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How many days and nights to spend in Strasbourg, Colmar, Annecy?

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Planning a 2 1/2 week trip for next spring which has us beginning in Paris for 4 nights, training to Strasbourg and driving from there to Annecy over the course of about 5-6 days, and then training to Milan and Lake Como for approximately a week.
My question to those of you familiar with Alsace and thereabouts: how many days/nights should we allocate to Strasbourg, Colmar and the Annecy area? Right now I'm thinking 2 nights each, with a full day in each and a day each to drive and explore nearby villages. Is this reasonable? I know that one could spend weeks savoring the entire area, but sadly we don't have that much time!

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    The area between Strasbourg and Colmar is only about 45 mins apart. I would pick a town to stay in and spend a few nights instead of switching hotels and towns...depending on if you like wine tastings, I would spend about 3+ nights here and explore , more if you like, I love this area.

    Annecy was beautiful but I wouldn't spend too much time here,unless you use it as a base to explore the region.

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    Agree completely with susanna. Stay away from the big cities and choose the smaller villages. You'll be delighted with some of these villages. Here's a list:

    http://www.les-plus-beaux-villages-de-france.org/en

    [Click on "Geographic Area", then "Alsace-Lorraine"]

    There are wonderful BnBs and small hotels which will make your stay a memorable experience.

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    You an easily spend 2 full days in Strasbourg, a full day in Colmar and 1 or 2 in the wine vilages. We stayed in Strasbourg and did the whole hting by car (very small area) to have access to greater choice of restaurants.

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    Hi el,

    I also suggest staying in a village and visiting Colmar and Strasbourg as daytrips.

    See the Alscace portion of my trip reports.

    Ira Visits Zurich, The Bodensee, Alsace and Paris – May 2008
    http://www.fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=2&tid=35136218

    Ira Visits Europe – May, 2007 (Salzburg, Fuessen, Bodensee, Burgundy, Alsace)
    http://fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=2&tid=35014078

    ((I))

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    Old Annecy (the city) is smaller than you may think. We've visited it 3-4 times, and after about 1 hr we saw all the things we wanted to see in the old section of town. Except for the lake, we didn't find much of interest in the city of Annecy outside the old section.

    About 3 years ago we stayed in a gite near Talloires for 2 weeks and explored the Lake Annecy region (visited Mt Blanc on a prior trip). We were quite busy all 14 days driving through the Alps and visiting Chambery & Aix les Bains. Here is an itinerary I wrote for friends who stayed near the town of Annecy in a gite for 1 week this past Sept. They wanted at least 2 "free" days - so I didn't fill up the entire week with things to do & see.

    Sunday
    Annecy market on Sunday morning– one of the best in France according to the Michelin Green Guide.
    Gorges du Fier** pg 144 in the GG 9:15-5 www.gorgedufier.com after the market

    Tours – in order of preference (roughly)

    Tour 1 – Mt Blanc*** – the tallest mountain in the Alps. Page 430 & 255
    This will be an all-day event, and only do it on a clear day. It will take about 1 ¼ hrs to get from Annecy to Chamonix – mostly using the freeway. Head north from Annecy, and catch the A41 heading east to Chamonix. There is really nothing of interest in the town of Chamonix – it is only a base for Mt Blanc. Take the two lifts up to the Aiguille du Midi*** . Also, take some other lifts – perhaps le Brevent***. If it overcast when you get to Chamonix, don’t go up & find something else to do.

    Tour 2 – do on clear day and get an early start (8-9am) so the sun won’t be in your face for the most scenic part..
    Take the N508 southeast from the south part of Lake Annecy. Go to Ugine. Take the D109 northeast from Ugine to Flumet. Now the most scenic part starts. Take the D909 northwest from Flumet over the Col des Aravis**. If you want to hike, the Col des Aravis wold be a good place for one. Just past the Col, take the D16 west through Manigod to Thones. Then back to Lake Annecy on the D909. Once on the lake, take the lake road clockwise. Stop & visit Tailloires (it is on the west side of the lake). Then continue clockwise back to your Gite.

    Tour 3 – Route de la Foclaz*** pg 150 (but the map route in the GG is not correct). Do this on a clear day and in the morning. It will only take a half-day
    Head southeast on the N508 again. Take the D42 (just past Doussard) north over the Col de la Forclaz. Stop at the Col for great views. Continue north & follow the road back to the lake. Head clockwise, and visit Tailloires if you have not visited it yet. The views from the east side of the lake are better in the morning.

    Tour 4 – best in the afternoon. Perhaps visit Annecy in the AM
    The Semnoz** pg 153. Follow the route in the Green Guide

    Other things you might want to do:
    - Boat trip on the lake – but you can see everything from the shoreline.
    - Drive around the lake – but you will probably do this going & coming from your tours
    - Chateau de Menthon* close to Annecy Pg 152. We enjoyed this chateau. Nice views.

    End of itinerary.

    We've also visited Lake Como several times & did not find it to bvee as interesting as the Annecy region.

    We've also visited Alsace many times - staying there in a gite for a week about 5 years ago. I would allocate a full day for Strasbourg - although it could take less to just catch the highlights with a minimum of museums. Colmar is a 1/2 to 3/4 day visit IMO. Like others have stated, the cute villages along the Route du Vin are the hightling. Don't miss them. Here is an itinerary I wrote for Alsace:

    Alsace is one of the most beautiful places in France. In fact, the “Wine Spectator” ran a large expose on Alsace about 10 years ago and called it the most beautiful wine growing region in the world. I would probably include the Mosel in this category, but Alsace has gobbled up more of my film per square mile than almost anywhere else in France (we spend 2 months every year in France). It’s kinda like Vermont with vineyards – dozens of picture postcard villages with church steeples sticking up above the houses, surrounded by vineyards, and backdropped by the Vosges mountains. There is also the very pretty town of Colmar, which I would have to rank in the top 5% of all the medium sized towns I’ve visited in France (perhaps #1 even), Strasbourg is one of my favorite large towns in France. We spent a week in a lovely Gite near Riquewihr last year and we’ve visited Alsace on 3 other occasions for a duration of 3-5 days on each visit. If I have any complaint about Alsace, it’s that there is not as much variety to the sites, villages, and countryside as I’ve seen in other areas of France. The villages in Alsace are almost too pretty to be real, but there are a lot of similarities to them. The Vosges are nice, but nothing like the Alps, Pyrenees, or the Cevannes. I would go there in early September, so that the geraniums that are everywhere will be in full bloom. One time we were there the last week of August, and we had no problems with crowds (I hate crowds).

    We’re lucky enough to dine in France at least 30 times per year. We found the restaurants in Alsace to be excellent, in most cases. It’s very easy to avoid the pork & kraut, if that’s not your style. If you look at the red Michelin guide, there are more starred restaurants in Alsace than anywhere else in France (except Paris).

    If you are starting your trip in Paris, I would recommend that you take the train from Paris Est to Nancy and visit this lovely city. It’s the center of “Beaux Arts”, and the city architecture & the Place Stanislas are spectacular – especially the golden gates around the square. Take the walking tour outlined in the Green Michelin guide for Alsace. Also visit the Musee des Beaux-Arts, if you’re interested in this style. We actually visited Nancy as a day trip by train from Colmar. We had lunch at the Excelsior Flo, which is truly a sight to behold (see the picture in the Green Michelin guide). There are about 6 direct trains from Paris to Nancy daily, and the trip is about 3 hrs or less. There are about 9 direct trains from Nancy to Strasbourg daily and I suspect that most go on to Colmar too (trip is less than 1 ½ hrs). You could stay overnight in Nancy, or even just make it a ½ day stopover, if you can find a way to stow your luggage.

    If you stop or stay in Nancy and then go on to Strasbourg and stay there, you perhaps might be getting “a little too much big city”. It would be more efficient that you start your “Alsace central” visit in Strasbourg, but it might be best to stay somewhere in a small village in the countryside and visit Strasbourg as day trips. There are several trains departing from both Colmar & Ribeauville to Strasbourg. If you decide not to start in Strasbourg, I would take the train to Colmar and pick up a rental car there. Colmar is an easy town to get in & out of (Strasbourg is a little more difficult).

    If you overnight in Strasbourg, we’ve stayed at the Gutenberg twice, and loved it. It’s small, centrally located, and not that expensive. It’s difficult to park nearby, however, since it’s on the fringe of the “pedestrian only” section. Take the walking tours described in the Michelin guide. I previously said I’m not a pork fan, but we dined at Chez Yvonne twice and enjoyed it. It’s a very popular brasserie serving traditional Alsace food in a rustic décor – reserve ahead. We’ve also dined at Maison Kammerzell, which is more upscale and located in one of the most beautiful buildings in Strasbourg. It was a Michelin 1 star, and the food was OK (we’ve had much better meals at other restaurants), but the main draw at this place is the décor.

    The charm of Alsace is the countryside & cute villages. We’ve stayed in Oberni, Kayserberg twice, and in a Gite near Riquewihr. I would recommend that you stay in the Kayserberg/Riquewihr/Ribbeauville area & take day trips from there. These villages are very close together & the area around the villages is stunning. The Route du Vin is a good road to use to visit all the villages, but it gets a lot of heavy truck traffic & there’s a little too much not-so-scenic commerce on it. There is a prettier and less traveled road that goes from village to village just west of the Route du Vin. It’s actually a very well marked bike route that is much more scenic than the Route du Vin. It probably doesn’t traverse the entire length of the Route du Vin, though. There are a lot of signposts along this route that indicate the direction to the next town, distances, etc. The best way to find this route is to go to Riquewihr & walk or drive around the perimeter of town until you find one of these signposts – it’s actually quite easy to find this route.

    Villages not to miss are Oberni, Ribeauville, Riquewihr, Kayserberg, and Eguisheim. There are ramparts around Bergheim and its fun to walk on the top of them & circle the village, looking down into everyone’s back yard. There is a very nice lookout in the town of Zellenberg. Go up into the village & try to find it. There is a viewing table there that’s a little hard to locate, but worth the effort. There is also a very scenic lookout in a cemetery just outside of Sigolsheim – it’s marked on the Michelin map. Hike up to the old Chateau above Kayserberg in the early AM or late PM to get some wonderful views. Visit Haut Koenigsbourg. We really enjoyed the Ecomusee d’Alsace, although I’m usually not a fan of this “Williamsburg” type of stuff. It’s a collection of old houses that gives an insight into housing in the different periods & rural areas of Alsace. There are a lot of storks nesting on the roofs of the buildings in this Ecomusee. The Beauville linens factory & 2nds store is just west of Ribeauville on the road to Ste Marie aux Mines, but expect no bargains.

    As I said earlier, Colmar is a gem. Follow the walking route indicated in the Michelin green guide & take plenty of film with you. My wife purchased some wonderful lace in this town. We enjoyed the Musee d’Unterlinden. Spend a ½ day at least in Colmar. It’s easy to drive in & out & parking is no hassle. Stores may be closed on Sunday and Monday.

    Here’s a pretty drive through some villages, and then into the Vosges. Head south of Colmar going through the villages of Eguisheim (spend several hours in this village – one of our favorites), Husseren, Hattstat, Gueberschwihr, Rouffach, Westhalten, Bergholtz, and then Guebwiller (visit). Then drive to Murbach to see a nice church in a pretty setting. Take the D430 west through Lautenbach and further until it hits the D27. Take the D27 north over the Col du Platzerwasel toward Munster. Continue on to Munster (D27 changes to D10). Stop & wander around in Munster (of cheese fame). Continue on the D10 to Turckheim (visit).

    A farther away trip:
    Visit Wissembourg and take the walking tour described in the Michelin Green guide. Then follow drive #3 described in the VOSGES DU NORD section of the Michelin guide. This will take you to Chateau de Fleckenstein, Lembach, Hunspach, & Seebach. In these latter two villages, the houses are half-timbered & painted white – it’s quite a contrast from other villages in Alsace. If you want to see how France attempted to defend itself from the Germans and Russsians after WWI, visit a section of the Maginot line at Four-a-Chaux just outside of Lembach. We enjoyed the tour of underground fortifications, hospitals, barracks, etc.

    An excellent way to get back to the CDG airport in Paris for your return home is to stay in Dijon the night before. You can take the early TGV to CDG, which leaves Dijon at 7:47 & gets you into the airport at 9:35 (Sunday schedules might be a little different). We drove from Alsace to Dijon (an easy all-freeway drive), and dropped our car off at the train station and walked across the street and checked into the Hotel Jura. Dijon is a beautiful city. We were there on a Saturday AM and we immediately went to the outdoor market next to the “Les Halles” permanent indoor market. Lots of foodstuff, brocante, etc. The “Les Halles” market is one of the largest I’ve seen. Dijon is a very lively town – especially on a Saturday. Take the walking tour described in the Green Michelin Guide (you’ll have to buy or borrow the green guide for Burgundy Jura). We dined at Pre aux Clercs which was a 1 star and also got raves from Patricia Wells. It was good, but about twice the price as places in Alsace. This year it lost its star.

    Restaurants.
    Maximilien at the base of Zellenberg was our favorite. The ambience was very relaxed (we had to talk in a whisper) and the setting was lovely. This is a Michelin 1 star restaurant and the food was supurb. Auberge du Schoenbourg in Riquewihr was also excellent. It is a Michlein 1 star. We did not like Table du Gourmet, also in Riquewihr (also a 1 star). I had a very sloppy presentation of overcooked Sandre on a bed of scalloped potatoes (very unimaginative). My wife’s dish also did not please her. We dined at Auberge de Norbert in Bergheim, which was excellent. In Colmar, we dined at the Maison des Tetes, which is one of the most photographed buildings in the City. Our dinner was only so-so and the service was painfully slow (we usually spend at least 2 ½ hrs at dinner).

    Stu Dudley

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    Thanks to everyone thus far for your suggestions. We were thinking of spending 2 nights in Strasbourg (arriving midfternoon and then the whole next day/night), driving along the wine route to Colmar for another 2 nights (again, part of 1 day and another full day)- visiting many of the small villages along the way, and ending up in the Annecy area for a final one or two nights (again, part of a day and another full day)- before departing by train for Milan and Lake Como.

    Does this align with your suggestions?

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    >>Does this align with your suggestions?<<

    Not mine !!!

    Arrive is Strasbourg, visit it the day of arrival, perhaps spend the night there, and then leave the next day after you have seen what you wanted to see. Do not book 2 nights.

    Do not stay in Colmar - stay in a village like Kayserburg, Riquewhhr, or Ribeauville for 3 nights & explore the Route du Vin villages and Colmar.

    Stay in Annecy/Alps for 4 nights - subtracting time from Como or Milan. We've never been pursuaded by talking to friends who have visited Milan or from anything we've read in travel books about Milan, to spend any time there. We've stayed in Bellagio for 3 nights, Lucarno for 3 nights, Stresa for 2 nights, plus Sirmione for 2 nights. On all of these 3 trips, we have been "underwhelmed" with the Lake Area compared to other regions in Italy, France, and Switzerland.

    Just my personal opinion.

    Stu Dudley

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    I suggest you stay the whole time in one place in Alsace, either Strasbourg, which is a nice city with good restaurants, Colmar, which is such a cute little town with ok restaurants, OR one of the small towns in between, I love Ribeauville or Riquewhhr which have wonderful restaurants...it's all really close,you can rent a car and drive, take the train or bus or even bike ride the whole route!

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    Thanks again to everyone for their input. To explain our thinking a little more (ie. to Stu Dudley):We are staying in Milan for just a couple of nights in order to see the museums on a day when they're actually open (the timing is a little messed up)- and allocating the time to Lake Como in part because we have a friend who lives there. We're departing from Torino due to a mileage ticket.
    We were thinking about 2 nights ( 1 full day) in Strasbourg because it sounded like an interesting city in the evening- no? Colmar sounded like a different experience- again we thought to stay 2 nights for that (planning meanwhile to drive leisurely through the Ribeauville/Riquewihr/etc. villages for at least a full day before returning to whatever hotel we might book in Colmar). Annecy is intended merely to be a base for 2 nights while we explore the surrounding area (and we may stay in Talloires, instead of Annecy as a friend has recommended a hotel there).
    Is everyone saying that the evening experience in these places isn't worth moving around for? It may be a moot point anyway as thus far every recommended hotel in Strasbourg is already booked up for the latter part of April...
    BTW, we are skipping the Alps in the interest of time and also because everything I am reading says that in late April the weather may very well be lousy and many places are closed as it's between the skiing and the hiking seasons...We plan to take the train from Annecy to Milan and look out the window, keeping a full-on Swiss trip for another time (when hopefully the dollar is stronger against the Swiss franc).

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    I've been to Alsace many times and have stayed in Strasbourg a few of those, but mostly have based in Obernai and done daytrips to Strasbourg, Colmar, and other towns along the route du Vin. Yes, I suppose there's more to do at night in the cities, but I like coming home to a smaller town at night, and there's no lack or cafés or things to do in the evenings in a town the size of Obernai.

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