Rolling hills, historic castles, endless wineries, and beautiful tiny medieval villages. That is how I would describe the Alsatian Wine Route in Northeastern France. Winding through the French region of Alsace, this wine route consists of around 67 villages, and over 300 vineyards stretching about 100 miles on the eastern foothills of the Vosges Mountain Range.
It was my favorite part of our journey exploring France.
Hey Soul Searchers! I’m pleased to present you with a guest post from my boyfriend Mike of Reroute Lifestyle! Earlier this year, Mike and I were lucky enough to drive down the Alsatian Wine Route in Eastern France. That day, we knew we would have to go back one day again. Until we can make the trip over to France, this is Mike’s way of reliving our wine tour in Alsace.
We packed in as much as we possibly could for the day and a half we planned there.
I could honestly spend a whole week there just staying in quaint hotels in random villages throughout the region sampling wines and local fare.
Leaving Strasbourg was somewhat difficult considering that was such a nice town after experiencing the hustle and bustle of Paris. But from Strasbourg, we hit the road going east towards the famous route des vins.
You can drive, or ride bicycles, through the Alsatian Wine Route.
There are signs along the way, so whether you’re driving or bicycling you can rely on signage to ensure you’re traveling in the right direction.
Follow the road to Obernai, a small and quaint town – perfect for a first stop.
First Stop: Obernai
Our first stop was the town of Obernai.
This was a great introduction to the rest of the drive. It was so picturesque!
Walking around the tiny town made it seem like we stepped back in time to the Castle Ages. The walk made me thirst for more of this wine route. I wanted to soak it all in! But afterward, we kept driving through Obernai through an old country road. You’ll pass residential areas, but just look out signs with wine glasses on them or the words “route de vins” (which means “wine route” in French).
Because we only had one full day to enjoy the wine route, we passed several other small towns before we saw the turn out to the castle we planned on visiting.
Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg
The Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg was about a 20-minute drive off of the main road. Going up steep grades and sharp curves we finally arrived. The castle was thought to be built in the early Middle Ages (1150-1190). It was burned down and abandoned after the 30 years’ war in 1633 and left to rot until 1900 when reconstruction began and was finished in 1908.
- It was 9 euros to enter, which included an audio tour which was chuck full of facts and historical significances of the castle.
It was crazy seeing how the castle operated and how it served as a defensive base when it was going through the war. The views from the castle overlooking the wine route were phenomenal. It felt like you could see Germany from the top of the towers.
Learn More: Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg
After the castle, we made our way down the mountain towards Ribeauville.
Ribeauville was like stepping into the town Belle lived in from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
Cobblestone roads, bakeries, sweet shops, and other local stores with cute little signs hanging from the walls. There were flower beds in almost every window and every flower was in bloom! It was astonishing how sweetly perfect the setting was. But, we had a schedule to keep, and did I mention we had no idea where we were going to spend the night that night?
We planned on finding something in Colmar, but the little village we visited beforehand totally swayed us…
Riquewihr: A Breathtaking Town Within Castle Walls
That little village was Riquewihr. This place was breathtaking. It was something out of a fairytale. The town was inside a castle wall (which I later learned was built to keep thieves from stealing wine) and was only about the size a small city block. The entire town was brick walk paths through narrow corridors on a small hill.
We walked past a few hotels and found one within our budget, the Saint Nicolas. The stay included a discounted dinner and free European continental continental breakfast since it was considered offseason. We booked it immediately.
- During off season, our stay at the Saint Nicolas, which included a European continental breakfast for two, was 68€ – around $80 USD.
Related Reading: Planning a Trip on a Budget: The Ultimate Resource List
After we had a place locked down we figured we had enough time to go explore the famous town of Colmar.
Once we drove into Colmar, we noticed a difference from all the other Alsatian towns right away. Colmar was more like a city than a medieval village.
It was huge in comparison to all the other towns. We parked in an underground lot beneath a park and went off to explore the city center where the popular La Petite Venise was located.
The city streets were really nice and the walk was refreshing even though we ended up getting a little lost trying to find this particular section of the city.
As we approached La Petite Venise, the streets turned into pedestrian-only cobblestone pathways which narrowed, bringing the local shops and eateries closer together (I loved this style of architecture). When we finally arrived at famed La Petite Venise we were immediately met with construction zone signs.
It was pretty unfortunate timing!
We had to peek over a building site on a bridge to get a glimpse of the canal with houses and restaurants aligned.
Protip: If you do travel during off-season to save money, be prepared to see construction at buildings and tourist attractions.
It was still a sight to see although I liked the canals of Strasbourg much more. All in all, I enjoyed all the other little towns on the wine route a lot more in comparison to the famous town of Colmar.
We were getting hangry, so we left Colmar and headed back to our hotel in Riquewihr for dinner.
Back to Riquewihr
After our French dinner full of flavorful meats and cheeses, we went back to our room to enjoy some local wines we picked up on our way back from Colmar.
(P.S. I couldn’t believe how cheap the wine was! I think they just have so much available, they need to just get rid of some of it!)
After getting a little boozed up after dinner, we decided to take an evening stroll through the town. It seemed as though we were the only ones in the entire village. It was such a pleasant night walk down those cobblestone paths surrounded by the stone wall. It felt like we went back in time and was parading through the castle grounds.
I was the king having an evening walk about with my beautiful queen. We retired to our quarters and rested up for the next day.
It’s such a great feeling to wake up and know that you have an “included” breakfast waiting for you downstairs. After enjoying our continental breakfast we headed back into the cobblestone streets for one last stroll around the village. I was definitely going to miss this place, but I knew we had a long drive ahead of us so we packed up and drove off.
Turckheim; Our Last Fairy Tale Town
Before leaving the Alsace Wine Route we made one last stop in Turckheim. These towns never seize to amaze me. This was another town surrounded by castle walls with little cookie cutter colorful townhomes in rows along winding cobblestone streets. We were there on a weekday morning so it seemed like the whole town was abandoned. We walked up and down their main street which was a one-way road between two archway tunnels. After soaking up as much of this experience as we could, it was time to ship off.
The route was truly unforgettable. I was sad to get back on the highway and head on out to our next destination. Out of all the places we visited in France, Alsace was my favorite. It was serene, picturesque, quaint, and chuck full of wine.
I plan on visiting this fantastic location again someday, but this time with the intention of staying longer than just two days. And maybe even riding bikes through the whole thing!