Alsace is a famous region of France, mainly known for its Christmas markets, food specialties and wine. In this part of France, locals speak Alsatian and French. Its famous architecture consisting of half-timber houses is a must-see in France. The region is also influenced by its German neighbors, so do not worry if you cannot spell the names of cities and places in Alsace properly, even French people from the rest of France cannot! If you are passing the Alsace region, here is what you absolutely need to see.
Colmar: the Alsatian place to-be
Colmar is a typical old town made of narrow streets encircled by colorful half-timber houses. The city has a rich cultural heritage; many buildings are from the Middle Ages. The architecture is inspired by the medieval times. Among the most astonishing buildings we can speak about is the 17th century “Maison des têtes” (House of Heads), which was built in the German Renaissance style and named after its hundred animal heads covering the front of the house. Auguste Bartholdi, creator of the Statue of Liberty in New York, was born in Colmar.
Due to its canals, Colmar is also called “Petite Venise” (little Venice); this part of the city is lovely as you can enjoy a boat ride. Located in the middle of vineyards, Colmar is an attractive tourist area; however, it keeps its cosy and charming atmosphere. Strolling around the flowery streets and squares of the city center is enough to fall in love with this charming city.
Encounter Alsatian food and wine
Alsatian cuisine is influenced by Germany culinary traditions. The most famous dish is the choucroute, made of dressed cabbage with sausages usually cooked in Riesling wine, accompanied with salted meat (bacon, ham hock) and potatoes; a perfect meal during a cold winter. The most famous meat dishes are baeckeoffe and fleischnacka (now you see the German influence). I recommend the mouthwatering flammekueche or “tarte flambée”, a pie baked in the flames made of very thin pizza dough and covered with cream cheese, onions, lardons, and you can add toppings, such as Munster cheese, on the top, a delight!
If you visit Alsace during the Christmas time, do not miss the Christmas markets and the pain d’épices biscuits (spice bread), made of honey, rye flour and spices. It looks similar to gingerbread, though it is different!
While visiting Alsace, you can’t miss a visit into the nearby vineyards. Colmar is the capital of Alsatian wines. Of course, not everyone likes wine but trust me, a glass of the delicious, sweet gewurztraminer will leave you speechless. Do not be afraid of its extremely difficult name, the Gewurztraminer is a very soft white wine that is naturally sweet due to this grape; you can find aromas of roses and passion fruit in it. It is definitely worth a taste! Another famous Alsatian wine is Riesling, also a fruit flavored white wine but higher in acidity. For those who do not enjoy wine, Alsace also produces good beers such as the Karlsbräu or Kronenbourg. Then you can try the flavored liquor called Schnaps, which can be herbal or fruit flavored! Have a nice tasting (in moderation), santé (cheers)!
For a mix of Alsatian cuisine and French cuisine, eat at Jadis et Gourmande
Jadis et Gourmande is located in the heart of Colmar. This restaurant is a family business, only using local tasty products, mixing Alsatian traditional cuisine and classic French dishes. You can try homemade meals à la carte. Meals range from 12.80 to 16.80 EUR (13.80 to 18.10 USD). Menu items include a big salad with goat cheese, bacon and apples, a classic meat pie, a roasted Munster meal (roasted Alsatian cheese to eat with toast), vegetarian lasagna, fish and vegetables and tarte flambée! There is also a children’s menu including meat, french fries and drink for 6.80 EUR (7.32 USD). It is a good option for vegetarians as you can order fish or vegetable lasagna.
Immerse yourself into typical Alsatian towns
Once you have visited Colmar, there are two small cities that are also worth a look: Ribeauvillé and Turckheim.
Turckheim is located at the foot of the Vosges mountains, only two kilometres (1.24 miles) away from Colmar. The small city is one of the numerous lovely towns on the Alsace wine route. It traces its origins back to Roman times, and its charm is given shape through its fortified gate and a number of pretty Alsace half-timber houses. Its medieval wall has three gates; “Door of the Brand” is the beginning of the “Route des Vins” (Wine Route). You can visit the vineyards and have a tasting or just stroll around the city streets and admire the scenery on a sunny day.
Ribeauvillé and its three castles
Ribeauvillé is located 16 km (10 mi) north of Colmar. It is one of the numerous lovely cities hosting colorful houses, and is located in the middle of vineyards. On the hill above the village there is a cluster of three castles: Saint-Ulrich, Girsberg and Haut-Ribeaupierre. From these ruins you have an amazing view over the city and over the very green area, gorgeous!
Discover the bucolic charm of Alsatian towns
Alsace is a lovely and rich region of France, with its vineyards, delicious food and stunning walks, you’ll surely fall in love with this region. Whether you are a wine lover, a food addict or a countryside explorer, Alsace is the place to be. It is a good opportunity to look outside the box. So, let’s start planning your French road trip!
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