Dabbling in Jet Lag
Looking to visit Alsace without a car?
You’ve come to the right place.
I’ve been living in the capital of Alsace, Strasbourg, since 2019 and I’ve traveled all over the region. And, since I don’t own a car, I’ve done most of my adventuring using other forms of transportation.
From hiking to hidden castles to strolling around Colmar, I’ve been able to see some incredible places without a car.
So, if you’re looking to explore this beautiful region on foot, by bike, or using public transportation, this post has you covered. I’ll share with you all my insider tips for a car-free adventure in Alsace.
Let’s dive in!
19 Things to Do in Alsace without a Car
While you might think you need a car to visit Alsace, I’m going to show you all the amazing things you can do without one.
Here’s a look at the top attractions and activities to do without renting a car.
Helpful Tip: I wrote this guide based on my personal experience. Every activity is something that you could realistically do without a car.
1. Explore Strasbourg on Foot
First on the list is exploring Strasbourg on foot.
I’ve been living in this beautiful city for the past four years, and I’ve found no better way to experience all it has to offer.
Strasbourg is a perfect blend of modernity and history, with magnificent architecture and charming half-timbered houses.
It’s a walker’s paradise with pedestrian-only zones right in the heart of Grand Île, the city’s historic center.
One of my favorite places to explore on foot is the picturesque La Petite France district. With its narrow streets and canal-side houses, it feels like stepping back in time.
Place Benjamin Zix, Passerelle des Anciennes-Glacières, and Quai de la Petite France are three of the most beautiful streets to walk down.
Of course, no trip is complete without climbing to the top of the Strasbourg Cathedral. It’s 330 stairs, but worth every step. The panoramas are the best I’ve seen in town.
Helpful Tip: Strasbourg’s main train station is easy to get to from most major cities in France, including Paris.
2. Take a Boat Tour on the River Ill
Another great way to visit Strasbourg is by boat.
You’ll get to see the city from a different angle and learn about its history along the way.
There are several boat tours available, but I took the Strasbourg: 20 Centuries of History with Batorama. It takes 75 minutes and covers all the main landmarks like La Petite France, Ponts Couverts, Neustadt, and the European Parliament.
I loved the audio commentary.
Sometimes they don’t coincide with the tour, but I found this one to go at the right pace so I could follow along. The historical facts and anecdotes about the city were very engaging.
Helpful Tip: The only thing I didn’t like was the type of boat. I bought my ticket the day before and they could not confirm whether my boat would be covered or not. I ended up with a covered one, even though it was sunny.
3. Visit Museums in Mulhouse
Mulhouse is one of the best places to visit in Alsace if you don’t have a car. First, it’s easily accessible by public transport. Second, its local network of trams, buses, and trains is efficient, affordable, and reliable.
So, what makes Mulhouse an attractive place to visit?
It’s museums, of course! (And they have a ton.)
It’s home to the Musée National de l’Automobile, also known as the Schlumpf Collection, boasting over 400 classic automobiles.
Then, there’s Cité du Train – Patrimoine SNCF. This museum takes you on a journey through time with its expansive collection of historical trains.
I loved walking through the older models and getting to experience what train travel was like back in the day.
But my personal favorite was the Electropolis Museum.
It covered the history of electricity and how it’s used in everyday life.
I was a scientist before I was a travel writer, so I was in heaven. I loved engaging with the different exhibits and doing the mini experiments.
Mulhouse is also home to the Musée Historique de Mulhouse and the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Mulhouse. Both of which provide a chance to learn about the city’s history and art.
4. Explore the Alsace Wine Route by Bike
Another great way to explore Alsace is by bike.
It’s 170 kilometers (105 miles,) but you can choose a smaller section to cycle.
Over the years, I’ve biked this route dozens of times. And there are a few sections that are more accessible than others without a car.
Below I’ve summarized which ones I recommend:
- Rosheim to Obernai
- Obernai to Dambach-la-Ville (stopping by Barr, Mittelbergheim, and Andlau)
- Colmar to Turckheim
- Cernay to Thann
The starting and ending cities all have a train station so you don’t have to bike the same way back if you’re short on time.
- You can transport bikes on Alsace’s regional TER trains.
- If you have extra time, I recommend adding Eguisheim to the Colmar/Turckheim trip. Eguisheim doesn’t have a train station, but it’s only 6.8 kilometers (4.2 miles) from Colmar.
5. Walk around Saverne
Saverne is a small, charming town that is often overlooked in Alsace.
Not only is it easy to reach by train, but there are tons of things to do. From exploring the Château des Rohan to visiting the La Roseraie de Saverne, you won’t get bored here.
My favorite activity was the hike to the Château de Haut-Barr. It’s a 90-minute uphill hike from downtown Saverne. But the views were worth it. In fact, it was so incredible I hiked it twice on back-to-back weekends!
6. Visit Colmar
Like Strasbourg, Colmar has an accessible train station. There are even direct trains that run from Paris throughout the day. It’s so easy to get to that I’ve been at least a dozen times.
One of the highlights is its picturesque Old Town. Take a stroll along Grand Rue, my favorite street in this part of Colmar, admire the colorful half-timbered houses, or stop by St. Martin’s Church. There’s a ton to do here.
Then, there’s the Little Venice district and the Fisherman’s Quay. It’s the main reason why people come to this Alsatian town. You can visit on foot or take a gondola ride. I enjoyed both, but the gondola ride added an extra touch of magic.
Colmar is also home to some of the best museums in the region.
The most famous is the Musée Unterlinden, which holds the Isenheim Altarpiece, a cultural symbol of Alsace. Then, there’s the Musée Bartholdi, dedicated to the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty, and Musée du Jouet, a toy museum that’s fun for all ages.
7. Discover Obernai
Located a short train ride from Strasbourg, Obernai is a charming town that’s often overlooked. But let me assure you it’s a must-visit.
It’s most known for its half-timbered houses and its historical monuments.
I’ve been to Obernai at least a dozen times and my favorite thing to do was follow the Parcours Historique d’Obernai. This free self-guided historical walking tour passes by 21 monuments, each with a complete description.
I loved exploring the ramparts, they are some of the most intact in the region. Then, there were the views from Mont National. I went at sunrise and had the place to myself.
Of course, every Alsatian village has some half-timbered houses you have to see. And Obernai is no exception. Zum Schnogaloch (18 Place de l’Étoile) was undoubtedly the most photogenic in town.
8. Go for a Hike
One of the best ways to experience off-the-beaten-path places in Alsace is to go hiking. And there’s no better place than the Vosges mountains.
I’ve hiked hundreds of trails over the years, so, it’s safe to say this is one of my favorite things to do here. And not having a car hasn’t stopped me from hiking even in the most remote places.
Below is a list of hikes that are possible without a car:
✓Mont Sainte-Odile – I’ve hiked to this former convent a few times. Barr and Rosheim are the best cities to start.
✓Le Hohneck – This is the third highest peak in the Vosges mountains at 1363 meters (4471 feet). I started hiking from Metzeral and finished in Munster.
✓Grand Ballon – This is the tallest peak in the Vosges mountains at 1424 meters (4671 feet). If you don’t have a car, the easiest starting point is Vieux Thann.
✓Cherry Blossom Circuit – This hike is best done in April or May when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. It’s a circular hike that starts and ends in Bischoffsheim.
✓Rocher d’Ostein – This is a great alternative to the Grand Ballon. It follows the same path but is much shorter. It starts in Vieux Thann and finishes with a magnificent view of the Grand Ballon.
Helpful Tip: The starting and ending cities for the hikes above all have a train station.
9. Discover Turckheim
Turckheim is a small village that can be reached by train from Colmar in 10 minutes. It’s known for its medieval charm, colorful half-timbered houses, and picturesque vineyards.
I loved wandering through Turckheim’s town center. My favorite spot was Jardin de Ville. From here I had a magnificent view of the Hôtel de Ville.
But that’s not all you’ll find here.
This medieval city is full of heritage and culture.
And there’s no better place to learn about its history than the Musée Mémorial des Combats de la Poche de Colmar. It showcases the battles that took place in Alsace during World War II.
Of the museums in the region dedicated to this part of history, I found it to be one of the best.
10. Visit the Gingerbread Museum
Gingerbread or pain d’épices has been a tradition in Gertwiller since the 18th century.
It’s played such an important role in the culture that they, actually, have a museum, Musée du Pain d’Épices, dedicated to this delicious treat.
The outside is decorated like the gingerbread house from Hansel and Gretel. And the inside is just as adorable.
The museum’s exhibits are dedicated to gingerbread making and they have more than 10,000 objects.
I enjoyed learning about the baking tools that were used back in the 18th and 19th centuries. And, of course, touring the workshops was beyond cool. I even got to sample some gingerbread.
After my visit, I stopped by the gift shop and bought some to take home. That’s how good it was!
11. Check out the Stork Park in Cernay
The Stork Park in Cernay is a sanctuary for the region’s emblematic bird.
The park was one of the first reintroduction centers in Alsace and has since been integral to their conservation. It was established in 1978 and is home to 60 birds.
The storks are free to come and go, so you’ll have to time your visit carefully.
I went in the morning and there were a few around. But if you want to see a large gathering try to come at feeding times.
After the park, I explored the town, toured the fortified walls, and visited the Musée de la Porte de Thann.
But, if you have extra time, I recommend hiking to Hirnlestein. It’s one of the best viewpoints I’ve been to in the region.
Helpful Tip: The viewpoint is on a rock cliff that is surrounded by a metal gate. My vertigo kicked in as I made my way to the top. If you can’t make it, the views are still incredible.
12. Tour Rosheim
Rosheim is often overlooked, but it’s full of history and culture.
Not only is it on the Alsace Wine Route, but it’s also on the Romanesque Road. So, needless to say, there’s a lot to see here.
There’s the Église Saints-Pierre et Paul and La Maison Romane d’Alsace, both of which were built in the 12th century.
But my favorite piece of architecture was the Porte de l’Horloge. It’s one of the original entry gates to the city, so getting to see it up close was impressive.
Of course, no trip to Rosheim is complete without trying the ropküeche.
This delicious cake is made from brioche dough and topped with nuts, sugar, cinnamon, and crème fraîche. It’s worth traveling here just to try a piece.
Helpful Tip: Rohmer is the best place to try ropküeche. It’s also the oldest bakery in France.
13. Wine Tasting in Dambach-la-Ville
If there’s one thing Alsace is known for it is its wine. So, going for a wine tasting in its oldest wine-growing village, Dambach-la-Ville, is an absolute must.
There are several wineries that offer tastings, but my favorites were Ruhlmann-Schutz and Alsace Charles Frey.
Ruhlmann-Schutz has been making wine for over 40 years and they offer a variety of wines to try. Their Gewürztraminer was one of my favorites.
Alsace Charles Frey sold its first bottle of wine in the early 1960s. And they were one of the first to use biodynamic agriculture in wine growing. So, if you visit, you’ll get to learn all about this process.
14. Explore the Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle
The Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle is an unmissable stop on any Alsace itinerary. It’s located on a hilltop overlooking the Vosges mountains and surrounding villages.
The castle dates to the 12th century and has served as a strategic fortress throughout history. Today, it’s open to visitors who can explore its grand halls, towers, and gardens.
To get to the Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle without a car, you’ll need to take the train to Sélestat and then hop on the shuttle bus. It runs regularly and costs €2.50 for a one-way ticket.
- Weekends and French public holidays – 4th of March to 30th of December.
- Daily – 7th of April to 1st of May, 3rd of June to 3rd of September, and 21st of October to 5th of November.
15. Explore Sélestat
Sélestat is a charming town full of rich heritage. It’s also where you’ll find the shuttle to Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle. So, if you’re heading that way, why not stop by Sélestat?
The main attraction is the Bibliothèque Humaniste. It houses over 6000 manuscripts and it’s considered one of the most important humanist libraries in Europe.
But that’s not all there is to see here.
I also enjoyed visiting Église Saint-Georges, a beautiful 15th-century Gothic church, and touring Maison du Pain d’Alsace, a bakery/museum.
16. Visit the European Parliament in Strasbourg
Founded by the Romans, Strasbourg has been a central figure in European history.
Today, it’s one of the four de facto capitals of the European Union. It’s also home to several important institutions, including the European Parliament.
You can visit the iconic Louise Weiss building and explore the Hemicycle, the parliamentary chamber where debates and voting take place. It’s a great opportunity to see the legislative process in action.
I also enjoyed the Parliamentarium Simone Veil. As an American in France, I found their exhibits fascinating. And I loved learning about the history of the European Union and its role in shaping politics.
17. Take a Day Trip to a Neighboring Region
One of the best things about living in Alsace is that it’s well-connected. And it’s surrounded by other beautiful regions, like Lorraine and Bourgogne-Franche Comté, that are easy to visit on a day trip.
I’ve gone on so many that it’s hard to choose my favorite. From the historical Nancy to the awe-inspiring Besançon, I loved learning about the different histories and trying the local specialties.
The most common cities to base day trips from are Colmar and Strasbourg. I’ve used both so you won’t go wrong with either.
Helpful Tip: Alsace and Lorraine are, now, part of a single region called Grand Est.
18. Try Alsatian Cuisine
Of the activities on this list, trying some traditional Alsatian cuisine is the easiest thing to do because you can do it in any town.
My favorite foodie city is Strasbourg. It has the best selection of restaurants, bistros, and eateries.
Some of the most popular things to try are choucroute garnie (sauerkraut), baeckeoffe (a meat and potato stew), and tarte flambée (a pizza-like dish).
And it’s not just the hearty dishes that are delicious. Alsatian desserts, like kugelhopf (a bundt cake) and bredele (traditional Christmas cookies), are also delicious.
I’ve tried a lot of different variations of kugelhopf, but the best one was at Boulangerie Pâtisserie Rémy BATT in Strasbourg. It’s about 15 minutes outside the city’s center, but this is where all the locals go, so it’s worth the trip.
19. Relax at the Thermal Baths in Niederbronn-les-Bains
At the end of my vacation, there’s nothing I like more than spending a day at the spa. So, if you’re in need of some rejuvenation, then the thermal baths in Niederbronn-les-Bains are for you.
These natural sulfur baths have been used for their healing properties since Roman times. Not only that but it’s set in the Northern Vosges Regional Nature Park, so you’ll be in the most relaxing setting.
You can spend the day soaking in the warm pools, indulging in spa treatments, or even taking a mud bath. It’s the perfect way to unwind.
There’s only one dedicated thermal spa in town (Valvital – Thermes de Niederbronn-les-Bains), so make your reservations early. Otherwise, the Hôtel du Parc has an excellent wellness and spa center.
Conclusion: Car-free Activities in Alsace
Even without a car, Alsace has plenty to offer. From enchanting villages to picturesque hikes, there’s something for everyone.
And don’t let not having a car hold you back. There are tons of ways to get around. The easiest and most convenient way to travel is by train, but there are also buses, bike trails, and hiking paths.
So, now, that you know all the best things to do, it’s time to start planning your trip. And why not start with a trip to Strasbourg?
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.
- 11 Incredible Alsace Tours (A Local’s Guide)
- 18 Best Things to Do in Strasbourg on Sunday (from a Local)
- 21 Amazing Things to Do in Strasbourg in December
- Strasbourg to Colmar: How to Get There (from a Local)