Updated: Apr 9, 2021
This part of France is literally straight out of fairy tales. It was the inspiration for Belle's village in Beauty and the Beast. One of the best ways to see the beautiful vineyards, small French medieval towns and hilltop castles is the Route des Vins (Alsace Wine Route).
This week is my mom's birthday so I am reminiscing about this trip - it was our big mother-daughter trip. We visited Alsace in 2011, but these vineyards have been in existence since the Middle Ages and are just as worthy of a visit today!
WHEN TO GO TO ALSACE
Flower Competition Season
If it looks like everyone is having a gardening competition of who can grow the most flowers - it's because they are. It's called the concours des villes et villages fleuris. Villages are rated from 1 to 4 "flowers" and the goal is to promote "visual quality." Could anything be more French?
And while some might seem to get a little carried away...
You really do have to go during flower competition season. Flowers start blooming in April, but we went in August and flowers were still bursting from every window. The window box rhododendrons paired with colorful timbered houses... your eyes will thank you.
Noël in Alsace
I would love to go back and visit Alsace during Christmastime. It is known for its Christmas traditions and festivities: sipping mulled wine, enjoying a gingerbread, shopping at the markets and admiring the decorations.
BEST TOWNS TO VISIT ON THE ALSACE WINE ROUTE
Walk the Grand-Rue, and wander the side streets. Do a wine tasting or dine al fresco.
Three Castles of the Lords of Ribeaupierre
Overlooking Ribeauvillé are three castle ruins: Saint-Ulrich, Girsberg and Haut-Ribeaupierre. You can hike to the castles from the town.
Riquewihr is one of "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France," which is a collection of small rural French villages with rich cultural heritage. Wander inside this medieval town's 13th-century ramparts surrounded by rolling vineyards.
A short walk from the town center is the Château de Kaysersberg ruins.
Go to the top of the tower - the view of the town and vineyards below from the window is breathtaking.
Three Castles of Eguisheim
Three 11th-12th century towers on the Schlossberg hill overlook the town of Eguisheim. Explore the castle ruins and take in the beautiful panoramic view of the town and vineyards below.
Colmar is the largest town on the wine route and a great place to stay. You can take day trips to any of the towns listed above easily from Colmar.
WHERE TO EAT IN ALSACE: WINSTUBS
What's a Winstub?
A Winstub is a cozy French pub in Alsace serving local wine and homemade specialties of the region. Originally, they were places winemakers sold off surplus inventory and served wine and food - so most are adjacent to vineyards.
Recommendation: Winstub Au Tire-Bouchon
An Alsatian Winstub in the center of Riquewihr with a long history and a16th century cellar.
BEST ALSATIAN FOOD & WINE TO TRY
Alsatian cuisine is a French-German fusion.
Choucroute, a local variety of Sauerkraut usually served with pork and boiled potatoes
Tarte flambée (flammekueche) - Alsatian version of pizza
Baeckeoffe - Alsatian slow-cooked casserole of pork, beef and lamb marinated in white wine and juniper berries
Spätzle - Egg noodle pasta with a dumpling-like texture
Reisling - Alsatian Reisling is a much dryer version than the traditionally sweet wine - in a very good way.
CHEESE: Munster - the town of Munster is only 15 km west of Colmar, so you could even visit the birthplace of the cheese.
WHERE TO STAY
Recommendation: Hôtel de la Couronne
Located in the heart of the Riquewihr, the Hotel de la Couronne is an authentic Alsatian XVIth century house. The furniture and walls are beautifully hand-painted in the typical style.
HOW TO GET IN/OUT: STRASBOURG
You will probably start and/or end your trip in Strasbourg. From here you can take the train to Paris, Germany, Switzerland or another nearby city/country.