Alsace travel guide

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Visit Alsace, France

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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 tourism

photo of StrasbourgAlsace 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.

Why visit Alsace?

The 'principal attractions' that bring visitors to Alsace include:

  • the attractive villages with streets of half-timbered houses overflowing with geraniums
  • the historic city of Strasbourg
  • the attractive mountain scenery of the Vosges and the Natural regional parks
  • the castles, many in ruins, that bear witness to the conflict ridden past in Alsace
  • the popular Alsace Wine Route ('Route des vins') that explores the vineyards and villages

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.

Northern Alsace (the Bas-Rhin department)

photo of RosheimStrasbourg is the capital of the Bas-Rhin, which is an unmissable highlight when you visit.

As elsewhere in Alsace you will also find a lot of very pretty villages to explore including Hunspach and Mittelbergheim among the most popular with visitors.

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.

photo of FleckensteinTo 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.

Storks of Alsace

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).

Southern Alsace (the Haut-Rhin department)

main street in BergheimThe larger towns in southern Alsace include Colmar, with an impressive historical centre, and Mulhouse, well known for its important museums.

There are also numerous picturesque villages, among them some that are also classified among the 'most beautiful villages of France' (Eguisheim, Hunawihr and Riquewihr).

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.

MurbachThe most important religious monuments in Haut-Rhin include the romanesque abbey at Murbach and the 11th century abbey church at Ottmarsheim.

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.

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Traditional recipes of Alsace

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.

Six unmissable highlights of a visit to Alsace

StrasbourgThe city of Strasbourg and its historical centre is one of our favourite places in France.
See Strasbourg


EguisheimJust one of many beautiful villages in Alsace, Eguisheim has numerous traditional half-timbered houses
See Eguisheim


chateau haut-koenigsbourgBoth the history and setting for Chateau Haut-Koenigsbourg make it one of our top recommendations
See Chateau Haut-koenigsbourg


Mont Sainte OdileThe monastery at Mont Saint Odile is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in France
See Mont Sainte Odile


ColmarMuseums, historical buildings and colourful medieval houses make Colmar unmissable in Alsace
See Colmar


HunspachHunspach is one of our favourite Alsace villages, in part because of the many well maintained gardens
See Hunspach


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The French version of this page is at Alsace (Francais)

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See details of the Alsace Wine Route that visits many of the most popular vineyards and villages

French version: Alsace (Francais)