsatian meal.
19. Visit the Natzweiler-Struthof Concentration Camp
A visit to the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp is a powerful experience. This is the only concentration camp built by the Nazis on occupied French territory.
While it was in operation, around 22,000 people were executed here.
Today, you can tour the barracks, gas chamber, and crematorium. There’s also a museum that details the atrocities committed during this dark period in history.
If it’s too emotional and you still want to learn how World War 2 affected the region, there are a few other places you can visit.
I recommend MM Park, the Musée Mémorial des Combats de la Poche de Colmar, or the Historical Museum of the City of Strasbourg.
20. Stop by Musée du Pain d’Épices
Pain d’Épices, or gingerbread, is a specialty of the region. So, of course, there is a museum dedicated to this delicious treat.
The Musée du Pain d’Épices is in Gertwiller, the capital of gingerbread. And it’s housed in a fairytale-like building reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel’s gingerbread house.
As you tour the museum, you’ll learn about the history of gingerbread making and its connection to Alsace. You can even take part in workshops where you learn how to prepare the traditional recipie. Then, at the end, you’ll get to try some.
It was so good I went to the gift shop and bought some to take home with me!
21. Explore the Château de Fleckenstein
The most popular activities in Alsace are between Strasbourg and Mulhouse. So, most visitors skip the northern part of the region.
But let me assure you, this overlooked area is definitely worth a visit.
In particular, the Château de Fleckenstein is a must-see attraction. This massive fortress is in the Northern Vosges Regional Nature Park, completely engulfed in dense forest.
It was built in the 12th century and has undergone massive restorations over the years.
Today, you can tour the castle and climb up to the top of one of its towers for a stunning view of the surrounding forest.
After my visit, I hiked to two nearby castles (Château de Loewenstein and Château de Hohenbourg). The views were as good as those from Château de Fleckenstein.
Conclusion: Top Activities in Alsace
From stunning landscapes to fascinating history, Alsace is a must-visit region in France. Some of my all-time favorite activities are biking the Alsace Wine Route, walking around Colmar, and hiking in the Vosges mountains.
But no matter your interests, you’ll find something to love in Alsace.
So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to plan your trip. Why not make it the vacation of a lifetime and explore the east of France?
Read More Articles About France
I hope you enjoyed my post and found it helpful. Here are some other articles I think you might interesting.
- 11 Best Things to Do in Kaysersberg, France
- 22 Amazing Day Trips from Colmar (A Local’s Guide)
- Paris to Strasbourg: 8 Best (and Worst) Ways to Get There