I have been dreaming about travelling around Europe in our campervan for a very, very long time. At the beginning of September this year, my partner and I finally packed up the van and headed across the water. Our trip saw us travel through France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Portugal. This wild and wonderful adventure was exactly what we had been craving. Early on in our trip we visited Alsace in France.
In all honesty, we hadn’t factored in much of France when planning our trip. We only had two months on the road and wanted to squeeze in as much of Switzerland and Portugal as we possibly could. We were just going to quickly pass through France. Early on we began to understand that we would be foolish to miss out on the beautiful mountains, beaches, quaint towns and everything in between that we realised France had to offer. The Alsace region in Eastern France in particular blew our minds. Situated on the French/German border, Alsace boasts a dual identity that we absolutely adored. We loved the quirkiness of being somewhere that is so French in certain aspects yet so absolutely German in others. We were completely charmed by the story book cities throughout the region and the sunny, vineyard-lined roads that connected them all.
Strasbourg was the perfect place to begin our Alsatian adventure. We spent most of our time here in the medieval part of the city, wandering the cobbled streets of Petite-France. This is the old town area, filled with colourful timber houses that sit on the canal alongside restaurants, hotels, little patisseries and souvenir shops. We also checked out the Strasbourg Cathedral and the square surrounding it. The cathedral towers above the rest of the city in all its dramatic, gothic glory and is absolutely one of the most amazing buildings I have ever seen. We were too busy eating baguettes outside and marvelling at the exterior to even think of going in but I imagine it is just as stunning. Like all of Alsace, this area is a gorgeous blend of both French and German culture which gives the city and the whole region character unlike anywhere else I have visited in Europe. Although famous for its medieval heritage, Strasbourg also has areas that are contrastingly very youthful and modern which made the city even more interesting to visit.
We stumbled across Barr accidentally on our trip. Often overlooked in favour of its close neighbour Obernai, Barr is pleasantly quiet. We had the colourful, flower-filled cobbled streets to ourselves without the crowds that can gather in more popular areas of Alsace. A wonderful aspect of having our van with us is that we got to see places we might have missed otherwise.
We stopped by Obernai for a much needed Bretzel break (hello doughy bread goodness). We started our walk at the market square with all the lovely little restaurants, shops and the city hall. Just behind the square stands the Belfry which is also worth the visit. Part of the appeal of visiting the Alsace region is that you can simply just wander around admiring the colourful buildings and flowers. Obernai in particular is the perfect place to do so with its picture-perfect charm and medieval streets.
Riquewihr may just be the most enchanting of all the cities in Alsace and I think every tourist might just know it too. Despite being so busy it is still ridiculously charming and a treat to explore. Riquewihr is fairly small but it was so adorable that we spent the best part of a whole afternoon here. There are lots of shops and boutiques to visit that kept us busy and plenty of bakeries to feed our newfound Bretzel addiction. As Riquewihr is nestled within the vineyards it is also the perfect place to try some of the wine that the locals are so proud of. Apparently the city comes even more alive during winter and Christmastime (the perfect excuse to revisit this gem of a city in the future!)
Colmar really was the beautiful end point of our trip through the region. Colmar looks like a scene from a medieval fairy tale. We spent the entire time walking around not quite believing we weren’t in the fifteenth century. Aptly named Petite Venice, the old town is full of canals and tiny bridges that dance over them. You can even take a gondola trip if you so wish. The buildings are quintessentially Alsatian with the German-style timber buildings with French shutters lining the streets. We mainly just walked around snapping photographs of this quirky culture combination and gushing about how gorgeous it all is. We also enjoyed some wine and Alsace’s famous tarte flambee whilst overlooking the boat dwellers on the canal. I have a serious weakness for canal-side cities and Colmar is now high up on my list of favourites.
The beauty of living in a van whilst travelling is that gorgeous backdrops are almost guaranteed. There was no better way to complete the trip through Alsace’s wine region than to park up within the picturesque vineyards and appreciate the views. Tucked between the Vosges Mountains and the Rhine River, the whole area is stunning. We woke up overlooking rolling green hills and enjoyed the sunshine.