Roussillon, Strasbourg, and Vence: interesting cities in France
Around Strasbourg you can visit the beautiful towns and villages of Alsace along the Wine Route . Wonderfully beautiful villages with colorful half-timbered houses, wineries with free tastings, fine Alsatian wines and Crémant, picturesque castle ruins, theme parks for children and of course storks, the symbol of Alsace…
The best way to get around Alsace is by car, as many of the most beautiful villages are very, very, very rarely by bus. In order to have time for everything, it’s easier to travel by car. But if anything, you can manage without a car, as long as you choose places accessible by public transport of Alsace.
What to see around Strasbourg:
Attractions, interesting towns and villages around Strasbourg:
- 76 km, 55 minutes by car.
The second most popular city in Alsace, which boasts its “Little Venice”. Colmar can easily compete with Strasbourg for beauty, and perhaps even win in some ways. The city’s Christmas market transforms it into a fairy tale, especially at Christmastime!
On the plus side, you can get from Strasbourg to Colmar by car or by train (about half an hour).
2. Mulhouse .
- 118 km, 1:17 by car
This small town on the border with Switzerland and France was one of the first independent cities, has been part of Switzerland and finally joined the young French Republic. In my opinion it is the most uncomfortable and unsafe city of Alsace because of its many immigrants, but the central square of Mulhouse and especially the largest car museum in Europe are definitely worth seeing.
Mulhouse is literally on the other side of Alsace, so it is worth considering whether you should go that far when there are so many interesting things to see nearby. It’s not a place that goes unmentioned, especially if you like cars.
The best way to get there is to take the high-speed train – you get there in about an hour and you are in Mulhouse.
3. Parc Naturel regional des Vosges du Nord
- 50 km, 57 min by car
A natural park with amazing views of the Vosges.
- 50 km, 38 minutes by car.
Saverne (the Three Taverns of Caesaris, so called because there were in former times three taverns on the road to the plateau of Lorraine where bulls were changed on the steep slope) was an important centre in Roman times and after it was destroyed by the Alamans, it was restored by Emperor Julian.
After A.D. 870, the city belonged to Eastern France, which became the Holy Roman Empire. In 1913, the city was the site of the infamous “Saverne Affair” theater. This event gave rise to the term Zabernism (Zabernism – from the German name of the city), meaning abuse of military power or unwarranted aggression.
The town’s emblem is the unicorn. According to legend, a unicorn horn was found in one of the nearby castles in the ruins. More likely, a narwhal tooth was found and mistaken for a unicorn horn. Nevertheless, it gave its name to the local beer (fr. Bière de la Licorne) and to the Karlsbräu brewery (f: Brasserie la Licorne) which produced it.
Its main building, the Château des Rohan, is the former residence of the bishops of Strasbourg, rebuilt by Cardinal de Rohan in 1779. The Germans used it as a barracks. It now houses the city museum with a large archaeological collection of Roman and Celtic artifacts, a small arts and crafts museum, and a collection of 20th-century and ethnological art donated by feminist journalist and politician Louise Weiss.
Other attractions include a former 15th-century castle (Château vieux) and adjoining 15th-century Notre-Dame-de-la-Nativité church with beautiful stained-glass windows and sculptures; a Gothic former monastery with a church and cloister decorated with 17th-century frescoes; and several old houses, among which the Maison Katz stands out.
In the vicinity are the ruined castles of Haut-Barr, Grand Geroldseck, Ochsenstein and Greifenstein. From here the road immortalized by Goethe in Dichtung und Wahrheit leads through the Vosges to the Palatinate. The mountain pass (Col de Saverne) contains the extensive botanical garden Jardin botanique du col de Saverne.
- 41 km, 36 min by car.
Bouxwiller, probably meaning “Bucco Land”, is the capital of the canton of Bouxwiller and is located in the Saverne district, about 34 kilometers northwest of Strasbourg.
The earliest known mention of Buxwiller dates back to 724 AD. In the 13th century, the town came under the ownership of the Lichtenberg family, who built Buxwiller Castle here in the early 14th century. Buxwiller was the capital of the county of Hanau-Lichtenberg and the residence of the counts of Hanau-Lichtenberg throughout its existence from 1480 to 1736. Buxwiller Castle was looted during the French Revolution, and its remains had disappeared by the early 19th century. In 1973, the villages of Griesbach-les-Bastberg, Imbsheim and Riedheim were incorporated into the commune of Buxwiller.
6. Agno (Haguenau)
- 31 km, 27 min. by car from Strasbourg
Haguenau has a rich 18th-century heritage, which you can explore during a walk with an audio guide available from the tourist office (in French, German, English or Danish) or as a guided tour in the summer season. Complete your trip with a visit to one of the city’s 3 museums (Luggage Museum, Museum of Alsace and Historical Museum). Agnault, the fourth largest city in Alsace, is also an industrial and commercial city in the north of the region, located about thirty kilometers north of Strasbourg. Today, the city attracts tourists because of its pleasant pedestrian center, beautiful 18th-century buildings, museums, numerous green spaces and forests, and rich and varied activities throughout the year.
- 41 km, 30 min by car from Strasbourg
Soufflenheim is a town 15 km to the east of Agno. Surrounded by forest, crossed by the rivers Eberbach and Falgraben, the town owes its fame and prosperity to its clay soils, which in ancient times gave rise to dynamic crafts related to pottery.
Pottery especially flourished during the German Empire, as potters were allowed to mine free raw materials as early as the 12th century. Nearly a millennium later, there are still a dozen potters in town, including specialized cookware and baking molds designed for Alsatian delicacies (kugelhopf, bekehoffe, terrines…).
8. Kayserberg and Riquewihr
- 82 km, 1 hour by car south
Kayserberg is one of the most visited cities in Alsace. It is located northwest of Colmar. You can see the beautifully preserved historic old town and the picturesque vineyards in the area, because Kayserberg is part of the Alsace Wine Route. The picturesque half-timbered houses with the stone bridge and the central square with the important Romanesque church await you. Near the village the ruins of an ancient castle can still be seen, tucked away in the vineyards.
Nearby is one of the most beautiful villages in France and Alsace, Riquewihr. Along with Egisheim, it is one of the most visited sites of the famous Wine Route of Alsace. The buildings, perfectly preserved since ancient times, enchant you with their picturesque, colorful half-timbered facades. And all around idyllic stretches of endless vineyards, among which the ruins of castles can be seen in places…
From its religious past Molsheim has preserved a huge 17th century Jesuit church and a former Carthusian monastery, which today houses a museum dedicated to the history of the city and the memories of the Bugatti family. In the town hall square, Metzig is a beautiful pointed Renaissance building built in 1525.
An ancient cathedral town and university, the birthplace of Bugatti, located near the Vosges, on the Wine Route, Molsheim is both a historical, tourist and wine-making local center, very well served by public transportation routes.
Obernai is a fantastically beautiful town, one of the most popular in Alsace, with a fabulous half-timbered center and cozy picturesque streets. A Must-see!
Barr is a picturesque town at the foot of the St. Odile mountain, situated 200 m above the sea level in the valley of St. Ulrich and in the foothills of the Kirchberg and Altenberg mountains. Barr owes its prosperity to its forests, vineyards and tourism. Barr is the wine capital of the Lower Rhine. Its vines wind through the hills bordering the Kirneck Valley. This is where the famous Grand Cru Kirchberg is located.
The town itself, with its half-timbered houses, carved stone portals and courtyards with wooden galleries, fascinates many tourists.
Of interest is the Musée de la Folie Marco: a large semi-pastoral – semi-bourgeois residence became, thanks to a 1960 bequest to the town of Barre, a museum of Alsatian bourgeois furniture from the 17th to 19th centuries, from the Renaissance to the Imperial and Restoration periods. It is complemented by collections of earthenware and porcelain, pewter and local souvenirs.
- 54km, 41 minutes by car.
Sélestat is famous for its humanistic library which holds many works from the 7th to the 16th centuries. The old town will also enchant you with its Renaissance houses as well as the Romanesque church of Sainte-Foy and the Gothic church of Saint-Georges. It is quite a large city for Alsace, with a population of approx. 20,000 inhabitants, with a rich historical and architectural heritage. It is a popular tourist destination in northern Alsace.
14. Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg
- 65 km (53 min by car from Strasbourg).
This is one of the most visited and well preserved castles in Alsace. Its red walls on the top of the mountain are visible from afar. Inside you’ll find an interesting collection of hunting trophies, as well as magnificent panoramic views of the whole area. This is the most spectacular castle in the region and definitely worth a visit. You can get here practically only by car.
15. Château de Wangenbourg
16. Château du Petit-Arnsberg – Obersteinbach
17. Fort de Mutzig
The decision to fortify Mutzig Hill was made in January 1893 by Emperor Wilhelm II. In conjunction with the fortified Strasbourg belt, the fort would block the Rhine valley from any French offensive in Alsace. The concrete, armored, and electrified fortification would serve as a prototype for 20th-century fragmentary fortification. 7,000 men were called upon to maintain this vast complex of 254 hectares. With numerous structures and 22 armored towers, it was the most powerful German fortification group in 1914.
You will pass through several buildings connected by underground galleries and discover many original structures: chambers, kitchens, wells, bakery, power station, hospital… On the two-kilometer route there are many stairs. The average temperature indoors is 14°C.
With its magnificent panoramas over the plain of Alsace and the Vosges, the open track exposes visitors to firing trenches, observatories, shelters and an artillery battery.
The fort can only be visited with a guide. Tours take place:
- November 1 to March 31: Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. (open every day for visits at 2 p.m. during school vacations in the Alsace region).
- April 1 to June 30 and September 16 to October 31: Monday to Friday at 14:00, Saturday and Sunday at 14:00, 15:00 and 16:00.
- July 1 through September 15: daily at 10:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m.
The tour lasts 2 hours and 30 minutes (including 2 hours underground and about 30 minutes on the surface).
What to see in Provence: 12 small towns and villages
That Provence is red ochre canyons, turquoise rivers, lavender fields, olive groves and vineyards, even those who have not been there know – from the beautiful photos from Instagram. But still the main attraction of Provence – small towns and villages that have not changed for tens and hundreds of years. Except that now there are shooting movies, and on the ruins of the former châteaux are festivals. Collected a small guide to the most interesting places in Provence.
Most of the locations in this material are located in the valley of the Luberon mountain range. It is called the “backyard” of Provence because of its geographical location and the measured life of the locals: people bargain in the markets, take long walks with their dogs, walk on the cobblestone streets between historic buildings and just contemplate.
This small town is officially recognized as one of the most beautiful in France. The fact is that all the houses here are different shades of red and reddish.
Roussillon is surrounded by huge canyons of ochre, which once brought money to the region. Now the former quarries offer guided tours, and the routes to the mines are conveniently marked. You can see the Luberon Valley from the fortress part of town – it’s very beautiful.
- The local fair is on Thursday mornings.
- The Saint John Festival of Colours – June.
- The Beckett Festival – July.
- The International Festival of String Quartets – August.
- The Book Fair – September.
The village is unpopular with tourists, and to some extent this has preserved its authenticity. The old part has many houses with pastel colored facades and green squares. Pay attention to the signposts, you can follow them to interesting places.
Get to the restored Jerusalem Mill and admire the views from there. Next to the mill is the Conservatoire des Terrasses de Cultures de Goult (Museum of Goult Agriculture). Visit it if you wonder how the region developed and how the land was cultivated. And be sure to wander through the local gardens!
- The local fair is on Thursday mornings.
- Honey Festival every July. See the official Gult website for exact dates.
- Jazz festival – August.
- Festival of culture and crafts – August.
This town of Provence is more expensive and more touristy than the others because it is on the sea. But at the same time, the center retains the atmosphere of an old town. Cassis is surrounded by the cape of Cap Canaille and the mountain massif of Calanques. The slopes are home to wineries that produce wine.
In Cassis you can stay for a few days. There is excellent infrastructure, many cafes and restaurants, and the local beaches are good for swimming. The best view of the houses with pastel facades is from the pier behind the tourist center.
- Local fair – Wednesdays and Fridays mornings.
- Pottery fair – September.
- Spring Festival – April – May.
- Sea and Fishermen’s Festival – June.
- “Les Nuits Vagabonds – August.
- Wine festival – September.
- Comedy Festival – November.
4. Gord .
You may have seen Gord in Ridley Scott’s A Good Year (2006), there it was a fairytale Provencal village. And it really is. It’s like being in old Provence with its cobblestone streets and narrow passages between buildings. In addition, the village is located on a hill: a beautiful view opens up not only from above but also from below. Gord is included in the already mentioned list of the most beautiful villages in France.
Some of the most famous attractions in Provence are in the vicinity of Gordes. These are the Abbey of Senanc, standing in the middle of a lavender field, and the village of Bory, whose houses are built on dry stonework technology and resemble the famous Italian trulli.
- Local fair – Wednesdays and Fridays mornings.
- Weaving Market – Easter weekend.
- Festival des Soirées d’été – August.
- Concerts at the Théâtre des Terrasses – July and August.
The village of Lacoste has changed little since the 18th century, when it was home to the notorious Marquis de Sade. The Marquis’s estate is now owned by the designer Pierre Cardin. At first, the residents were unhappy that Cardin bought the Château de Lacoste and 22 other houses in the village, but over time they got used to it.
The ruins of the Château de Lacoste (Château de Lacoste, not to be confused with the famous Château La Coste vineyard) look as if the château had been abandoned long ago – the designer specially restored only part of the building. You can get there in July and August, the entrance will cost 12 euros. Every July it hosts the Festival de Lacoste, a festival of dance, theater and opera. During the rest of the months take a walk in the neighborhood: see modern sculptures and admire the Luberon Valley.
- The local fair is on Tuesday mornings.
- Lacoste Festival – July.
Unlike many of the villages in our selection, Lourmarin is on the plains. This place is also on the list of the most beautiful villages in France. It’s nice here: competently restored buildings, lots of cafes where you can slow down, tubs of flowers everywhere.
The Château de Lourmarin was built in three phases, from the 12th to the 16th century, and the difference in architectural styles is clearly visible. You can take a tour of the château or have a picnic nearby, and in the summer go to a concert or exhibition, which are often held there.
- The local fair is on Friday mornings.
- Music festivals at the Château de Lourmarin – May to September.
- Yeah festival – June.
- Literary festival – July – August.
- Bookish festival – August.
The village is located just above Lourmarin, and they are similar. Ansui has a large castle, which is also a great lookout point. Today it is privately owned, but from April to October you can buy a ticket and get inside. There are 16th and 18th century interiors with rich tapestries and paintings.
Not far from the castle there is a private Museum of the Extraordinaire (Musee Extraordinaire). In it you will see a collection of items found and made by its owner. When you leave Ansouis, check out the Musee des Arts et des Metiers (Museum of Arts and Crafts). It’s housed in a vineyard, so they talk about wine making in the region as well.
- The local fair is on Sunday mornings.
- Flower festival and fair – May.
- Music festival – June.
8. Bonnieux .
This village is not included in any tops, but even without them it is clear that it is wonderful here. One of the main attractions of Bonnieux is a temple of the XII century, it is located on the top of a hill. From there you can see the Vaucluse, Gordes, and Roussillon mountains, which we’ve already talked about above. There is also a museum of bakeries, where you can learn how bread was and is baked in the region. And we recommend tasting it at one of the local bakeries.
The village is next to a cedar forest (Forêt des Cèdres). It is marked hiking routes for tourists with any experience, including people with disabilities.