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Alsace Travel Guide
Riquewihr's dolder, medieval tower, and half-timbered houses, Alsace (© Anouk Stricher | iStockphoto.com)
Riquewihr's dolder, medieval tower, and half-timbered houses.

Introduction

Blessed with a unique blend of Germany and France, Alsace is a pictureque strip of land hemmed by the Rhine River and the Vosges Mountains. Beyond its geranium-filled windows and storks nesting on top of timber-framed houses is a hedonistic hybrid culture of food lovers. Alsace produces both high-quality wine and beer. Its cuisine unabashedly combines foie gras and sauerkraut, macarons and gingerbread... Colmar and Strasbourg both rank among the 10 best cities to eat in France.

Alsace is the smallest French region (excluding overseas regions), the third most densely populated, the fourth wealthiest, as well as the one with the lowest unemployment rate.

Although German dialects were spoken in Alsace for most of its history, the dominant language in Alsace today is French. The traditional Alsatian language is an Alemannic dialect of Upper German and thus closely related to Swiss German and Swabian.

Famous people from Alsace include (chronologically): Nobel Peace Prize philosopher Albert Schweitzer, Nobel-prize-winning chemist Jean-Marie Lehn, pastry chef Pierre Hermé, rally driver Sébastien Loeb.

History

Alsace has been settled by Germanic people ever since the latter days of the Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages, it was one of the favourite residences of many Holy Roman Emperors, who granted the special status of Free Imperial City to ten Alsatian towns, who later form the Décapole alliance (or Zehnstädtebund in German).

While the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) ravaged a religiously divided Germany, Louis XIV opportunistically annexed Alsace. Many cities resisted this forceful annexation for up to three decades, before resigning themselves after witnessing their homes being plundered and burned by the French.

No sooner had the Alsatians got used to French rule that they were retroceded to Germany in 1871 following the Franco-Prussian War. Alsace remained German until the end of WWI, was returned to France, then recovered again by the Germans during WWII.

Attractions

Département du Haut-Rhin

Colmar
Colmar, Alsace
must-see One of France's most impressive timber-framed city, home to the celebrated Unterlinden Museum.
Eguisheim
Eguisheim, Alsace
outstanding A lovely, perfectly preserved timber-framed village.
Kaysersberg
Kaysersberg, Alsace
outstanding Kaysersberg is a gorgeous fortified village on the Alsatian wine route.
Riquewihr
Riquewihr, Alsace
outstanding Possibly Alsace's most gorgeous town, Riquewihr has long been renowned for its white wine.
Mulhouse
Mulhouse, Alsace
very good Once an independent republic, Mulhouse propelled France into the Industrial age and is now home to the world's largest car museum and train museum.

Other attractions

very good Murbach Abbey
very good Oelenberg Abbey

Département du Bas-Rhin

Strasbourg
Strasbourg, Alsace
must-see Capital and largest city of Alsace, Strasbourg is one of the most beautiful and most visited cities in France.
Obernai
Obernai, Alsace
outstanding An Alsatian Renaissance town in pristine condition, just 25 km from Strasbourg.

Haguenau
Haguenau, Alsace
very good Former seat of the Alsatian League, Haguenau is has retained a few grand Renaissance edifices.
Wissembourg
Wissembourg, Alsace
very good Sitting on the Franco-German border, Wissembourg is renowned for its late Medieval and Renaissance architecture.
Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle
Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle, Alsace
outstanding Overlooking the vineyards of Alsace, Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle is red-sandstone fortress dating back to the 12th century and reconstructed by Kaiser Wilhelm II in the early 1900's.

Other attractions

very good Citadel of Bitche
very good Hunspach
very good Marmoutier Abbey

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