Hi France Travel Planners! An Alsace itinerary, including the charming destinations of Strasbourg, Colmar and the Route des Vins, makes a wonderful side trip from Paris, or stop off on the way from France to Switzerland or Germany. While you can visit Alsace as a day trip from Paris, a 3 night Alsace visit allows you time to stay in Colmar or Strasbourg, visiting both, and also touring the Route des Vins. Alsace is a magical regional of France you shouldn’t miss.
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Colmar vs Strasbourg: where is the best place to stay in Alsace?
Most Alsace visitors will stay in either Strasbourg or Colmar, and it’s a matter of personal preference and your overall itinerary where you should choose. Strasbourg is a city of approximately 250 000 people, whereas Colmar is a town of 30 000. Train connections are better in Strasbourg, making it perhaps more convenient for those travelling on into Switzerland or Germany. If you have a car, you will find parking far more convenient and plentiful in Colmar. In my France Travel Planning Facebook group (you can join here if you aren’t a member) opinions are divided, with both places having their fans.
Whether you travel from Strasbourg to Colmar, or Colmar to Strasbourg doesn’t matter.
3 night Alsace itinerary
I have two variations for my 3 night Alsace itinerary, depending on whether your stay in Colmar or Strasbourg. Whether you choose to stay in Colmar or choose to stay in Strasbourg is a matter of personal preference. If you are planning on getting a car, the carparking is much easier in Colmar. We elected to stay in Colmar because we prefer smaller towns. Staying in Colmar, we structured our Alsace itinerary like this:
Day 1: travel from Paris. Arrive Colmar. Colmar siteseeing
Day 2: day trip to Strasbourg from Colmar
Day 3: Route des Vins tour
Day 4: Colmar siteseeing in the morning. Early afternoon departure from Colmar.
If you elect to stay in Strasbourg, your itinerary would work like this:
Day 1: arrive Strasbourg. Strasbourg siteseeing
Day 2: day trip to Colmar from Strasbourg
Day 3: Route des Vins tour
Day 4: Strasbourg siteseeing in the morning. Afternoon departure from Strasbourg.
On either Alsace itinerary days 2 and 3 are inter changeable.
Things to see in Colmar
While it may be small (it’s population is only around 30 000) there are lots of things to do in Colmar.
The old town is largely pedestrianised so it is a wonderful area just to wander around and enjoy the typical colourful Alsatian architecture. As we often do, Mr FTP and I started our Colmar walk with the Rick Steves self guided walk.
- Fully updated, comprehensive coverage
- Perfect for a multi location trip
- Top sites as well as hidden gems
- Beat the crowds, skip the lines and avoid the tourist traps
- How to connect with local culture
Because the weather was so lovely we decided to pass on the Underlinden Museum, although I understand it holds an interesting collection that covers exhibits from Roman Colmar through to folk art and costumes. It also houses Monet and Renoir pieces.
On our walk we particularly enjoyed a visit to the Church of St Martin and the excellent covered market. The market is a great place to buy local wine and bretzels. We stopped by most afternoons for a couple of bretzels and some local strawberries for an afternoon snack. We may have also bought some local Reisling……..
The real star of the show in Colmar is the quaint, colourful Petite Venise. With its half timber buildings in a rainbow of pastel colours, to the riotous flowers it really is easy to see why it is the most popular place to visit in Colmar. The actual canal itself is quite short, but it is possible to take a short ride on the canal to enjoy the town from a different perspective.
The best view of the canal to take your quintessential Alsace photo is from the Pont de Fanny on rue Turenne. Go early or late to avoid the crowds.
If you like to take walking tours, it is possible to book a Colmar walking tour. You can book yours here >>
In addition to the Medieval centre, the 19th century area between the old town and the railway station is a pretty area too. Most of the old mansions are now offices, but to me the star of this area is the park on the rue de Mulhouse. It was a lovely spot for a shady sit to enjoy a picnic lunch.
You can find other Colmar activities here:
A Colmar to Strasbourg day trip by train
Strasbourg is a very easy day trip from Colmar by train. There is no need to book a seat in advance, and even on the weekend, trains are frequent. The train takes approximately 30 minutes on the local TER train.
Most people who visit Strasbourg want to see the famous old town with its iconic Cathedral. It is approximately 15 minutes walk to the Cathedral from Strasbourg train station. The Cathedral is very popular with a queue to enter. It closes for lunch whether there’s a queue or not, so you need to plan your visit accordingly. The Place de la Cathedrale is pretty crowded with both locals and tourists, so watch your bags, phones, cameras etc pickpockets – particularly around the many buskers who work the square.
The Cathedrale de Notre Dame is probably one of the most famous buildings in France, and visiting it for the first time it was easy to see why. Genuinely imposing from the outside (it’s very tall and the pink hued stone is quite distinctive) it is quite breathtaking inside.
Despite the lengthy queue to enter, once inside, the Strasbourg Cathedral is airy and tranquil. The stained glass windows are lovely, including the wonderful rose window.
Even more impressively, 80% of the stained glass in the Cathedral is original.
The other reason to visit the Strasbourg Cathedral is to see the astonomical clock – a remarkable feat of engineering that dates from the 16th century. Every 15mins the bell stikes and there is a little moving display. It’s an interesting and fun thing to watch.
From the Cathedral continue your Strasbourg walk out of the Place de la Cathedrale via rue Maroquin until you reach the river. From there, it’s a pretty and very easy walk along the river to Petite France the Strasbourg medieval town with more of those gorgeous Alsace half timber buildings. If you are looking for a lunch spot, the Place Benjamin Vix is pretty and popular if you can get a table.
Route du Vins day trip from Colmar
Because we didn’t have a car, Mr FTP and I decided to take a tour of the Route du Vins. Guided tours from Colmar to the Route du Vins are either half or full day, with most half day tours offering morning or afternoon departures. After hours of research we opted for this small group full day tour of the Route des Vins:
Book full day small group tour Colmar to the Route du Vins >>
I must say we loved our tour. We met our guide Ana and the other four guests on our tour bright and early right outside our hotel (a sheer coincidence). Our vehicle for the day was a supremely comfortable Mercedes van which gave us a wonderful view of the scenery.
Our first stop on our Route du Vins small group tour was Hunawihr. Hunawihr is very quiet from a tourist point of view and indeed I think we were the only tourists in the town on Sunday morning. Hunawihr doesn’t have any of the showstopping architecture of some of the more visited villages but is a village where you can get up close to the grapevines.
Ana stopped the van at the bottom of a hill among the vines. We were able to walk through the vines and see the grapes growing up close. At the top of the hill was an old church – from there we had a wonderful view of the village and surrounding countryside.
Next up on our village tour was the popular Riquewihr. As we arrived we could see the locals setting up for a special community Sunday lunch for a local celebration. Riquewihr is a very picturesque Alsace village, and even just after 10am the main street was quite busy. Despite that we spent an enjoyable time wandering around the old village wall, the quaint squares and back streets, and to try some of the local delicacy – a macaroon – not to be confused with the popular macaron.
One of the highlights of our Route du Vins day trip was a visit to the picture perfect Eguisheim. However, I do feel a bit sorry for Eguisheim and its inhabitants. Eguisheim was completely off the map on the Route des Vins until it won the crown as the most beautiful village in France in 2013. While it has brought prosperity to the village it was obvious a number of its inhabitants are not happy.
With a preponderance of Airbnbs and day trippers, Eguisheim is now a popular village on the Route des Vins and with that brings noise and mess. A number of houses had signs out the front asking people to be quiet, to not take photos of the house, to not peer into the house or pose for selfies on the front door step. It beggars belief, but it obviously happens.
Visiting Alsace in June we had seen numerous storks and their nests, but in Eguisheim they were everywhere. So much so, we started to get a bit picky and blasé about which ones to “bother” to photograph.
After Eguisheim we stopped for lunch (not included) at a local restaurant in Turckheim. Ana had booked a table for us and we were thrilled to be offered a table in the shade out on the terrace. It looked as though we were the only tourists, joining groups of local families, friends, kids and dogs out for Sunday lunch.
Next up was one of the stars of our trip to the Route des Vins – Haute Konigsbourg Castle. Standing on a rocky outcrop, the Castle is visible from the train from Strasbourg to Colmar. While the original Castle was started in 1147 what you see now was restored in the early 20th century.
As you walk around the Castle the German influence in Alsace is keenly identifiable. The other winner of this Castle is the fabulous views out over the Vosges valley from almost every turn. Haute Konigsbourg is also one of the best things to do in Alsace with kids where they can really channel their inner Medieval knight.
If you choose to visit Haute Konigsbourg by car be patient looking for a parking spot. The traffic was truly terrible and the parking almost nonexistent.
One of the things we were looking forward to on our tour was a wine tasting of local Alsace wines. We were not disappointed. Alsace wines are mainly white, although a light red made with pinot noir grapes is also common, along with a sparkling. We tasted a number of wines, all available for purchase. If you are looking to buy wine in Alsace, almost all the wineries offer tastings and cellar door sales. Unlike Burgundy or Bordeaux, prices are very reasonable and many remain family owned and operated.
Before heading back to Colmar we stopped in pretty Kayserbourg famous for being the birthplace of Albert Sweitzer.
You can find a range of quality group and private tours of the Route du Vins here >>
Our 3 day Alsace itinerary at a glance
We travelled to Colmar from Paris by train. It’s around 2 and half hours from the Gare de L’Est. You can book your train ticket here >>
We stayed at the Hotel Le Colombier which we found to be ideally located in Colmar. If it is within your budget it is worth trying to book room 62 which had a lovely private terrace and access to a shared garden overlooking the canal. Book the Hotel Le Colombier here >>
Our small group tour to the Route des Vins was The Emblematic: visit of villages, Haut-Koenigsbourg, Wine tasting which we booked through Viator. You can find out more about this tour here >>
We visited Alsace in June, when the weather was warm and sunny. If you are visiting Alsace in winter for the famous Alsace Christmas markets you will need a full European winter packing list.
Planning tools for your Alsace itinerary
Regardless of whether you are planning on getting a car in Alsace, both Strasbourg and Colmar are so well connected to French, German and Swiss destinations it is worth taking the train and picking up a car once you arrive.
To book train tickets to Alsace I recommend Trainline. Search for your Alsace train tickets here >>
If you are planning on getting a car there are many options, so research is essential. Search for rental cars here >>
Where to stay in Colmar:
Where to stay in Strasbourg:
If you prefer self catering accommodation I recommend Plum Guide for high quality options that won’t let you down. You can find Alsace apartments and houses here >>
If you are arriving early and your apartment is not available a bag drop service is a cheap and effective way to store your luggage safely. Book your luggage storage in Alsace here >>
Research and book guided tours here >>
Those of you who are interested in private tours in Alsace should check out the options on Tours by Locals, who allow you to choose your own Alsace private guide and customise your own itinerary. Find your private guide here >>
A good guide book is essential regardless of the length of your Alsace itinerary. You can check out a range of French guidebooks here >>
If you are visiting for the Colmar Christmas market, or the famous Strasbourg Christmas market, book well in advance and get up to date information from the Office de Tourisme Alsace. There is also a hop on hop off bus that operates in the Route du Vins. You can get info on this from the local tourism office too.