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Alsace Region, First Time

I plan to visit this part of France in the late spring. I have read different travel books and need your help and advise. I will need a home base for approximately 5 days. I won't have a car so will need to rely on trains and buses. I am an amateur photographer so outdoor scenery is prime. I love botanical gardens, any thoughts on this? Love Zoos. Love architecteur old buildings etc. Maybe a museum or two.
From Alsace by train to Nice. I know it is a long train ride so maybe a suggestion for a stopping off point half way to my final destination.

1/ Base town for 5 days
2/ suggestion for bed and breakfast ( not fond of hotels) but in or near old town)
3/ Castles to visit
Half way stopping point to Nice by train
I have seen other parts of France but not this area
Any other ideas that you think I should not miss.
Again, thank you for any suggestions

Posted by
838 posts

Colmar is a nice town to base in Alsace. It has a really nice, walkable old town and a train station. It’s a little smaller than Strasbourg which I liked, but it depends on what you like. I stayed at Maison Martin Jund in Colmar. It’s a quirky B and B that was really well priced. It was In old town. The owner was nice, breakfast was good, and I enjoyed the old building it’s in. The Unterlinden museum in Colmar was a nice, smallish museum with art from the area and Roman things. Haut Koenigsbourg is supposed to be a good castle to visit. I can’t speak on that from experience because the day I wanted to go, the shuttle bus I needed to take wasn’t running. If you like zoos you might want to look into monkey mountain in Alsace. Again never went there, but I heard a lot of good things about it.

Posted by
17099 posts

I think there are arguments for either Strasbourg or Colmar as your base. Check lodging rates, as there may be a difference in favor of Colmar. Colmar is closer to a number of charming little wine villages, as well as to Haut-Koenigsbourg and Monkey Mountain, but there may be better transportation to the last two from Strasbourg, for all I know. Strasbourg is quite large, so hotel/B&B location will be more important there than in the much smaller Colmar.

Also take a look at train schedules. Colmar is a bit closer to Nice, but I think there's an extra morning TGV from Strasbourg that doesn't go through Colmar; probably not critical to your plans, but worth checking. If you're traveling from Strasbourg, I think Lyon is the best stopover, and the city has tons to see. If from Colmar, Avignon or Aix-en-Provence will be closer to the middle of the trip, but neither of those TGV stations is right near town, a disadvantage when you're just stopping over briefly and want to see something. The 9:33 AM departure from Colmar (earlier from Strasbourg) has a 99-minute layover at Marseille, where a train-change is mandatory whichever departure you choose. So overnighting in Marseille wouldn't be a crazy idea. The area right around St. Charles station is not the prettiest in the city, so I'd seek a hotel in the Old Port area.

The TGV fares from Strasbourg/Colmar to and from to Nice will be quite costly if you wait until near your travel date to buy the tickets. You can check out day-of-travel fares vs. buy-in-advance fares on the SNCF website. Note that the cheapest tickets are non-refundable/non-changeable, so you need to be sure of your timing before buying them. A quick spot-check indicates that the fare just for Colmar-Lyon could be as low as 28 euros or as high as 200+ euros. That would be an "ouch".

Edited to add: You might want to consider flying from Strasbourg to Nice since you don't have time for significant sightseeing along the way. There are non-stop flights. Depending on your travel date, you might find one for under $50, plus luggage and seat-selection charges.

You said "late spring", so I assume that means well after May 1. There is no public transportation into town from the Nice airport on that day, due to the holiday.

Posted by
5 posts

Dear Vjmasters1

As a base town I would also suggest Colmar, which I know intimately. Plenty of little hotels and guest house. It will be challenging to travel through the Alsace without access to car in order to see the wild life. In terms of architecture I recommend Colmar old town, dating back mainly 12th to 17th century and of course the nearby Neuf Briesach, world heritage site built by field marschall Vauban on order of King Luis XIV. Colmar to Neuf Briesach can be done by public transport, but it is time consuming.

Plenty of castles and castle ruins in the Vosges mountains above the Alsatian wine route. But again, difficult to get there without access to a car.

Ask me if you have any questions, I live here!

Best wishes

Markus

Posted by
14016 posts

My experience - Strasbourg has much more in the city to see and do than Colmar. But Colmar is very close to the charming Alsace villages. You can bike around the area from Colmar. There are also local buses and maybe some guided tours. I was charmed by the Barbary ape colony at Monkey Mountain. You will see nesting storks everywhere . . . except in the city of Strasbourg.