Please sign in to post.

Advice on Trip to Alsace/Burgundy/Paris

Hello! My husband and I are planning a trip to France in late September, early October of this year. We will have a total of 15 nights /16 days. We are flying into Paris (arriving early morning, jet-lagged!) and planning to take the train directly to Strasbourg. The plan is to stay there for four nights and then travel to Colmar by train for another 4/5 nights where we would possibly rent a car to explore all the small towns on the wine route. We will finish our trip in Paris for 5 nights and will fly home from there. This gives us a couple of days between Colmar and Paris and I was thinking of staying in Beaune (train from Colmar). Is 8/9 days in Alsace too long and should we knock off a few days and spend longer in Beaune. We could also just extend on either end and skip the Burgundy region. My husband wasn’t too keen on even visiting Paris (thinks it will feel too busy and chaotic) but I thought it would be a lost opportunity since we are flying in and out of Paris. It was the Alsace region that was our motivation for the trip initially. We do love the vibe and charm of small towns and regions and like to take our time. Everything is still in the planning stages at this point and nothing is carved in stone. We spent a few day in Nice last year but other than that, we have not explored France. This forum (and Rick Steves) has been a tremendous help to us in the past so any advice will be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Posted by
6816 posts

I can’t imagine spending 4 nights in Strasbourg, but others couldn’t imagine spending 4 nights in Colmar like we did. We also spent 2 nights in Eguisheim. We had a rental car for our entire trip, but since we rented from Germany and didn’t have the French environment sticker we didn’t stay in Strasbourg. I don’t think 8/9 days is too many depending on what you like to do.

We visited some of the small villages between Colmar and Strasbourg as well as walking from Hunawihr to Ribeauvillé and back. When we went to Riquewihr it was so crowded that all the parking spots (all pay) near it were taken. We also visited The Three Castles of Eguisheim and Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg. It was pretty impressive.

When we left Colmar we visited Kaysersberg before going to Metz for two nights. A full day in Metz is sufficient to see its sights. I know nothing of Beaune.

Posted by
897 posts

Strasbourg and Colmar are really near to each other. You don't necessarily have to split your stay. I would stay 7 days max in Alsace, and add 2 or 3 days in Beaune and explore the city and countryside around Burgundy. Finish off in Paris. It may be busy, but there is no place in the world like Paris. The difficulty is narrowing down what you want to see and do in the "Capital of Europe". I encourage your husband to see Paris. Even the paralympics will be over. The fashion shows will be done by October too, so chaos should not be reigning.
Have a great trip, however your arrange it!

Posted by
20 posts

Thank you Jaime and Judy! Yes, there seems to be quite a bit of debate online regarding Strasbourg and Colmar. I agree it may not be necessary to split the time between the two, given the distance, but was thinking we could get a very different vibe in each place. I also agree about Paris and was also thinking things may have quietened down somewhat by October. I imagine the city will have been ‘polished’ up even more due to the Olympics which will be nice!
I like the idea of 7 days in Alsace, 3 days in Burgundy and 5 in Paris. The logistics of when and where to rent a car will be the challenge!

I always take note of all the recommendations activities suggested, very much appreciated. Some of our best days travelling have been through advice from all you lovely people!

Posted by
6816 posts

Since Colmar is on the itinerary, it has a free electric bus that makes a loop of the historic center. Its route starts and ends at the train station. Think of it as a free hop on, hop off bus. It only holds about 12 people.

When we were in Colmar we stayed at Colmar Hotel by the train station since it has free parking. We liked the hotel and it had a very good breakfast buffet. The historic center is a mile away, so very walkable. We split between walking and taking the free bus.

Posted by
1 posts

Since your husband isn’t excited about Paris, I’d suggest limiting your time in the tourist areas which are crowded and chaotic, and spend your time where the locals go. I highly recommend Rue Mouffetard. It’s one of the oldest areas in Paris and is filled with charming shops and markets. You can also check out areas such as Belleville, Saint Martin canal, Montmartre (the back side of Sacré Coeur, not the tourist side), and Batignolles

Posted by
1912 posts

Maggie a few good points above. Colmar and Strasbourg are very close, and linked by easy direct frequent trains. You can choose one and visit the other a couple of times.

They're both good! I've stayed in both three different times. I would pick Colmar. Strasbourg feels like a small big city; Colmar more like a huge village. If your husband is not jazzed about Paris, he probably will be about Colmar. People complain that it is too "Disneyfied," but most of what they're looking at is completely original, just maybe restored. I put Colmar in precisely the same category as Bruges: touristy in the prime hours and so magically charming as to be totally worth it.

Burgundy is absolutely wonderful. It's convenient to stay in the wine valley, so Beaune is a good candidate. But Burgundy outside of the wine area is as or more pretty, and several amazing fairytale villages. The area is dispersed, and has some of the lowest population density in France. It's an easy place to drive a rental a car, and renting a car is well worth it as the train tends not to go to the most interesting places.

Burgundy is also a phenomenal place for a bike ride. Alsace but Burgundy is better from a tourist perspective, better infrastructure and less disorderly exurban riding (Alsace though is mostly protected and good riding). If you are up for renting a bike or ebike for the day in Beaune, that will be an easy, generally quite safe, and highly rewarding and memorable experience.

Alsace, come to think of it, is also a pretty good place to rent a car. The villages are scattered and the train doesn't hit most of them. The bus system is okay but not great. It would not be at all a bad idea to rent a car in Alsace and drop it as the end of Burgundy.

Given your aspirations for the trip, IMO don't do more the 5 nights in Alsace. And 4 nights/5 days would be just fine too. Give Burgundy a little more time; it deserves 3 days min. If you are thinking about slowing down and taking it easy and just living a life for part of your trip, Burgundy in my mind is clearly the place for that. It has a beautiful lifestyle - people there really know how to savor the bounty that surrounds them.

Whatever you do, have a great trip!

Posted by
1624 posts

The way we travel is not for everyone. We spent three weeks based in Riquewihr with a car. Lots of hiking and day trips, including parts of the Black Forest, and Basel a couple of times. Alsace is lovely; https://www.visit.alsace/en/

BF highlights were Gengenbach, Freiburg, Schiltach, Endingen, Staufen, the general Munstertal area.

As a youth I spent a week at the bottom of the hill from Chateauneuf just outside Beaune. Beaune was well worth a visit, as were Semur, Dijon and Dole. Besancon I returned to from Alsace.

Never been to Paris.

Posted by
621 posts

My family and I spent 5 nights in Alsace and we were not wishing we had more time there. It is lovely but I would trade some Alsace days for Burgundy days if I were you.

Posted by
20 posts

What a lovely surprise to see these additional responses with lots of good information - thank you so much to everyone.

I have to admit I am feeling a little conflicted and also thinking of adding another day on to Burgundy. Currently it is 3 nights in Strasbourg (really only 2 full days), 4 nights in Colmar, 3 nights in Beaune and 5 nights in Paris. Travel days don’t really count with the exception of Strasbourg to Colmar because it is such a short distance. Might possibly take a day off Colmar and add on to Beaune?

As well I am sure there are more charming places to stay than Colmar and Beaune (in each of those regions) but I wanted there to be a train station for convenience. Not sure if we will drive from Colmar to Beaune…it certainly eliminates the hassle of hauling luggage on and off trains but we find the trains very relaxing once on.
Was wondering if anyone can recommend a really good food/wine tour in Alsace and Burgundy? We did a fabulous one in Tuscany and it was truly memorable and unique.

I have a feeling I am going to have more questions in the coming weeks/months - thank you all for taking the time to write. So much appreciated.

Posted by
11368 posts

4 nights in Colmar is too much. Put more time in Strasbourg and a wine village. Stay in Strasbourg and a wine village, not Colmar!

Posted by
1912 posts

Why not stay in Colmar Suki? It's closer to the most iconic villages, has some great museums (and is essentially museum in itself), full of fascinating history, much great food, good hotels and some superb Airbnb's, farm country suburbs walkable from the center, easier and smaller than Strasbourg, nobody sleeping in the streets like Strasbourg. And a direct 30 minute train ride from Strasbourg every 30 minutes.

Again, I have stayed in each three separate times, and the last stay was in Strasbourg. So I like Strasbourg and enjoy it greatly. But Colmar is like if you took the beautiful historic district of Strasbourg and made it into an entire little city. It's like Bruges to Strasbourg's bigger than Ghent. I'd like to understand what is so wrong with Colmar that it ought to be summarily rejected prima facie?

Although I see your point in relationship to the OP's current itinerary; if you're going to stay in the city to start, then maybe stay in a village after that for more contrast. But that's that's not so easy to do if you want to stick to trains.

OP If you're not going to have a car to explore a little, 3 nights Beaune is probably fine.

Posted by
7 posts

I just returned to the US 3 days ago from an Alsace/Paris trip. We did what you're planning: my family of four flew into CDG, then TGV to Strasbourg. But we took the 30 minute train ride down to Colmar and stayed there for 5 nights. I'm glad we did.

We took the train back up to Strasbourg a couple days later. I would recommend doing so. But Strasbourg definitely is more of big city vibe. As a base of operations for Alsace, now that I've done it, I will tell anyone doing the trip: stay in Colmar and rent a car. There is an Avis car rental at the Colmar train station. We stayed at Villa Elyane B&B which is walking distance to train station. Highly recommended as well.

Posted by
20 posts

Thanks to Hank and msh for your input. It is reassuring to know someone is more or less doing our itinerary and it was a success! I think we will stick to our arrival from CDG in Strasbourg. We are staying in Petite France and hopefully it won’t feel too chaotic. We will be quite jet-lagged the first day. We will fully concentrate on visiting that city while there (2 days, 3 nights) and then have a full 4 days (5 nights) to explore the little villages with Colmar as our base. Villa Elayne looks wonderful; we have booked already right in Little Venice but always good to have a back-up! We will definitely be renting a car for a couple of those days (maybe more) but plan to take the train to Beaune where we may rent again. Good to know there is a car rental right at the train station in Colmar. In Beaune we are staying in a tranquil B & B (Les Jardins de Lois) in a garden setting so will definitely get that nice quiet vibe there! Don’t think I have asked previously, but I LOVE gardens. Any recommendations would be appreciated. I think we will steer clear of Giverny as I hear it is just overrun with people. While in Nice we visited the Villa & Jardins Ephrussi de Rothschild. It was a little piece of heaven and the views incredible. Barely anyone there (mid-October) so we were happy campers!

Posted by
53 posts

Great conversation -- I was jumping onto the forum today to ask similar questions.

My trip is in mid-August -- my nephew is getting married near Paris so we're adding on some extra days to visit Alsace where my husband's maternal ancestors were originally from. We are still trying to decide where to stay as a base, either Colmar or Strasbourg. I'll definitely read through this thread a few times to help make up our mind.

Question about the train from Paris to Strasbourg -- do we catch it directly from CDG or do we take transportation from the airport to a train station elsewhere in Paris first?

Posted by
2035 posts

We have never visited Strasbourg so I cannot comment. We planned to visit Colmar only because of the Issenheim Altarpiece which I had studied in high school eons before this trip. I did very little research other than to select a B&B and plan on seeing the altarpiece. We were dumbstruck when we arrived….Colmar was absolutely beautiful and I was well and truly surprised. We spent a few days and drove to several of the nearby wine villages. All were lovely and charming and 24 hours later we (N=3) could not remember one from the others. We spent a few days driving through gorgeous Burgundy highlighting medieval sights and history (wine was not on the radar) and we notch that trip as one of the best ever. Different strokes. Have a wonderful time and safe travels.

Posted by
1912 posts

OP your itinerary sounds totally awesome :)

There are some good restaurants in Beaune just a few blocks from your B&B. Take a look at some menus as you walk by - it's not quite the center of town, but a bit less touristy "restaurant row" kind of street.

Posted by
6099 posts

Whether one chooses to stay in Colmar or Strasbourg really depends on the OP's circumstances and what they plan on doing. Without a car, staying in a small wine village is really tough. Colmar is still darling, has museums, wineries and some good restaurants. We spent a day in Strasbourg and that was about enough. If OP wants to take organized tours to wine villages, Colmar is a far better location for doing that than Strasbourg. Strasbourg is quite a distance away. Don't get me wrong, we stayed in Eguisheim and really enjoyed it, but we had a car and we didn't mind the small selection of restaurants.

Posted by
20 posts

I have to say I am really enjoying all the suggestions and comments, getting me very excited for our trip! I am considering taking off a day in Colmar to add to Beaune. My reasoning is we will arrive quite early from Strasbourg to Colmar and still have the afternoon and evening on that travel day. From Colmar to Beaune, the most direct train gets us in closer to dinner time so can’t really count that as a day. So we will only have 2 days there which doesn’t feel like enough from the sounds of it!

Posted by
1912 posts

Maggie that sounds like a good idea. From Strasbourg you will definitely have what will feel like a full day on your first day in Colmar.

Beaune is a great place from which to do some day tour type trips, so you would not end up feeling like an extra day there was wasted, rather an opportunity to do some kind of interesting adventure. The local tourist office is very good and has a good website.

https://www.beaune-tourism.com/

Posted by
4 posts

My wife and I are doing almost the exact same trip at the end of August. We decided to stay 3 nights in Kayserberg in Alsace to get the small village feel and then 2 nights in Strasbourg. We will visit Colmar for a day trip. From there we're also headed to Burgundy. However, this will be our 3rd trip to that region and we are looking at buying retirement property there. Rather than take the train from Colmar to Beaune which likely involves multiple changes, there is a train that goes direct from Strasbourg to Dijon, where you can rent a car and drive to Beaune (30min). Or you can drive there through the beautiful countryside. It takes about 3.5 hours from Strasbourg to Beaune. If you want a more village feel, I would recommend staying just south of Beaune in Meursault. Even though it's small, there are plenty of great restaurants and shops to walk to.

If you want to wine taste in Burgundy, most producers are small family run operations and you need to arrange a visit ahead of time. I recommend Domaine Lejeune in Pommard and Boyer Martenot in Meursault.

If you have any other questions about Burgundy, I'm happy to assist.

As far as Paris, I would say 3 full days would be enough especially since your husband doesn't seem keen on it.

Posted by
411 posts

Re Mont Sainte Odile (mentioned above).
We stayed in the delightful small town of Barr for 4 nights. One of our day hikes took us up to Mont Sainte Odile via the ruins of 13th C Chateau du Landsberg. A lovely hike (moderately strenuous) via vinyard and forest. We returned to Barr via the beautiful wine village of Heiligenstein. It ended up being about 20 km of hiking.
MSO was quite crowded but was very interesting and had some great views.
Also in that area are a number of other interesting 13th C Chateau ruins, we visited C.du Spesbourg and C. de Haut Andlau, both in fabulous forests.
A great area.

Posted by
20 posts

Thank you Greg and ER&L for your responses. If we end up with extra time in the Alsace region, those visits (hikes) sound really interesting. Will depend on the weather and our energy!

I did add on an extra night to Beaune (but haven’t cancelled that fourth night in Colmar yet!). Greg there is one direct train from Colmar to Beaune around 2pm if we decide to go that route. We are still contemplating driving but leaving our options open! Thank you for the names of the producers in Burgundy. From what I am reading it is essential to book those in advance (as well as the most desirable restaurants!). For Paris, I have left the 5 nights for now. I have a gardener friend who lived in Paris and assured me Giverny in early October would not be a wasted visit and it should be much quieter then. So that may take up a good portion of one day which only really leaves us 3 full days! I am going to gather up all the information I have so far and try to assemble a loose itinerary. I have no doubt there will be more questions so thank you for that offer. It is wonderful to read everyone’s input, the more the merrier.

Posted by
4 posts

Maggie, yes you will need to book most wine tastings in advance. Both the ones I mentioned are responsive via email which can be found on their websites. Also, Olivier Leflaive (hotel and wine producer) does a great walking tour of their vineyards which is very informative for Burgundy wine beginners.

You are also correct regarding needing reservations for the good restaurants. Some of our favorite are L'Episode and Au Fil du Clos in Meursault. Olivier Leflaive also has a restaurant in their hotel that does an excellent wine tasting with dinner. If you want to up the anty, Ed em in Chassagne Montrachet (1 michelin star) and Maison Lameloise in Chagny (3 stars) are excellent albeit pricey.