Alsace stands apart from any other region of France. Over the last 200 years, it has changed nationality (between France and Germany) four times. And, even though it, now, belongs to France, it still retains many of the laws it once had under German rule. It even has its own language, Alsacian, a dialect that mixes both French and German languages.
The most notable characteristic of this region is, however, the brightly colored half-timbered houses. In the past, the colors corresponded to the religion of the household. Blue represented Catholicism and red Protestantism. Today the goal is to have a color different from your neighbor.
For visitors, Alsace offers a quaint mix of German and French cultures while showcasing medieval castles, vineyards, and traditional villages, all at the foot of the Vosges mountains. If you are looking for a destination that incorporates a rich cultural heritage engulfed in natural beauty, then Alsace is for you.
Since moving to Strasbourg in 2020, I’ve been able to explore every corner of this magnificent region. And, today, I want to share with you my favorite things to see and do in Alsace to help get you inspired and plan your next trip!
Alsace Highlights Map
Best Things to See and Do in Alsace
Strasbourg is the economic and cultural hub of Alsace. It also serves as the formal seat of the European Parliament. This beautiful, charming city is a true mix of German and French cultures. Highlights include the Notre Dame Cathedral, La Petite France, and Parc de l’Orangerie. And, if you are visiting in winter, don’t miss the Christmas market! Plan to spend at least three days here if you want to take advantage of all Strasbourg has to offer.
Colmar is most renowned for its colorful half-timbered medieval and early Renaissance buildings. It’s easy to get lost in the side streets while admiring the gorgeous architecture. Needless to say, there are endless things to do in Colmar. My favorites were visiting the Unterlinden Museum and watching the sunrise over Little Venice. Don’t forget to try the flammekeuche at the local farmer’s market, it’s the best in Alsace.
Located in the Haut-Rhin region of France, Riquewihr is one of the most picturesque villages in Alsace. This medieval town has retained its rustic charm from the 16th century, creating a sense of timelessness.
From the Old Town to world-renowned wineries, Riquewihr is something not to be missed. It’s also a great base for exploring the nearby forests or if you are biking the Alsace’s Route des Vins (Wine Route).
Ribeauvillé is situated 16 kilometers (9.9 miles) north of Colmar at the foot of the Vosges mountains. Its narrow streets are adorned with medieval-style houses and cafés. And every Saturday morning, there is a market in front of the Hôtel de Ville. For stunning panoramic views hike up to one of the Ribeauvillé’s three castles (Château de Saint-Ulrich, Château du Girsberg, and Château du Haut-Ribeaupierre). They are all accessible via a marked trail.
If you are in Ribeauvillé on the first Sunday in September, don’t miss the Fête des Ménétriers de Ribeauvillé (also called Pfifferdaj). It’s one of the oldest and popular festivals in Alsace. Since the 14th century, this end-of-summer festival has brought together medieval enthusiasts to celebrate the guild of minstrels that was under the protection of the lords of Ribeaupierre in the Middle Ages. It’s something not to be missed!
Hunawihr lies between Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé, and, while it may not be as popular as these two, it’s definitely with a visit. This little town is home to only 602 citizens and is a great place to enjoy complete serenity. Walk among the vineyards and relish in the amazing views. Given it’s size, there are not a lot of options for accommodation. I would recommend staying in Riquewihr or Ribeauvillé and visiting Hunawihr as a day trip.
Kaysersberg or Emperor’s Mountain received its name from the high fortress, Château de Schlossberg, that overlooks the village. While it served as an important strategic location in the past, it’s now one of the prettiest villages in France. In fact, it receives nearly 700,000 tourists per year, so don’t expect to get off-the-beaten-path here. Popular activities include hiking in the Vosges mountains, biking on one of the many trails, and enjoying delicious wine.
Rosheim dates back to the 8th century, and, to this day, it has retained many vestiges of its glorious past. The most impressive archeological relic is Saints Peter and Paul’s Cathedral. In fact, it’s considered to be one of the most beautiful Romanesque churches in the region. For some of the oldest civil construction in Alsace, stop by the Roman and Pagan House in the town center.
Obernai is located in the Bas-Rhin department and lies on the eastern slopes of the Vosges mountains. After Strasbourg, it’s one of the largest cities in Alsace and serves as a gateway to Alsace’s famous Route des Vins (Wine Route).
Overlooking the city is Mont National. This historical monument pays tribute to the Alsatian soldiers, who were forced to serve under the German army in World War II. Not only is it a place overflowing with history, but it also offers stunning panoramic views.
Barr is an undiscovered gem in Alsace. Most who venture this way stop in Obernai and continue south without ever giving Barr a thought. While there are not an overwhelming number of highlights, I found Barr to be significantly more beautiful than Obernai. There are also plenty of day hikes in the area. The most popular, include the hike to Landsberg Castle and Mont Sainte Odile. Both trails start at the Saint-Martin Protestant Church.
Since the 17th century, Mittelbergheim has been a true wine-growers village. And almost every house on the main street offers wine tasting. For stunning views over the valley hike up to Rocher Sainte-Richarde. Château de Spesbourg and Château d’Andlau are also not to be missed.
Useful Tip: Transportation to Mittelbergheim is almost nonexistent. I would recommend taking the train to Barr and then, walking to Mittlebergheim. It takes less than an hour.
11. Mont Sainte Odile
At an elevation of 767 meters (2516 ft.), in the heart of the Vosges mountains, Mont Sainte Odile is the symbol of Alsace. For centuries it served as an influential convent dedicated to the patron saint of Alsace, Odile. While the church is still active, the remaining buildings have been converted into a hotel. Today, it mainly serves as a tourist attraction offering spectacular panoramic views over the region. From here you can even see Strasbourg’s Notre Dame Cathedral!
While you can visit Mont Sainte Odile via public transport, I would recommend hiking. The three most common starting points are Barr, Obernai, and Rosheim.
12. Lac Noir
Lac Noir or Black Lake lies at 935 meters (3067 ft.) under the ridge of the Vosges massif in Orbey. Its most defining feature is, of course, its deep black color. Despite being difficult to access, Lac Noir is exceptionally popular. Don’t expect to enjoy the area in solitude.
The easiest way to visit Lac Noir is by car. But, if you are up for a challenge, there are hiking/biking trails that lead directly to the lake. I biked from Kaysersberg and found the route to be very difficult. If you plan on biking, consider stopping at the Ferme Auberge des Deux Lacs and hiking the rest.
13. Lac Blanc
Lac Blanc or White Lake is upstream from Lac Noir and sits at an elevation of 1055 meters (3461 ft.). It’s named after its crystal-clear color, which originates from the sand at the bottom of the lake. The best way to visit Lac Blanc is in combination with Lac Noir. There are several hiking trails that link the two lakes with the longest taking about 4 hours. And, for the best views of the Lac Blanc head up to Hans Rock.
Like the Lac Noir, it’s not a place that you will have to yourself. Lac Blanc is very popular with ski enthusiasts in the winter and hikers in the summer.
14. Route des Vins (Wine Route)
Of course, no trip to Alsace is complete without biking the Route des Vins. All the villages listed above are on this route. Granted there are so many vineyards, it’s difficult to know where to start. My favorite was Horcher Wines in Mittlewihr. It’s a small family-owned vineyard with delicious wine. If you are looking for an intimate setting, this is the place for you.
It’s easy to spend weeks divulging in delicious food and wine along the Route des Vins, but I would recommend spending 1-2 weeks. This is more than sufficient to experience all it has to offer.
Tips for Visiting Alsace
The largest transportation hub in Alsace is Strasbourg. And, while Strasbourg does have an airport, I would recommend flying into either Paris, Frankfurt, or Basel. (Each of these cities has several options for reaching Strasbourg.)
From Paris: Direct trains from Paris to Strasbourg take roughly 2 hours and there is no shortage of departures.
From Frankfurt: Trains from Frankfurt to Strasbourg usually involve one change and take about 2 hours. Lufthansa also offers an express bus between Frankfurt’s airport and Strasbourg.
From Basel: Direct trains from Basel to Strasbourg are as frequent as those from Paris and take about 2 hours. The trains from Basel also stop in popular cities, including Colmar and Sélestat.
Once in Alsace, I would recommend traveling either by bike/train or renting a car. If you decide to travel by train, Strasbourg, Obernai, and Sélestat are the three largest and most accessible cities.
Alsace is a must-see region in France. Whether you love history, culture, or nature, there is no shortage of things to do. Use this guide to organize your next trip and take advantage of all this wonderful region has to offer!
Enjoy This Post? Pin It!
Check Out My Other Articles on France
I hope you enjoyed my favorite things to see and do in Alsace and found it useful. Here are some other articles about France that I think you might enjoy!
- How I Got My Long-Stay Visa (Spouse of a French Citizen)
- Above the Clouds – Paragliding in Reunion Island
Have questions about visiting Alsace? Send me a message in the comments below!
Interested in more travel tips & tricks? Check out my other posts for more travel tips.