Eastern France is the perfect place to explore beautiful towns and villages, vibrant cities, world-class vineyards, fairytale castles, and Gothic churches. And, of course, feasting on French and international dishes and fine wines from the area is all part of the magical experience of driving through this beautiful part of France.
If you are considering a road trip through Eastern France, the international town of Strasbourg is a great place to start.
The driving route will pass through the delightfully charming towns and villages in the Alsace region to the vineyards of Burgundy and the Alpine mountains of Chamonix, the world championship ski resort.
Eastern France borders Switzerland, Germany and Italy, so it is straightforward to continue to one of these other amazing countries on your European Road Trip. If you prefer to loop back to Strasbourg through France, then Lyon and Metz are two more great French towns to visit in north-eastern France.
Helpful Information For Visiting Eastern France
The Best Way to Get to Strasbourg
Flying time from the UK to Strasbourg via Amsterdam is approx 4 hours.
Eurostar with a car from the UK to Calais is 55 minutes.
Ferry crossing with a car from the UK to Calais is 1 hour 30 minutes.
The driving time from Calais to Strasbourg is 6 hours.
Foot passengers can hire a car in France from Calais or Strasbourg upon arrival by air, train, or ferry.
The Best Towns to Stay in Eastern France
Strasbourg for 1 or 2 nights
Riquewihr or Kaysersberg for 2 or 3 nights – use one of these as your base and then drive out each day to the surrounding towns in Alsace.
Beaune for two nights
Grenoble for one night
Annecy for one night
Chamonix 1 or 2 nights
Top Tips for Driving through France
Driving is on the right-hand side of the road.
You must pay toll payments on certain roads in France. Ensure you have cash or a pre-paid toll card to pass through the toll areas. Visitors can find complete information on driving through France here.
If you are driving through large cities, you must purchase a French clean air sticker.
The Most Beautiful Towns and Villages in Eastern France (complete with driving times)
With the help of fellow travel bloggers who agree that Eastern France is a fabulous destination to visit, I have compiled a road trip itinerary highlighting 11 unmissable towns in Eastern France that you must visit on a road trip through France.
I think you will agree that there are some spectacular towns and villages to explore for all travellers.
Eastern France Road Trip Map
In the capital of the charming Alsace region in Eastern France and just a short distance from Switzerland and Germany is the city of Strasbourg, packed with fun things to do and see.
You can’t miss the beautiful cobbled streets, flower-laden buildings and picturesque canals in Strasbourg. These are a taster of the delights to be discovered in other Alsace towns of Eastern France, such as Ribeauville, Riquewihr, Kaysersberg and Colmar.
With its 12th-century Gothic towers and impressive astronomical clock, Strasbourg Cathedral is the city’s centrepiece and well worth visiting. Strasbourg is also one of the best destinations in France for foodies, so you can enjoy refreshments in one of the many traditional restaurants surrounding Cathedral Square.
Make sure to cruise along the canals and learn more about this historical city and why it is known as “Petite France”. Afterwards, stroll to the Place de la Republique, the German imperial district known as the Neustadt, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Strasbourg is also the seat of the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, and the European Court of Human Rights and is known as the “Capital of Europe” due to its blend of German and French culture.
Time and Distance from Strasbourg to Ribeauville – 45 minutes / 65.2 kilometres
Activities to Enjoy in Strasbourg
Ribeauville is one of the small picturesque French villages on the Alsace Wine Route, with a population of just under 5,000 people. It is a highly popular destination with travellers exploring the Alsace Region.
Located only 16 kilometres from Colmar and 65 kilometres from Strasbourg, it is a perfect place to stop, explore and spend the night before continuing on the road to visit some of the other unmissable towns in Eastern France.
You must visit “Grand Rue”, Ribeauville’s main street, lined with restaurants, bakeries, cellar doors and pretty buildings dating back to the 15th and 18th centuries.
Wander along its medieval cobblestones and discover squares adorned with Renaissance-style fountains. Experience Ribeauville like a local by heading off the main street to find local establishments such as Bar Gourman for refreshments.
From the town centre, there is a popular walking trail that takes in historical sites.
On the hill directly behind the town, you will find three castles. Saint-Ulrich castle, Girsberg castle, and Haut-Ribeaupierre castle. You can enjoy the panoramic views across the city’s rooftops from here.
Time and Distance from Ribeauville to Riquewihr – 10 minutes / 5 kilometres
The village of Riquewihr in France’s Alsace region is truly charming and one of the unmissable places to visit in Eastern France.
The walled town centre is filled with traditional half-timbered houses painted in rainbow colours.
In spring and summer, they are covered in wisteria and other vines, and it’s such a romantic place to sit and enjoy the small-town atmosphere.
Riquewihr is nestled amongst vineyards, and tasting the local wines can be done right on the main street. There’s also plenty of locally produced food too. Look out for delicious bakeries, cheese shops and small goods.
After all that delicious food, walk up into the vineyards behind the town for great views of the rooftops and the valley beyond.
You must visit a small museum called the “Museum of Thieves”. Visitors can access one section of the medieval walls to explore, but just wandering the streets is captivating enough for a relaxed visit.
If you stay overnight, look for the nightly light show projected onto the town’s upper gate.
Food from the Alsace region has a German twist to it. To try some, have dinner at La Grappe d’Or, where you will likely forget you are in France.
Riquewihr is on the Grand Crus Alsace wine trail, so it is an excellent location for a hike or bike ride if you want a more active visit.
Riquewihr is less than one hour from Strasbourg or twenty minutes from Colmar, so it is a perfect day trip from either of these larger cities.
Time and Distance from Riquewihr to Kaysersburg – 23 minutes / 10.9 kilometres
Contributed by Derek and Mike from Robe Trotting
One of the most beautiful French villages lies just east of the Rhine River beneath a simple castle fortress.
It’s surrounded by vineyards and rolling hills with a medieval town centre and picturesque cobblestone streets. The village is called Kaysersberg, and it’s a must-see road trip stop on the French Alsace’s wine route.
Kaysersberg is quintessential Alsatian, with half-timber houses painted in pastel colours and provincial buildings that house boutiques, bakeries and wine houses.
In the village of Kaysersberg, you should make time to get lost in the ribbons of winding streets.
Stroll over stone bridges traversing the stream that once powered the town’s mills.
Of course, you should also visit the wine shops for tastings and purchase a bottle of Alsatian white wine to enjoy at home; this is one of France’s best wine regions!
The city has a complicated past as it was once a free city-state and, through the war, was absorbed by both France and Germany throughout history.
There are memorials to the residents who were forced to serve in the German military during World War II and those who perished defending the town before the Germans captured it.
The town of Kaysersberg is a real gem in eastern France and should not be missed as you explore the Alsace.
Consider a stay at Hotel KLE, a boutique hotel and spa where you can pamper yourself while enjoying the beauty of Kaysersberg and the brilliant wine culture of the town.
Time and Distance from Kaysersberg to Colmar – 21 minutes / 11 kilometres
Planning on heading to the South of France? Please Read
Gorgeous Colmar in France’s Alsace region is close to the German border and a fantastic mix of French and Germanic culture.
The Old Town has beautiful half-timbered houses, cobbled streets, a great mix of historic landmarks, cute restaurants, and excellent bakeries serving the regional speciality Kugelhopf cakes.
You’ll also find plenty of wine shops selling the regional Riesling and Gewürztraminer wines from the local Alsatian wine route.
The most famous part of the Old Town is the Little Venice area – La Petite Venise – where colourful half-timbered houses sit alongside Colmar’s canal network.
This area used to be home to the butchers, tanners and fishmongers, but thankfully, now it’s stench-free!
It’s the perfect spot to try one of the local wines, sitting on a restaurant balcony overlooking the canal and watching the boats travel along.
The beautiful St Martin’s church dominates the Old Town and is well worth visiting to admire the Gothic architecture.
The Unterlinden Museum is where to head for a culture fix, housing an extensive collection of local and international artworks.
While in Colmar, you must try a slice of delicious “Tarte Flambee” or “Flammkuchen” – a thin pizza-like base topped with lardons (bacon), onions and cheese.
You can get it at many of the restaurants in Colmar, and it’s also available “à emporter” – to take away.
Time and Distance from Colmar to Eguisheim – 14 minutes / 6.8 kilometres
Activities to Enjoy in Colmar
Contributed by Kristel and Gabriel from Chef Travel Guide
The small commune of Eguisheim on the Alsatian wine trail is only a leisurely 30-minute bicycle ride from Colmar and a fantastic starting point on any wine-tasting adventure.
You will instantly be transported to a place right out of a fairytale, including medieval half-timbered houses, cobblestone streets, and a church with nesting storks on top.
The entire town centre is within the castle’s old walls, once surrounded by a moat.
This incredibly charming commune has not only won several awards for its flowers but has also been honoured to be one of France’s most beautiful villages.
Although Eguisheim is a stunner, the wines produced here are even more gorgeous.
This small town is home to 33 wine producers, with two holding the highly-esteemed Grand Cru designation, including Pfersigberg and Eichberg wineries.
Although the Alsatian wine region is known for its Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris, the show’s star is Crémant d’Alsace. This sparkling wine is produced in white and rosѐ versions and must not be missed.
If you want a sweet treat to fuel your pedal back to your accommodation, visit one of the many amazing little patisseries, including Maison Alsacienne de Biscuiterie, for some macarons or a kugelhopf, a cake (often with raisins), traditionally baked in a distinctive circular shape.
Time and Distance from Eguisheim to Dijon – 2 hours 28 minutes / 245 kilometres (this route has tolls)
Dijon is a small and perfectly formed medieval city in eastern France and a perfect destination and base for food and wine lovers.
Deep in the heart of historic Burgundy and surrounded by the vineyards of the Cote d’Or, the region is home to over 3,000 winemakers, with vines as old as 600 AD.
The off-the-beaten-track French city of Dijon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, laden with medieval half-timbered houses and elegant Renaissance buildings, to remind you that this city was once home to the Duchy Burgundy, a significant power in Europe.
You’ll find Dijon’s excellent restaurants and a buzzing street scene in the pedestrian-friendly city centre.
Make sure to visit the bustling Les Halles market, where the best local and regional foods are for sale every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, underneath the steel beams and glass-ceiling structure designed by Gustave Eiffel.
Although most Dijon mustard is now manufactured in Canada, it’s worth visiting one of the mustard shops in the centre to try out some traditional and more modern takes on this historic French accompaniment.
Follow the Parcours de la Chouette (Owl Route), which takes in the top 22 places of interest within the old city.
If you don’t fancy walking the route, you can do it on a Segway or bike. Ensure you see the original owl carved on the side of the Église Notre Dame. Local tradition says if you rub the owl with your left hand and make a wish, your wish will come true.
Time and Distance from Dijon to Beaune – 40 minutes / 44.6 kilometres (this route has tolls)
At first, Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy, comes across as a sleepy French village; however, scratch its surface, and you will uncover that it is a town full of history and culture.
At its historical centre is the Hospices de Beaune. Once the home of the Dukes of Burgundy and a medieval hospital for the poor, it is now an excellent interactive museum that tells about the property with reconstructions of the central ward and apothecary.
Don’t write it off – it is fascinating. The property still owns several of the vineyards in the area producing world-renowned wines.
From wine tastings and cellar tours in town to guided tours of the 10 Grand Cru vineyards in the surrounding area. Or why not hire a bike from Beaune and peddle through the beautiful countryside to discover all it has to offer?
The centre of Beaune is the perfect place to stock up on provisions for your onward journey.
Shops selling wine, cheese, pate, bread and pastries line the narrow streets vying for your attention, while beautiful fine dining restaurants tempt you inside with their extravagant menus and wine lists.
If you love fine dining, Beaune is undoubtedly the place to be, with several Michelin-star restaurants for you to try!
Time and Distance from Beaune to Grenoble- 2 hours 35 minutes / 270 kilometres ( this route has tolls)
Activities to Enjoy in Beaune
Grenoble, the self-designated “Capital of the Alps”, is blessed with abundant natural and cultural assets. As one of Europe’s most important research and technology centres, it is no stranger to innovation and has reinvented itself many times over the last two hundred years.
Its historic centre is perfect for strolling through centuries-old buildings with Renaissance and Gothic facades. Don’t miss the charming Saint-André square with its terraced restaurants, Place Grenette or the covered market of Place Aux Herbes.
Grenoble’s most famous destination must be La Bastille Fort, built in the early 19th century and 475 metres above the city. The fort is accessible by foot for the more active visitors, but most take the cable car with its iconic bubble gondola design.
Home to Art Exhibitions and a Military Museum, the most prominent attraction is the splendid panoramic view of the city and surrounding region.
From here, the vistas of the Chartreuse, Vercors and Belledonne mountain ranges are jaw-dropping. You may even catch sight of Mont Blanc 150 km to the northwest of the city.
Other Grenoble attractions include the hugely impressive Domain de Vizille with its beautiful landscaped gardens and the only museum in France dedicated to the French Revolution.
Less than 10 km from the city centre, the tiny village of Sassenage offers visitors a trip to a fabulous cave network and the splendid Dauphinois Chateau.
Time and Distance from Grenoble to Annecy – 1 hour 21 minutes / 107 kilometres ( this route has tolls)
A quintessentially charming little French town, Annecy checks all the boxes for a relaxing, scenic weekend destination.
Situated on Lake Annecy with the stunning Alps looming behind, it is full of tranquil canals lined with quaint old buildings and plenty of decorative flower arrangements.
Photographers could (and do) spend days here taking advantage of all the picturesque spots around every corner. The lake is a water-sports hot spot in the summer, offering motor and pedal boat rentals, fantastic beaches, and even waterslides.
Active types can enjoy water skiing and wakeboarding, follow hiking trails around the lake or take a circular bike trip around the entire city.
Annecy has a lot of beautiful hotels to choose from and a wide range of terrific restaurants throughout the old town. Le Munich is a particular favourite for its outstanding German cuisine and excellent location on the canal.
With photogenic canals, lake and mountain views, old-town charm and enough food options to keep you busy for months.
Annecy is genuinely one of the best places to visit in France and a hidden gem of eastern France.
Time and Distance from Annecy to Chamonix – 1 hour 17 minutes / 101 kilometres ( this route has tolls)
Activities to Enjoy in Annecy
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, the world-famous ski resort in Eastern France, is much more than a winter destination.
Visit Chamonix in the summer, and you will discover a charming town adorned with flowers and eclipsed by Mont Blanc, the second-highest mountain in Europe.
Chamonix offers a wealth of outdoor pursuits for all ages and fitness levels, from hiking trails through the most beautiful scenery in the French Alps to parasailing, helicopter rides, glacier hikes, bungee jumping and mountain biking.
All year round, cable cars take visitors to nearby peaks with panoramic views, including the most famous Aiguille du Midi.
Once at the top, head to the highest gourmet restaurant in town, step inside “The Void” – a glass box overhanging the mountain’s side or take a trip to Italy via the mountains.
Start on the Aiguille du Midi Cable car in France, head across on the panoramic gondola to the Italian side and descend into Courmayeur, the hidden gem in Northern Italy’s Aosta Valley, via Skyway Monte Bianco Cable car. Make your way back from Courmayeur to Chamonix by bus or taxi via the Mont Blanc tunnel.
If you prefer something more sedate, visit one of the charming cafes or restaurants in town and watch the world go by or relax in your outdoor swimming pool and jacuzzi at Hotel Mont Blanc, the most luxurious hotel in Chamonix. Whatever you choose to do, Chamonix is the perfect place to add to your road trip itinerary.
Activities to Enjoy in Chamonix
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