What to expect
France and Germany have played ‘pass-the-parcel’ with Alsace for centuries, and the fusion of French and German cultures makes Alsace unique. And it works - Alsace boasts beautiful medieval villages, some of the world’s finest white wines, and a cuisine unique within France.
The best-known villages lie on the ‘route des vins’, a fantastic cycle route that winds along tiny roads and paths through vineyards and villages between Colmar and Strasbourg. Cycling through these vineyards is delightful, but even if there were no vineyards, the route through villages like Riquewihr, Eguisheim and Obernai would make Alsace a cyclist’s dream.
We’ll visit Strasbourg with its magnificent cathedral, we’ll cross the Rhine into Germany, and finish our week in Colmar, the capital of Alsace wine. The wines are worth exploring, mostly white, based on Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, Muscat and Pinot Gris grapes, and we’ll explore all these varieties at vineyards and winetastings throughout our week.
What are you looking for? Scenery, great cycling, great wines, fascinating history, unique culture? Alsacez-vous! (I borrowed this from the French Tourist Board, loosely translated I think it means book a Chain Gang cycling tour to Alsace).
- Single Room Supplement: +£380
- Join in London +£405
- Join in Paris +£230
- Transfer from Train Station: +£10
- Airport Transfer: +£105
- Self-Drive: Nil
Day 1 Colmar to Turckheim
We start from Colmar. We follow a cycle path through a delightful river valley park and make our way to Hattstatt. We're now in the heart of the Alsace route des vins.
Following the ‘Route des Vins’ we’ll cycle through vineyards and medieval villages, and we’ll visit a producer of Alsace’s famous Munster cheese. You’ll find this cheese offered at virtually every restaurant in the region, so we’ll start by learning a bit more about it.
We finish the day at the Hotel Les Deux Clefs in Turkheim. If there is a nicer family running a hotel anywhere in France, please introduce me!
Day 2 Turkheim to Ribeauvillé
A shorter day today, because we’re busy! If we didn’t have time yesterday we’ll explore Turkheim, famous for its 3 fortified gates and nesting storks which we’ll see throughout Alsace and are considered to be good luck. Some householders place old wagon wheels on chimneys to encourage the storks to nest.
Turkheim is also home to probably Alsace’s finest red wine, made from Pinot Noir – it’s a similar landscape to Burgundy, at a similar latitude, so no great surprise the same grape thrives here. So we’ll taste pinot noir and Gewurtztraminer, the most aromatic of the Alsace wines and my personal favourite.
We’ll visit Ingersheim, Ammerschwihr, Kayersberg, and Riquewihr (lundh) and finally we’ll visit the Domaine du Bott Freres in Ribeauvillé where we’ll explore their highly-rated Alsace wines. As enjoyed by Président Macron (seriously, you can see the letter in their shop!)
Tonight we stay at the Hotel de la Vignette in the centre of St Hippolyte.
Day 3 Ribeauvillé to Obernai
Today we start off on our route des vins, but detour onto another special bike path, the Alsace salt routes. We rejoin the wine route on our way to the villages of Itterswiller, and Andlau, where we'll visit the prestigious Domaine Wach.
In Gertwiller we can visit a gingerbread museum - gingerbread has a significant place in Alsace culture, and it’s nice to have such a charming excuse to explore it. Finally we end up in Obernai, yet another beautiful medieval village where we’ll stay at the Gouverneur Hotel.
Day 4 Obernai to Strasbourg
Today we follow an old Roman road and our old friend the route-des-vins as far as Alvosheim where we meet the Canal de la Bruche. We can follow a cycle path along the Canal de la Bruche all the way into the centre of Strasbourg. One of the finest bike paths I've ever seen.
Strasbourg is a beautiful City, and at its heart the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg, at the time of writing my No. 1 favourite cathedral. It is huge, and here’s a great piece of trivia – by 1647 The Great Pyramid had eroded enough so that Strasbourg Cathedral became the tallest building in the world for more than 2 centuries, and remains the 6th tallest church in the world. What this really means is that when you see it, you’ll say what I said: “Wow!”.
We stay close to the Cathedral in the Hotel Dragon, and believe it or not we cycle right into the centre of Strasbourg without going on a road.
Day 5 Strasbourg to Séléstat
We've finished with hills. Hurrah!
We'll follow the river Ill as far as the River Rhine, so we’ll pass the European Parliament building. We’ll follow a bike path along the Canal du Rhône au Rhin which links the Mediterranean with the North Sea.
We end our day in Séléstat, home to the world’s most famous Humanist library. Here’s a strange fact – books printed (not hand-written) before 1501 are known as Incunables, and the Humanist Library of Sélestat boasts more than 500 of them among a collection that includes books dating back to the 7th Century. Nothing special happened to printing in 1501, it’s an arbitrary date, which I think makes it a little bit cooler.
Tonight we’ll rest our bones at the Hotel Vaillant.
Day 6 Séléstat to Colmar
We’re going International today, following a cycle path across the Rhine into Germany, where we’ll follow the River Rhine on cycle paths through forests to the border village of Breisach. Breisach boasts a cathedral dating back to the 12th Century. It has had a tempestuous history, changing hands between France, the Holy Roman Empire and Germany at least six times and suffering badly from Allied artillery in WW 2.
But now it’s lovely, with a reconstructed cathedral, a beautiful altar piece and a magnificent silver shrine housing the relics of the patron saints of ... Milan!.
Returning to France, we’ll arrive at the extraordinary fortress of Neuf-Brisach, designed by famous military engineer Vauban after Breisach was returned to the Holy Roman Empire in 1697. The town has a regular square grid street pattern inside an octagonal fortification, but that really doesn’t describe it. The fortifications are a series of enormous octagonal moats surrounding the town, far exceeding the size of the town they were designed to defend. Find some aerial photos online, it is amazing.
Finally, we’ll follow a cycle path into Colmar. As well as a well-preserved town centre, Colmar’s most famous artefact is the Isenheim altarpiece in the Unterlinden museum, which we’ll visit to see if its worth the fuss. The answer is it is! This is regarded, with the Humanist Library and the Cathedral in Strasbourg, as one of the three cultural jewels in Alsace.
We’ll finish at the Hotel Beau Séjour close to the centre of Colmar, and we’ll spend our final evening in the medieval old town at the heart of Colmar.
Please take careful note of the train times. Our transfers are scheduled to meet these designated trains; if these train times are inconvenient, please contact us so that we can be sure of arranging appropriate transfers.