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Strasbourg: The Heart of Alsace

Exploring the Medieval Towns of Alsace: A Trip Back in Time (2024)

Nestled in the northeastern part of France, Alsace is a region steeped in history and cultural richness. With its unique blend of French and German influences, Alsace is renowned for its picturesque medieval towns, each boasting well-preserved architecture, cobbled streets, and a story waiting to be told. A journey through these towns is a step back in time, offering a glimpse into a vibrant past where history and folklore intertwine.

1. Strasbourg: The Heart of Alsace

Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace, is a perfect starting point for your medieval journey. The town’s historic center, Grande Île, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Key attractions include the stunning Strasbourg Cathedral, a marvel of Gothic architecture, and the Petite France district, with its half-timbered houses and quaint canals. Strolling through the old town’s narrow lanes, visitors can admire the blend of medieval and Renaissance buildings and enjoy the bustling atmosphere.

Strasbourg: The Heart of Alsace

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2. Colmar: The Fairytale Town

Colmar, often referred to as ‘Little Venice,’ is a treasure trove of medieval and early Renaissance buildings. The town’s charm is encapsulated in its well-preserved old town, with colorful half-timbered houses lining the canals. Highlights include the Maison des Têtes, adorned with Renaissance ornamental heads, and the Unterlinden Museum, housing the Isenheim Altarpiece, a masterpiece of German Renaissance art. The town is especially magical during the Christmas season when the markets light up the streets.

3. Riquewihr: A Gem Amidst Vineyards

Riquewihr is a gem nestled in the heart of Alsace’s vineyards, known for its Riesling wines. This walled town has preserved its 16th-century charm and is renowned for its colorful buildings and Dolder Tower, which served as a defensive gate. The town’s narrow streets, fortified walls, and wine shops offer an authentic medieval experience.

4. Obernai: Tradition and Heritage

Obernai combines rich history with Alsatian tradition. The town is home to well-preserved fortifications, towers, and the Market Place, surrounded by buildings from the 15th and 16th centuries. Notable sights include the Six-Bucket Well, a Renaissance masterpiece, and the Obernai Wine Market, where visitors can indulge in the region’s finest wines.

5. Kaysersberg: The Wine Route’s Jewel

Kaysersberg, located on the Alsatian Wine Route, is another picturesque town, featuring a blend of medieval and Renaissance architecture. The town’s castle ruins offer panoramic views of the vineyards and half-timbered houses. Kaysersberg is also the birthplace of Albert Schweitzer, and visitors can explore his family home, now a museum.

6. Eguisheim: A Circular Medieval Village

Eguisheim is unique with its circular streets, a layout dating back to the early medieval period. This charming village is adorned with floral decorations and colorful houses. Key attractions include the Château Saint-Léon and the Chapel of Saint-Léon IX, offering insights into the region’s rich history.

7. Sélestat: Home of the Humanist Library

Sélestat holds a special place in Alsace’s history, mainly for its Humanist Library, housing an impressive collection of medieval manuscripts and early printed books. The town also boasts architectural gems like the Gothic Sélestat Church and the Renaissance-style Town Hall.

8. Hunawihr: A Village with a Wildlife Preserve

Hunawihr is a small but charming village, known for its fortified church surrounded by vineyards. The village is also home to the Reintroduction Center for Storks and Otters, where visitors can observe these animals in a natural environment.

9. Ribeauvillé, the Three Castles Town:

Ribeauvillé, dominated by three imposing castles, is a town steeped in history. Explore the ruins of the castles, stroll through the scenic vineyards, and visit the charming town center with its half-timbered houses and lively cafes.

10. Beyond the Walls:

Your journey through medieval Alsace wouldn’t be complete without venturing beyond the walls. Hike through the Vosges Mountains, kayak down the Ill River, or rent a bike and cycle through the picturesque vineyards. Immerse yourself in the local culture by attending a traditional Alsatian market, sampling the region’s renowned wines, and indulging in hearty Alsatian cuisine.

Plan Your Trip Back in Time:

  • Choose your starting point: Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace, is a convenient starting point, offering easy access to the medieval villages.
  • Rent a car: While public transportation is available, having a car allows for greater flexibility and exploration.
  • Purchase the Alsace Pass: This pass grants free entry to many museums and attractions, including several castles and museums in the medieval towns.
  • Choose your season: Spring and autumn offer pleasant weather and fewer crowds, while summer is perfect for enjoying outdoor activities.
  • Indulge in the local culture: Sample Alsatian wines, try traditional dishes like flammekueche and choucroute, and attend a local festival.


A trip to the medieval towns of Alsace is not just a journey through picturesque landscapes; it’s an immersion into a vibrant past where history, culture, and tradition blend seamlessly. Each town, with its unique character and stories, invites visitors to experience a rich tapestry of times gone by, making Alsace a must-visit destination for history buffs and culture enthusiasts alike.

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