Organizing the Trip Yourself:
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Distance: 65-67 miles (108- 112 kilometers)
plus the first day optional ride from Strasbourg to Colmar by the
flat Alsace plain of 48 miles (79 km), plus any mountain detours
or visits that can add an additional 3 to 75 miles (5 to 125 kilometers).
Time: (These times are for leisurely riders who enjoy sightseeing on foot and stopping at cafés or shops.) One to two weeks: One or two
initial days from Strasbourg to Colmar*** (across the plain, either
by bike or by train), and five (5) biking/walking days on the fabulous
Route du Vin. A trip to the crest of the Vosges*** by very fit bikers
will add at least two long and hard days. A trip to Hochwald* adds
Starting and ending point: Strasbourg***.
From Paris, many trains each day carry assembled bikes. Trains
carrying assembled bicycles also connect Strasbourg with Lyon, Brussels,
Basel, Frankfort and Munich. (See
"Trains and Bicycles"for further other bike transportation
Rentals: The city of Strasbourg
subsidizes the local rental of city bicycles, but these are not
suitable for an Alsatian tour. To the best of the author's knowledge
(summer 2002) the only shop renting road bicycles in the Strasbourg
area is: Espace Cycles, 17 rue de la Brigade d'Alsace-Lorraine,
67000 Strasbourg, Telephone 03-88-35-31-81. They are located only
a few blocks south of the Cathedral and have (only) 4 bicycles for
rent (with solid frames, low-end equipment, a rear rack, and fenders)
In summer call a week to a month ahead. Their pedals are flat, so
if possible, bring your own pedals from home, along with your panniers.
The tires on these road bikes are 38 mm wide and inflate to about
60 psi; the gearing is suitable for mountains. Rates are reasonable.
Hotels and Restaurants: Most towns
and villages mentioned in the itinerary have several hotels and
restaurants. Some hotel rooms, in 2003, can be obtained for
under $50 a night, even in Strasbourg. There are also Gites with
small rooms costing as little as $25 per room in Ribeauville and
other towns. Many towns have campsites.
Maps and Guide Books: On this circuit,
the villages are sufficiently close, and the road network dense,
so that the author recommends using 1:100,000 IGN maps, specifically
maps #12 and #31, although a 1:200,000 Michelin map will do in a
pinch. Obtain a guidebook for Alsace, or stop in each town's tourist
office for town maps and local site descriptions. The author understands, but has not confirmed, that there is a Michelin map for the region which shows the local vineyard lanes. As an alternative, one can go to the Via Michelin site and manipulate and print their Alsace map at a high magnification: http://www.viamichelin.fr/viamichelin/fra/direct/carte/Alsace-cartes
Day 1, Strasbourg*** to Colmar***:
Arrive Strasbourg*** in the morning by a train that carries bicycles. (Or possibly rent a bike locally the day
before.) If you arrive by airplane, the airport is 12 kilometers,
mainly by bike path or bike lane, from the train station.
Continue by train or by bicycle to Colmar***. Many trains from
Strasbourg to Colmar carry assembled bicycles. Visit Colmar***.
To bike from Strasbourg to Colmar through the almost entirely
flat Alsace plain, exit the city to the South along the "Canal
du Rhône au Rhin. You may obtain a free bicycle map of the
Strasbourg area from the Tourist Office near the Cathedral (or at
the train station). To get to the route without a map, follow these
directions: From the front of the Cathedral, walk your bike directly
away from the front of the Cathedral down the touristy little street
to Place Gutenberg. Turn left and ride across the little river.
Now, sometimes on a bike route, turn right and ride along the quay
(street along the river bank) past three bridges until you reach
the short street to the right which leads to the covered bridge.
[If coming from the rail station, ride straight ahead to the
little river, cross this and turn right, then continue several blocks,
crossing the covered bridge.)
From the covered bridge (near La Petite France), a bike path
heads south along the river, which will be on your right. The bike path curves
left and turns right to cross a bridge over a canal, then turns
back right again, and curves left to continue in a southerly direction,
along the Canal du Rhône au Rhin.
About 8 km south of the Strasbourg center, you will pass under
a series of power lines and a major multi-lane highway. If the going
on the bike path is too slow for you (as it was for the author),
you may wish to turn left on any of the next five roads, and then
right on highway D468, which heads south. This may carry some traffic
bound for Germany for about 15 kilometers, as well as local traffic.
About 10 km south of the above-mentioned power lines, you can branch
left, if desired on D426 or shortly thereafter (and probably much
less traffic) D320, which leads to D20 along the Rhine River heading
From the canal bike path or from D468 at Artzenheim, turn right
onto D3. If coming down D20, turn right onto D3 and follow this
through Artzenheim. After Artzenheim, once over the canal, bear
left immediately from D3 onto D111. Be sure to bear left again on
D111 through Mutzenheim. Continue to Horbourg and into central Colmar.
Follow signs to the "Centre Ville". The total distance
is about 79 kilometers, or about 84 if following the Rhine on D20.
If you love art, be sure to visit Colmar's
Unterlinden Museum, and particularly the Issneheim Altar therein.
It has many panels, all masterpieces. Please do click
here to see a photo layout of the Altar. (With a slow connection,
it may take a while to load.)
Day 2, Colmar*** to Ribeauvillé*:
Exit Colmar*** by the Route d'Ingersheim (N2415), which has a bike
lane for most of the way to Ingersheim, about 4.5 km distant. [To
get on this route, with your right shoulder facing the entrance
to the Colmar tourist office, follow the rue Des Unterlinden for
just over a block and bear slightly to the right.] For the last
kilometer or so to Ingersheim, you will encounter heavy traffic.
You may prefer to walk your bike on the sidewalk. Turn right on
D 10. This first tiny section of the Route du Vin has heavy traffic
as well, until after its crossing of N415 at the exit of the town,
so you may wish to walk your bike through town.
Do not take N415 to go to Kaysersburg, unless you enjoy heavy traffic;
take either the Route du Vin (D10) to D16, or a back road which
branches right off N415 after one kilometer. If you follow the Route
du Vin and D16 you will ride twice through Sigolsheim and Kientzheim.
Kaysersberg** (12 - 14 km from Colmar) is a very charming, must
see town, with several picturesque sections to explore, and contains
the home where Albert Schweitzer was born .
Follow D16 back to the Route du Vin, turn left (D10 - changes to
D1 bis or D1"), and continue northwards through Bennwihr, and
Mittelwihr. Branch left on D3 to Riquewihr***. Riquewihr has not
been damaged by either World War, and its architecture remains essentially
as it was during the 16th century. It is full of tourists, and shops
catering to tourists, but definately worth a visit of an hour or
two at least (10 km from Kaysersberg).
From Riquewihr, ride downhill, taking the left branch of D3, back
to the Route du Vin. You pass by Zellenberg and arrive at Ribeauvillé*,
a large town with many handsome buildings the end of today's
ride (5 km from Riquewihr, 30 km from Colmar). Illhaeusern,
with its renowned Michelin three star restaurant and expensive inn,
lies 9 kilometers to the east along D106.
How to reach the Vosges Crest: If you are planning
to visit the crest of the Vosges mountains, and the weather is good,
ride from Colmar to Ingersheim, as above, but take D10 in the southern
direction (opposite from that described above) to Turckheim, Wihr-au-Val,
and Munster, and then D417 up to the Col de la Schlucht (hotels,
altitude,3,900 feet, distance about 33 kilometers).
The next day follow the Route Des Crêtes (D430) south
to visit the Hohneck*** and perhaps the Grand Ballon*** (via D431,
about 30 km from the Col de la Schlucht), before descending back
on D431 through Markstein to where route D17 descends down to Metzeral
and to Muhlbach (hotel) or Munster (hotels) (total distance 46 or
60 kilometers!). The next day follow D10 back from Munster to Ingersheim
and the wine towns mentioned above. This circuit adds two days.
Day 3, Ribeauvillé* to Andlau*:
(If you are not taking either side trip to climb above the Alsace
plain, you can combine Day 3 and Day 4 into one day.) From Ribeauville*,
follow D 1-bis through Bergheim, and Rorschwihr to St. Hipppolyte
(7 km). (If you are not climbing to Haut Koenigsbourg**, continue
on to Kintzheim.)
The following climb is recommend if you are a fit rider, but
is, in the author's mind, less interesting, educational, and varried
than the climb recommended for tomorrow. So if you are only going
to make one climb, and weather permits, you should do that one.
Turn left at St. Hipolite, following signs, and ride (or walk!)
your bike through the vineyards to the Castle of Haut-Koenigsbourg**,
which is a climb of approximately 550 meters in 4.5 kilometers (1,800
feet in 2.7 miles) or about a 12% grade. The ruins of the previous
chateau were given to the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, in 1900. He
rebuilt the chateauaccording to German ideas of what it would
have been in the 15th century. The castle, which is open for public
visit, commands a view in all directions. After your visit,
descend by D159 to Kintzheim.
You are now in the French department of Bas Rhin (lower Rhine),
as opposed to Haut Rhin (upper Rhine) where you have been cycling
since Colmar. From Kintzheim, you may wish to make a 5 km detour
to Sélestat*, a large town with all services and several
interesting churches. The next village on the Route du Vin (now
D35) is Châtenoi. Follow D35 on to Scherwiller and Dambach-la-Ville,
a picturesque town worth a careful visit. The next towns are Blienschwiller,
Nothalten, Zoll and Itterswiller. I suggest that you spend the night in Andlau*, a
lovely little town nestled between mountain flanks (31 km from Ribeauvillé,
38 kilometers with the detour to visit Haut-Koenigsbourg). When
passing the church of Andlau*, pay special attention to the porch
and lovely carvings over the door.
You will undoubtedly notice that the towns of Bas Rhin are deorated
less ornately than those you have visited heretofore. The wines
of the Haut Rhin commanded a higher price than those of the Bas
Rhin; thus more funds were available for decor. (It was said that
the micro-climate of the Colmar area produces a better wine than
that of further north; whether this distinction between the quality
of the wines is valid today is a subject of debate.)
Day 4, Andlau* to Obernai**: From
Andlau* follow D62 (and D35 ?) to Mittelbergheim and Barr (about
4 km total). Climbing into Mittelbergheim, you encounter the only steep
hill of the Route du Vin. The town hall in Barr is
quite lovely. You will notice the increasing use of a salmon-colored
sandstone in the Barr buildings, and from Barr further north. The
Vosges mountains north of the Bruche River (about 12 km further
north) are composed of this "Grès", i.e., sandstone,
whereas to the south they are "Cristalline", i.e., granitic.
If you are not taking the highly recommended detour discussed in
the following paragraphs, continue on the Route du Vin (D35) through
Heiligenstein, and at D109 turn right and descend to Obernai** (12
kilometers in total from Andlau*). Obernai is a large and touristy
town, with many old houses. Key sights are the Town Hall*, the Market
Place*, the Chapel Tower*, the "Halle aux Blés"*
(wheat hall) and the ramparts, which you can tour on foot.
Barr Sainte Odile hike or bike:
The author had in-laws living in Alsace, and over many years
has taken many different hikes into the Vosges mountains above the
Wine Route. He has always particularly appreciated the hike from
Barr to the Sainte Odile Monastery** (vertical elevation of 564
meters or 1,850 feet).
The Barr to Sainte Odile route may also be biked in about 12
kilometers, on the highway or by using a combination of the highway
and some vineyard and forest roads. In the author's opinion, the
bike trip provides many but not all of the pleasures of the hike.
For those who are willing, and who have suitable biking or tennis
shoes, the author recommends hiking; if you decide to go by bike,
you should strongly consider taking the first stretch of the ascent
on the vineyard and forest roads, which initially ascend quite steeply,
so that you may have to walk your bike for a few minutes.
On foot (allow 5.5 - 6 hours total): From the bookstore
in Barr at the lower (in elevation) end of the Grand Rue, buy a
hiking map for Barr to Saint-Odile to Obernai 1:25,000 . This is
not completely necessary, as the trails are well marked, but it
will give you more flexibility and confidence, for a more enjoyable
Leave Barr behind the church behind Town Hall (Hôtel de
Ville), by the lane that climbs northeastwardly directly above the
town among vineyards to the easternmost point on the hill (called
Kirschberg). Turn westward (trail signposted with red rectangles)
and enter the forest. Stay on the road, relatively flat, until the
Moen Kalb forest restaurant (you might want to eat here on your
Continue up, northward, (red rectangles) to the ruined château
of Landsberg. Visit the ruins. From Landsberg follow the trail signs
up to the Kiosk Jadelot and the Wachstein, and the Maennelstein
overlooks. From here follow signs to Sainte Odile**, crossing the
Bloss (plateau) on the trail with red rectangles, or following the
Mur Paien trail counterclockwise around the Bloss plateau to Sainte
Odile. On or near the main trail is the fenced-in area that encloses
the area where an Airbus crashed in 1992. Three tall triangular
pillars are erected as memorials. Details on the sights of the area
By bicycle (allow 4 hours total): Leave Barr near the church
behind Town Hall (Hôtel de Ville) by the lane that climbs
northeastward directly above the town in the vineyards to the easternmost
point on the hill (called Kirschberg). (Walk your bike if necessary
up this hill, if the road is too steep. You can also take a less
steep road (see photo) by first turning left and then sharply back
right. At the top of this hill, turn westward (trail signposted
with red rectangles) and enter the forest. Stay on the road until
the Moen Kalb forest restaurant.
After the Moen Kalb forest restaurant, continue on the same forest
road until it intersects with Highway D854 coming up from Barr.
Turn right at this intersection, left at the next, and right at
the next. (These last two intersections have signs for Sainte Odile).
Lock your bike in front of the monastery. You can avoid the initial
steep ascent from Barr by following Highway D854 from town, but
this route is definitely less picturesque. To locate the highway,
proceed westward from the center part of the town, staying in the
continually narrowing valley.
Saint Odile: Visit the monastery gardens with its Romanesque
chapels covered in golden mosaics, and with its fabulous viewpoints
over the surounding valleys and the plains of Alsace. Also be sure
and go inside the main building to see the chapel with the reliquary
of Sainte Odile, the patron saint of Alsace; a small nearby 11th
century chapel with the remains of Sainte Odile's parents; and the
church, decorated with emotionally moving, exquisitely-detailed,
painting-like panels of wood inlay created by the master artist-craftsman
Spindler in the early 20th century (or late 19th?). At Sainte Odile
you can also buy souvenirs, lunch, or a snack.
Pagan Wall: In the nearby forest, visit several parts of
the Mur Paien (Pagan Wall), a 10 kilometers long, 3000
year-old wall, 3-3.5 meter high and 1.7 to 1.8 meters thick
( in American units, 6 miles long, 10 to 11 feet high and
6 feet thick), now only partly standing, built with unique construction
methods by a people who clearly were not Celts, but visitors from
Greece, Crete, or the Middle East. The top of the wall was held
together by tenons placed in notches. Apart from another similar
wall (less than a kilometer long on a hill 20 kilometers distant
that is visible from the Mur Paien), the nearest use of the same
construction methods is said to be in Delphi, Greece. Tree ring
analysis of one of the tenons (discovered in an archeological dig)
has dated it to 646 BC. Parts of the wall were reconstructed in
the Roman era; and later on, many stones were removed to build some
of the chateaux, now in ruins, which encircle the area.
To return to Barr on foot, follow the same trails, or others selected
from your map. Pick up you bicycle and continue to Heiligenstein,
If on bicycle, to continue from Ste. Odile , facing the front
of Sainte Odile,take a steep, narrow road descending on the left
that leads to St-Jacques (D33) and then to St. Nabor (by D109).
From St. Nabor follow signs to Obernai**, passing through Bernardswiller
on the way. The total biking distance from Andlau to Obernai via
the Sainte Odile monastery is 25 to 29 kilometers.
From Saint Odile** a pleasant, relatively flat, mountain detour
(via N426 to the southwest) leads to Le Hochwald*, a pleasing mountain
village, where a night may be spent. Or you can ride to Le Hochwald
via the Vosges crest at the Champ du Feu*, involving a long assent
and a long descent. From Le Hochwald*, the next day, descend to
Andlau (see end of Day 3, above) by D425 (8 kilometers), and ride
directly to Obernai**.).
Day 5, Obernai to Strasbourg***: To
avoid increasing traffic after Obernai**, you might want to leave
the Route du Vin immediately. If so, from Obernai bike eastward
to Meistratzheim, and then north to Krautergersheim. If staying
on the Route du Vin, visit Boersch and Roseheim*. You should definitely
now bike towards Strasbourg, as the next town on the Route, Molsheim,
is a busy industrial city. Ride eastwards to Bischoffsheim and Krautergersheim.
Now, in either case, turn north on D215 to Innenheim, follow D147
for 7 kilometers, via Duttlenheim, to the Bruche stream, and take
the Bruche Bikepath on your right into central Strasbourg*** (35
to 39 kilometers). Spend the rest of the day exploring Strasbourg.
The Cathedral of Strasbourg*** is wonderful by day and by night.
The facade is considered to be a masterwork of gothic craftmanship.
The carving around the central door is quite wonderful. Inside in
an astronomic clock made in 1838, with various robots performing
actions every 15 minutes. Concerts are performed in the Cathedral.
In the Museum of Notre-Dame*** are displayed many midieval and Renaissance
artworks. Several other museums, such as the ones in the Château
of Rohan** (archeology, decorative arts), have marvelous collections.
The Street of the Bain-aux-Plates** and the area called La Petite
France**both on the water, are very charming. Strasbourg has countless
cafés, beer halls and restaurants. Excursion boats ply the
Ill river surrounding the center of the town. With a reservation,
you can make an hour-long guided visit to the European Parliament
and European Council buildings.
Day 6: Continue visiting Strasbourg,
To List of Best
European Bike Tours