If you love France and you love Germany but can’t choose between them, then Alsace is the perfect choice for you! Having been passed back and forth between French and German hands over the centuries, Alsace is a little mix of both countries. The architecture is German, the language is French and the food is mixed. The added bonus that we recently discovered is that it is just one big playground for kids!
Being based in the UK, we are lucky to have access to a huge variety of shorthaul flights with budget airlines. When we saw super cheap flights to Basel which is the closest airport to Alsace, we booked without hesitation. Did you know that Basel airport is located half in France and half in Switzerland? Neither did we! This is important to know if you are booking a car rental as you need to turn left out of immigration if you booked a car on the French side and right if you booked a car on the Swiss side.
Once we had the car hire situation all figured out, we set off to our first destination. Alsace is full of beautiful little medieval towns and they all have a kind of fairy tale feel about them. The buildings are predominantly timber-framed in many beautiful and striking colours. It’s no wonder really that the inspiration for the Beauty and the Beast was taken from this area. Most of them are classified as a Plus Beaux Villages de France (literally translated as most beautiful villages in France).
During the weekend we visited Eguisheim, Kayersberg, Riquewihr, and Colmar. We couldn’t pick a favourite as each of them has their own charm.
Eguisheim has a possibly the most photographed spot in all of Alsace (at the crossing of rue du rampart-Sud and rue du rampart-nord) and a lovely town square (Place du Chateau de Saint Leon) which is a beautiful spot for lunch. Our tip would be to choose La Taverne du Chateau over Restaurant Edel as you will have better views from the terrace back over the Chateau.
Kayersberg has the River Weiss running through it and a small ruined castle sitting up on a hill above the town. There are also lots of little bakeries selling delicious regional specialities. If you are heading to Riquewihr after Kayersberg, try taking the very back roads through the vines for some amazing views.
Riquewihr was surrounded by beautiful lush green hills covered in vines and had possibly the most colourful of all the buildings we saw. It is famous for its wines here so if you are into wine, it is definitely worth stopping for a little degustation.
Colmar has an area called Little Venice where you can take boat trips or just wander around and enjoy the beautiful buildings. There are also some amazing restaurants if you are into your food. We ate at Epicurean which was amazing – but book ahead as it is tiny and very popular!
You may be thinking that wandering around towns doesn’t sound very child-friendly, but our kids really felt like they were in one big colourful playground. There were little alleyways and tiny doorways for them to explore. You will really only see something like it in a Disney theme park – except that these towns are truly authentic. Some of the towns also have guided tours on little trains if your children are into trains. It can be a good way to save little legs!
The thing that the kids really loved, however, was visiting the enormous Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg, perched high up in the Vosges. We had never heard of it before this trip, but it is one of the most visited monuments in France with over 600,00 visitors a year. Guided tours are only available in French, but that didn’t stop the kids exploring every nook and cranny and climbing up to the highest towers for some spectacular views. The entrance is EUR 9 for adults and free for children under 6.
On the way back to the airport on Sunday we quickly popped into Germany. Popping over the borders in Europe is really quick and easy and the boys loved that they could then say they had visited Germany. It was a whirlwind, 3 countries in 2 days – but we had an amazing time and highly recommend it as a family destination.
The Flashpacking FamilyWe are Ed, Jacs, Ernie (6) and George (4). We are just an ordinary family of 4 travelling part-time now that the kids are in school. We’ve visited 85 countries between us, and plan to visit a whole lot more amazing and thought-provoking places until we can travel no more. We discovered when the kids were very young that our travels and associated family time had a positive effect on their development and that we became stronger through travel. We have not looked back and hope that by documenting our travels here, we can inspire other families to try something similar