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Alsace: Cycling along the Wine Route

Listed under Cycling in Colmar, France.

  • Photo of Alsace:  Cycling along the Wine Route
  • Photo of Alsace:  Cycling along the Wine Route
  • Photo of Alsace:  Cycling along the Wine Route
  • Photo of Alsace:  Cycling along the Wine Route
  • Photo of Alsace:  Cycling along the Wine Route
  • Photo of Alsace:  Cycling along the Wine Route
  • Photo of Alsace:  Cycling along the Wine Route
  • Photo of Alsace:  Cycling along the Wine Route
Photo of Alsace:  Cycling along the Wine Route
Photo by flickr user notfrancois
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Too often overlooked, the Alsace is a fascinating region in Eastern France , rich with wonderful wines, gastronomy, and scenery. And, even more importantly for cyclists……with more than 4,000 km of greenways, bikeways, bicycle paths and bike lanes, it is truly France ’s bike-friendliest region! Young, old, fast, and slow riders share this extensive network that links places of amazing beauty, making cycling the best way—by far—to visit this very unique region of eastern France.

Cycling the “Route des Vins” takes you through the scenic, hillside vineyards and flowery little villages that dot this picturesque landscape. All in all, combining the region, the wine, and the cycling, you’ll get one of the most amazing and sensory experiences you could dream of!

Throughout history, the Alsace has been fought over time and time again by France and Germany , and has traded hands too many times to count. As a result, the Alsace has inherited traits and characteristics from both cultures and blended them together to create its own unique and special character, rife with jovial customs, festivals, and feasts! Even the language is unique - Alsatian is neither purely French nor German - it is Alsatian!

The region is absolutely chock full of pretty villages and picturesque scenes exhibiting this lovely mélange of cultures and shared history. You’ll encounter such captivating images while cycling the “Route des Vins” that you’ll never stop…stopping and shooting…trying to capture the beauty of half-timbered houses all nicely dressed with beautiful and colorful flowers or the special glow of afternoon sunlight over autumn reddish vineyards. Try as you might, it is hard to get it just right - that special light and that special atmosphere can escape even the most gifted photographer. The only way to experience this unique atmosphere is by going there and cycling…amidst the splendor.

So, starting with the basics and man’s basic need – food and drink, or drink and food in this case – let’s just say that in the Alsace your palate will be taken to places you didn’t know existed! The wines you’ll discover along the wine route are fantastic and the local grapes--Tokay Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer, to name a few--produce exceptional vintages. Wine connoisseurs will be definitely be happy and unlike most “touristy” wine regions, Alsace still offers spontaneous and memorable wine tastings at local producers without advance notice!

As for Alsatian gastronomy….it is extraordinarily rich, in a delectable way. Not only will you realize that you’ve never had decent sauerkraut until this trip, but also that there’s a lot more to savour in the Alsace in your plate than just choucroute (sauerkraut)…take the fragrant cheeses, like Munster, for example, or the duck or foie-gras-based dishes that southwestern France claims as its own, but are in reality truly Alsatian! Desserts are out of this world too. It just never stops!

A note to non-meat-eating folks, being vegetarian in the Alsace is an easy proposal and vegetarian diets won’t be bland and limited to a few boiled vegetables, pasta, and ketchup! Delicious onion tarts and vegetarian flammenkueche compete with tasty spaetzle (type of noodle) and other savoury concoctions.

Getting to man’s other basic need – cycling – biking in the Alsace truly has something to offer for every level, distance, and terrain. Many cycling itineraries can be done mostly on bikeways or on roads that are so quiet and safe that this amazing experience is perfect for the whole family. The rare unavoidable busy sections are usually outfitted with a wide shoulder, and when they’re not, the “cycle-friendly” and “cycle-aware” attitude of Alsatian drivers make your riding experience a very safe and stress-free one.

As far as difficulty is concerned, again, this multi-faceted region offers so much in terms of terrain that it is easy to make your trip exactly the way you want. Avid riders will prefer riding through the Vosges mountains looking down over the beautiful vineyards, while more leisure or novice riders may choose to ride down on the valley floor and look up, and most will be tickled pink simply following the signed “Route des Vins” rolling through the Alsatian vineyards. Train stations are never far away and all local trains will take bikes as such at no extra cost…a comforting thought for all in case of failing legs, or inclement weather, or an afternoon spent indulging in too much wine or cheese or flammenkueche tasting….….etc…

The one big risk about cycling in the Alsace is sensory overload! All 5 senses will be called into action - your ears will be treated to silence, your skin to the caress of the breeze, your sense of smell will get its daily fix of that addicting intricate perfume of a freshly-poured glass of wine, and of course your taste buds will be in heaven from start to finish! And as far as your eyes – well - your eyes will be filled with such beauty, it is hard to describe in all the ways and all the villages and all the sights and sites!

Strasbourg is definitely the top choice! With its intense, looming cathedral, idyllic historic center “Petite France”, charming shops and lively atmosphere, Strasbourg is great.

Colmar is also one of the nicest towns we’ve been to and so lovingly pretty that you may want to stay put for a few days. It is also essential to take in Obernai and Barr. Furthermore, the wine-making villages of Eguisheim and Riquewhir should not be missed and are both labeled as “Un des Plus Beaux Villages” of France, or (One of the Prettiest Villages). And if these two are some of the prettiest villages in France , there are also others, as nice as these two, and perhaps not as famous, which are “absolutely-must-see” by our standards. Some are such jewels that you may wonder if you haven’t stepped into a movie set! Converse with the locals for a few moments, though, and you’ll soon be convinced that these people are not paid actors or extras, but real residents…Yep, people actually live in these wonderful places! Lucky them!

A myriad of other towns and villages are each remarkable and worth a stop…. and a piece of advice from one cyclist to another - be sure to visit them “heads up” (and carefully!) as they offer a bounty of architectural treasures, and the tall, sculpted, timbered houses and stork nests are worth the neck stretching!

As far as organizing your dream vacation in Alsace, that part is easy. Hop on a plane or train and go! Whether you plan it yourself or with the assistance of a tour operator, whether you want to do a challenging tour at a clip pace or a relaxing sojourn at a leisurely one, you’ll likely to look up for trains and planes! When doing so, keep in mind that Strasbourg has its own international airport and one of the ritziest train stations with hourly trains to Paris , London , or Brussels .

Basel in Switzerland is also an option. Serviced by major international airlines and low-cost companies, its bi-national airport set on the Swiss-French border is an ideal gateway as well. Additionally, the airport also offers public transportation to Strasbourg, so getting into town is easy and a short walk from that train station will put you in “La Petite France,” the historic part of Strasbourg with its cobbled roads, pretty houses, and romantic canals…. A mere 3 hours before reaching this marvelous haven, you were still in congested London, Paris or Madrid!

Cyclomundo Trips through Alsace.

Written by  Bruno Toutain.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Wine, food and more wine

Alsace claims that it has loads of bike paths in this area, and it has. This lets you ride from local airports or stations up to the wine route which basically starts all the way back in the Pfalz of Germany and (with gaps) comes south to the end of the Vosges. The food is large (as required) and while the wine is great (do not start me on Pinot Gris) the area also produces something like 1/4 of France's beer of which a tiny proportion is fantastic and the rest is the usual yellow stuff.

1 Reply

Biking and tasting is a good combo. You have to keep the purchases down though, unless you have a car to pick them up with later...

Nice article Bruno. I like the way the houses in the villages are different pastel colours.

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