3 days in strasbourg seeing petit france

3 Days in Alsace Itinerary: A Long Weekend Escape

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Alsace is a gorgeous region in eastern France that happens to border Germany and Switzerland. In fact, when you spend 3 days in Alsace (or more), you will sometimes forget that you’re even in France.

To me, Alsace is half-timbered buildings crowded in narrow lanes, meat and cheese plates (Alsatian cuisine is delicious but heavy), buzzing outdoor markets, and other unique cultural differences.

Ultimately, Alsace is a special place to spend a long weekend. I personally spent 3 days in Alsace and gosh, I wish I had even more time to give the region the attention it deserves.

Alsace has so much to see and do, but at the same time, most people only have a limited time to travel, so it’s important to “make do” with your PTO.

I also know that Alsace might seem “far” from big international airports, such as CDG in Paris, but trust me, this region is worth sitting through a two hour train ride. 

enjoying the outside of strasbourg cathedral

Essential Travel Tips for 3 Days in Alsace

Before we get into the best things and do to see in Alsace, I wanted to share a couple of practical travel tips for the best ways to get around and what to pack for your trip.

Now I don’t think Alsace involves any special preparation in comparison to other regions in France, but still! Better to be safe than sorry! 

trains are an easy way to navigate europe
On the Train from Frankfurt to Strasbourg.

Getting Around Alsace

Alsace, like the rest of France, has a very robust public transportation system. I was able to get to Strasbourg taking the fast trains from Frankfurt. Additionally, you’re also able to connect through France’s other cities, such as Paris (of course) and Reims, so don’t worry about using trains to go to Alsace.

However, for smaller villages, it’s hard to get around without a car. Not every small town has a train station, nor do the buses go everywhere.

My advice for anyone who wants to visit Alsace’s villages is to either rent a car, or take a small guided tour, such as this highly rated group tour that includes some of Alsace’s best medieval towns, such as Eguisheim and Riquewihr.

let's eat pastries in strasbourg france
Pastries are Always a Good Idea in France.

What to Pack for Alsace

You don’t need to pack anything special for Alsace. I have a couple of recommendations, but, obviously, what you pack will depend on the time of year and the size of your luggage.

Here a couple essentials not to forget, though!

  • Comfortable Shoes: You will walk on plenty of cobblestone streets in Alsace. I wore these super comfortable and water resistant shoes on my own trip, and they worked perfectly fine.
  • EU Compatible Plug: You don’t want your electronics to die in France! While some hotels have USB plugs, this is far from universal. Bring an EU compatible plug with you just in case.
  • France Guidebook: As awesome as the internet is to plan trips, I still love having a physical guidebook or a .pdf version to keep on my laptop or phone. Lonely Planet’s France Guidebook will help you plan the perfect 3 day getaway in Alsace. 
  • French Phrasebook: While most locals will speak a little English, some French goes a very long way! Download Duolingo, or opt for a French phrasebook for your 3 days in Alsace.
  • Travel Insurance: I never, ever, ever go anywhere without travel insurance. Double check your credit card. You might be covered. Personally, I like World Nomads Travel Insurance. I always use them for solo trips and never had an issue.
  • Travel Umbrella: France receives a lot of rain, and wetter days seem to happen more frequently with climate change. Always have a packable travel umbrella in case clouds roll in.

with 3 days in alsace, you need to go to petit france in strasbourg

Where to Base Yourself in Alsace

Personally, I loved basing myself in Strasbourg. It’s a larger city that still has the classic Alsatian charm that we all know and love, yet is still ideal for train connections around the rest of France. Strasbourg is beautiful and convenient at the same time. 

In Strasbourg, I decided to spoil myself and booked a lovely stay at Hotel & Spa Le Bouclier D’Or. This centrally located hotel also functions as a spa, so if you want to take some time off for a facial treatment, then you have that option at your fingertips. 

Hotel & Spa Le Bouclier D’Or is also located on a charming and quiet street, so it’s easy to sleep at night without too much noise disrupting your beauty rest. I felt like I was safely “tucked away” from the tourist crowds, and had a comfortable and luxurious room to rest my head at the end of the night. 

cute gingerbread souvenir in alsace
Gingerbread is Popular in Alsace.

Detailed Itinerary for 3 Days in Alsace

I tried my best to ensure that this 3 Days in Alsace Itinerary isn’t too rushed. I always hate “overpacking” itineraries and love to leave a little bit of wiggle room for exploration and shopping. 

Additionally, everyone has different opinions on activities, so I tried to include a little bit of everything. As always, feel free to cut any activities that don’t fit your particular travel style.

exploring this pretty square in strasbourg

Day 1: Welcome to Strasbourg

We are starting off in Strasbourg, which is the largest city in Alsace. It’s the beating heart of Europe because of its many institutions, including the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights, and the European Parliament. 

Strasbourg is a city that has gone “back and forth” between France and Germany for ages, so you’re able to perfectly experience Alsace’s traditions here, even though Strasbourg is home to half a million people.

Let’s go!

exploring strasbourg with 3 days in alsace

Walking Tour 

I always like taking a walking tour to get acquainted with a new city. Since Strasbourg has such a complicated and interesting history, I highly recommend that you start with a free walking tour. Just make sure you have a few Euros to tip your guide at the end of your tour. 

As for specific recommendations, Happy Strasbourg provided a great free walking tour that was comprehensive, but not too long at the same time! We started outside of Strasbourg Cathedral (more on that later) and learned all about local legends, the duality of the Alsatian identify, and the rich history of the city. 

enjoying this lovely fair in strasbourg

Centre-Ville de Strasbourg 

The center of Strasbourg (also known as the Grande Île) is an ideal place to start your long weekend in Alsace. Strasbourg has many tram cars that fan out from the main train station to take you to the center. Just make sure to validate your ticket before boarding your tram.

You’ll want to check out Place Kléber, which is Strasbourg’s main square, and an excellent location for taking photos. Depending on the day, you might even encounter a cool festival or fair. I happened to stumble upon an amazing book fair, and purchase some gorgeous French prints for my apartment. 

If it’s a sunny day, don’t pass up a leisurely drink along the Ill River, which encircles this area, forming an island.

In addition to its great public transportation, the Grande Île is very pedestrian-friendly, with some streets permitting only walkers and no cars, and this environment allows visitors to easily explore its many attractions on foot.

enjoying a stop for food in strasbourg
There are Plenty of Fantastic Shops in Strasbourg.

Shopping or Museums 

Strasbourg has plenty of shopping. You’ll discover cheese shops, wine shops, unique boutiques, and so much more. Sure, you can find the most iconic of French department stores, Galeries Lafayette, here, but I also encourage you to check out some smaller, locally owned businesses.

Maison Lorho, for example, is a wonderful choice if you want to purchase some cheese in Strasbourg. You can even have cheese vacuum sealed, which you can then bring back to the United States.

Obviously, if you’re traveling in December, then you cannot miss Marché de Noël or the Christmas Market for shopping. You’ll have handmade Christmas crafts that will fill you with the holiday spirit for the rest of your life.

strasbourg is a must-see with 3 days in alsace

La Petite France

Le Petite France district is a “must see” when you go to Strasbourg. This area is constantly featured on postcards and travel magazines, and as you wander the streets, you will immediately recognize the colorful half-timbered houses that are scenically perched next to the canals.

In addition to restaurants and shops, Le Petite France’s canals are what make it a popular spot for tourists to stroll, especially later in the day. I thought twilight was a brilliant time to take pictures. The brightly colored homes appeared even more vibrant in the low glow.

enjoying these stunning views in strasbourg

Barrage Vauban 

Barrage Vauban is a very photogenic bridge in the Petit France District. On a clear day, you will definitely want to climb the bridge, because you’ll be greeted with a delightful panoramic views of La Petite France and the surrounding areas.

If you’re feeling energetic, you can climb to the top of the Barrage Vauban and experience the Rooftop Terrace! I loved watching locals and tourists navigate the canals in boats from high above! 

There is more to see at Barrage Vauban than just the views, however. The interior of the dam features an interesting art installation called “The 20th Century,” which adds a bit of a modern twist to this otherwise historic bridge.

a delicious meal at chez yvonne strasbourg

Treat Yourself to a Marvelous Dinner

Alsace is very well-known for its rich and delicious food. Just keep in mind that the cuisine in this region isn’t exactly light and healthy, so make sure to pack stretchy clothing in your luggage! Alsatian cuisine consists of rich sauces, flavorful meat and cheeses, and exquisite pastries. 

One of my favorite restaurants was Chez Yvonne, which is a Bib Gourmand restaurant in the Michelin guide. It was absolutely delightful. Excellent food and outstanding service. We felt super welcome, even though I only speak a tiny bit of French! 

Winstub La Vieille Enseigne is another delightful choice that’s located centrally in Strasbourg and offers traditional cuisine.

you will eat lots of pastries in strasbourg

Day 2: Deeper in Strasbourg

Are you ready for a deeper dive into Strasbourg? This city has so much to see and do and experience that only spending one day isn’t enough, in my humble opinion, so it’s a great idea to spend more time here.

Of course, if you want to see the smaller villages, today would also be a great time to take a small road trip or go on a guided tour with the itinerary you want. 

exploring the gorgeous parks with 3 days in alsace

Strasbourg’s Parks

Green space and Strasbourg go hand-in-hand. If you’re visiting on a sunny day, then you’re in for a true treat. Strasbourg’s most popular park is Parc de l’Orangerie.

Parc de l’Orangerie was first stablished in the 17th century and expanded during the Napoleonic era. As Strasbourg’s oldest park, this green space is beloved by both locals and tourists with its beautiful flowerbeds, expansive lawns, large and swan-filled lake, small zoo, and so much more! 

If you have the time (and weather allows), definitely take a walk through Parc de l’Orangerie and enjoy the utterly romantic atmosphere. 

plenty of delicious cheeses are everywhere in france
Cheese in France is Always a Good Idea.

Alsatian Food Tour

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I talk a lot about food in this 3 Days in Alsace Itinerary. But, again, the rich cuisine here is so delicious that you won’t be able to resist a food tour. 

I love food tours, particularly as a solo female traveler, because it’s easy to bond with others over treats and discover restaurants that you wouldn’t have found from a quick Reddit search.

For instance, this Strasbourg Traditional Food Tour offers a personalized experience in a small group of 10. By taking a tour, you can maximize your time and still eat some delicious treats that would’ve taken longer to discover on your own.

exploring the inside of strasbourg cathedral

Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg

Without a doubt, you cannot miss Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg when spending 3 days in Alsace. Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg is a spectacular UNESCO World Heritage cathedral that absolutely deserves the title. I had the good fortune of visiting the cathedral twice – once as a tourist and another as a participant in Easter Mass. 

The Gothic architecture will truly take your breath away. Be prepared to take a lot of pictures, but also be respectful of worshippers and keep in mind the cathedral doesn’t let in sightseers during Mass.

lovely strasbourg cathedral at night
3 Days in Alsace Should Include a Trip to Strasbourg Cathedral.

Strasbourg Cathedral is home to several artistic treasures. For example, many visitors come to the cathedral at noon to see the astronomical clock. This clock was built in the 16th century, and while it only goes off at noon, you can see the clock at any time of day. 

I personally fell in love with the stained glass. These are some of the oldest stained glass windows in all of Europe, dating back to the 12th to 14th centuries, depicting biblical scenes and saints.

As a final note, don’t feel deterred if you see a long line at the cathedral. They need to check bags for security purposes, but the line goes fast. I promise. 

climbing the tower at the strasbourg cathedral is worth it for these views

Tower at Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg 

Last but not least, you’re able to see the most spectacular view in Strasbourg by climbing to the top of the Cathedral’s tower. 

Go on a clear day. Strasbourg’s cityscape is absolutely breathtaking. I could’ve stayed at the top taking pictures for hours and enjoying the refreshing breeze.

However, I also want to be honest and give you a fair warning about the many, many, many stairs. This climb is not for the faint of heart. I was … winded at the end. My leg muscles ached and screamed in pain. Furthermore, I didn’t see any lifts, so I doubt that going to the top of the tower is accessible for everyone.

My best advice is to take your time. Don’t worry about people trying to climb on top of you. Pause, peer out the windows at the views, catch your breath if necessary, and let them pass. Climbing to top of the tower is not a race or a competition (personally, I don’t understand the appeal of rushing up and down Cathedral stairs when you’re meant to be enjoying the stunning views, but whatever).

You’ll pay a small price to climb tower, but the photographs are worth the cost. 

colmar on a rainy spring day

Day 3: Colmar Day Trip

For an easy day trip, definitely go to Colmar! While you should join a guided tour to see several villages in a day, it’s not too hard to do a simple trip over to Colmar without a tour guide holding your hand. The trains are frequent and only forty minutes long. Super easy.

Even though it’s touristy, Colmar is worth visiting in spite of crowds and small annoyances. 

Petit Venice

Petit Venice is the classic image that everyone thinks of when Colmar first comes to mind.While I personally don’t think it resembles the actual Venice, this area is an absolute joy to explore on foot or in a boat. 

The canals are similar to be ones in Petit France, but even smaller and cozier if you can believe that.

And, of course, all the pastel colors add to the fairy tale ambience. 

Try to arrive to Petit Venice early for photos. A lot of tour groups stop here, so you want to beat the crowds! I know waking up early is a drag, but it will be worth the hassle.

st martin's church is another great stop on a visit to colmar

St. Martin’s Church

Built between 1235 and 1365, St. Martin’s Church is one of Colmar’s most famous landmarks. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go inside, because the church was closed on my visit (oops), but I suggest seeing it if you’re luckier than I was! 

with 3 days in alsace i am headed to colmar

Viielle Ville

You will find endless shopping opportunities in Vielle Ville or the old center of Colmar. Whatever you do, though, don’t visit on a Monday! Literally everything is closed, haha.

Marché Couvert Colmar (or Covered Market) is one of the most popular stops in this part of Colmar. Located near the Lauch River, this market offers a variety of fresh produce, local delicacies, cheeses, and wines. It’s a great place to sample Alsatian specialties. So … do yourself a favor and eat until your heart is content! 

Fromagerie Saint Nicolas, Le Comptoir de Mathilde, and Maison Alsacienne de Biscuiterie are other specialty shops that are also worth your time. 

Last but not least, like Strasbourg, you may also encounter amazing festivals depending on the time of year. Colmar has a Christmas Market (obviously) as well as a Spring Fair! 

the chocolate museum in colmar is super adorable
Yes, this Hat is Made out of Chocolate.

Choco Story Colmar

Do you want to experience a unique and tasty museum that offers unlimited chocolate? Then you need to go to Choco-Story COLMAR to learn all about the history of everyone’s favorite sweet treat.

Is Choco-Story COLMAR touristy? Maybe a little nit, but it’s also a lot of fun and you’re able to enjoy a free cup of hot chocolate at the end of your tour. If you have time to spare, you can even join a workshop and learn how to make your very own chocolate. The workshops would be especially fun with kids or in small groups. 

the art museum in colmar has so many lovely pieces of art

Unterlinden Museum 

Last but not least, if you love art, you ought to visit Unterlinden Museum.

This beautiful museum is inside a 13th century covent, which offers a very peaceful and relaxed atmosphere, as you explore and admire the art. The most famous piece in the museum is Isenheim Altarpiece by the German Renaissance painter Matthias Grünewald. It truly took my breath away in person.

As a side note, you cannot bring your bags into the art museum. However, there are plenty of free lockers to store your things, so no worries.

Unterlinden Museum is a great small museum not to miss during your 3 days in Alsace. I want to reiterate how thoughtful these little local museums are. You might not be in the Louvre, but ultimately, learning about the region’s history and art will make your trip even more meaningful.

falling in love with colmar's store fronts

I hope you enjoyed reading all about how to spend 3 days in Alsace. Obviously, it’s ideal to even have more time in this region, but hey, we don’t get to pick and choose when we have time off, am I right? Happy travels!