I have the pleasure to show you a new blog post. This time it will be about Alsace – a historical region in the East of France. Alsace’s wine is famous world wide, and wine production is one of the region’s main activities. Its villages of brightly painted half-timbered houses, classed as “the most beautiful villages in France”, draw vast crowds of tourists all around the year.
I hope that by reading this post I will inspire you to visit this beautiful area in France.
First stop in Alsace on everyone’s list should be Colmar. At the heart of the Alsace Wine Route, Colmar is very well located, being one of its top tourist destinations. The city has a rich architectural and cultural heritage. Its numerous half-timbered houses neatly lining the cobblestone streets and walkways, its peaceful canals giving it its reputation of the “Little Venice of Alsace”, its museums rich in altarpieces and artistic masterpieces of Gothic and Renaissance art, and its delicious restaurants offering some of the best cuisine in the region, are all the assets the city needs to perfect and maintain its international reputation.
La Petite Venise – Colmar, Alsace. Roaming the streets of Colmar provides an opportunity to admire the numerous beautiful houses, the brilliantly colored rooftops, or a relaxing stroll down the quai de la Poissonnerie (banks of the fish merchant shop). Once the center of fishing, and fish merchants, this picturesque area now bears the title of “Little Venice”.
A trip to Colmar is a trip to the villages of your childhood fairy tales. Founded in the 9th century, this town has layers of history and charm. Spared from the wars of the French Revolution and the World Wars, the architecture dates back to the 13th centuries and is a reflection of both German and French rule that controlled the Alsace Region
One of the most beautiful corners from Colmar and one of the most beautiful decorated house.
The 2nd village in my Alsace trip was is in Eguisheim, the birthplace of the Alsatian vineyards that has been listed as one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France since 2003.
A distinctive feature of Eguisheim is that the town is shaped roughly as a circle with 3 circular streets, one outside the town centre and 2 within. On the circular Rue du Rempart, the houses are built into the old town ramparts. The circular residential streets within the ramparts are very quaint and photogenic. The winding, cobbled streets of Eguisheim are lined with traditional medieval half-timbered buildings, brightly painted as are many of the buildings in Alsace
3rd stop: magical Riquewihr. Located between the peaks of the Vosges mountains and the Plain of Alsace, Riquewihr is a medieval fortified town right in the heart of the Alsatian vineyards, classified among the “Most Beautiful Villages in France”.The village of Riquewihr is full of beautiful colourful half-timbered residences and facades decorated with old shop signs. Admirably decorated with flowers in the spring, the town takes on the colors of Christmas during the Advent period, in a unique atmosphere that combines the magic of Christmas with the Alsatian traditions.
4th stop: Kayserberg. What I loved about Kayserberg and I didn’t found in the other towns, is that a river flows through this town. After I was amazed by the colorful half-timbered houses, when I reached the river the town became even more beautiful. Along the edges of the river I found numerous brightly painted half-timber houses. A lovely 16th century fortified stone bridge that crosses the river and the flower arrangements on the sides made this place irresistible
Another notable landmark within the old town is the 13th century Church of the Holy Cross (Église de la Sainte-Croix). This photo is taken from the Castle of Kaysersberg, located on the hills near the town. The castle ruins, which only consists now of a beautiful round tower, is dominating the town and its viticulture. The view from its summit offers a panorama of the city, the valley of the Weiss, the vineyards and the Plain of Alsace, and beyond, the Black Forest in Germany.
5th stop: Ribeauville. Situated on the ‘wine route’, between vineyards and mountains, Ribeauvillé is a charming town which has successfully capitalized on its heritage. In the Middle Ages, the town was the seat of the Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre – the Lords of Ribeaupierre (whence the town’s name of Ribeauvillé). The Ribeaupierres built 3 fortified castles, the ruins of which still majestically dominate the town and surrounding hills to this day. All three are accessible via a hiking footpath, on the mountainside: The Saint Ulrich castle (the oldest and the most important of the 3 castles); The Girsberg castle and The Haut-Ribeaupierre castle (the highest of the 3 castles).
From its medieval fortifications, Ribeauvillé has preserved a part of its town walls and some of its defensive towers, among them being the Butchers’ tower (built in the 13th century and rebuilt in the 18th century), whose name comes from the Butchers’ corporate body (in charge of the defense of the town from this tower, in case of attack).
Ribeauvillé Grand-Rue (main street) and its picturesque neighbouring streets, lined with 15th- to 18th-century buildings, are scattered with Renaissance fountain-decorated squares.
My last stop in my Alsace trip was in Strasbourg in a cloudy day, only for a few hours,. If you only have a few hours in Strasbourg, your visit should start with Petit France district. It is the city’s most beautiful district. A succession of canals along which have been built beautiful half-timbered houses gives to the district a magnificent charm.
This is the most picturesque district of old Strasbourg. Fishermen, millers and tanners used to live and work in this built-up neighborhood. The beautiful half-timbered houses date from the 16th and 17th centuries. Their sloping roofs are open on attics where once the skins were drying. Totally destroyed during the Second World War, Strasbourg embarked on a post-war policy of reconstruction of this picturesque district.
Not to miss.
The Alsatian Wine Capital should be the starting point for everyone. This town stands out for the richness and diversity of its heritage sites including listed buildings, gothic architectural treasures and traditional houses. A great experience in Colmar is the boat trip along the water in the romantic Little Venice district.
My second favorite village in Alsace is located very close to Colmar. A ten minute drive and you will find in Eguisheim a lovely medieval village, with narrow cobblestone streets and brightly painted 16th century half-timbered houses with floral displays on the windows.
Surrounded by ancient town walls, filled with charming half-timbered houses, overlooked by three magnificent ruined castles.
Maybe the most romantic medieval city in Alsace, is hidden among vineyards and Vosges mountains,
Located between Colmar and Ribeauville. Kayserberg is generally considered to be one of the most attractive small towns in the Alsace region. The ruins of Chateau de Kaysersberg sits on a hill overlooking this amazing little town. The chateau was built in the 13th century when an important trade route used to pass through this valley.
6. The Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle;
Is one of the most popular monuments in France with 600,000 visitors per year. Built in the 12th century, the Castle occupied a strategic position. Its purpose was to watch over the wine and wheat routes to the North and the silver and salt routes from West to East.
There are many places to see in Strasbourg but I will mention only 2 of the most important: the Notre Dame Cathedral (also called the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg), which is standing prominently in the Strasbourg city centre and the district of Little France – s the most picturesque district of old Strasbourg.
How to get there.
Strasbourg International Airport (north of Alscace) or Basel Mulhouse Frieburg Airport are the closest airports to Alsace, Numerous national and international airlines offer daily services to and from the Alsatian airports.
The Regional Express Trains (TER from SNCF – French railway company) are very successful all over France. You can freely and easily travel all over the Alsace Region thanks to a well-developed train network.
The best way in my opinion for exploring the Alsace Wine Route and its magnificent fairytale villages is by car. You can rent a car and make your own itinerary, not being constrained by the timetables of the trains or the buses.
So, that was my experience with Alsace. Have you ever been there? Would you like to go? Please let me know in the comments below.