Alsace, the fifth smallest of France’s 27 regions, is located on France’s eastern border and on the west bank of the upper Rhine, adjacent to Germany and Switzerland. Its name can be traced back to Old High German ‘Elisaz’, meaning ‘foreign domain’. The economical and cultural capital of Alsace is Strasbourg, a perfect place for business trips or sightseeing holidays. Stay in the Hotel Premier Classe Strasbourg Sud – Ilkirch, only a few minutes from the city centre.
Alsace played an active part in the French Revolution, and in 1789 was divided into the departments of Haut- and Bas-Rhin. The region has a long and complicated history with Germany and bears many signs of warfare. However, it also boasts the largest number of feudal castles, such as the recently restored Hohlandsbourg castle. The historical language of Alsace is Alsatian, but these days the majority of the population speak French.
A two-day break
Two days is just enough time to experience the beautiful sights of Alsace. On day one you could start with a trip to the Haute-Koenigsburg castle, in Orschwiller. Nestled on a hill overlooking the Alsatian plain, it’s a huge tourist attraction on the Alsace wine route and is easily accessible by shuttle bus from Sélestat railway station. On day two, venture into Strasbourg for the museums and cathedrals, and enjoy lunch in the Petite-France area.
A week-long stay
If you have a whole week to explore, how about taking a couple of days to discover Alsace’s wine route by bicycle. With 4,000 kilometres of greenways and cycle paths, it’s France’s most bike-friendly region. Visit Colmar for the Unterlinden Museum and the charm of Petite Venise (Little Venice). If you’re staying in the Hotel Premier Classe Strasbourg Sud – Ilkirch, you will never be far from Strasbourg’s vast array of shops and restaurants.
A family holiday
Alsace offers fun for the whole family, most notably in its range of wildlife parks. Visit the stork and otter breeding centre for a fun day out, or head to Monkey Mountain, where 300 Barbay macaques live freely on site. Didiland is the perfect place for little ones, boasting a range of rides, a monorail and entertaining circus shows. Labyrinthus is also worth a visit, offering a giant corn maze to explore as a family.
If travelling by plane, it is easy to fly to either Strasbourg or Basel-Mulhouse international airports. Regular buses run from the airport to the respective city centres. Alsace is served by ten transport networks, making it easy to travel within the region. If travelling by car, the motorway takes you efficiently from north to south.
Alsatian cuisine is based strongly around Germanic culinary tastes. Try the traditional dishes of Flammkuchen and Sauerkraut to get a taste for the region. Le Gavroche in Strasbourg is great for gourmet cuisine and Colmar’s Auberge Brasserie has tasty local dishes. Alsace is also known for its wine, particularly white and rosé. Visit a traditional ‘Winstub’ bar to enjoy a glass.
Visit Alsace at Christmas to experience its wonderful array of Christmas markets. Strasbourg has hosted the largest market since 1570. Stay in the Hotel Premier Classe Strasbourg Sud – Ilkirch to ensure you are never far from the action. There is also Erstein’s Sugar Fair in August and the city of Colmar hosts monthly wine festivals.
In recent years, the Alsatian language has been encouraged in the region and is taught in schools as an optional subject. German is also taught in local kindergartens and schools. However, the constitution of France requires French to be Alsace’s official language.