Any visit to the area should include a stay in Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace. The town’s main tourist draw is its cathedral, a red-sandstone masterpiece that for a time was the world’s tallest building. Sitting in a café and watching the cathedral take on a pinkish glow in the setting sun is a pleasure not to be missed. Dusk is a terrific time to explore the city’s well-preserved historic district too, especially La Petite France—a lovely area of canals and timber-framed medieval houses.
Those who like wine should head straight for the well-marked Route des Vins. If you’re pressed for time, Ribeauvillé is a good place to go; it’s a pleasant town, in the heart of the wine district, where you can find excellent wines, restaurants, and lodging.
For memorable luxury accommodation throughout the region, check out Relais & Chateaux (www.relaischateaux.com); for rental cottages, try the Maison des Gîtes de France (www.gites-de-france.fr/eng/index.htm); and for everything in between, call the tourist offices of the places you’re interested in visiting. Regional culinary specialties include sausages, cheeses, pâtés, and foie gras; choucroute (sauerkraut); Riesling-based coq au vin; and a number of artery-hardening dishes involving eggs, cheese, cream, and pork—most notably quiche lorraine. A rental car is the easiest option for getting around (I used Europcar; www.europcar.com), but a bike is the most fun. Rentals are available in Colmar, the wine region’s big city; consult the tourist office (011-33-3-89-20-68-92).
Those interested in the nearby Vosges mountains should explore the Route des Crêtes, a fifty-mile stretch of road built along a high ridgeline that offers spectacular views of the Rhine Valley. Hiking is a good option too; the Club Vosgien (011-33-3-88-32-57-96; 16 rue Ste-Hélène, 6700 Strasbourg) produces trail maps, maintains a network of huts, and can suggest itineraries.