What to do and what to see in Alsace? This is inevitably the question that you are asking yourself if you want to visit Alsace. I have good news for you: there are really a lot of things to see, to do and to taste in Alsace! Even if the region is quite small in size, it is very rich in activities. It’s very simple actually: there is something for every taste! This is actually why I quickly fell in love with the region. The landscapes are beautiful and varied (for example the Wine Route, the Ried Plain and the Vosges mountains are very different), the towns are rich in terms of culture and architecture, the villages are charming, gastronomy is delicious, the wines are excellent… Moreover, Alsace has a very real and strong identity, making it absolutely fascinating.
I have prepared for you my personal list of places to visit and experiences to try when visiting Alsace. These are, in my opinion, the must-visits of Alsace! These are only my favourite activities and sites, those that I’m always thinking about when someone asks for my ideas of visits in Alsace, and those that make me smile in anticipation as I like them so much.
Of course, you won’t be able to do everything in one weekend. But it’s ok, because you’ll be able to choose according to your tastes and you can come back or extend your stay in Alsace! 😉 To know when is the best time for a specific visit or tour, you can have a look at my article When to visit Alsace?
If you need ideas for accommodation, don’t hesitate to have a look at my section about hotels, as well as my favourite addresses of charming bed and breakfasts and of charming gites in Alsace… and to come and stay at my place, if you feel like it!
1 – Take a road trip or go for a bike ride on the Alsace Wine Route
The Alsace Wine Route is truly a must-see in Alsace. The oldest wine route in France travels through the vineyards and hills of the Vosges mountains, crossing villages more charming than the next and offering magnificent viewpoints. It’s impossible to get tired of it and I am still amazed each time I go there (even if I have traveled along it several times!). For an even more pleasant (and eco-friendly) experience, I would really recommend to travel along the Alsace Wine Route by bike!
2 – Wander around the flowered-filled streets of small Alsatian towns and villages
As you’ll notice quickly when you come to visit Alsace, the region is very flowered! When spring comes, Geranium and other plants are overflowing growers and majestically adorn the facades of beautiful half-timbered houses. Wandering around the narrow streets of small towns in Alsace such as Obernai or of villages like Eguisheim, Riquewihr, Ribeauvillé, Kaysersberg (to only name the most famous) is a true pleasure. More importantly, don’t hesitate to also go and have a look at other villages than these ones: they are very touristy, they are very beautiful, but there are a lot of very beautiful villages in Alsace and it will be more peaceful… You can find some ideas here.
3 – Visit a wine cellar on the Wine Route and have a chat with a passionate wine-maker
It’s impossible to come to Alsace without visiting a wine cellar, tasting some good Alsace wine and above all taking some time to chat with wine growers! They are often passionate people who love their job and of course know a lot. It would be a shame to miss this opportunity of a nice encounter around a glass of wine, wouldn’t it? Here are my favourite addresses of wine growers in Alsace.
4 – Visit Strasbourg, the European capital
Strasbourg is a dynamic town that is very pleasant to visit. You can stroll with delight around its narrow streets full of charm and enjoy its lively atmosphere: shops, bars, restaurants… The locals like to go out and the town doesn’t lack for activities!
5 – Wander around the charming town of Colmar
Colmar is the picture-perfect small pretty Alsatian town: you can hardly find anything more charming! It is very pleasant to walk around (including for a romantic getaway!) and don’t forget to take a little boat ride. Colmar’s only flaw is that it’s very quiet, so don’t expect crazy nights out! 😉
6 – Visit the splendid Unterlinden Museum in Colmar
The Unterlinden Museum in Colmar is a splendid museum acclaimed by art critics from around the world. I have to admit that it hosts quite a rich and impressive collection for such a small town, and that the building is absolutely magnificent!
7 – Discover the rich industrial heritage and creativity of Mulhouse
Mulhouse is a bit unpopular in Alsace. It’s a shame in my opinion. It might not have the charm of Colmar, but it has many other assets. It’s an extremely dynamic and creative city, rich with an impressive industrial past and which was able to reinvent itself. Don’t miss for example a visit to one of the many museums of Mulhouse, such as the Cité de l’Automobile, the Cité du Train or the Musée de l’Impression sur Etoffes.
8 – Sit down and eat an Alsatian meal in a winstub
Alsatian gastronomy is rich and delicious. However, it’s not very light, especially as portions are quite generous in Alsace. But it would be a shame to miss out on it, for at least one time during your stay. Sauerkraut or other Alsatian specialties… you will be spoilt for choice! It’s really important to choose well your restaurant, in order to enjoy the warm traditional setting of a true Alsatian winstub (the local brasserie). Here are my favourite addresses in Strasbourg and in Colmar.
9 – Discover the fortified castles of Alsace
There are numerous fortified castles in Alsace. Many of them are in ruins, but good news, many of them are also very well preserved! The most famous and impressive one is indisputably the Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle, which is really a must-see in Alsace. However, there are other interesting castles, such as the Haut-Barr Castle, Hohlandsbourg Castle, Fleckenstein Castle, Lichtenberg Castle, etc. And that’s without counting castles in ruins, which are also very good spots for nice walks.
10 – Travel across the Crest Road
The Crest Road is the road located on the ridges of the Vosges, between Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines and Cernay. You can travel across it on foot or by car (or by bike for the bravest ones!). In any case, it is magnificent! Beware, the Crest Road is completely closed in winter.
11 – Enjoy a quiet moment and admire the view from Mont Sainte-Odile
Mont Sainte-Odile is a former abbey erected in the Vosges, above Obernai. It’s a wonderful and peaceful place, offering a splendid view over the Alsace Plain, the Black Forest and the Vosges mountains.
12 – Immerse yourself into Alsatian Culture at the Alsace Ecomuseum
The Alsace Ecomuseum is quite an atypical museum: it’s an open-air museum, designed as a large village in which you can wander around. It comprises authentic Alsatian houses, saved from destruction (Alsatian houses have the particularity that they can be dismantled: therefore, the houses at the Ecomuseum have been dismantled and then transported onsite for heritage preservation) and countless activities. Their programme is impressive and appealing for young and old alike: I absolutely love this place!
13 – Savour a flammekueche (tarte flambée) in the Kochersberg
As you will notice, tarte flambée is everywhere in Alsace! However, be careful, as these are often pale frozen copies of the real flammekueche. So as not to be mistaken, locals will tell you to go to the villages outside of towns. The best option would be to go in the Kochersberg, the actual birthplace of the tarte flambée, which includes countless good restaurants to taste one. You could go for example to L’Oie gourmande, Marronnier, L’Auberge de l’Espérance or La Taverne de l’Ackerland… you won’t be disappointed! I know quite well the area, as it’s where I live! 😉
14 – Hike in the Vosges
We are lucky to have mountains in Alsace: the Vosges! It has nothing to do with the highest peaks of the Alps, but the Vosges are pretty mountains with forests, where it’s quite pleasant to hike, to mountain bike or to do some horseback riding. There are countless hiking paths, marked by the Club Vosgien: there is certainly no lack of choice when looking for hiking ideas!
15 – Eat a Marcaire meal in a farmhouse inn
After the effort, it’s time for some comfort… There is always a good table close by in Alsace! 😉 During Spring and Summer, farmhouse inns in the Vosges open their doors and welcome hikers (and others). A farmhouse-inn produces the food that they serve. A Marcaire meal is one of the classics in a farmhouse-inn, including a Vintner’s pie, followed by roïgabrageldi (sliced potatoes, onions and butter, cooked slowly in a cast-iron pan) served with smoked pork (neck or shoulder for example) and finally the dessert, which is traditionally Siesskass (fresh cheese from the day with sugar and Kirsch) or a homemade pie. Let me tell you straight away that you will need a long walk to be able to eliminate, as it’s very rich! Fortunately, it is generally possible to only take part of the menu. 🙂
16 – Bring your children to visit extraordinary wildlife parks
There are a few wildlife parks in Alsace and they are very cool to visit as a family: the Montagne des Singes and the free Barbary macaques, the Volerie des Aigles and its impressive birds of prey and Naturoparc, which has been at the initiative of the conservation of storks, otters and the Alsace hamster. Your children (and you too) will love it!
17 – Jump from one border to the next by paying a visit to our German and Switz neighbours
What is the one thing that I love the most in Alsace? Its location in the heart of Europe, allowing you to go easily to several countries. Of course, it’s particularly true for Germany and Switzerland. You’ll only have to take one of the bridges crossing the Rhine to go to Germany and it’s something that can easily be done by car, by bike or on foot or even with a tram in Strasbourg! As for Switzerland, the border is located in Southern Alsace and it is easy to go to the pretty city of Basel for example during your stay in Alsace. I really enjoy this mix of cultures!
18 – Going for a ride in an amusement park
There are a few amusement parks in Alsace, such as the Parc du Petit Prince. More importantly, it’s close to the famous Europapark, located in Germany. It has been selected several times as the best amusement park in Europe and even in the world!
19 – Learn more about history by visiting places of remembrance in Alsace
Alsace’s history is quite complex: its proximity with Germany make it one of the strategic locations for the two World Wars, of which a lot of scars remain. Diving into these painful episodes of history, through remembrance tourism, is necessary in my opinion: learning is the path to understanding, and therefore to not reproduce history! Among the most visited remembrance places, we can find the former Struthof concentration camp, the Alsace-Moselle Memorial and the Hartmannswillerkopf.
20 – Discover the biodiversity of the Alsatian Ried
The Alsatian Ried is a natural region located in the Plain of Alsace. You might have not heard about this area, as it’s a bit more unknown and less “typical” of the Alsace as we imagine it with half-timbered houses and vineyards. However, it’s a very interesting place that I really like, for its peace and quiet and its incredible biodiversity. If you enjoy nature, go for it! There are lots of things to do in the Ried.
21 – Riding on the countless cycle paths in Alsace
Did you know that Alsace is one of the place in France with the largest cycle path network? It would be a shame not to enjoy it. Alsace by bike… it rocks!
22 – Visit an Alsatian microbrewery
We love beer in Alsace and the region boasts countless craft microbreweries. They are open to the public, if you book your visit in advance. It’s another great opportunity to meet someone passionate that will talk about their job! Have a look at the website Au Gré des Bières (in French only :-/) to check where to go.
23 – Lavish in one of the countless spas of Alsace or Germany
Are you looking to lazy around for a while? We are lucky to have countless great spas in Alsace, my favourite being the spa of La Cheneaudière. Don’t hesitate to also have a look in Germany, as there are also very beautiful and affordable spas (you just have to not mind the naturist areas, which are quite common in Germany).
24 – Taste Alsatian sweet treats
Kougelhopf, gingerbread, bredele, fromage blanc tart, chestnut tort… Sweet treats are not lacking in Alsace! Don’t hesitate to taste these delicious specialties at breakfast, for an afternoon snack or as a dessert!
25 – Discover the North of Alsace
The North of Alsace is often shunned by tourists, as it’s less well-known. However, it holds a wealth of treasures! For example, go for a stroll in the Northern Vosges, wander in the magnificent Wissembourg, visit the villages of Hunspach and Seebach, go for a walk in the huge Forest of Haguenau and pay a visit to potters and to glassmaking sites (see below).
26 – Observe the detailed work of Alsatian potters
Alsatian potteries are famous for their quality. It is possible to admire the work of potters and of course to go do some shopping by going directly to two villages of potters, Soufflenheim (which produces terracotta potteries, for baking) and Betschdorf (which manufactures stone pottery, for preservation). Be careful if you buy them somewhere else, and especially in very touristy villages, as there are a lot of counterfeits!
27 – Discover the art of glass and crystal
The North-West of Alsace has a rich history in the field of glasswork and crystal glassworks. There are still some active sites in this area between Alsace and Lorraine. This is where for example you can find the Lalique factory (that you can’t visit, but it’s possible to visit the very beautiful Lalique museum), the Cristallerie Saint-Louis or even the Centre international d’Art Verrier in Meisenthal. These are very interesting visits!
28 – Explore off the beaten path places
Tourists in Alsace generally stay in the same area, between Colmar and Strasbourg. If you like to go a little bit off the beaten path, let me interest you in exploring other parts of Alsace, which are also very nice. I’m thinking for example about Northern Alsace (see above), but also about the pretty hills of the Sundgau (in the South), the charming town of Sélestat, the Ried, the northern and southern parts of the Alsace Wine Route (the Couronne d’or vineyard, for example).
29 – Discover Alsace mining history
So, this might not be a must-visit, but it’s quite unusual and so very interesting! Historically, Alsace has been operating potash and silver mines. It is possible to follow the tracks of this mining history by visiting the Carreau Rodolphe, the Park of Tellure (which is very educational and playful and is ideal for families) or by joining a guided tour of the ASEPAM (it’s also nice with children). Fascinating!
30 – Bring back souvenirs created with love by Alsatian artisans
Fortunately, the region still boasts many artisans making objects with talent and love. What if you bought your souvenirs from artisans, rather than bringing a cuddly stork toy made in china? 😉
31 – In summer, swim in a ballast pit or in a mountain lake
Yes, I know, we don’t have the sea in Alsace… Thankfully, we have mountain lakes and converted ballast pits! There is nothing like diving into fresh water when the hot summer weather hits the region… I haven’t listed them all (yet!), but here is for example the swimming spots near Strasbourg and, in the South of Alsace, the Kruth Lake.
32 – In December, dive into the magic of Alsace Christmas markets
Alsace Christmas Markets are certainly THE most famous thing here. It is indeed a genuine tradition, which has absolutely nothing to do with the purely commercial side of Christmas markets that have been flourishing for the past several years everywhere around the world. It is certainly also commercial, but generally, quality and craftsmanship are still very well honoured. As for the magical atmosphere of richly decorated Alsatian towns and villages for Christmas… I honestly believe you have to have lived it once in your life!
33 – In winter, ski or go for a snowshoe hike in the Vosges
I have to be honest with you… winter is not the best time to visit Alsace: it’s really grey outside, it’s foggy, it’s cold and everything is a bit depressing. Everything… except the Vosges! There is nothing like going to the mountains, easily accessible from the plain, to lift your spirit! Sun is often shining and you can enjoy the pleasures of snow: downhill or cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding… You just have to choose! 😉
34 – In March, attend a carnival
Carnival is a real tradition in Alsace, as in Germany or in Basel (Switzerland). The number of carnivals organised between February and March is quite impressive! I could recommend for example to go check out the carnival of Mulhouse, of Sélestat or of Rosheim to soak in the atmosphere (but there are lots of other carnivals!).
35 – Pronounce the names of Alsatian villages 😛
Here is one last experience to live in Alsace: pronounce the names of villages. Yes, I know, it’s not easy at first, but I promise you that you’ll get used to it! Ok, let’s go, why not try to train before your holidays to get into the swing of things? Scharrachbergheim, Oberschaeffolsheim, Krautergerstheim, Voegtlinshoffen, Helfrantzkirch… Oh, what a sweet melody 😉
Have a good stay in Alsace!