When it comes to relaxing holidays, there’s no town like a wine town.
One: you have the perfect weather that helps create the perfect grapes. Two: these grapes produce amazing wine that inspires delicious food. And three: this makes everyone giddy happy and friendly!
But too much of a good thing can be oh-so-wonderful, so we add one more ingredient to this perfect holiday recipe: the open road. And that’s exactly how we spent our holiday in Alsace, France’s northeastern wine-growing region: a road trip through beautiful towns, lush vineyards, and breathtaking mountain roads, all while filling up on good food, great wine, and amazing sights.
Little Holidays Guide to Alsace, France
- How to plan your road trip in Alsace
- Map – essential landmarks
- Road trip itinerary – best things to see and do in Alsace
- Planning your trip
- Beyond Alsace – where to go next
- Download the PDF guide
Here’s my recommended road trip itinerary for your holiday in Alsace.
I’d recommend having two bases for this trip – sleep on nights 1-2 in Colmar, then nights 3-5 in Strasbourg. If you’re flying into Strasbourg, pick up your rental car at the airport then drive for about an hour to Colmar.
Day 1 – Once you’ve settled in your hotel in Colmar, head out to Eguisheim, the cradle of Alsatian wine and one of the region’s prettiest villages. Walk around the village’s winding cobbled streets, then hike to the Les Trois Chateaux. Afterward, drive to the Lac du Ballon and the Grand Ballon for easy afternoon hikes around the beautiful Vosges national park.
Day 2 – Explore two more medieval towns near Colmar: Kaysersberg and Riquewihr. Walk along Kaysersberg’s canals and hike up to the ruins of the chateau, then continue your hike through the forest to Riquewihr. Visit one of the many wine cellars in the village and make sure to try the local cuisine.
Day 3 – Spend the morning exploring Colmar – walk around the picture-perfect “Little Venice,” peek into several architectural landmarks, and visit the markets to buy wine, chocolates, and cheese. Have lunch at one of the traditional wine stubs serving traditional Alsatian food. On your drive north to Strasbourg, stop by the Haut-Koenigsbourg, a medieval castle on a mountain.
Day 4 – Drive to the towns north of Strasbourg: La Petite-Pierre, Saverne, and Bouxwiller. Hike around the northern Vosges national park from the Petite-Pierre Chateau to see impressive rock formations along easy-to-moderate trails.
Day 5 – Explore the beautiful city of Strasbourg. Walk around the picturesque Petite France district, get the best views from the Barrage Vauban, then make your way to the Krutenau district. Take some time to visit the museums and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg. Enjoy the rest of the day at Place Kleber. If you have more time or another day to spend in Strasbourg, visit the gardens or go biking around the city.
Tell us: What are you most excited about your holiday in Alsace?
Use this Google map to help you plan your road trip in Alsace. I added all the important landmarks, the best places to visit, and the best areas and hotels to stay in.
For your road trip, I recommend using Waze to navigate.
Day 1 – Exploring the south of Colmar
Our holiday in Alsace begins the day before when we arrived in Strasbourg in the afternoon. We picked up our rental car from the Avis office near Gare Centrale and drove straight to our hotel in Colmar. This was about a 1-hour drive mostly through motorways.
On our first “official” day of exploring Alsace, we paid a visit to Eguisheim, the cradle of Alsatian wine. As we were driving to the south of Colmar, we decided to continue further and hike around the southern parts of the Vosges natural park.
Eguisheim – the cradle of Alsatian wine
Eguisheim is about 7 KM south of Colmar, a 15-minute drive through gorgeous vineyards. Most sites within the village are concentrated in the historical center, which you can explore within an hour.
Eguisheim is a medieval village that has been inhabited since the Paleolithic age. It’s believed to have been conquered by the Romans, who developed wine cultivation in the area. It was also Pope Leo IX’s birthplace in the 11th century, and the chateau at the center of the village is kept as a homage to him.
Eguisheim was our first brush with the storybook Alsatian village architecture. Narrow and winding cobbled streets lined with half-timbered houses and flowers spilling from everywhere have rightfully earned this little town plenty of national and European awards. In 2013, it was voted as the “Favorite French village.”
Take in charming views from the Chateau Saint-Leon, a former castle built in the 13th century and now a chapel dedicated to Saint Leo. Walk along the Rue de Rempart Sud for the village’s most photogenic spots. Try to find the L’Authentique Pain d’Epices store here to get some pastries.
When we were there (late September), the village was quiet, with only a few fellow tourists walking around. As it was the first village that we explored, my experiences in Eguisheim influenced my impressions of Alsace as a whole – as a gorgeous region filled with friendly people everywhere. It seemed village locals and local tourists took great pride in the village’s charm – most people would greet you with a bright “Bonjour!” and offer to take your picture by the closest flower-decked window or door that you happen to be standing by. The beautiful houses and monuments served as gorgeous backdrops to a pleasant holiday.
Later on, we returned to Eguisheim to buy wine. We got several bottles of Reisling (dry white wine), Muscat (fruity white wine), and Cremant d’Alsace rosé (the region’s sparkling wine) from Leon Beyer and Wolfberger. For brunch, we dropped by the La Galinette, where we had delicious savory and dessert crepes, all paired with wine, of course.
Hike from Eguisheim to Les Trois Chateaux
From the village center, we spotted a cluster of eerie-looking ruins on top of a hill, which we decided to see up close. These were Les Trois Chateaux (or: three castles of Husseren-les-Chateaux; three castles of Eguisheim).
From the village center, we followed the Rue de Trois Chateaux and walked for almost an hour along vineyards. The first 3 kilometers of the hike goes through vineyards up a mild slope. We then passed the quiet village of Husseren-les-Chateaux.
The final kilometer, though, proved to be quite challenging, but still doable for a hobby hiker like me. The slope became steeper until we finally reached Les Trois Chateaux.
After checking out the chateaux and taking pictures of the views from the top of the hill, we made our way back down to Eguisheim following the much gentler red circle trail.
Back at Eguisheim, we collected our car and drove on to the next stop: Lac du Ballon.
Views in Lac du Ballon and Grand Ballon
It’s a bit of a drive to Lac du Ballon (40 KM, 45 minutes) through winding mountain roads, but it’s a great spot to enjoy the autumn colors and the mountain air.
From Lac du Ballon, you can hike to the Grand Ballon via signposted trails – plan for a 90-minute hike one way. However, since we weren’t sure we could go back to our car by the lake before sundown, we opted to drive to the Grand Ballon instead.
The Grand Ballon is the highest mountain of the Vosges, and also the highest point of the Grand Est region at 1424 meters, so expect breathtaking views from the summit. It derives its name from ballon, a French geographical term for a mountain with a rounded summit – and not from the air traffic control radar station on the summit which, well, looks like a grand balloon. You’ll also find the Diables Bleus monument erected as a tribute to the victims of the battalions of mountain infantry who fought in World War I.
For a traditional Alsatian dinner, check out Ferme auberge du Haag just a short drive from the Grand Ballon parking lot.
After leisurely walks around the Grand Ballon, we made our way back to Colmar.
- We drove a total of 120 KM from Colmar to Eguisheim, Lac du Ballon, Grand Ballon, and back to Colmar. Note that if you’re driving from Lac du Ballon to Grand Ballon (instead of hiking), you’ll have to go around the long way and drive for more than 20 KM (may take up to 45 minutes).
- The hike from Eguisheim to Les Troix Chateaux and back was about 7 KM, with easy to moderate trails.
- There were parking areas near the Lac du Ballon and the Grand Ballon. In Eguisheim, you can park for free on Parc du Millenaire along Rue des Oiseaux. Otherwise, you can use the pay parking lot near Grand Rue.
- Check the Google map to view our hike and driving routes. Always follow road signs and have a back-up map with you.
Day 2 – Exploring the north of Colmar
On the second day, we explored the stars of the historic Alsace wine route: Kaysersberg and Riquewihr.
Kaysersberg is another well-preserved medieval town with more of the Alsatian half-timbered houses, plus several impressive structures like the Church Sainte Croix and the 16th century stone bridge crossing the Weiss River. In 2017, it was Kaysersberg’s turn to be chosen as the “Favorite French village.”
The ruins of Chateau de Kaysersberg on a hill above the town is a reminder of its strategic importance during wartimes in the past. It’s about a 15-30-minute hike to the Chateau, from where you can continue following the trails to Riquewihr.
Kaysersberg is also the birthplace of Albert Schweitzer, a winner of the Nobel Peace prize who worked to establish a hospital and leper colony in Africa, among many other achievements. You’ll find his encouraging words of wisdom peppering the trails to the chateau.
From the Kaysersberg chateau, we saw signposts of a trail that led to Riquewihr, so instead of going by car, we decided to continue on foot. After about an hour through the forest, we were welcomed by the pretty town of Riquewihr.
Along with Eguisheim and Hunawihr, Riquewihr belongs to the list of the most beautiful villages in France. Of all the towns I visited in Alsace, Riquewihr is obviously the tourist favorite – its main street was filled with tourists either taking pictures of the beautiful town, notably the pinkish, flower-decked Dolder (lookout tower), or spilling out of the cafes and restaurants lining the street.
After a quick circuit of the town, we ducked into a wine cellar owned by Maison Zimmer, where we tasted some wines and got a bottle of the Cremant d’Alsace. We then went for a late lunch of flammkuchen (or tarte flambée) at the Au Vieux Riquewihr.
Afterward, we trekked back to Kaysersberg, then drove back to Colmar.
- Kaysersberg is about 12 KM (40 minutes driving time) from Colmar. We parked on a lot across Le Petit Gourmand, near the public cemetery. You’ll also see several pay parking lots as you enter the town.
- Riquewihr is 6 KM north of Kaysersberg and a one-way hike would take about 90 minutes. If you go by car, you’ll be able to visit other beautiful towns like Hunawihr and Ribeauvillé.
Day 3 – Exploring Colmar
Colmar is the center of the arrondissement of Colmar-Ribeauvillé and considered the capital of Alsatian wine. It’s a well-preserved medieval town founded in the 9th century with numerous architectural landmarks and museums.
Like the rest of Alsace, Colmar was passed from France to Germany and back several times during the last centuries. You will see this in the architecture, food, language, and culture.
The town also enjoys a sunny microclimate and is one of the driest cities in France, thanks to the Vosges mountains that shield it from precipitation. This makes for an ideal terroir to grow the world-class Alsatian wines, and of course, a setting for the perfect holiday.
Colmar was mostly spared from the destructions during the French Revolution, so you’ll be able to enjoy the old townscape in Colmar. The centerpiece of the town is la Petite Venise or “Little Venice,” a district filled with flower-decked canals lined by half-timbered houses and specialty shops. You’ll also find lots of great restaurants in this area.
Other architectural landmarks to visit are St. Martin’s Church, which is made with Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque elements, and well-preserved medieval buildings like the Maison Adolph, Maison Pfister, and Maison des Têtes. If you want to learn more about the history of Colmar, the museum to visit is the Unterlinden Museum.
For chocolates and macarons, stop by the Jacques Bockel chocolaterie. For cheese, particularly the local munster cheese, and sausages, get them from Chez Thierry.
As for gastronomy, Colmar is certainly not lacking in great restaurants. But we did find out on our first night there that even during off-peak seasons, Colmar does lack tables. We went to 5 different restaurants on our first night and were turned away, even though there were only 2 of us. We ended up eating pitiful vending machine food that night. Lesson learned: reserve a table!
One of our favorite meals from our entire holiday in Alsace came from Wistub Brenner, one of the many traditional wine stubs or wine lounges serving hearty regional food in Colmar. Wistub Brenner is one of the more established and popular ones, so make sure to book a table in advance. I loved the bibalaskas, which is a traditional Alsatian dish served with ham, cheese, and potato salad. It’s right by the canal in Little Venice, so our delicious dinner came with a lovely view.
If you’re up for wines and artisanal Alsatian beers, check out the L’epicurien wine bistro. They also serve delicious French food.
If you’re looking for fine dining in Colmar, check out La Maison des Têtes. They serve both French and Alsatian dishes in a classical setting. And of course, it’s right in one of Colmar’s most beautiful buildings!
After exploring Colmar, it was time to say goodbye and move on to Strasbourg. Since the drive from Colmar to Strasbourg was quick (1 hour), we decided to visit Haut-Koenigsbourg, a medieval castle-fortress that lies in the mountains between the two cities.
Strategically located on a rocky ridge overlooking a plain, the chateau was used by royal families, robber barons, and invading troops from the Middle Ages until it was abandoned in the 17th century. Now, it is a popular tourist attraction and classified as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture.
There are several trails to various landmarks from the chateau, like the Montagne des Singes (Monkey Mountain) and the Volerie des Aigles (Eagle Park). We mostly spent our time walking around the chateau grounds and the medieval garden.
After a few hours around the chateau, we began our drive to Strasbourg.
- The drive from Colmar to Haut-Koenigsbourg is 30 KM (driving time is about 40 minutes), and from Haut-Koenigsbourg to Strasbourg is 60 KM (90 minutes).
- In Colmar, parking at the Parking Lacarre is free for 3 hours. Most other pay parking areas in the town are for free from 7 PM to 9 AM the next day.
- There are plenty of street parking spaces in Strasbourg, which are also free from 7 PM to 9 AM. If you can ask your hotel to save you a spot, that would be great because parking spaces are tricky to find. Even better, book a hotel that offers private parking spots.
Day 4 – Exploring north of Strasbourg
La Petite-Pierre is a commune 60 KM (60-90-minute drive) northwest of Strasbourg and the gateway to the northern Vosges natural park. Make your way to the Chateau de la Petite-Pierre, where a lot of trails around the natural park take off from.
From the Chateau de la Petite-Pierre, we followed the “Circuit des 3 rochers,” which goes to three impressive rock formations. It’s 10 KM long and took about 3-4 hours along easy to moderate trails. You can see the directions for this hike as well as more hiking trails in La Petite-Pierre here.
If you have more time, the nearby towns of Saverne and Bouxwiller are also nice places to visit. After our hike, we drove back to Strasbourg and returned our car to the Avis office.
Day 5 – Strasbourg
Finally, we arrive in Strasbourg, the capital of the historic region of Alsace and the symbolic capital and formal seat of the European Parliament.
When we arrived in Strasbourg on Day 3, we had to endure the daunting task of navigating a strange, busy city and looking for parking. So it was with a great sense of relief that we returned our car on Day 4 and explored Strasbourg on foot and by buses and trams. I highly recommend letting go of your rental car once in Strasbourg. The city is very walkable, public transportation is efficient and easy to figure out, and you can also choose to go around in bikes.
The most photogenic district in Strasbourg is Petite France (“Little France”), a historic quarter that used to be home for the city’s tanners, millers, and fishermen. You’ll get the best views of the district from the Barrage Vauban, as well as from the many bridges that cross the canals.
From Petite France, make your way to the Krutenau district, where you can visit the Musée alsacien and the Palais Rohan. You can learn more about Alsatian history in these museums, or simply admire the French Baroque architecture.
From there, make your way to the mother of all architectural gems in Strasbourg: the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg. It’s one of the finest examples of late Gothic architecture and the highest existing structure built in the Middle Ages. Up close, it’s much more impressive with its detailed façade and its pinkish hue, thanks to sandstone from the Vosges mountains.
Afterward, enjoy the rest of the day at Place Kleber. If you have more time or another day to spend in Strasbourg, you can visit the Jardin des Deux Rives (Two Shores Garden) and the Parc de l’Orangerie for maximum downtime. You can read more in my detailed Strasbourg travel guide.
The gateway to Alsace is the region’s capital, Strasbourg. You can get to Strasbourg via several means:
Flying to Strasbourg – Strasbourg has an international airport in Entzheim, just 16 KM from the Strasbourg city center – check for flights to Strasbourg here. From the airport, you can ride a shuttle train into the city. Other nearby international airports are in Stuttgart and Paris.
Traveling by land to Strasbourg – If you’re coming from nearby cities and countries, you can reach Strasbourg by train or bus. If you’re on a multi-country trip, getting a Eurail Global Pass can be more convenient and economical for you. Otherwise, you can check SNCF for train connections to Strasbourg, or RegioJet and Flixbus for bus travel.
Renting a car in Alsace – The most convenient place to get a rental car is in Strasbourg. There are two main pick-up points in the city: at the airport and near the Gare Centrale (Strasbourg’s central train station). You can choose and reserve a car from the major car rental companies in Strasbourg here.
We got our car from Avis via the RentalCars booking website. I like booking with them because generally, the rental fees are cheaper (since they’re able to negotiate a better price with major rental car companies). It’s also good to book a car online in advance to avoid having to wait for a long time, or worse, running out of cars. Avis’ downtown pick-up office is near the Gare Centrale – once you exit the station, turn right and walk to the end of the station. The Avis office, along with Sixt and Budget, is across the flags and beside Burger King.
If you have a driving license from the European Union, you can use this to drive in France. You’ll have to present your license, identification card, and credit card when you pick up your car.
If your license is from outside the European Union, you will need an international driving permit (IDP) and your local driver’s license. You have to get your IDP from the same country that issued your driver’s license (look up your country’s automobile association + international driving permit to find out how to obtain one), so do this before leaving for your holiday. When picking up the rental car, make sure to have your IDP, local license, passport, and credit card.
Note that Europe mainly drives manual transmission cars, so if you require an automatic transmission car, make sure to reserve one well in advance (about three months) as these cars are limited.
Here’s a comprehensive guide to driving in France.
Where to stay in Alsace – best hotels in Colmar and Strasbourg
For this road trip itinerary, I’d recommend splitting your time between Colmar and Strasbourg.
Stay in Colmar for at least 2-3 days to explore the southern parts of Alsace. James Boutique Hotel is a great option within walking distance of the historic center, perfect for exploring the city and quickly getting out to the countryside. For families and big groups, Suites Residences Spa has spacious and fully-equipped apartments. For a no-frills option a short drive from the city center, check out B&B Hotel Colmar Expo.
Stay in Strasbourg for at least 3 days to explore the city and the northern parts of Alsace. Hotel and Spa Le Bouclier d’Or is a gorgeous hotel right in the middle of Petite France, Strasbourg’s most picturesque district. For families and bigger groups, Le Moon at Place Kleber and La Residence de l’Orangerie in the quiet and residential European Quarter are great options.
Top tips for travel to Alsace
Languages spoken: French, German, English
Money: Euro (1 EUR ~ 1.10 USD) – You can pay at most shops, train stations, and hotels using a credit or debit card, but make sure to have cash with you. Some restaurants and shops will only take cash.
If you have a borderless card like TransferWise or Revolut, you can withdraw from the French banks’ ATMs for free. Convert your currency to EUR on your app first, then withdraw easily and hassle-free.
- Accommodations – A stay for two in a luxurious hotel in the historic center (like Cour de Corbeau) can cost from EUR 240/night. A charming boutique hotel in a central location (like BOMA) costs around EUR 120/night. You can also find budget apartment rentals (like Studio Proche Gare Et Petite France) and stay for only EUR 70/night.
- Food – You can spend EUR 40 upwards for a nice dinner for two.
- Transportation – A rental car for 5 days (+ gas and tolls) can cost from EUR 300. You can check rental car prices for your travel dates. Make sure to get comprehensive rental car insurance.
Tipping: A service charge is usually added to the final bill and tipping is not expected, but a 10-15% tip for excellent service is appreciated.
Weather and best times to go: Alsace is gorgeous during the summer months (July, August) with flowers in full bloom and the perfect weather for walking and biking around. Autumn (October, November) is also a lovely time to visit – you can enjoy the beautiful fall colors, milder weather, and wine festivals and tastings throughout the countryside. During the Christmas season (December), Strasbourg dresses up as the “Capitale de Noël” with festive Christmas markets spread throughout the city and in the smaller towns.
Staying connected: You can get a pocket Wi-Fi device delivered to your hotel in France or anywhere in the EU.
Read more about Alsace
An excellent overview of the qualities of Alsatian wine and why more people should know about it.
A wine-centric tour of the region, this article offers suggestions on where to best pick up your wine and have a deeper understanding of the region’s produce.
If Alsace’s scenic roads and gorgeous landscapes got you excited for your next holidays in Europe, here are more amazing road trip destinations for you.
Explore two of Austria’s beautiful cities – Salzburg and Vienna – by road tripping across the beautiful Salzkammergut region or Lake District. This is a great road trip itinerary if you love charming villages, gorgeous natural landscapes, and outdoor activities.
With breathtaking and diverse natural landscapes and smooth and efficient roads that bring you from the Alps to the countryside and the coasts in a few short hours, Slovenia is the perfect destination for a road trip.
Here’s another destination for lovers of nature, history, and gastronomy – the Czech Republic’s South Moravian wine region. You’ll find plenty of castle towns, forests, and vineyards to explore.
While parts of the Swiss Jungfrau region can be touristy, head to the quieter areas of Lauterbrunnen and Mürren to enjoy that traditional Swiss countryside ambiance. You’ll find plenty of hiking trails, stunning alpine views, and warm and welcoming chalets.
Here are more amazing road trips to take in France!
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I hope this guide helps you plan your road trip to Alsace! I really enjoyed our holiday, and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s into wine regions, natural landscapes, and pretty storybook towns. You’ll also be treated to amazing gastronomy and friendly folks everywhere.
If you need more recommendations or extra help planning your trip, send me a message, and I’ll be happy to help you out. Thanks for reading and happy travels to France!
First published – 3 November 2017
Last updated – 12 June 2020 – updated information, fixed format for, added tips and information for easier travel-planning