Camping in Alsace
26 in France, Alsace
Included in our guides:
2019, 2018, 2016, 2015
France, Alsace, Bas-Rhin, Bassemberg
Le Giessen is a member of the Campéole group and can be found at the foot of the Vosges mountains, with easy access to many...
Not so far away from the UK and with plenty of charm, excellent campsites and unspoilt scenery, it’s a mystery why Alsace is not right at the top of the bucket list for many British campers and caravanners.
A little background
For centuries Alsace has been fought over with the Romans, the Ottomans, the Germans and the French all seeing it as theirs at various times.
It is widely regarded as the Germanic region of France, with Germany to the north and east, and German-speaking Switzerland to the south. Indeed, many inhabitants speak the Alsatian dialect, a form of German similar to that spoken in Switzerland. It's certainly a unique mix of Germany and France. Some would say the best bits of both and you can see why that is not as flippant as you might think.
Alsace has two départements, both geographically similar, with Strasbourg the capital of the Lower Rhine (Bas Rhin) and Colmar the capital of the Upper Rhine (Haut Rhin). Alsace is bordered by the mighty Rhine river and the pretty Vosges mountains and if you look beyond the frothy flower-filled window boxes that festoon out into the streets, so you'll see a magical destination for a marvellous holiday.
You'll see a charming landscape of rolling hills where the undulating slopes, carpeted in leafy vines and dark forests, resemble gentle waves. The hills link picture-postcard villages that seem to leap from the pages of a Victorian picture book, with narrow streets lined with ancient timbered houses rising up above street level from the enticing little shops to the precariously balanced storks' nests on the rooftops.
As a camping holiday destination, it packs a big punch for a relatively small region with a colourful array of tempting gastronomy, amazing wines, rich history and plenty of cultural heritage.
Camping in and around Alsace
Despite not being at the top of the wishlist for many Brits, there are fantastic campsites throughout Alsace. The Lower Rhine region alone has over a hundred campsites. Whether you're towing a caravan or in a motorhome, Alsace is easily reached, accessible from the main northern France ports, so you could be setting up camp with no need for an overnight stop.
The natural beauty of Alsace provides incredible instant backdrops for most campsites, so it's not hard to find a beautiful setting. And the whole region is extraordinarily pretty, with its woodlands, meadows, quaint villages and relaxed sense of history. Whenever you stay there is plenty of year-round appeal: outside the summer months, late summer and autumn is a great time as the vineyards go about their business. The winter offers wonderful walking and hiking in the hills, skiing too, as well as the obvious appeal of Christmas markets and the undisputed charm of any number of villages decked out for the festive season. Spring sees the countryside erupt in a frenzy of growth and is perhaps Alsace at its prettiest.
Tent campers are well looked after with good-sized, grassy pitches, often in delightful areas of the campsite reserved for tents. This works well, with no danger of being jostled by a large motorhome or in the shadow of a touring caravan. Facilities tend to be excellent (though there are fewer of the large-scale campsites that you'll find on the coast) and you can generally order your morning baguettes and croissants from reception each evening.
Those fancying some glamping are also well catered for, with many campsites offering attractive accommodation like yurts, ready erected tents (safari tents, bell tents and so on), as well as the popular roulottes (a take on the traditional Romany caravan).
The wines of Alsace
Traditionally the wines of Alsace have been thought of as the best-kept secret in the wine trade. Loved and enjoyed by those professionals 'in the know' but somehow misunderstood or ignored by the public. These are without doubt world-class wines with a delightful freshness, a lively, often floral, bouquet and a flinty steeliness. These are not sugared, cheap German-style wines (not that all German wines are that of course).
Centuries-old producers like Hugel and Trimbach create fabulous Pinot Blanc - modestly priced but high-quality wine that is easy drinking or a great aperitif. Pinot Gris adds a little more depth, the Riesling (dry) has a mineral-rich flavour and can last years, gaining a unique almost petrolly flavour (in a good way!). And the Gewürtztraminer, perhaps the signature wine of Alsace, has spicy notes and a delightful freshness, making it a popular choice with Asian foods or strong flavours.
The wine list goes on with Sylvaner, flowery Muscat and the red Pinot Noir - there's always something for everyone!
Gastronomy of Alsace
This is most definitely foodie country, with Colmar and Strasbourg being rated as in the top ten best French cities to eat. With culinary highlights including sauerkraut, foie gras, macarons and gingerbread, you can see how the region's history and heritage has shaped the tastes of its inhabitants. White asparagus, seen all over France, often comes from Alsace where it is on every menu during the season, and freshwater fish like carp, charcuterie and hams are all part of the Alsatian culinary repertoire.
Grated cabbage pickled in wine, with sausage and pork never tasted so good!
A hearty casserole with a variety of meat (lamb, pork, beef) and potatoes, slowly cooked in wine.
Similar to pizza, this is also known as tarte flambée; thin pastry with bacon lardons, onion and crème fraiche and other toppings according to choice.
Capital of Alsace and one of France's most stunning cities. It's steeped in European institutions, not least the European Parliament, the European Ombudsman, the Council of Europe, the Court of Human Rights and more. The Grand Ile in the ancient centre is officially recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and the magnificent Gothic cathedral is perhaps its architectural highlight.
Crammed with timber-framed buildings, Colmar oozes charm, especially in the old quarter. Stroll along the little streets among the old houses and little squares and maybe pop into the Unterlinden Museum, a collection of artworks from medieval times up to today, set in a lovely 13th-century cloister.
This is a hilly region where in times past the obvious thing for a would-be ruler to do was build a castle on the top of a hill. Surrounding the castles are numerous legends, ancient forests and age-old traditions. The Alsace Castle Route is a great way to get a sense of the history of this often turbulent region.
One of the great castles of France, dating from the 12th century and key to protecting trade routes.
Constructed in the 13th century, this castle provides amazing views over the Alsace plains and the Vosges, even as far as the Alps on a clear day.
This castle, accessible only on foot, is well preserved and was one of Alsace's key defensive positions. With dense forest all around, the views from the tower are fabulous.
Château de Kintzheim
Built in the late 13th century, this dramatic castle features a sturdy tower and defensive walls. The bird of prey sanctuary is fascinating.
On the Swiss border in the Jura, this 13th-century castle has sweeping views across the valley, and the crumbling remains of the ancient dungeon and the chapel are very atmospheric.