The regional diversity of Eastern France is reflected in the towns perhaps most notably along the Route du Vin that has possibly the prettiest selection of villages to visit, several of which are rightly classified as Plus Beaux Villages de France. The architecture has a strong Germanic influence and in summer the quaint villages are bedecked in flowers adding to their picture postcard appeal.
Larger towns are also worth a look. Visit Strasbourg (home to the European Parliament) where a boat trip along the waterways surrounding the old quarter should not be missed. Hunt out Colmar to the south or Belfort (see below) in Franche-Comté with its impressive Vauban designed citadel. In Champagne/Ardennes the towns of Epernay (see below) and Reims have much to entice Champagne enthusiasts.
Description: The largest city in Alsace, Strasbourg is an international city, the seat of the European parliament and yet retains the charms of a charming and attractive old provincial town. The river Ill runs through the centre and there are a myriad of canals as well as superb old buildings.
Location: Alongside the Rhine at the lower end of the A35 which runs next to the German border.
Our recommendations: Visit the Cathedrale Notre-Dame (opposite) and climb the 330 steps to the top of the spire where you can get a superb view of the Vosges mountains and Black Forest. Look out for the cathedral clock’s automated rooster at 12:30. Petit France is the most attractive part of Strasbourg with traditional half-timbered houses and inviting restaurants that are full of character.
For the children: If you have time to spare, take a trip over the border into the Black Forest, follow the E351 from Offenberg in the direction of Villingen and go shopping for cuckoo clock shops!
Description: For those interested in Champagne production Epernay is one of the main towns to visit. There are more than a hundred kilometres of cellars underneath the town!
Location: 27km south of Reims on the N51 in the heart of Champagne country.
General Info: Tourist Office Website (French only).
Our recommendations: The 3 main champagne houses (Moet et Chandon, Mercier and Vrantzen Demoiselle) can be visited in the Avenue de Champagne in the centre of town. In Mercier you can see a 160,000 litre barrel that took 20 years to build, and watch a multimedia presentation on champagne production. There are also a number of champagne houses in Reims that are worth visiting.
For the children: Champagne Mercier offer a fantastic visit through miles of underground cellars on a laser guided, electric train.
Description: Besançon is lovely city delightfully situated, nestling in a loop in the Doubs river valley.
Location: Just off the A36 halfway between Dijon and Mulhouse.
General Info: Website (French only).
Our recommendations: If you are in Besançon during the 7th – 9th March don’t miss the Grand Carnival. St. Jean Cathedral is worth a visit for its astronomical clock.
For the children: The Besançon summer festival during July and August has free concerts and street performances. Vauban Citadel, now a World War II museum, has a great panoramic view of the area.
Description: Belfort is a delightfully pleasant city – there are many Haussmann style buildings and the whole city is painted in pastels. This effect is quite magical.
Location: Just off the A36 about 50km S West of Mulhouse.
General Info: Tourist office website.
Our recommendations: There is a lovely citadel and a modern art museum which has a complementary audio guide.
For the children: There is a lot of interest for families there on a Wednesday during the summer, with free concerts at the castle and free children’s shows in the town centre.
Here’s more information to make the most of your visit to East France: