Alsace Travel Guide (Written by Locals Who Love It)
Are you dreaming of a future Alsace travel plan ?
Or are you still trying to make up your mind about where you want to go exactly? Or how to get there?
Maybe you're just enjoying the idea of an Alsace vacation right now.
You'll find some very useful and intriguing info about Alsace here (and written by locals who love it) to help you dream more or get your travel plan in order.
Those gorgeous photos of adorable villages are pretty enticing, aren't they? But is that all there is to Alsace? Is it just pretty photos?
Oh, noooo....underneath the flowers and cute villages, there is so much more. And personally, what you'll find behind them is far more fascinating...
What is Alsace France?
Alsace is one of the smaller regions in France.
It's way over there on the most eastern side of France, in the north. you know, right next to Germany and Switzerland.
When you look at a map of Europe, it's the corner of France that's poking into Germany.
You can't miss it.
Technically, Alsace is part of the Grand Est region (since 2016) along with Lorraine and Champagne. But don't expect anyone in France to care.
Alsace is Alsace. Lorraine is Lorraine. And Champagne is Champagne.
We don't consider ourselves "part of the same group." We are each unique and different.
And in 2021 Alsace will officially become the "European Collectivity of Alsace" which just proves even more that we are unique.
Here's an Alsace Map to Help You Plan Your Trip
This is just a simple map of Alsace to help you situate yourself and plan your travel in Europe (you're not just coming to Alsace, are you?).
Sometimes pictures are better than words.
As you can see, Alsace is very close to Southern Germany and Switzerland.
Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg Austria and Northern Italy aren't too far away either (just a few ideas).
Just a few ideas for your Alsace travel plans.
And Alsace Lorraine, Is It the Same Thing or Something Else?
Oh, yes...Alsace Lorraine....
In this case, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's a map of Alsace and Lorraine.
As you can see, they are two separate regions (historically and culturally).
The green parts are Lorraine.
The red parts are Alsace.
But for those of you researching your family tree, you probably have some ancestors from "Alsace Lorraine."
Why does it say that?
Chances are your ancestors left Alsace (or Lorraine) in the late 1800s. Maybe even the early 1900s.
And at that time, they lived in a region called Alsace-Lorraine which was a part of the German Empire.
Basically the red parts and the dark green parts were part of the German Empire.
So their emigration records probably list Alsace Lorraine.
If your ancestors were from Lorraine only, they could be from any of the green parts on the map.
If your ancestors were from Alsace only, they could be from any of the red parts of the map.
Some Alsace Facts That You Might Not Know
So let's start with the basics.
There are about 1.8 million people living in Alsace.
It has the second strongest economy of all the regions of France (just after the Paris region).
Strasbourg is the capital of the region (historically).
Alsace has one of the smallest wine regions in France.
Alsace produces 30% of still white wines in France.
And 30% of the sparkling wines (outside of Champagne) in France.
People settled in Alsace at least 600,000 years ago.
Alsace was part of the Roman Empire.
This region was also part of the Holy Roman Empire, the French Kingdom, the German Empire and a few more.
There are more than 900 villages, towns and hamlets in Alsace.
Keep in mind that Alsace is also the smallest French region (historically).
Alsace History Is Different Than France's history
With names like Souffelweyersheim, Scharrachbergheim and Molsheim, you might wonder if you're in France when you visit Alsace.
And you are. Now.
But Alsace has a long and crazy past with everything from silly squabbles to catastrophic wars. Some of them recent...and other equally catastrophic events a long time ago.
- Religious wars that decimated Alsace's population
- Plagues and other deadly diseases
- Massacres by locals and invading armies
- World War 1
- World War 2
Just to name a few major events in Alsace's history....
Alsace has been part of the Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, the French Kingdom, the French Republic, the German Empire and more.
And I've barely scratched the surface with these lists.
Which Alsace Villages Are the Best to Visit?
I hope you will find the time to discover some of our villages here in Alsace.
No one could fully tell you all about them (even on one web page). We have quite a few small towns and villages...
You may have heard of a few of our super touristy villages like Riquewihr or Ribeauville.
These types of villages are full of souvenir shops and things made only for tourists. So if you're looking for a different experience on your Alsace vacation, check out all the other villages on this site.
Let's get you started...
Have a look at these pages for all the interesting villages and towns in Alsace (touristy and not so touristy) where you can find plenty of photos and useful information.
And reasons to visit them too.
The Alsace Wine Region: Yes! We Make Wine Here!
Yes! Not only can you drink French wine in Alsace, you can also drink locally made Alsace wine here.
And we produce 30% of the still white wine made in France.
That is pretty impressive for such a small region (and an even smaller wine region).
So, you may be wondering what is the difference between Alsace and the Alsace wine region.
They aren't the same.
What? Are you saying you can't make wine anywhere in Alsace?
No. Not in France. And not in Alsace either.
We have rules about where you can and cannot plant vines to make wine (in Alsace and also in every other wine region in France).
Let's face it, to make good (or hopefully great) wine, you need your grapes to be the best quality possible. And you just can't get that level of quality everywhere.
So the wine region has been painstakingly chosen to make sure there is a minimum level of quality in every part of it.
Some parts can make good wine and some parts can make outstanding wine (with the help of hard working talented wine makers of course).
The Alsace Wine Route: What Is It?
You may have heard about the Alsace Wine Road or Alsace Wine Route.
I don't blame you for thinking that it's an actual road. And I know there are some roads in Alsace named "wine road."
But they are just little roads.
The Alsace Wine Route is a way through the Alsace Wine Region from one end to the other (about 170 km or 106 miles).
But for most of it, you'll have to drive between 19 and 30 mph (30-50 kph).
You won't find many highways here.
And it's not one road. so there will be many turns and forks and optional directions to take as you pass through.
Basically you will need to stay very alert.
Because you will not be alone. People on bikes on the side of the road or in the road, walkers, other drivers who are not sure where to go. People who have already done a few wine tastings. People trying to take a photo in the middle of the road. Slow moving camper vans.
And finally frustrated locals just trying to get somewhere. They're the ones going really fast usually.
You name it, I've seen it.
How Do You Get to Alsace France ?
The short answer for most of you will be to fly into Alsace.
It's the fastest way.
But if you plan to arrive in another part of Europe (Zurich, Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam or other areas), the train may work better for you.
Here's a question for you: Are you comfortable carrying your suitcases on a train?
Make sure you can get your bags on the train if you want to use the train system in Europe.
And consider the time it will take to get from one destination to the next on a train too.
It might make sense for you to use trains.
For some of you airplanes are going to be a better choice.
If you want to go from one side of France (or Europe) to the other, trains will take a long time.
And if you don't want to carry bags around so much, airplanes and taxis are perfect for you.
Get everything you need to know about traveling to Alsace here:
How Far is Alsace from Strasbourg?
French geography can be a little tricky, can't it?
Let's start with the basics...Strasbourg is the capital city in the Alsace region.
France is made up of regions (and "departements," but that's another story).
They are based on the history of the area, the wars fought in them and over them, the nobility who owned parts of them, and even geography played a part in their borders.
Culture is also an important part of defining a region.
Alsace is a region with plenty of history, war, and traditional culture (plus much more).
What Is the Alsace Region Known for?
I suppose it depends on who you ask...and I've talked to many different people visiting Alsace over the years. This is what people tell me:
Alsace is probably most famous for its cute and brightly colored historic homes and villages. Decked out with flowers everywhere (from spring to autumn at least).
We have an army of excellent flower-obsessed amateur gardeners here so you can barely take a photo without them (even in non touristy areas).
We're known for our unique food and traditions (although I'm not sure that every tourist visiting Alsace is aware of them).
Alsatian cuisine has dishes like Choucroute and Flammekueche (both very popular but not so French) for example. We celebrate Wiinachte and Ostere (although we also call them Christmas and Easter in French too).
And speaking of Christmas...
We may be more internationally famous for our Christmas markets than anything else.
Alsace has more Christmas markets than you could possibly visit in one season. Some very big ones and some teeny tiny ones.
It's a completely different experience than the spring, summer and fall seasons.
Full of traditions, stories and foods unique to Alsace.
Is Alsace French or German?
As I often say, when someone asks me about any "facts" about Alsace: It depends on what period of time.
Right now, Alsace is French.
And I suspect it will stay French for a very long time (knock on wood).
But if you had asked me 77 years ago or 105 years ago, I would have said Alsace was part of Germany.
Or if you asked me about the 1400s, it was part of the Holy Roman Empire.
When Should I Go to Alsace?
There is no "wrong" time to go to Alsace.
What you want to do in Alsace will help you decide when to go.
Better than any other advice I could give.
If you like hiking in the mountains or visiting historic sites in the mountains, the winter is the wrong time because they are usually closed (and it's freezing cold up there in the winter).
If you love flowers, you have plenty of time. Spring, summer and fall have an abundance of flowers.
If you hate crowds, winter and spring are best (excluding December and May).
If you love wine, harvest time is the worst time to come (because of the stressed and exhausted wine makers).
The high season in Alsace is from May to October and the month of December.
So if you want to check out Alsace in those months, make your reservations as early as you can (for everything) because hotels, apartments and guides book up fast in those months normally.
What Kind of an Alsace Vacation Do You Want?
If this mini Alsace Travel Guide has gotten your attention, this is only the beginning.
Alsace is full of different stories, activities, foods and more to make your next vacation magical (for everyone in your travel group).
And discovering everything there is to learn about, do or see is half the fun.