Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
This article may contain compensated links. Please read disclaimer for more info.
Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
Bordering Switzerland in the south and Germany in the east, the historical and cultural region of Alsace is determinedly unique and filled with character. Alsace is part of the Grand Est French region and has changed hands between France and Germany several times over the years. As a result, this part of France has its own identity, history, and cuisine that’s part German, part French, and all unique.
Filled with picturesque, candy-colored towns that look like they could come straight out of a fairytale, there are many beautiful things to see in Alsace that make this area the perfect destination for a weekend getaway from Paris or a more extended trip. This region is where many French go for the perfect holiday, so you know that the food, scenery, and wine must be absolutely amazing.
If you’re ready to explore this truly idiosyncratic region, here’s a list of the best things to do in Alsace, France.
The most important French airport in the region is the International Airport Bâle-Mulhouse-Fribourg (MLH, BSL, EAP), also known as EuroAirport. Located on French soil, close to Mulhouse, this airport is a good option for exploring southern Alsace. The EuroAirport has regular and seasonal international flights to Europe, Turkey, Israel, and Morocco – Click here to book your flight tickets
The region of Alsace is crossed by the classic train lines Paris – Nancy – Strasbourg and Paris – Troyes – Chaumont – Mulhouse. The two other main rail routes in the region are Basel – Mulhouse – Strasbourg (– Metz – Luxembourg) and Nancy – Metz – Luxembourg.
Thanks to the Rhine-Rhône high-speed line, the TGV line Marseille – Lyon – Frankfurt-am-Main travel through Alsace (via Mulhouse and Strasbourg).
From Paris, count on it taking 2 hrs to Strasbourg and 2 hrs 25 min to Colmar – Click here to book your train tickets
Explore Alsace by Car
The Alsace is a great place for memorable road trips in France. With a car, some good tunes, and the best company, you are set for one of the best adventures in your life. Visit the main cities in Alsace and then go off the beaten path to get the most out of this beautiful region.
Recommended road trips in Alsace:
If you don’t have your car, we recommend booking in advance through platforms like Discover Cars. This site takes all major rental companies, such as Hertz, Avis, etc., and compares prices for you. Check out our best tips for renting a car in France.
What to Do in Alsace, France
What to do in Alsace during a weekend getaway or a longer trip? Here are the best things to do in Alsace, France – top Alsace things to do for a unique French holiday:
TIP: Get the best of Alsace with the Pass Alsace for 1 to 5 days. Enjoy 60 tourist attractions in Alsace, including wildlife parks, fortified castles, museums, and more fun activities and discounts.
1. Visit Strasbourg, the Capital
Strasbourg is the capital of Alsace and also of the Grand Est region. This cosmopolitan city has a long history, and today is the formal seat of the European Parliament and other European institutions.
Strasbourg is the best starting point for any Alsace trip and one of the best places to visit in Alsace for the sheer volume and variety of things you can do.
With a gorgeous, historic Old Town area, a mix of cultures that has given rise to an intriguing food scene, and a vibrant art scene, you could easily fill a 2-day itinerary in Strasbourg. However, you can decide to stay more time and use the city to cover other Alsace tourist attractions on day trips from Strasbourg. Check out where to stay in Strasbourg (the best neighborhoods) for a weekend getaway or a longer trip.
2. Visit Fairytale Colmar
Colmar is the type of city people dream about when they’re planning a trip to France. Not only is it one of the most beautiful cities in France, but it’s also been one of France’s cultural centers since the 13th century. You’ll see and feel this history everywhere in Colmar, in every canal, cute neighborhood, and winding street.
There aren’t a huge number of things to do in Colmar, but there are numerous stunning scenic places, especially in the historic center. It’s filled with floral displays on every corner, half-timbered houses, and historic mansions begging to be explored. This is what makes it one of the most popular places to visit in Alsace. Check out where to stay in Colmar (the best neighborhoods) for a romantic weekend getaway in the heart of Alsace.
3. Explore the Most Beautiful Villages of Alsace
From north to south, Alsace is plenty of pretty small towns and villages to discover. With incredible scenery, picturesque alleys, lovely squares, and medieval buildings, these Alsace villages are enchanting places not to be missed!
Choosing which typical towns and villages in Alsace to visit on your holiday can be challenging; all these Alsatian villages are gorgeous! Riquewihr is our favorite, but Kaysersberg, Eguisheim, and Ribeauvillé are also worth exploring.
If you only have one day to visit the Alsatian villages, taking a guided tour is a good idea. This Alsace Villages Wine Route Day Trip from Strasbourg always has excellent reviews, and it explores four villages on the Alsace Wine Route (Ribeauvilllé, Riquewihr, Eghisheim, and Kaysersberg). If you prefer to base yourself in Colmar, then take this top-rated tour that visits the best villages in Alsace with some wine tastings along the route.
4. Take in the Views from Mont Saint Odile
The Sanctuary of Mont Sainte-Odile has been watching over Alsace for centuries. Surrounded by the gorgeous, forested area of the Vosges, the Sanctuary of Mont Sainte-Odile is one of the best places to visit in Alsace.
The history of this sacred site goes back to the 7th century, though it has been rebuilt through the years. It was once dedicated to the patron saint of Alsace, Odile, and it’s still one of the most important religious sites in the area to the locals.
Climbing to the summit of Mont Sainte-Odile to take in the views (and perhaps a little prayer) is one of the best things to do in Alsace. However, make sure you also try hiking through the wooded area and check out the pagans’ wall, built in 1000 BC.
5. Take the Alsace Wine Route
You can’t travel to this area without trying out the Wine Route of Alsace. One of the top Alsace attractions, this wine trail between Colmar and Strasbourg invites visitors to discover beautiful landscapes and villages while tasting some of the region’s best wines.
Unfortunately, Alsace isn’t as well known for its wine as other French wine regions. This is an oversight that needs to change in the future because the area produces excellent white wines that are floral and spicy and go perfectly with the fairytale villages and stunning scenery.
There are many wineries in Alsace proposing wine tours and tastings for individuals or groups in French, English, and German. We recommend booking your tastings online in advance, especially in the summer and Christmas holidays.
6. Hiking in the Vosges
The Vosges are a series of low, rolling mountain ranges that put hiking at the top of any good list of what to do in Alsace, France. The slopes of the mountains aren’t too steep, and the scenery is lush and green, filled with vineyards and forests.
There are several popular hiking trails in the area (you can ask for information and maps at the local tourist offices). You can even hire an electronic bike to go further than you could on your feet.
7. Taste Alsace’s Local Specialties
Alsace is also an excellent place to taste delicious regional food. The list of traditional dishes in Alsace includes baeckeoffe, tarte flambée, cordon bleu, vol-au-vent, spaetzle, fleischnacka, and bretzel.
The best places to taste good Alsace food are the winstubs. wistubs (or winstubs) are a type of traditional wine bar and restaurant that are specific to Alsace. In principle, they are inexpensive and rather popular, frequented by regulars. Winstubs are coquettishly rustic, with a warm atmosphere and local food.
Food tours can also be a good introduction to Alsatian cuisine and local products. If you are in Strasbourg, don’t miss this top-rated Gourmet Walking Tour, which walks you around the city on market days with food and wine samples.
8. Explore the Fairytale Christmas Markets of Alsace
Alsace is one of the best places to visit in France in the winter because of its Christmas markets. There’s nothing quite like shopping in a historic district with colorful, half-timbered houses and stunning Christmas decorations while snow falls softly around you, so make sure you put this on your must-do list of things to do in Alsace.
Alsace has some of the best Christmas markets in France, like Strasbourg’s Christmas Market (the oldest and most famous) and Colmar’s Christmas Market (an Alsace must-see). If you want to experience the Christmas markets in Alsace for yourself, then book early. Travelers of all kinds flock to the markets for their unique goods and the atmosphere, so book your accommodation and transport as soon as you know your travel dates.
The markets usually run from mid-November to Christmas but check for the specific dates in your chosen towns and areas.
9. Visit the Château de Haut-Koenigsbourg
This castle is one of the most popular Alsace tourist attractions, and once you see it, you’ll understand why. It has stood looking imposingly over the plains since the 1100s but was destroyed during the Thirty Years War in the 1600s.
Restored by Kaiser Wilhelm II, this is now considered to be one of the best castles in France for its stern outward appearance and the medieval tapestries within.
10. Explore the German Fort of Mutzig
The Fort de Mutzig is one of the lesser-known attractions on this list of what to see in Alsace. Located near the town of Mutzig, on the summit of Breuchstals Mountain, it was commissioned by Kaiser Wilhelm II in the late 1900s. At this time in history, Alsace was under German control after the Franco-Prussian War.
The fort was built to defend Strasbourg against high explosives, which were a recent addition to the tools of warfare. The fortifications at the fort were cutting edge for the time, and you can explore some of these new inventions and learn about life in the fort during a very interesting guided tour (possible in French, English. There’s no advance booking necessary, but check out the opening times before popping by.
The fort could not be used during WW2: being the Alsace back to the French side, the cannons were pointing in the wrong direction!
11. Take the Route des Crêtes
If you want to experience the beauty and natural scenery of the Vosges Mountains in perfect comfort, then try driving the Route des Crêtes (Route of the Ridges in English). Known as the Peak Route, it stretches over 72 km from Cernay to Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines and features stunning landscapes and endless stretches of uninhabited, beautiful land.
In 1871, the Alsace-Moselle was ceded to Germany under the Treaty of Frankfurt, and thus the ridge formed the boundary between France and Germany. Today, visitors can still see the marks of the former Franco-German border.
On the top, the Col de la Schlucht (Schlucht Pass) owes its attractiveness to breathtaking landscapes. From 1860 the Schlucht Pass became a holiday spot prized by local notables and statesmen. After the Alsace-Moselle annexation, French people visited the Pass to contemplate the lost province.
You can hike all or part of the Route des Crêtes or hire a car and explore in comfort. Just make sure that you stop off frequently along the way to explore the most beautiful spots!
12. Cité du Train and Cité de l’Automobile in Mulhouse
Mulhouse is one of those Alsace destinations that people tend to ignore, rushing to more popular destinations like Colmar or Strasbourg. And it’s a pity because Alsace’s second city boasts a beautiful Old Town and two of the best museums in the region.
The Cité de l’Automobile (Automobile Museum) and the Cité du Train (Railway Museum) in Mulhouse are two of the best things to do in Alsace. These two top museums reflect the history of the city, which is strongly influenced by industry.
La Cité de l’Automobile was built around the Schlumpf collection of classic automobiles. Located in one of their former factories, this collection contains the largest and most comprehensive collection of Bugatti cars in the world, but also racing cars and luxury cars. It is amazing!
And there you have it, the list of the best things to see and what to do in Alsace, France. Now all you need to do is decide which things you will do on your trip to Alsace (but we suggest doing them all!).