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The fairy tale villages of Alsace, France

Dates: Sep 2016 and Oct 2017.

Route: Drive from Amsterdam to Colmar in Alsace.

When living in Amsterdam in the late summer of 2016, we would do weekend trips to small towns in Belgium and other parts of Netherlands. When searching for new places to go to, Rupa stumbled upon a photograph of a small French town that looked like it was out of a fairytale book. Doing some research led us to read about the Alsace region and all it had to offer. Located in northeastern France and bordered by Germany and Switzerland, Alsace is a region of pine-clad mountains that nestle beautiful villages and adjoining vineyards. It is also an area which has been a pioneer of wine tourism and has some of the nicest people we have met in France. Most of our research was based on the oldest wine route in France that stretches over roughly 150 miles starting near the capital of the region, Strasbourg. The area is most known for its white wines of Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Gewürztraminer but given the proximity to Germany, beers are also quite popular. We loved the area so much in 2016 that we went back with some friends in 2017. What we discovered was that all the Alsace villages have a fairytale quality to them with brightly painted wooden cottages and cobblestone streets. Other than modern amenities like cars and air-conditioning, life here has not changed much since the middle ages. And the wine is fantastic and there is a wide variety on offer.


While nothing bad, this was our least favorite place in this region as it’s just another big city and the capital of Alsace. It is renowned for hosting one of the world’s biggest Christmas markets but since we were not there in Dec, can’t comment on that. We went there on the way back from the villages and spent a morning walking around. It has a nice set of interconnected canals and a very busy historic center which was given the UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988. The main attractions of the canals is the Barrage Vauban, a bridge built to also act a barrier that controls the water flow. The area around the canals is called Petite France which reminded us of the beautiful villages of Alsace. Strasbourg is worth a short stop either on your way to or back from the villages of Alasace.

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Colmar is the largest of the villages we visited along the Wine Route and considers itself to be the capital of Alsatian wine (Capitale des vins d’Alsace). It is situated near the center of Alsace and is used by many as a base to explore the broader region. The town itself is located among several large vineyards and is a microcosm of what the villages of Alsace look like. Dominated by the Gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, the old town center is something out of a fairytale. Traffic free cobblestone streets run along canals that are lined with half-timbered houses in colorful pastel shades. While distinctly Germanic, they feature very French architectural elements such as shutters and signage. The most picturesque part is predictably called ‘Little Venice’ along a short canal which features the Quai de la Poissonnerie bridge which is a favorite photo spot. We stayed at the excellent Hôtel Le Colombier which is near Little Venice and walking distance to all the old town. Colmar also features many boutique shops selling local gourmet food products and a lively outdoor market selling all manner of food and local items. One full day and evening is more than enough to see all of Colmar.

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Our favorite village of all the ones we saw, Eguisheim is even more quaint and authentic than Colmar. Narrow, cobblestone streets run in circles around the main town square. It is about as close as we have come to a true fairytale village and we were really lucky to be there during a late summer wine festival in Sep, 2016. The locals are very friendly and we enjoyed an entire afternoon of wine, local foods, and making new friends. There were few tourists and we were the only brown people in the entire town which made for some interesting looks and conversations. We could spend days here just lazing in the sun or wandering the streets as there is something magical around every corner. As would be expected, Eguisheim is part of The Most Beautiful Villages of France (Les Plus Beaux Villages de France). We have been to many of these but Eguisheimhad to be the top one so far. There is always music playing, either a live band or from the many quaint bars and restaurants, and one can just dance in the streets like we saw many locals doing. If you ever wanted to feel like a part of a fairytale, come here. It is our top pick of places to visit in Alsace.

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Riquewihr is a smaller and less quaint version of Eguisheim but its major attraction is the vineyards that are all around. It lies in a long, rolling valley and it’s entrance is framed by a massive Dolder, a 13th century defensive gate. There is a single main street, Rue du Général de Gaulle, that runs the length of the town from the Dolder on one end to the town hall on the other. The houses are in the same half-timbered, pastel colors, and bay window style as found throughout the region. There are a lot of restaurants, chocolatiers, bars, and eclectic shops that one can easily spend an entire afternoon exploring. Examples of the latter include a year-around Christmas shop and another one that sells witches of every imaginable demeanor, size, form, and color. But our favorite experience in Riquewihr was a picnic amongst the vineyards that lie above the town. As you enter the village, just stay to the right an follow the road right and to above the village. Take the first right and you emerge in the vineyards with a stunning view of the entire village and the farms beyond. There are many tables and spots to park, spread a blanket, open a bottle of local wine, and spend the afternoon lazing away to the view of a beautiful, medieval village. This is also the spot from which we flew Pinot (our drone) and can be seen in the video in the gallery..

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We want to go back next year to visit some of the smaller villages and also the stunning Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg, which we only saw through clouds one our way back to Amsterdam. The entire region is a great destination for fairytale villages, food, wine, and stunning scenery.

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