From the cathedral of Strasbourg to the Couronne d’or vineyard
At the foot of the imposing Cathedral of Strasbourg, the starting point of our tour, it's impossible to be unimpressed by the five centuries of history proudly displayed on its sculptural Gothic façade. A few steps later (332, mind you!), from the panoramic terrace, a hugely different perspective of the city unravels before your eyes.
Back on firm ground, hands on the handlebar, head toward the vineyard of Strasbourg, the northern entrance of the wine route, at Marlenheim . Wine trails await; discover the vintages of the traders of the ‘Capital of Europe’, served at the table of kings.
Overlook the vineyards from the Belfry of Obernai
The first stop is Obernai , about 30 km (18 miles) south of Strasbourg. Behind the ramparts of this ancient medieval city are half-timbered houses painted in bright colors and windows bedecked with flowers, as you'd expect of Alsace. However, there are some unexpected architectural gems, including the Renaissance-style townhall and the sublime belfry made of pink sandstone, which the Alsatians call Kappelturm.
But there’s more than stone to Obernai. In the Middle Ages, the reputation of its wine was such that it was served on the largest imperial tables. After you arrive, continue your tour of the vineyards around the city by following a marked walking tour.
Track the Grands Crus from Barr
After Obernai, Barr is another stop of choice to dive into Alsatian history. Lesser known, but remarkably preserved, this charming village also has a large number of half-timbered houses, typical of the region. On the main square lies city hall, built on the ruins of a castle destroyed by fire, has a monument historical classification thanks to its Renaissance-style façade and its 1604-dated balcony.
The tour continues to the village church, from which you have a breathtaking view of Kirchberg. This hill, on which the vines grows, gave its name to a great vintage that you can pick up from one of the many wine merchants of the town.
Visiting Scherwiller and its castles
Just a quick ride over is Scherwiller , the crossroads between the valleys and the Alsatian Piedmont. Known for its famous Riesling wine, the town is surrounded by 370 hectares (914 acres) of vines to walk along in two loops of two or six kilometers.
To admire the meadows and the skyline of the town, climb the rocky path to the ruins of the Castle of Ortenbourg . Built in the 12th century by the Habsburgs, the military fortress is immediately recognizable by its impressive 32-meter (104 foot) dungeon. Another striking building, the Castle of Ramstein , the rear base of which you can reach in a few steps, is also worth the detour.
Enjoy the view of the Alps from the Castle of Haut-Koenigsbourg
Your bike tour ends after 70 kilometers (43 miles) at the Castle of Haut-Koenigsbourg, perched on a rocky spur of about 800 meters (2624 feet). Its architecture, which reflects the rivalries between the masters and their succession of illustrious owners, served as the setting for director Jean Renoir’s film masterpiece La Grande Illusion. The drawbridge, the weapons room and the dungeon are today’s reminders of a fascinating era.
As a crowning final, pedal five more kilometers (3 miles) to Orschwiller , which houses a plethora of wineries. Explore their cellars and discover the wines of the Haut-Koenigsbourg region, like the Grand Cru of Praelatenberg, the (absolutely merited) local pride.