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A Winter Wonderland in Alsace
This year, we’ve decided to celebrate the New Year at home. Gasp!
Considering that home is Barcelona, and you can go pop a bottle on the beach at midnight, that’s not too shabby. But it did make me remember last year’s wintertime adventure, and how we came to it..
A year ago in August, whilst sipping on my weekend coffee on the balcony, I vaguely remembered seeing a blog post raving about the colorful little villages of Alsace. It looked nice.
A quick google search confirmed it – my selective memory served me well: It did look good. In fact, it looks straight out of winter fairytales!
And then the trip planning avalanche unfolds:
- Skyscanner: flights Barcelona to Basel at 40€!
- Booking.com: Apartments still available, despite the very high season.
- Friends: after seeing a few sample pictures, definitely on board to spending New Year’s in Colmar.
My faithful selective memory had this made a done deal by the end of the day.
When we decided to go see Alsace in winter, and go to Colmar for the New Year’s weekend, we didn’t know that much about the other beautiful villages in the area.
It didn’t take me long to get into full explorer more and do my research. And behold: Strasbourg, Riquewihr, Colmar, Eguisheim, Ribeauvillé, Munster, Kaysersberg..
Best To Visit: Year Round!
Although we’ve visited Colmar and the surrounding areas in December, I have to stress this:
There’s not a best time to visit Alsace
But let me tell you a bit about each season, and you’ll make up your own minds.
Alsace in Winter: prepare to be blown away by the most perfect winter fairy-tale setting, complete with extravagant decors, colorful Christmas markets, mulled wine and pain d’epices
Spring: the colorful village houses sprinkling back to life with their potted flowers, which all compete to match spring’s own flowery decor
Summer: Everything looks great in summer. Colmar in particular, given that it’s one of the few Villes Fleuries of France which gas gained the 4-flower category.
Autumn: Wine lovers, behold! Sure, you can have a taste of the infamous Alsatian wines all year long, but completing the sensory experience with a scenic drive through the vineyards-lined roads will round up nicely for your sensory experience.
Go for the Fairytale
Colmar, Riquewhir, Strasbourg, Eguisheim, and even Gerdarmer sitting at over 1000m altitude a short one hour distance from Colmar.
They all share the same Alsace in winter magic that has been lulling tourists from around the world in the area for years.
Stepping through the cobbled narrow village streets will make you feel like you’ve walked into the setting of one of your childhood bedtime stories – and I’m not overreacting.
Of course, you’ll often need to appeal to your lost childhood creativity and dust off your ability to ignore the all too common tourist hoards – even fairy tales get crowded.
Go for the Splash of Color
The title of Ville Fleurie is no easy feat, and it’s taken very, very seriously.
This competition created by the French state in 1959 has a wide participation, with almost all of the French communes involving actively. But since there is no limitation to the number of awarded communes, they are not exactly competing with each other.
Not surprisingly, one-third of French villages and communes (which is a staggering 12.000) are awarded the title, which comes in grades from 1 to 4.
From all those villages, only about 200 received 4 flowers; and Colmar is one of these few crown jewels, with an impressive and bold (if not a bit over the top) floral display.
Go for The Food
A trip to Alsace in winter (or otherwise) will undoubtedly appeal to all of you happy-belly people, no matter how picky you are. Here’s an idea of what to expect, and some delicious recommendations if you decide to visit:
Tarte flambée – the French will kill me, but there’s no better way of describing it other than thin and crisp pizza-like tart.
Choucroute – famous Alsatian dish with sauerkraut, boiled potatoes and sausage/meats. A German legacy, with a French soul.
Munster cheese – one for the cheese connoisseurs only, a tad too stinky for me
Pain d’épices – French for “spice bread”, which some would describe as gingerbread. The traditional recipe only contains rye flour, honey and spices, and in Alsace it comes with a pinch of cinnamon. Perfection – in a loaf.
Tourte au foie gras – or foie gras pie, usually made for the Christmas dinner, with potatoes and foie. What’s not to like!?
Tip: Make sure you’ve found yourself a restaurant and you’re ordering before 2pm
Go for the Wine
Ah, the Alsace Wine route.
You can drive, it, bike it, hike it or go on an organized tour, but if you’re a fan of Save Water drink Riseling, you’ve come to the perfect place.
Whether it’s the Obernai or Riquewihr wine trail, the Sentier of Eguisheim or the breathtaking views of the “Côte 425” steeped in history, there’s something on offer for everyone.
Being winter and all, we’ve left this outdoorsy activity for sunnier days, so I’ve got no first-hand feedback (yet). Check out the official Alsace Wine Route for inspiration.
Photo Roll Credits: Alsace in Winter
I’ll leave you to feast your eyes with some more authentic Alsace Christmas market magic: