alsace-lorraine towns

Jan 26th, 2004, 06:32 AM
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alsace-lorraine towns

I will be staying in Gengenbach, Black Forest late May. Using only rail transport.
Want to cross the border into France on just TWO days to see the best small cities/towns.
Colmar is touted by Rick Steves and several other sites as having all the quaintness and sights as Stassbourg, but in a more manageable sized city. Only drawback is that Colmar is three hours by train and Strassbourg is two---who liked which town better and why? I am travelling alone and more intimidated by large cities in general.
Has anyone personally experienced Ribeauville, Riquewihr, Kayersberg or other wine towns for my other day visit? MUST have a train station to access!! Just want to meander and soak in the atmosphere. Thanks for input!
rach is offline  
Jan 26th, 2004, 06:51 AM
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IMO the center of Strasbourg doesn't feel like a city. Colmar was very cute and fun to wander around, but there were several tour groups doing the same. Strasbourg seemed more like a working town but still has a quaint old part and Colmar seemed like it was used to LOTS of tourists. Just my opinion.
Jan 26th, 2004, 07:10 AM
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Strasbourg isn't a town, it's a major big city. It's a political, financial and educational center and the center for the Council of Europe and Eur. Parliament. If Rick Steves claims Colmar and Strasbourg are substitutes for each other, he's nuts. Of course, as a tourist, you are likely to just walk around the center where the cathedral and museums are and maybe the old Petite France section, so the ultimate size of Strasbourg may not matter as much. The major tourist sites are easy to see. Strasbourg has the famous cathedral and several excellent museums, and the city has a lot of history attached to it, of course.

Colmar is a small wine and agricultural town that is now a center of tourism. It does have a good small art museum, and a museum dedicated to the sculptor Bartholdi, and quaint streets to wander around. I don't think Strasbourg is in any way intimidating, but if you just want to wander around a small tourist town rather than are interested in the cathedral and history of Strasbourg, it sounds like you would prefer Colmar. It sounds like that's what you want.
Christina is offline  
Jan 26th, 2004, 07:14 AM
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We visited all those towns and the drive is very nice. Our base was in Colmar. In Lorraine we visited Commercy, so I could buy the oval wooden box of madeleines at Grojean made famous by Proust. In Nancy we stopped for lunch at the beautiful
Excelsior because I like Art Nouveau.
cigalechanta is offline  
Jan 26th, 2004, 09:02 AM
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Thanks for the responses so far. I MAY use my two days to visit BOTH Colmar AND Strassbourg, IF they are not too similar...
UNLESS somebody thinks another small town (accessible by rail) would be more interesting/diverse...?
rach is offline  
Jan 26th, 2004, 09:47 AM
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Is the beautiful town of Freiburg (German, not French, of course) on your agenda? I would hope so!
TuckH is offline  
Jan 26th, 2004, 10:01 AM
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I would stay in Strasbourg. There is plenty to do and see there for two days, and although it is indeed a big city, as others have noted the center of the city does not have that feel. Arriving by train, you will be close to all the interesting sites and much of the old city is a pedestrian zone.

If you want to take the time to see Colmar, and it's certainly worth a visit, it's only a 30 minute train ride from Strasbourg.

As for the towns along the Route du Vin, they're really best visited with a car, although you could probably take a bus. However, you'll get much the same feel in Gengenbach, which is a lovely old town in the foothills of the Black Forest, with lots of vineyards in the vicinity. If you've not been there before, you're in for a treat.
laverendrye is offline  
Jan 26th, 2004, 10:12 AM
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All we did is drive through Colmar but we spent a day in Strasbourg. We went to the areas that Christina mentioned in her reply. I liked Strasbourg.

We spent three days in the area and we stayed in Obernai. We stayed in a hotel in Obernai that was across the street from the train station. I think this was a commuter type train that connected to Strasbourg, but since we did not use this train I can not tell you more. While we were there we visited many small villages that had a lot of character and personality to them. I would also recommend you vist Mont St. Odile and the Castle of Haut-Koenisgbourg. We were also in Riquewihr and it is another one of those chaming villages. My French friend had a friend, Franck Mittnacht, who owns a vineyard there caled Domaine Mittnacht-klack at 8 re de Tuileries, Riquewihr. We stopped, tasted and purchased some great wine.

This is a great area of France and I recommend it highly.
Randy is offline  
Jan 26th, 2004, 04:58 PM
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P.S. The best meal we had was in Illhaeusern near Ribeauville at the Auberge De I'll overlooking the willow lined river Ill.
cigalechanta is offline  
Jan 26th, 2004, 06:53 PM
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If you only have 2 days I suggest Strasbourg. It's not a big city like Rome or Paris but a fairly small one. And the area you would be most interested in is quite compact and central. The cathedral is fabulous, the museum wonderful and Petite France/boat ride very memorable.

Colmar is a small town which is quite cute and has a pleasant museum but less to see and do the Strasbourg.

We also toured Ribeauville and Riquewihr among others, which are charming wine villages. But we did this by car and I don;t know if public transport is a reasonable option.
nytraveler is offline  
Jan 27th, 2004, 07:51 PM
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We've been to Strasbourg several times and Colmar only once. We really liked Colmar. It's a lovely small city with the Musée d?Unterlinden which holds the Issenheim Altarpiece. There are interesting churches and a central "old town" to visit. There is a section they call "the Venice of France" and there are gondola tours. There are restaurants out over the water and boaters (all tourists, of course) wave to the diners. It was all very friendly and picturesque.

On the other hand, if you've only one day Strasbourg would probably be the better choice. You can park for free at the Place de l?Etoile and take the tram across the river and use it if your feet get weary during the day. We started with the little boat tour. (Go to the cathedral, facing it, turn right and follow your nose down to the river to the boat tours.) It gives you a good feel for where everything is. You can visit the area around the cathedral and then walk over to Petite France. It's a totally different area and lots of fun to explore. If you have time, go out to the Parc de l'Orangerie where they have a stork breeding program and a small petting zoo. You hear the bills of the storks clacking before you actually see them. The park is large and lovely and very French.

I'm not sure why Rick Steves feels the two cities are alike because they are very different, but each is interesting in its own way. I think I'd opt for the shorter train ride and see Strasbourg, saving Colmar for another trip . . . if you need an excuse.

The wine villages are all incredibly quaint and you'll enjoy any of them.

Have a wonderful trip.
SalB is offline  
Jan 27th, 2004, 08:06 PM
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I don't like the food ths part of France(BUT THAT"S ME) others love this more Germanic cooking. But I loved the houses bedecked in flowers and evrywhere pretty, clean.
In Nancy I went to buy the famous herbal candies in the tin box (that you see used in the film Amelie, she finds the man's toys in it in a wall)
cigalechanta is offline  
Jan 28th, 2004, 07:11 AM
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Definitely,Kaysersberg and
Riquewihr are worth the visit. I know no other places who are so fairy-tale like as both these towns.
martinewezel is offline  
Jan 28th, 2004, 08:59 AM
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We were there at christmas and stayed in Strasbourg as abase and did day trips to Colmar, Riquewihr, Baden-Baden and points beyond. We stayed in the old part of Strasbourg overlooking the river and it was very easy to get in and out of town. We did drive though, but then again it was very easy. I don't know what the implications of travelling by train would be. You could possibly rent a car in Strasbourg for day trips. Driving in Europe is really no big deal.
jay is offline  
Jan 28th, 2004, 09:17 AM
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Personally, I did not like Colmar at all. The Petit Venise (little Venice) was very disappointing. As I said in my trip report, "The real Venice should sue for defamation of character." After driving the Routes des Vins, I thought Colmar was the LEAST charming of any of the towns we visited, and we visited many.

There are lots of great places to stay. We based in Ribeauville. Loved it as a place to explore (not so much our hotel, however, except for the view). We drove to Haut-Koenisgbourg which we enjoyed a lot.

Riquewihr is incredibly charming. I would much prefer to stay there for two days than one hour in Colmar. Actually, I would stay in any of the other towns instead of Colmar.

Kayersberg, too was a neat place with a castle overlooking the town.

Obernai was pretty.

A little town called Itterswiller has a nice hotel called the Arnold (being from California it made me feel at home). I was told by my hotel that the Hotel Arnold dinner is one of the best in Alsace for the price.

We traveled by car, so I have no idea what towns there are train stops. I would rent a car in Alsace and drive and explore the little towns along the Routes des Vins, a lovely stretch of road and easy to navigate. I would base myself in one of the charming towns instead of Colmar. Did I mention that I think Colmar is vastly overrated?

Have fun. Drink wine.
maitaitom is offline  
Jan 28th, 2004, 09:42 AM
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maitaitom, I pretty much feel the same way about Colmar as you do. Petite Venice was stuck in the middle of what I felt was a very boring town. We even had to search to find the darm place.

We loved exploring all the places on the Routes des Vins, but I don't think it could be done by train -- which seems to be the mail means of transportation for rach.

Drink wine, and a little bit of beer also.
Budman is offline  
Jan 28th, 2004, 09:44 AM
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One Alsace town we really liked and haven't read anything about anywhere was Niederbronn les Bains (also just Niederbronn). We came upon it by accident returning home from Austria. It was really delightful. Kind of like a French Baden-Baden. Here is one hotel:

This town is off the wine-route radar but a real treat.
BTilke is offline  
Jan 28th, 2004, 09:45 AM
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Rach, I'm pretty sure you can reach Niederbronn by train. I remember driving past it, but didn't look at the schedule.
BTilke is offline  
Jan 28th, 2004, 09:53 AM
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"Drink wine, and a little bit of beer also."

Budman, I am an equal opportunity drinker.

maitaitom is offline  
Feb 4th, 2004, 04:26 PM
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My vote goes to Strasbourg....I may be biased because I spent a year in college studying there but it is a much more interesting and beautiful town then Colmar. I too was very disappointed with "little venice" in colmar and found La petite France in strasbourg more charming. Rick Steves was way off base in comparing the 2 as equals. You will have enough to fill your 2 days in Strasbourg and if you must see Colmar it is an easy 1/2 day trip by train from Strasbourg.
shonamclain is offline  

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