The loveliness of Mittelbergheim, 43km (27 miles) from Strasbourg, has earned the town a place on the list of “most beautiful villages of France.” Houses in the Renaissance style border its place de l’Hôtel-de-Ville. Around town are a number of medieval wells and ancient wine presses.
This gardenlike resort, 42km (26 miles) from Strasbourg, was the site of an abbey founded in 887 by the disgraced wife of Emperor Charles the Fat. It has now faded into history, but a church remains that dates from the 12th century. In the tympanum are noteworthy Romanesque carvings. The Office de Tourisme, 5 rue du Général-de-Gaulle (www.pays-de-barr.com; tel. 03-88-08-22-57), is open in summer Monday to Saturday 9am to noon and 2pm to 6pm and Sunday 2pm to 6pm.
One of the delights of the Wine Road, Dambach (48km/30 miles from Strasbourg) is the largest wine-producing village in Alsace. One of the finest Alsatian wines, the Grand Cru Frankstein, comes from here. The town, formally Dambach-la-Ville, has ramparts and three fortified gates and was once protected by the medieval Bernstein castle, today in ruins above the town. Its timbered houses are gabled with galleries, and many contain oriels. Wrought-iron signs still tell you if a place is a bakery or a butcher shop. A short drive from the town is the Chapelle St-Sebastian, with a 15th-century ossuary. The Office de Tourisme (www.dambach-la-ville.fr; tel. 03-88-92-61-00) is in La Mairie (town hall), pl. du Marché.
Between Dambach and Ribeauvillé is the region’s most impressive castle: the Château Haut Koenigsbourg. Clinging to the mountainside, it has a sprawling view of the whole valley. Presumed to date from the 12th century, it has typical medieval fortress features including thick defensive walls, turrets, and a tall keep. It was highly damaged and subsequently abandoned during the Thirty Years’ War. It was eventually restored under German Emperor Wilhelm II in the early 20th century, although the accuracy of the restoration is somewhat dubious; nonetheless, it’s a spectacular site. Entrance is 9€ adults, 5€ children 6 to 17 and free for 5 and under. It’s open daily November to February 9:30am to noon and 1 to 4:30pm; March and October 9:30am to 5pm, April, May, and September 9:15am to 5:15pm and June to August 9:15am to 6pm (www.haut-koenigsbourg.fr; tel. 03-69-33-25-00).
At the foot of vine-clad hills dotted with castle ruins, Ribeauvillé (87km/54 miles from Strasbourg) is picturesque, with old shop signs, pierced balconies, turrets, and flower-decorated houses. The town is noted for its Riesling and Gewürztraminer wines. See its Renaissance fountain and Hôtel de Ville, pl. de la Mairie, which has a collection of silver-gilt medieval and Renaissance tankards known as hanaps. For information, go to the tourist office at 1 Grand’ Rue (www.ribeauville-riquewihr.com; tel. 03-89-73-23-23).
Also of interest in Ribeauvillé is the Tour des Bouchers (Butcher’s Tower), built in stages from the 13th to the 16th century.
Every year on the first weekend in September, visitors fill the town for its Pfifferdaj or Jour des Menetriers (Day of the Minstrels), the oldest festival in Alsace dating back to the Middle Ages. A medieval market, building illuminations, public dances, and other activities take place all weekend, however, the real event is Sunday at 3pm when a parade of flute players from Alsace, the rest of France, Switzerland, and Germany, and as many as 600 parade participants make their way through town. You can stand anywhere to watch the spectacle, but seats on the medieval stone benches line each side of the parade route.
Once a free city of the empire, Kaysersberg (93km/58 miles from Strasbourg) lies at the mouth of the Weiss Valley, between two vine-covered slopes; it’s crowned by a castle ruined in the Thirty Years’ War. From one of the many ornately carved bridges, you can see the city’s medieval fortifications along the top of one of the nearby hills. Many of the houses are Gothic and Renaissance, and most have half-timbering, wrought-iron accents, leaded windows, and multiple designs carved into reddish sandstone.
In the cafes, you’ll hear a combination of French and Alsatian. The age of the speaker usually determines the language—the older ones remain faithful to the dialect of their grandparents.
Dr. Albert Schweitzer, who received the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize for his philosophy of “Reverence for Life,” was born here in 1875; his house is near the bridge over the Weiss. You can visit the Musée du Albert Schweitzer, 126 rue du Général de Gaulle ([tel] 03-89-47-36-55), from April to November daily from 9am to noon and 2 to 6pm. Admission is 2€ adults and 1€ for students and children 11 and under.
The Office de Tourisme is at 39 rue du Général-de-Gaulle (www.kaysersberg.com; tel. 03-89-78-22-78).
Ammerschwihr, 9km (5.25 miles) north of Colmar (79km/49 miles from Strasbourg), is a good stop to cap off your Wine Road tour. Once a free city of the empire, the town was almost destroyed in 1944 and has been reconstructed in the traditional style. More and more travelers visit to sample the wine, especially Käferkopf. Check out the town’s gate towers, 16th-century parish church, and remains of early fortifications.
Rouffach is south of Colmar. One of the highest of the Vosges Mountains, Grand-Ballon shelters the town from the winds that bring rain, which makes for a dry climate and a special grape. Make a beeline for the excellent vineyard Clos St-Landelin (www.mure.com; tel. 03-89-78-58-00), on the Route du Vin, at the intersection of RN83 and route de Soultzmatt. A clerical estate from the 6th century until the Revolution, it has been celebrated over the centuries for the quality of its wine. Clos St-Landelin covers 21 hectares (52 acres) at the southern end of the Vorbourg Grand Cru area. Its steep slopes call for terrace cultivation.
The soil that produces these wines is anything but fertile. Loaded with pebbles, sand, and limestone, the high-alkaline earth produces low-yield, scraggly vines whose fruit goes into superb Rieslings, Gewürztraminers, and pinot noirs. Members of the Muré family have owned these vineyards since 1648. In their cellar is a 13th-century wine press, the oldest in Alsace, and one of only three like it in France. (The other two are in Burgundy.) The family welcomes visitors who want to tour the cellars and ask about the wine, which is for sale. It’s open Monday to Friday 8am to 6:30pm, and Saturday 10am to 1pm and 2 to 6pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.