For pure fairy tale charm, Alsace is impossible to beat. The diminutive region of France is small in land mass but has over 1.8 million people. Combine that with a rich regional heritage, a heavy dose of Germanic influence and the result is a plethora of cute, adorable towns to explore.
The beauty is that all of them reside within easy, close range of Strasbourg. The political and cultural capital of Alsace is the only real metropolis in the region, with close to half the population. Strasbourg is a wonderful city to be sure and the Old Town, or Grande Île, is a must-see UNESCO World Heritage Site. The first such site to encompass the entire historic center of a city is home to the magnificent Strasbourg Cathedral and four others that date back hundreds of years.
Again, Strasbourg is wonderful and very popular with tourists, especially in summer and the busy Christmas market season from the end of November through Christmas. While we wholeheartedly recommend a visit to Strasbourg, the five adorable towns in Alsace that follow constitute a more authentic and memorable experience. If narrow cobblestone streets, half-timbered gingerbread homes and wafts of mulled wine, pastry, sausage and cheese appeal to you, give them a whirl.
The capital of the Haut-Rhin department in Alsace is home to just over 65,000 people. Outside of certain summer periods and the Christmas market rush however, Colmar feels more like a tiny village than a small city. The birthplace of Frédéric Bartholdi, designer of the Statue of Liberty, is especially adorable come December, despite the popularity of the yuletide market. The crowds however, remain very small in contrast to Strasbourg. The Unterlinden Museum, Bartholdi Museum and Old Town architecture are the most notable points of interest in Colmar. A host of superb restaurants and wistub (pubs) stand out as some of the best in Alsace.
Check out superb hotel rates in Colmar.
Obernai is a popular stop with visitors on the spectacular Alsace Wine Route. The small town of 12,000 people is a vital hub of wine and beer production in the region and thus, exerts a lot of pull with those who like to imbibe the local spirits. All the typical architecture of the region is here of course and exquisitely well-preserved. Must-see attractions in Obernai include the 15th century Truttenhausen Abbey, Wheat Market, Old Synagogue and three 19th century castles.
For that idyllic postcard-perfect snapshot of traditional Alsace, you have to come to Riquewihr. Set amid vineyards in a lush, fertile valley, the village of 1,300 people looks just as it did more than five hundred years ago. Riquewihr was indeed fortunate to evade the worst of World War II and today, parlays genuine bucolic charm into a vibrant little tourist trade. Well worth the 11 km journey from Colmar to walk the tiny hamlet and explore the tidy shops and local wine cellars.
Ribeauvillé is another gem close to Colmar that has throwback magic. The small town of less than 6,000 people is big next to Riquewihr but no less magical in comparison. Once under the dominion of the Bishopric of Basel, Ribeauvillé still looks the part of a Swiss hamlet and to this day, maintains intact medieval walls and a collection of pristine Gothic architecture.
Rosheim is 25 km southwest of Strasbourg and was once a vital city of the Holy Roman Empire. For over three hundred years, from the 14th century through to the 17th century, the small town of 5,000 people had Imperial status and as a result, had to keep up appearances. Many beautiful landmarks still grace the old town but for the most part, Rosheim’s contributions to the Alsatian wine industry are why people flock to the beautiful town.