Alsace is a cultural hybrid with its Germanic dialect and French sense of fashion, its love of foie gras and fine wine, beer and sauerkraut. The landscape is distinctive too, with grand castles and half-timbered houses topped by storks that look like the set of a Disney movie.
The Alsace Wine Route meanders 105
miles from Marlenheim to Thann taking in some of the region’s prettiest
countryside. Along the route, family-run wineries, such as Vignoble Klur offer
wine-tastings, guided tours and even cookery classes.
Gothic cathedral is a riot of filigree stonework and leering gargoyles. To
appreciate it at its best, visit in the early evening. A spiral staircase takes
you up the 66-metre belfry where you can view the whole city (place de la
Cathédral; 7am-7pm; tower admission £4).
houses of Colmar’s old town runs a series of canals that give the area its name
Petite Venise – Little Venice. Wander medieval streets such as rue des
Tanneurs, the old leather district, before launching off in a rowboat from the
rue de Turenne bridge (£5 for 30 minutes).
The Vosges is a pristine range of
mountains, popular with walkers and cyclists, and crowned by ballons (rounded peaks). Highest is the
dramatic, wind-buffeted summit of the 1,424-metre Grand Ballon, reached by a short
trail from the D431 road.
its creamy cheese, the cow-grazed Vallée
de Munster is one of the loveliest valleys in the Vosges. See the tourist
office website for details on dairy farms where you can taste, buy and see
Munster in the making.
Eat and drink
cuisine and discreet service lure discerning gourmets to L’Assiette du Vin. The bistro serves
classic dishes such as onglet of roast beef (5 rue de la Chaîne; lunch and
dinner Tue-Fri, dinner Mon; mains from £7).
braised in pinot noir, pike dumplings and oxtail are among the fortifying
specialities at Zum Pfifferhüs, a convivial wood-beamed winstub (tavern) in the historic Fifers’ House in Ribeauvillé (00
33 3 8973 6228; 14 Grand’ Rue; closed Wed-Thu; menus £20).
juggling plates of steaming sauerkraut with noodles are just the tip of the
iceberg at La Choucrouterie
bistro and playhouse. The atmosphere is tavern-like with stone walls and a
ceiling hung with retro lamps (20 rue St Louis, Strasbourg; lunch and dinner
Mon-Fri, dinner Sat-Sun; mains from £8).
leaded windows of the Maison des Têtes
is a traditional dining room where dishes such as foie gras in riesling are
served (19 rue des Têtes, Colmar; lunch and dinner, closed Tue; menus from
chef John-Lac Brendel is famed for his seasonal cuisine at Table du Gourmet. His menu features
home-grown produce such as asparagus and escargots (rue de la Première Armée,
Riquewihr; lunch and dinner Fri-Mon, dinner Wed-Thu; menus from £35).
For a dose
of old-fashioned romance, check into Hôtel
Gilg, a 17th-century half-timbered building with an elegantly rustic
restaurant, in the hillside village of Mittelbergheim. A spiral staircase leads
up to spacious rooms in pretty pastels, some with wooden beams (00 33 3 8808
9137; 1 route du Vin, Mittelbergheim; from £65).
Vignoble Klur is an organic family-run winery
offering wine tastings, cookery classes and herb walks in the vineyards. Ochre
walls and wood create a cosy feel in the converted barns, where you can read a
book by an open fire, or unwind in the sauna (00 33 3 8980 9429; 105 rue des
Trois Epis; from £85).
the Illwald nature reserve, which is home to France’s largest population of
wild deer, the Hôtel L’Illwald is a
classic half-timbered structure. It keeps the mood intimate with hardwood
floors, four-poster beds and antique pine furnishings (00 33 3 9056 1140;
Schnellenbuhl; from £90).
Hotel St Martin sits in a prime
location on Colmar’s place de l’Ancienne Douane. The 14th-century patrician
house is decorated with handcrafted Alsatian furniture and French fabrics.
Choose a top-floor room for sweeping rooftop views (00 33 3 8924 1151; 38 Grand
Rue; from £100).
Once an ice
factory, the Hôtel Régent Petite France
is now Strasbourg’s hottest design hotel. The luxury waterfront pile has a
traditional exterior and super modern interiors. There is also a champagne bar
with views of the River Ill (00 33 3 8876 4343; 5 rue des Moulins, Strasbourg;
When to go
celebrates the summer with fireworks and cathedral illuminations in July,
making for one of the region’s largest street parties. Otherwise, September and
October are perfect for touring the wine routes, and December is the time for
a good network of trains and buses. Trams also
operate in Strasbourg and the region is bicycle-friendly with bike schemes in
major cities. A car is best to
visit the wine route and Munster valley (from £25 per day).
How to go
Flights to Basel-Mulhouse airport run from London (from £90) and Manchester (from £100). Strasbourg has
non-direct flights from the UK on Air France and Brussels Airlines. Strasbourg
is 5½ hours by train from London, via Paris
The article 'Mini guide to Alsace, France' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.