We have finally settled on our summer vacation plan! Sticking with our 2023 challenge to ourselves, we are heading off in a new direction as part of our summer travels. I’m excited to share more soon! In the mean time, I’m excited to share the Paris to Alsace itinerary from our November trip that we took with my mom. This was her first trip to France, so we wanted to share some of our favorite experiences in Paris and the Alsace with her.
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Itinerary for Paris to Alsace by Train
When I first started looking at a Paris and Alsace itinerary, I thought we would fly in and out of Paris. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it didn’t make sense to backtrack. The travel time on train from Strasbourg to Frankfurt would be about the same.
We had a great short stay in Frankfurt in March 2022 and were intrigued to return for another short visit. Hotels in Frankfurt are less expensive than Paris. And, it would give us the opportunity to visit the Frankfurt Christmas Markets. (Spoiler alert: I fell in love with them.) In the end, it also saved us money on our airline tickets. Not wanting to sacrifice time in Paris or having two very different experiences in the Alsace, I decided to extend our itinerary to accommodate adding Frankfurt.
Paris & Alsace Itinerary – Day by Day
Day One – Arrive Paris
Day Two – Paris
Day Three – Paris
Day Four – Paris
Day Five – Paris
Day Six – Train from Paris to Colmar
Day Seven – Colmar
Day Eight – Colmar
Day Nine – Strasbourg
Day Ten – Strasbourg
Day Eleven – Train from Alsace to Frankfurt (but you could easily return to Paris)
We booked this trip as an open jaw ticket, flying DFW-CDG-FRA-DFW. It was lovely to have the non-stop American Airlines flights both directions. It would be easy to reverse this itinerary if it was cheaper to fly into Frankfurt and out of Paris. You could easily cut this itinerary back by only visiting one town in the Alsace or reducing the time spent in Paris on arrival. However, you could also just fly in and out of Paris. You would just want to make sure you could find an early enough train from the Alsace to Paris or return a day or two before your departure.
Five Days in Paris
We’ve been to Paris a lot. I think we’ve spent over 75 nights in Paris since February 2019, and that is probably a conservative estimate. There is no shortage of things to do, and we try to add something new every time we go to Paris. Whether it’s a new attraction, a new tour guide, or a new restaurant, it is entirely possible to create a different trip every time we go to somewhere again.
As mentioned, this was my mom’s first trip to Paris, so we wanted to put together a Paris itinerary that included the Paris highlights that mattered to her. We knew that we wouldn’t be able to see everything, so we crafted our itinerary around a combination of things we knew she would love and new things we wanted to do.
First Day in Paris
We arrived in Paris around 9:00am on a Thursday morning. Customs was pretty easy and we grabbed a cab to our hotel. Tom and I will usually take the RER and the metro to our hotel, but we wanted to make it easy on my mom. We headed directly to Hotel Dress Code to drop off our luggage and immediately went for a walk.
GOURMET: When the jet lag started to set in, we headed to Cafe de la Paix, right in front of the Paris Garnier. They were kind enough to accommodate us without a reservation. We enjoyed a pastry and a drink while we waited for our rooms to be ready. I love their mille feuille. It’s different from the Francois Perret’s version at the Ritz Paris Comptoir, but it is just as tasty.
PLAY: We had time for a short nap and a shower before heading off to my favorite wine tasting in Paris. This French wine tasting allows you to try a variety of red and white wines from different regions of France. Erwan pairs his wines with different cheeses, so it’s a great introduction to two of the most famous French products. We’ve done this wine tasting multiple times, and my palette for wine and cheese grows a little more each with each tasting. It’s absolutely worth it. We always try to schedule it at the start of our trip so that we can buy a few bottles to enjoy for the rest of our day.
Where We Ate in Paris – Day One
GOURMET: Our first dinner in Paris was at Le Septieme Vin, a small traditional restaurant in the 7eme that sits in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. We love this restaurant because it’s a great introduction to approachable French cuisine. Tom and I love the boeuf Bourguignon and their onion soup is always a hit with first-time visitors to Paris. If the wild boar or the veal are on the menu, I love those dishes, too. They have a lovely chocolate cake (moelleux au chocoat), but I’ve fallen in love with their pear and apple sorbets, too. The service is very friendly and wines are very fairly priced. You can make a reservation online in advance.
Day Two in Paris
Our second day in Paris started with a private tour of the Musee d’Orsay that I booked through Paris Walks. Knowing that we wouldn’t be able to see all the museums in Paris on this trip, we let my mom choose what she was more intrigued by. She chose the Muse d’Orsay because she loves the Impressionists. That was more than fine by me, as it is one of my favorite museums in Paris, too. I think that the Musee d’Orsay is perfect for a first trip to Paris, as you can visit Montmartre and the smaller museums dedicated to the specific collections of the Impressionists.
While you can certainly visit the museum on your own, I find that it truly comes alive with a guide. Our guide showed us the pre-Impressionist art and explained more about the Salon. Her explanations provided context for the rise of impressionism, and we worked our way through the museum’s vast collection. You’ll see the most famous Impressionist paintings, but she also took us to some of the lesser-known corners of the museum. If a private guide isn’t in your budget and you can’t make the Paris Walks tour, we’ve really enjoyed this small-group walking tour of the Musee d’Orsay. We’ve taken it twice and learned new things both times. The museum is generally slow in the mornings during the winter, so I try to visit earlier in the day.
We wrapped up our afternoon with a visit to the L’Orangerie. This is where Monet’s Water Lillies are housed, and they always have an interesting special exhibition going on at the museum. This is one of my favorite small museums in Paris. I recommend taking your time and really appreciating the changing light throughout the pieces.
Where We Ate in Paris – Day Two
GOURMET: We opted for dinner at Le Souffle, which is near the Jardin des Tuileries and our hotel. This is one of Tom’s favorite restaurants in Paris. I love their kir vin rouge, a red wine with violet liquor that is a lovely apertif in winter. He loves the beef bourguignon souffle. My mom got the Henri IV souffle, which is a cheese souffle with chicken and mushrooms. I usually get the filet au poivre. It’s a great place to try the onion soup, but Le Souffle really shines when it comes to desserts. I had an incredible red fruit and white chocolate souffle last time I was there. It was perfection. You can’t go wrong with the Grand Marnier or chocolate souffles either. You need to get reservations in advance and can request them via email on their website.
Day Three in Paris
PLAY: Our third day in Paris started with a food tour of the Latin quarter, which ended up being absolutely perfect. It was very different than the food tours of the Marais and Montmartre in the fact that we essentially picked up different foods from a variety of shops throughout the tour and had a picnic together at the end of the tour. We enjoyed fresh croissants and baguettes, a variety of charcuterie, delicious pastries, and some very lovely wine. Many of the shops were along the rue Mouffetard, but our guide took us to a couple of churches that are off the beaten path as well.
After we visiting the Latin quarter food tour, we made our way to the Paris Pantheon and enjoyed a street fair that was going on around it. (Some day I’m going to find the tiny cellar restaurant that Jill and I went to when I was studying abroad.) It was a beautiful day, so we made our way down to St. Germain to enjoy a bit of shopping. I have fallen in love with a painting at Carre d’Artistes, and I think it needs to come home with me on my next trip to Paris.
Where We Ate in Paris – Day Three
GOURMET: Our Saturday night dinner in Paris was at one of my favorite restaurants, Bistrot Paul Bert. I’m reasonably sure we visited in our honeymoon in Paris, but I’m having trouble confirming it. Paul Bert is a classic French bistro that absolutely needs advance reservations. I always order the filet au poivre. It’s the best steak au poivre I’ve ever had, and it is served with an abundance of fries that are perfectly cooked. If you don’t like your steak medium-rare, you should order something else. The menu says that, and it’s absolutely true. They don’t mess around. When it comes to dessert, you can’t go wrong. I love the Paris Brest, the Grand Marnier souffle, and the tarte tatin in the winter. You have to call to get a reservation, and it will probably take multiple phone calls. It’s worth it. Be kind and patient with them please.
Day Four in Paris
Our Sunday in Paris started with a Left Bank Occupation Resistance tour with Paris Walks. Tom and I have done their Right Bank Resistance and Liberation tour a few times, and we were excited to see what the difference would be. The Left Bank tour is more focused on the occupation of Paris and told stories of the Resistance. (The Right Bank tour talks more about the resistance and the liberation of Paris.)
We learned a lot more about daily life for the Parisians, as well as some of the more terrible things that happened during the occupation of France. I felt like there were less “big” sights to see on the left bank tour, but there were a lot more personal stories in this tour. If you can fit both tours into your Paris itinerary, you should try to do both! They are thought-provoking and poignant.
The tour ends near the Sorbonne, not too far from the Luxembourg gardens. It is very easy to get to Sainte Chapelle and the Cathedral of Notre Dame from the end point if you are willing to walk. There is not much to see at Notre Dame yet, but they are making progress. The stained glass of Saint Chapelle is awe-inspiring.
Where We Ate in Paris – Day Four
GOURMET: None of my favorite restaurants in Paris are open on Sundays. In fact, very few of the restaurants on my Paris restaurant list are open on Sundays. However, the Big Mamma Group restaurants, famous for their truffle pasta, are open on Sundays. Tom and I have been to East Mamma and Pizzeria Popolare, so we decided to try Libertino on this trip. One, I could get an early reservation at Libertino, and two, it was closer to our hotel.
In terms of food, it was a little bit of a mixed bag. I was sad that they didn’t seem to have the truffle arancini on the menu, so we got a tomato focaccia instead. It was tasty. I decided to skip the truffle pasta, and I loved my amatriciana. My mom ordered a pizza that she really enjoyed. And, poor Tom ordered the pici all’agilone, which was not very good at all. (I steered him wrong.) Overall, Libertino is a vibe, and it is an option for Sunday dinners.
Day Five in Paris
Some of the Paris Christmas markets opened when we were there! I was so excited! We used our last day in Paris for souvenir shopping at the Tuileries Christmas Market and at the shops around the Marais. I love how jovial the Tuileries market always feels. Even on the most overcast day, it brings Christmas cheer. When we went back to Paris a few weeks later, we had a progressive dinner at the Christmas market. It was cold, but it was so fun!
Tom and my mom had to get some work done, so I took advantage of the spa at the Hotel Dress Code. (I’ve gotten smarter and just book a treatment at Le Spa at the Park Hyatt Paris if I need a massage we’re not staying there now.)
We ended our last night in Paris with a stroll through Montmartre at night, stopping to enjoy the beauty of Sacre Coeur. We also took a stroll down rue Saint-Honore in Paris, as the Christmas lights were starting. It was the perfect way to end our time in Paris before heading to the Alsace.
Where We Ate in Paris – Day Five
GOURMET: We ended our trip to Paris with dinner at my favorite steakhouse in Paris, Sacree Fleur. We’ve been coming to this tiny restaurant in Montmartre since 2019. It’s always lovely. In the winter, I love their onion soup. It’s the most simple version, but it allows the rich flavors to shine. We always order the cote de boeuf. The steak is served on a lava stone and served with three sauces: roquefort, shallot, and peppercorn. I love the shallot and the peppercorn. Tom loves the roquefort. Steaks are served with fries. For dessert, order the moelleux with black currant sorbet. It is UNREAL.
Last summer, Kendall recommended that I try the Calvados with apple sorbet, and I think about it all the time. It’s impossible to choose between those two desserts, and I’m excited to try the tarte tatin with Calvados next time! As for wine, we always let the Sacree Fleur team make recommendations. I’ve had some lovely reds from southwest France on their recommendation.
Sacree Fleur offers two seatings for dinner; reservations are imperative.
Where to Stay in Paris
We stayed at Hotel Dress Code in the 9th arrondissement of Paris. It is a block away from the Madeleine metro stop, which makes it very convenient for getting around Paris. You can walk to the Opera Garnier in less than 10 minutes, and it’s less than 5 minutes away from Place Vendome.
We had spent a week at Hotel Dress Code when I took a weeklong pastry class at the Ritz Paris Escoffier, so we knew that it would be a good stay with my mom. Rooms are on the smaller size, so I always book at least a superior (medium) room. They are individually decorated with colorful details and photography. The interior rooms are quieter than the rooms facing rue de Caumartin. Every room we’ve stayed in has offered a decently-sized walk in shower with good water pressure and plenty of hot water.
There is a spa in the basement with a small pool. You have to reserve it, and the prices vary on the time of day. I used it on this trip, and while it isn’t my favorite hotel spa, it’s an unusual amenity for a Paris hotel, especially at this price point!
The staff is lovely. You can add breakfast for an additional cost, if that’s important to you. There is an honor bar in the hotel lobby in the evening. When we went to Paris with Tom’s parents in March, they didn’t mind when we had our grocery store dinner downstairs. (The hotel is right next to a small grocery store that has everything you need if you don’t want to go out!)
We returned to Hotel Dress Code in March and July 2023, and I updated my review of the Hotel Dress Code with new room photos!
Getting to Alsace from Paris
I’m a broken record, but skip the Paris to Alsace day trip. I’m begging you. One, these tiny towns are jewel boxes that deserve time, especially at Christmastime. Two, why would you pay Paris hotel prices when you aren’t even staying in Paris? Three, there are so many things to enjoy in the Alsace, especially if you enjoy food and wine. We LOVE exploring the Alsace wine route. Whether you explore Alsace by car or by train, you can have a truly memorable trip if you just slow down and enjoy it. Some of my favorite moments in the Alsace have been when we randomly stumbled upon a festival on a Sunday morning. Or had a long leisurely walk through an empty town after dinner.
And, there’s nothing better than strolling through the Christmas lights in Colmar! You can’t do that if you are rushing from Paris to Alsace in a single day.
Paris to Alsace by Train
The initial distance from Paris to Alsace is best covered by train. (It’s far faster than driving.) On previous trips, we have taken a direct TGV train from Paris to Strasbourg. (There are a few direct trains from CDG to Strasbourg, too!) The trip to Strasbourg takes about 1 hour and 50 minutes. From there, we’ve taken the Alsace train to the smaller villages or we’ve picked up a rental car. Whether we visit Alsace by car or train depends on where we are staying and what we plan to do in Alsace.
One thing that surprised me when I was planning this trip is that you can take a non-stop train from Paris to Colmar. It takes 2 hours and 31 minutes, and I thought it was a lot easier than connecting via Strasbourg. The earlier you book your train tickets, the more money you can save. It’s important to note that these trains can and do sell out during the Alsace Christmas market season, so you will want to plan ahead.
3 Days in Colmar
When I started planning our Alsace itinerary, I was very excited to find that our trip would coincide with the opening of the Colmar Christmas markets! Because our Colmar itinerary would start before the Christmas markets, I was able to secure a reservation for one of my favorite hotels in the Alsace. It ended up being just as incredible as I hoped.
I always try to schedule our travel in between hotel check in and check out times. This minimizes the inconvenience of trying to store your luggage and using the dead time effectively. I planned this almost exactly right, and we ended up in Colmar when our rooms were ready.
The only downside about going so early in the holiday season is that some of my favorite restaurants weren’t open. Many were closed for the week before the Christmas markets and planning to reopen when they started in earnest that weekend. That said, there are a lot of amazing restaurants in the Alsace. You can have great meals, but you NEED reservations. Repeat after me: you need restaurant reservations, especially during the busy time of year. (Do as I say, not as I do.)
Day One in Colmar
Colmar was abuzz with preparations for the Christmas markets. Because they hadn’t started yet, many of the sights in Colmar were not crowded at all. We had a midday beer and pretzel at the covered market and took advantage of the slower crowds to do a bit of sightseeing between the churches and the Unterlinden altarpiece.
PLAY: When we were in Colmar for Christmas in 2021, we visited Domaine Martin Jund for an impromptu Alsatian wine tasting. Though they were busy, they were very kind and we enjoyed their wines very much. We purchased a couple bottles of a late harvest Gewurztraminer to enjoy and bring home. They didn’t make it through the holidays, so we knew we wanted to go back. I booked an Alsatian wine and chocolate tasting for this trip, and it did not disappoint. We were able to try a variety of their wines, including several Grand Cru wines. This tasting is very informal, but like many winemakers in the Alsace, I felt like they sought to understand our preferences so they could make recommendations specific to us.
GOURMET: Much like our Valentine’s Day trip to the Alsace in February 2020, we arrived in Colmar without reservations (again). And, much like our Valentine’s Day trip to the Alsace in February 2020, we begged La Pignata for a table when they opened for the evening. They were much more obliging this year. Their pizza is very good, and Tom and my mom raved about the pizza with a fried egg on it.
Day Two in Colmar
Originally, we had planned to try to go to Eguisheim to visit one of our favorite Alsatian wineries, Paul Gaschy, but my mom wasn’t feeling great so we made it a slower day in Colmar. This is usually the point in the trip where we stay trying to slow the itinerary down. Tom and I took long walks through the down, checked out the weekly market, and scheduled a few wine tastings for the afternoon.
We ended up doing two more wine tastings in Colmar. The first was at a winery that we visited on a previous trip to Colmar, Domaine Robert Karcher et Fils. This is a more casual wine tasting experience, as you can walk in, review the wine list, and taste a couple of glasses of wine. The second was at a wine shop that offers tastings, Domaine Viticole. This was an experience, as the man at the shop was eager to talk to us. We had an amusing time trading stories about his experiences in France and our experiences in the United States. He was excited for us to try a variety of wines, and by the end of it, we ended up with several more bottle and some plums.
GOURMET: With the Christmas markets opening the following day, we decided to take a walk outside of the old town center for dinner. We had dinner at Via Roma, a place we discovered in 2020 and enjoyed again in 2021. (Tom really likes their Alsatian Christmas beer.) This elegant Italian restaurant offers excellent pasta, risotto, and lasagna. We’ve never had a bad meal here, and the service is always excellent. It’s cozy and feels very local. You need a reservation in advance.
Day Three in Colmar
Our third day in Colmar was dominated by the Christmas markets! The day started out slow, but everything got increasingly more busy as the day went on. I was excited to find a Colmar-specific Christmas ornament this year. We really enjoyed wandering from square to square, finding quiet moments of reprieve throughout the city, and embracing the atmosphere of celebration.
By the early evening, Colmar was very busy and slightly overwhelming at times. We took reprieve in the covered market with pretzels and Christmas beer before heading out to have dinner as we wandered through the Christmas markets. We encountered a sausage seller who was in the most jovial of spirits, and we had a great time with him. (I should find him and send him the set of photos he insisted I take.) It was really nice to chat with the stall owners and hear how excited they were about the re-opening of the Christmas markets. It is very expensive to have a stall, and the challenges of 2020 and 2021 were very hard on them. For many of them, 2022 felt extra sweet.
The markets don’t stay open super late, so the city emptied out relatively quickly after they closed, and we were able to enjoy a lovely stroll through the city’s Christmas lights.
Where to Stay in Colmar
My favorite hotel in the more popular towns of the Alsace is Maison des Tetes. Maison des Tetes is a Relais and Chateaux property, and it lives up to the expectations for a Relais. This was our second stay there, and it was absolutely perfect. What makes Maison des Tetes fascinating (to me) is the the contrast between the ancient building and understated luxury of the hotel. There are only 21 rooms, so if you want to stay at Maison des Tetes during high season or the Christmas markets, you should plan in advance.
Both of the rooms we’ve had at Maison des Tetes have been very comfortable. We had a soaking tub in both rooms, which was really nice on cold days. The linens are soft and luxurious, and the beds are very comfortable. I love how they are able to hold on to the traditional, rustic elements of the hotel and create an amazing 5-star hotel experience in the middle of Colmar.
In the spirit of regional delights, there was a kugelhopf in our room upon arrival. (We had a delightful spice cake on our first trip to Colmar!) On our second night, they delivered a bottle of cremant wine as part of turndown service. Our room rate included breakfast, and it was the most incredible a la carte experience. They would bring fresh items to your table and refill anything you particularly enjoyed. And, when we checked out, they gave us a buche de Noel from their pastry chef. Not only was it beautiful, but it was absolutely tasty. (It traveled well to Strasbourg!)
Maison des Tetes embodies everything I expect from a Relais & Chateaux property, and I’m excited to continue exploring more of these amazing hotels!
Two Days in Strasbourg
There are frequent regional trains that run along the Alsace. The Colmar to Strasbourg train takes about 30 minutes and does not require advance reservations. There are also no seat reservations on the regional train. Because of this flexibility, we decided to walk from our hotel in Colmar to the train station. It’s an easy, flat walk, even with luggage. (By this point our wine suitcase was very heavy.)
We arrived on Strasbourg on Friday, which also coincided with the opening of the Strasbourg Christmas markets. It wasn’t as busy as I thought it would be. We were staying in Petite France again, so we opted to walk from the train station to our hotel, as much of Strasbourg closes to cars during the Christmas markets. The cobblestone is pretty intense, so you’ll want to take your time and walk carefully.
If you truly want to be able to shop the Christmas markets, I recommend getting out early when they open. Strasbourg is busy, and it’s why I recommend staying overnight versus doing a Paris to Strasbourg day trip. One of my friends visited on a river cruise about two weeks after we were there, and the photos she sent me were nuts. If you can visit Strasbourg during the week AND stay overnight, you’ll have a better experience.
Day One in Strasbourg
Our room was not ready by the time we arrived, so we headed to Le Meteor for pretzels and beer. (This is a bit of tradition for us.) By this point in the trip, we had exhausted my mom, so I scheduled a massage for her at our hotel. (We’ve had excellent spa experiences at both Strasbourg hotels we’ve stayed at.) While she enjoyed a massage, Tom and I headed out to explore Strasbourg.
Having been to Strasbourg in December 2021, there were a few things that I wanted to do. One, I wanted to find my favorite vin chaud blanc. This mulled white wine is an Alsatian speciality, and the best version comes from a stand right in front of the entrance of the Strasbourg Cathedral. Two, I wanted to visit the Strasbourg Cathedral again. It’s absolutely breathtaking. The Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Strasbourg has an absolutely beautiful rose window, and you should see it while we wait for Notre Dame in Paris to reopen.
While we were out, I realized that the lighting of the great Christmas tree at Place Kleber would be happening that night. And, when in Strasbourg… you definitely go to the lighting of Le Grande Sapin! One of the things I love about these types of events in Europe is that they are approachable. We made our way into Place Kleber and ended up with a great view of the tree. Though we were all squished together tightly, the excitement was palpable. The presentation was entirely in French, and though I could only understand a little bit of it, there was definitely A Moment when everyone started singing familiar (but French) Christmas carols together.
Given the crowds, we opted for an in-room picnic. (Yes, we arrived in Strasbourg without restaurant reservations. Again.)
Day Two in Strasbourg
Our second day in Strasbourg was spent exploring the Strasbourg Christmas markets. I was really disappointed that we weren’t able to schedule a food tour of Strasboug on this trip, as we were hoping to share that with my mom.
If you are looking for a Christmas ornament, head to the Place du Chateaux for the Christmas ornament market. I was very excited to find a Strasbourg ornament for our travel-themed Christmas trees.
Tom and I had sourced our picnic goodies from the Rohan Terrace Christmas market, but we took my mom on our second day. This gourmet Christmas market offers Alsatian wines, pastries and Alsatian cookies, and sausages and choucroute. My favorite place to stop is a pop up bakery run by retired bakers. It has the best gingerbread (pain d’épice) and its bretzel are tasty, too.
You can find unique gifts all over the city, but I like the markets in Petite France, Place des Meuniers and Benjamin-Zix, because they are a little less crowded in the evenings. During the day, all bets are off in Strasbourg. Bring your patience or do as we did and stay a couple of nights.
Knowing that the plane home was coming and that we wouldn’t want to be out in the afternoon, my mom and I both scheduled massages at the hotel spa. She was so relaxed and ready to rest that we ended up picking up pizzas from Fior di Pizza for dinner that night. It was easy and tasty, and their staff was so very kind.
Where to Stay in Strasbourg
We’ve stayed at two hotels in Strasbourg: Le Bouclier d’Or Hotel & Spa and Pavillon Régent Petite France. Both are in the Petite France neighborhood of Strasbourg. Both are independent hotels and have spas within the hotel. They are less than 5 minutes from each other, but the vibes are completely different. You’ll have to choose which one makes the most sense for you. They are within a short distance of all the major sites of Strasbourg, and you don’t need a car to get around.
Strasboug hotels, especially during the Christmas market season, are expensive. They are also small, so they book up quickly. Many of the less expensive chain hotels are further outside the old city of Strasbourg. I would return to either one of these hotels, but I am also intrigued by Maison Rouge Hotel and Spa, which is an Autograph Collection hotel.
Le Bouclier d’Or Hotel and Spa
On our second trip to Strasbourg, we stayed at Le Bouclier d’Or Hotel & Spa. For reference, we booked at the end of September, and many hotels were sold out. We booked two “comfort” rooms, and based on my experience in Alsatian hotels, I think ours was in the “Bourgeoises” style. We were assigned room 7, which was on the first floor at the back of the building, while my mom was assigned a room in the front of the building on the ground floor. Our room overlooked the courtyard, which was a nice view.
While the Regent Petite France is modern with clean lines, Le Bouclier d’Or is grand. The fabrics are rich brocades, the lights are elegant chandeliers, and the wood floors have plush rugs. I was very delighted to find that linens and the bed were very comfortable. The room is furnished with antiques and period pieces. It definitely reminds me of the apartment of the wealthy elderly couple who hosted my friend Jill when she studied in Paris. It didn’t feel stuffy though – they had decorated the room for Christmas (cute!).
The large marble shower is what dreams are made of; the water pressure was outstanding. Bath products were Pure Herbs, a new-to-me European brand. Like the Regent Petite France, the bathroom offered dual sinks, plush bathrobes, and plenty of light. It really does come down to personal style.
My massage at the Le Bouclier d’Or spa was incredible and very relaxing. They also have a lovely sauna, plunge pool, and whirlpool. The cavernous spa reminds me of the 5 Terres Hotel and Spa in Barr or the Monastero di Cortona spa, and the skylight reminds me of Borgo dei Conti. It’s very, very relaxing and feels a world away from the bustle of Strasbourg.
Regent Petite France
Our first trip to Strasbourg, we stayed at the Regent Petite France in the Pavillon. The Pavillon has 17 rooms and ours overlooked the Petite France canals. We actually had the perfect view of the famous rotating bridge in Strasbourg. I loved how quiet the Pavillon was. The main hotel building is quite a bit larger with 80 rooms, but it felt like we had the Pavillon to ourselves, even though the hotel was sold out.
I got the last room at the Pavillon, and it was a “privilege” room. It was an extremely well-designed L-shaped room with four sets of windows, so we had a lot of light. I loved leaving the windows open to listen to the accordion music in the evenings. We were also able to cool down our room and leave the windows open in the evening without any issue. It was very quiet.
The bathroom offered a large walk-in shower and two sinks. Bath amenities were Kos (which are also available at Hotel du Louvre in Paris), the water pressure and hot water were reliable, and the bathroom was very well-lit. I love a heated towel rack in the winter. It’s perfect for warming up a nap dress before sliding into bed.
We did make spa reservations at the Regent Petite France for 2 of our 4 days in Strasbourg. It is located on the first floor in the main building and overlooks the canals of Petite France. We really enjoyed the outdoor jacuzzi, the sauna, and the salt cave. Like many smaller hotels in France, the spa is an additional cost, but I find it to be worth it. Reservations continue to be essential.
When is the Best Time to Visit Paris and Alsace?
As they say, Paris is always a good idea. We’ve been in Paris in December (multiple times), November (multiple times), February (multiple times) April, June, and July. All of our trips have been lovely. I find that winter in Paris is far more temperate than other European destinations, and we really enjoy it. (I think winter in Paris is its best kept-secret.) June and July are busier, but the long days are perfect for leisurely outdoor dinners and strolls along the Seine.
Similarly, we’ve traveled to Alsace in November, December, February, and July. Each of those trips was different. I loved being in the Alsace in February, as we had the towns to ourselves. Since it was off-season, the restaurants that were open were filled with locals, and we had some memorable experience. November and December are busier because of the Christmas markets, and that brings its own magic. Early July was still pretty quiet, but everything was in bloom. We stumbled upon a Venetian festival and that really was too cool.
While this Paris to Alsace itinerary focuses on the Christmas market season, we coupled Paris and Alsace last summer, too. Summer days are long, the weather is lovely, and you can spend time outdoors. We did an awesome bike tour from Eguisheim to Colmar, and I’d love to do another one. I think the most important thing about planning a trip from Paris to Alsace is to know why you want to go and plan around that.
Travel Tips for Alsace and Paris
Learn a little bit of French
- It will go a long way in terms of making your experience better. The most important word to know is bonjour. If you don’t say bonjour, don’t expect a warm welcome. With all the tools available now, there’s really no excuse to not learn a few basic words in French. Hello. Please. I’m sorry. I don’t speak French. Thank you. If you have access to a CD player, I’m a believer in this CD and French phrase book. I’ve been using these for 20+ years.
Give yourself enough time and slow down
- Maybe you can’t do 10 days. (A lot of Americans can’t.) Figure out what you want to see and cut your itinerary back as appropriate. You will never see everything in Paris on a single trip. And, you can’t visit every cute town in the Alsace, no matter what those crazy day trip itineraries try to convince you. Figure out what you care about and build around that. One of my favorite ways to plan trips is by making a list of everything I want to do and see and when its available. From there, it’s a jigsaw puzzle to fit together the things I want to do most. An added bonus is that I always have list of things I haven’t done when I plan a return trip. You don’t have to see everything and go everywhere.
Get out early and stay out late
- If you want to experience the magic of a place, start your day early. Be the first to a museum. Plan for a long walk through the small streets of a city as it wakes up. Pop into a boulangerie when the first baguettes or croissants of the day arrive. Your experience will be different. Similarly, don’t be afraid of the late dinner seating. You’ll often find more locals. Take a long walk after dinner. Enjoy the quiet and romantic ambiance of a beautiful place as it slows down. I love the feeling of having a city to myself. (You can make this work by taking a break in the middle of the way, when most cities are the most crowded and the temperatures are far warmer.)
Do a little advance planning to avoid disappointment
- From Paris to Alsace, all of my favorite restaurants are small. If I really want to eat somewhere, I need reservations. You do, too. My most disappointing meals have been when we’ve had to try and rush to find somewhere because everything was booked. Now, I’d rather have an in-room picnic with local foods from the boulangerie or cheese monger than have a meal at a tourist trap. It’s not to say that we don’t find restaurants upon arrival, but we do our research before sitting down.
- The same is true for hotels, especially in the Alsace. We’ve stayed in Eguisheim, Colmar, Barr, Kaysersberg, and Strasbourg on our trips to the Alsace. All of the hotels we’ve stayed at are boutique hotels with a small number of rooms. Many of the hotels that I want to stay at are even smaller. Don’t wait until you get to France to book, otherwise you might be disappointed. When we plan for the Alsace Christmas markets, we plan several months in advance.
- This is my most important travel tip. Slow down, look for the moments that make travel amazing, and embrace them. Travel is such a luxury and a privilege. I am really proud to say that we are so good at focusing on the positives of our travels that it’s hard for us to remember when things were hard. If you find that things are getting frustrating or overwhelming, take a break. Grab a pastry. Sit in a park. Go back to your hotel and take a nap and a shower. Don’t push through just because you feel like you have to. At the end of every day, usually at dinner, we recap what we did, what we saw, and what we enjoyed. This allows us to refocus our mind and remember our trip better. I encourage you to find moments to focus on the good.