Alsace, the crossroads of Europe

Situated in north-eastern France, on the borders of Germany and Switzerland , Alsace enjoys an ideal location in the heart of Europe. The region has 1.7 million inhabitants, and comprises two departments, Haut-Rhin in the south and Bas-Rhin in the north. It is the third most populous region in France and also the smallest. Its size, 190 km long and 50 km wide, makes it easy to explore. It has remained a region on a human scale (8,280km²) with a wide variety of landscapes ranging from forests and valleys to plains and mountains.

Did you know ?

The French national anthem, La Marseillaise, was a military marching song created by Rouget de Lisle in 1792, when France was at war with Austria. Its original title was War song of the Rhine Army.

Route des Vins

Route des Vins

From Marlenheim to Thann, the Route des Vins d'Alsace (Alsatian Wine Route) crosses a picture postcard landscape: ruins of mediaeval castles, flower-decked villages, Romanesque abbeys, undulating vines, friendly wine bars (winstubs), etc. The 170 kilometre route can be travelled in either direction and will enable you to discover the charms of the Alsatian vineyard.

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For a long time Alsace was home to the Tokay grape, now replaced by the Pinot Gris. The name Tokay, following a decision by the European Commission in 2007, is now reserved for Hungarian wines, and Alsatian growers had to stop using the term. In return, however, they secured a ruling that Hungarian wine producers could not use the name “Crémant”!

Haut- Koenigsbourg Castle

Haut- Koenigsbourg Castle

Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle is one of the most popular monuments in France with 600,000 visitors a year. When it was built in the 12th century, its purpose was to watch over the wine and wheat routes to the north and the silver and salt routes from west to east. In 1899, Kaiser Wilhelm II decided to rebuild the castle in its entirety, faithfully adhering to the architecture of the Middle Ages. It stands nearly 800 metres above sea level on a rocky spur and offers a spectacular panoramic view of the Alsace plain, the Vosges mountains and valleys, the Black Forest and, on a clear day, the Alps.

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The castle was used for some of the outdoor locations in Jean Renoir’s film, La Grande illusion, starring Jean Gabin.

Colmar

Colmar

Situated in the heart of Alsace, between the two other big industrial centres of Strasbourg and Mulhouse, Colmar is a must for visitors. This medium-sized town has numerous monuments and stunningly beautiful districts typical of the region. It is the birthplace of the famous sculptor Bartholdi, the creator of the Statue of Liberty, which was presented to the United States in 1886, and of Hansi, the best-known Alsatian illustrator. Colmar also has several interesting museums, including the Musée Unterlinden and Musée Auguste Bartholdi.

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Some 12 km from Colmar lies the village of Kaysersberg, birthplace of Albert Schweitzer in 1875 who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952.

Mulhouse

Mulhouse

Designated a “City of Art and History”, Mulhouse has several museums relating to the industries that have contributed to its wealth, including car manufacturing. The old part also provides opportunities to explore this ancient textile city on foot and discover its historic buildings, such as the City Hall or St. Stephen's Church.

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Alfred Dreyfus was born in Mulhouse in 1859 and spent his childhood in the family home on "Wild street", briefly renamed "Adolf Hitler Street" by the Nazis.

The Route des Crêtes

The Route des Crêtes

The skyline road Route des Crêtes was created during the First World War with the strategic objective of ensuring the logistics and defence of the Vosges front. From the Col du Bonhomme pass to the rocky spur known as Vieil Armand, passing on the way through the Col de la Schlucht pass, the Hohneck massif, the Markstein ski resort and the Grand Ballon summit, it is more than 80 kilometres long.

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Its highest point is 1,343m, when it crosses the Grand Ballon, and its lowest point is the Amic pass (825m).

The Route des Crêtes

The Route des Crêtes

Opened in 1984, the Alsace Ecomuseum consists of nearly 70 authentic country houses, which were taken apart piece by piece in their village of origin, where they were condemned for demolition. Over the years and thanks to the contribution of thousands of enthusiasts, the museum has become one of the most important in Europe, with its village, fields and forest totalling around 100 hectares.

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Until the beginning of the 20th century, the traditional Alsatian house was considered a piece of furniture. It could be dismantled and reconstructed elsewhere.