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Regions of France - Alsace

Visitors to this region on France's eastern border are delighted with Alsace's many picturesque villages, churches and castles and for the attractions of its three main towns, in spite of the massive destruction suffered throughout five centuries of wars between France and Germany.

Made up of just two departments, the Upper or Haut Rhin - it's capital is Colmar, however, the biggest city is actually Mulhouse .. and the Lower or Bas Rhin with Strasbourg as the capital. Located on the west bank of the upper Rhine, next to Germany and Switzerland, Strasbourg, is also the political, economic and cultural capital of Alsace and headquarters for numerous international organisations making Alsace one of the most important politically regions in the European Union.

Part of the Holy Roman Empire since the 17th century, the region has passed between German and French control numerous times, resulting in a fascinating cultural blend. Germanic traits remain in the more traditional, rural parts of the culture, such as the cuisine and architecture, whereas modern institutions are dominated by French culture.

Although the historical language of Alsace is Alsatian, which is similar to dialects of German spoken on the opposite bank of the Rhine, today all Alsatians speak French, often with a distinctly German accent.

Many events, both happy and tragic, have shaped this region and created a distinctive identity, however, you don't need to be a history lover to appreciate Alsace's rich heritage.

Strasbourg is popular with tourists for its historic centre and its magnificent gothic cathedral, is among the most visited in France, and the Petit France quarter, on the banks of the river Ill, is particularly worth a visit. Among the highlights of the city's activities is the annual Christmas Market, held around the cathedral, an event that attracts visitors from all over France and nearby countries.

Mulhouse is a major manufacturing centre; but there are still lots of attractions to impress tourists including the French national railway museum, the Cité de l'Automobile, an impressive car museum with the world's largest collection of Bugattis, and the large Ecomusée d'Alsace open-air museum.

Alsace is famous for its beer (such as Kronenbourg), sauerkraut (choucroute in French), pork specialties, foie gras, Munster cheeses and white wines, which belong to the German wine tradition, Riesling, Sylvaner or Gewurtztraminer as the most popular varieties.

Alsace is also a land of art and culture, inspired by the openness of the Alsatian people and the seemingly limitless creativity of its artists. Alsace's local arts and fine arts are extremely diverse and include: pottery, glassworks, wood items, wood and stone sculptor, painting and more.

Alsace is a region of varied economic activity, including viticulture, hop harvesting and brewing (half of French beer is produced in Alsace), forestry development, automobile industry, life sciences as part of the trinational Bio Valley, phosphate mining and tourism.

Despite being one of the smallest regions in France, Alsace is on the "must visit" list for many tourists due to it's distinctive identity and fascinating history.