Alsace is a lovely and fascinating region of eastern France to explore, with impressive cities such as Strasbourg and Colmar, the Alsace wine route to follow, historical castles set on isolated hilltops, pretty villages sitting quietly in the vineyards and forests of the region, and large areas of protected and scenic countryside
Alsace is found in eastern France, on the border with Germany to the east and the Lorraine region of France to the west. It is the smallest region in France and very pretty in its location between the Vosges mountains and the Rhine.
The Alsace region is divided into two French 'departments' with Bas-Rhin to the north and including Strasbourg and Haut-Rhin to the south and including Colmar. Both departments have a great deal to commend them!
The climate in Alsace is almost 'continental' in nature with hot summers and dry, cold winters. Combined with the fertile ground this creates an ideal environment for grape growing and wine production.
The 'principal attractions' that bring visitors to Alsace include:
Below we introduce the principal highlights of each department - you can then visit the department guides for Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin for much more detailed information to find visitor guides for the individual highlights.
Strasbourg is the capital of the Bas-Rhin, which is an unmissable highlight when you visit.
Other popular destinations here in northern Alsace include several of the better known Alsatian castles such as the imposing Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg and the evocative ruins of Chateau Andlau, and also the important pilgrimage site at Mont-Sainte-Odile
An equally moving destination in this part of Alsace is Le Struthof, the only concentration camp built in France in the Second World War.
To the north-west of Bas-Rhin the landscape changes as you enter the Regional Natural Park of Vosges du Nord.
This quiet region of densely forested hills, small streams and rivers and rocky outcrops is very beautiful and well worth exploring - Neuwiller-les-Saverne is to the south-west of the park and Lembach to the north-east.
See the detailed Bas-Rhin guide for lots more information and highlights.
The storks are a particular distinctive feature of Alsace. At one time every tall roof and steeple seemed to have a resident stork, but these then suffered a serious set-back and almost disappeared from Alsace.
Happily a successful breeding programme has succeeded in re-introducing them to the region and they are again a popular sight, and a number of towns also have a 'stork park'. To ensure the birds stay in the area a stork is kept in captivity for 3 years, after which it loses its migratory instincts (though its young will still migrate).
Another major attraction here is the ecomuseum at Ungersheim which provides a very interesting glimpse of life gone by, with more than 70 historic buildings reconstructed on one site.
To appreciate the natural environment you can explore the Regional Natural Park of the Ballon des Vosges which occupies much of the western Haut-Rhin.
While there are less important towns and villages here in the west it is a very scenic region which is popular with hikers and cyclists and has several impressive viewpoints - the most visited is the Grand Ballon to the south-west of Murbach.
See the detailed Haut-Rhin guide for lots more information and highlights.
As well as its fabulous wine Alsace has some hearty food specialities. Baeckeoffe, a hearty stew with pork is a favourite as is Flammekueche which is a kind of cross between a savoury tart and a pizza and appears on almost every menu in Alsace.
Bretzels, a savoury salty bread in the form of a knot, and Kougelhopf, a delicious brioche with sultanas and almonds, are sold in most bakers and should be sampled during your visit.
A list of places in Alsace with detailed reviews from France This Way
- Chateau Andlau
- Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg
- Le Struthof
Listed below are some of the main places and destinations in Alsace that have received 'official' tourist classifications.
Domaine du Windeck :
Jardin botanique de l'université de Strasbourg :
Jardin botanique du col de Saverne :
Jardin de l'Escalier :
Jardin de la ferme bleue :
Jardin du chateau de Kolbsheim :
Le jardin de Marguerite :
Parc Alfred-Wallach :
Parc botanique de Mulhouse :
Parc de la Marseillaise :
Parc de Wesserling :
Parc du château de Kintzheim :
Parc du domaine de Schoppenwihr :
Ballon d'Alsace :
Parc zoologique et botanique de Mulhouse :