What to do in the Alsace region
The Alsace region is a beautiful region in the North-Eastern part of France, bordering Germany and Switzerland. It is a 5-6-hour drive from Belgium, so perfect for a long weekend or even a week or two. The Alsace region is known for its picturesque little villages, impressive castles, and beautiful landscapes. There is something to do for everyone while in the Alsace region.
As the capital of the Alsace region, you can’t visit the region without also visiting its capital, Strasbourg. Perfect for wandering around but also for visiting the majestic Gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, home of the animated astronomical clock. Every day at solar noon (12h30), there is the procession of the 18-inch figures of Christ and the Apostles while the life-size cock crows three times. And even from the outside, the Cathedral is magnificent: the colours, the sculptures, the details.
The admission to the church itself is free but to see the astronomical clock at work, you will need to buy tickets (2 euro).
The Strasbourg Cathedral is open every day from 7 am to 7 pm but it is closed for the astronomical clock display between 11:20 am and 12:40 pm and during services.
Unfortunately, we weren’t in time to see the astronomical clock at work. But we still got to see it when visiting the Cathedral.
If you have more time, you can also visit Petit France, Barrage Vauban, and Ponts Couverts.
We parked our car at the underground parking des Bateliers, which is walking distance from the Cathedral.
Colmar is one of the best-known villages in the Alsace Region, besides Strasbourg. So, when you are in the Alsace region, a visit to Colmar is mandatory. With its historic neighbourhoods, the typical half-timbered burghers’ houses and little canals it is perfect for a day of strolling, shopping and eating. At Little Venice, you can even do a boat tour to explore the city from the water. Tickets are 6 euro per person.
Don’t forget to visit the market hall in Colmar to buy some regional products like sausage, cheese and pretzels.
On a very busy day, it is best to be there as early as possible to make sure you have a parking space (if you are coming by car). We parked at the underground parking at Place Rapp.
If you like colourful cities, don’t miss these other colourful towns in Europe.
Walk between monkeys
At Montagne des Singes you have the opportunity to walk between the monkeys. In 60 acres of forest, 200 Barbary macaques walk around freely.
You also get some popcorn, so you can feed them; they eat it right out of your hand. This was so much fun for the kids, and the adults too. The monkeys are really used to it and love the attention.
Tickets are 9 euro for adults and 5.5 euro for children. Children under the age of 5 can enter for free. For obvious reasons, dogs are not allowed.
And look at these beautiful pictures.
See birds of prey at work
Not far from Montagne des Singes, you will find Volerie des Aigles. A few times a day, there is a 40min show where you will see different birds of prey at work. Among them are black kites, hawks, buzzards and vultures. You will see how they catch their preys and how fast they can fly. You will get the chance to admire them up close, as they sometimes fly right over your heads.
Tickets are 9.5 euro for adults and 6.5 euro for children. Also here, children under the age of 5 can enter for free.
Visit a castle
The Alsace region is also the home of many (medieval) castles (around 500) at the foothills of the Vosges mountains. The most famous and most visited one is Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg.
This Medieval castle is built on a rocky spur overlooking the Upper Rhine plain, giving it an excellent strategic location. It isn’t known when the first castle was built, but construction was mentioned in documents in 1147.
Tickets to visit the castle are 9 euro for adults and 5 euro for children. Children under the age of 6 can visit the castle for free. We only admired the castle from the outside.
Visit picturesque villages
The many picturesque villages in the Alsace all have the same relaxing atmosphere and beautiful characteristic half-timbered houses.
Riquewihr is officially one of the most beautiful villages in France (or les plus beaux villages de France). It is also known for the Riesling wine that is produced in and around the village. The main street of Riquewihr, Rue du Général-de-Gaulle is lined with bakeries, wineries, shops and restaurants. So it is perfect to sit outside with a glass of Riesling and watch all the tourists pass by.
Only 4 kilometres from Riquewihr, you will find Ribeauvillé. In the Middle Ages, the town was the seat of the Lords of Ribeaupierre, hence the name Ribeauvillé. Like in Riquewihr, we just enjoyed strolling the little cobblestone streets and soaking in the atmosphere.
Other villages you can visit are Obernai and Kaysersberg.
For parking: in Ribeauvillé, we just drove around until we found a parking spot. In Riquewihr, we parked at a paid parking lot on Avenue Méquillet.
The Alsace region is a famous wine region where they primarily white wine is produced. The most notable are Riesling and Gewürztraminer wines. There is an exception to this, which are the wines made from the Pinot Noir grape, which are pale red. And we can’t forget my favourite: crémant d’Alsace, a sparkling wine.
Through the Alsace region, there is the Route des Vins, a 170km long road, crossing the major wine producing areas of the region. Along this route des Vins, you will find numerous wine growers where you can taste (and buy) Alsatian wine.
We did a wine tasting close to our holiday home in Sigolsheim at Domaine Fritz. Here you can request a wine tasting where you can taste the different wines: Riesling, Gewürztraminer, rosé, pinot noir and crémant d’Alsace. We bought some bottles to take back home to Belgium. I love Pinot Noir and crémant d’Alsace.
Eat Alsatian specialities
When you are in the Alsace region, there are several foods you need to try. The first one is tarte flambée which is like a pizza but not really. It looks like one but doesn’t taste like one. A thin layer of dough is covered with sour cream, cheese, onion and bacon. They usually have a few different toppings, but not like your ordinary Italian pizza. I would recommend trying one with Munster cheese.
And then there are pretzels or bretzels. You will find them in every street, perfect to take with you while exploring the little villages.
A typical pie from the Alsace region is tarte aux myrtilles or blueberry pie. I can have this pie for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
If you are there in spring, you must try white asparagus, they taste different then the green ones. You can only have them for a short period, but when they are in season: every restaurant will serve a few asparagus dishes. (Unfortunately, I wasn’t so lucky with my asparagus dish, it wasn’t good ☹ ).
You can’t be in France and don’t eat cheese. The most typical cheese of the Alsace is Munster. It is made of cow’s milk and has a creamy texture. You will find a huge variety of cheeses at the market in Colmar, where we bought cheese for our cheese platter.
And last but not least, choucroute garnie. The pickled cabbage (choucroute) is served with boiled potatoes and a variety of meat.
Restaurant tip: Restaurant L’Ecurie in Riquewihr
We did 2 hikes while we were there because when visiting the Alsace region you have a lot of possibilities to explore the region. The views are stunning and you can find hikes with a lot of variation. Oh, and the weather can be very wet 🙂
Natzweiler-Struthof was a German-run concentration camp, the only one on French territory. It was a labour camp, transit camp, and in the end also an extermination camp. Outside the main camp, there was also a crematorium and a gas chamber.
Nowadays it is a museum in honour of all those that lost their lives here. You can visit every part and everything is documented very well. Such places always give me a sad feeling because it shows what people are capable of.
Learn more about liquor and buy some
Musée des Eaux de vie is a museum solely dedicated to liquors. You will find a number of attributes that were used to make this speciality drink as well as a huge collection of glasses. You end up in a little shop where you can buy different liquors (such as Poire William) and also absinth. And of course, you can always taste before you buy because the owner is a very lovely person that loves to share everything he knows. Visiting this quirky museum is free.
See how candy is made
At Confiserie des Hautes Vosges they make cany the traditional way. You will see how they make candy from scratch all manually. With some possibility to buy. Definitely try the violettes, that are my favourites.
Looking for a hotel in the Alsace region?
Or do you want to rent a holiday home? We rented a house with 7 adults and 2 children in Sigolsheim and it was perfect; everything we needed was available. Sigolsheim also has a very central location so you don’t have to drive hours to do all the fun stuff.
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