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Alsace in the fall with two young, adventurous grandsons

Our first, and most likely last, exploration of this region will be enriched by a reunion with our two grandsons, ages 5 and almost 3. Although our daughter has traveled rather extensively throughout Europe with Gonzaga in Florence, she has never been to France. An artist and educator, she and her husband are now teaching in Erlangen, Germany.
The 6 of us will have 8-9 days for our adventure. We are planning to train from Nuremberg to Strasbourg Saturday for a 3 nights stay. I read in RS France museums and "the clock" in the cathedral are free on Sundays. Based on my reading, 3 nights/days sound like plenty if not too long.
From Strasbourg we may venture a bit north west to the village of Birkenwald for 2 nights with time to explore and defend a couple of the castles in this area. Recommendations or warning welcome.
Then back to Strasbourg for a train to Colmar for 3 nights highlighted by an excursion to Kaysersberg. More castles to explore, modern art and cultural charm to absorb.

One key consideration is the need to rent a car to get the castles. We prefer train and walking for transport, and we are thinking a driver would be pricy. I have seen "bus tours" to castles in the literature, but we guard our indepence, time and our wallet when visiting most sites. Once again, recommendations, tips and forwarnings welcome and appreciated.

Posted by
2466 posts

I would suggest the train. A car would be pricey, with gas and toll fees.
If you go to this website, it will explain everything you need to know about European train travel.
Buy your tickets 90 days in advance for Alsace.

Your grandsons might benefit from "siestas", because they will be worn out - probably from museum fatigue. I think one castle a day might do the trick, and go have lunch.

Most chain restaurants will have booster seats, some cafes and other restaurants will not, so you'll have to keep them in their strollers. Most chain restaurants are kid-friendly with food that kids will actually eat.
I would suggest a hotel, because you'll have room service, rather than an apartment.
Washing machines don't work very well for towels and jeans, and such - and dryers are virtually non-existant.

Posted by
1464 posts

Organize as much as possible using the train / public transport. Not to miss to my opinion is the abbey of Mont-Sainte-Odille which offers like Haut-Koenigsbourg a fantastic view over the Rhine valley with on the other side the mountains of the Black Forest. There are way more nice places like Kaysersberg to explore and lesser touristy, Obernai is nevertheless quite touristy, but places like Boersch and Bergheim not so much. Stayed not so far from Le Hohwald (a bit south-west of the abbey), think is a nice place too but had unfortunitily not the time to visit it. For visiting those different places a car is more convenient and gives you more flexibility.

Posted by
243 posts

As I look at lodging options, wondering if rather than 3 nights in Strasbourg and 4 in Colmar, perhaps a week long rental apartment in Colmar as our base makes best sense considering the short ride to Strasbourg frequency of train availability.
Still wondering about best castles and how to get there efficiently and economically without a rental car.

Posted by
17089 posts

Colmar gets a lot of tourists but is gorgeous and highly walkable. I wouldn't object to spending a week there and making side-trips, but do check the train and bus schedules for places you know you want to go, to be sure you are not spending too much time going back and forth. I believe you'll be able to get around pretty well by public transportation, especially if you work from a list of possible destinations and choose those that fit together best rather than having an absolutely-must-see list of 6 or 8 small towns. In checking schedules, be sure you're looking at those effective in the spring or fall rather than in mid-summer. I wouldn't be surprised if there is extra bus transportation to some of the small wine towns that runs only in mid-summer, but train service should not be much affected by the change in seasons.

It's my impression that lodging costs in Colmar tend to be a good bit lower than they are in Strasbourg (you can check me on this by looking at a website like

I took a day-trip to Selestat this summer and found it attractive and very non-touristy, so that's a possibility if you get tired of overrun wine towns. However, I recall a fairly healthy walk from the train station to the historic area (as there is in Colmar as well, by the way).

Do not miss the Unterlinden Museum in Colmar if you can somehow manage it with two young children. I am not remotely religious, but the Isenheim Altarpiece is really something, and the rest of the museum is also very good. You can take a short boat ride in Colmar, too. I didn't do that, but it might be fun for your grandchildren. However, the boats are very small, so you'd want to consider the safety aspects.

Trip Advisor tells me that the Parc de l'Orangerie in Strasbourg has a free small zoo. I know nothing about it, but small children and animals are usually a very good combination. There also seems to be a butterfly garden in Hunawihr, which isn't too far from Colmar.

Posted by
14015 posts

There's an interesting castle ruins near Colmar called Chateau de Kaysersberg. Just a few minutes' drive from there is Monkey Mountain which would be a real treat for the boys. It's a wildlife sanctuary where the 100 or so monkeys (Barbary apes) have the run of the place and you get to feed them popcorn kernels.