51 Best Sights in Alsace-Lorraine, France

Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg

Fodor's choice

The ruins of the Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg were presented by the town of Sélestat to German emperor Wilhelm II in 1901. The château looked just as a kaiser thought one should, and he restored it with some diligence and no lack of imagination—squaring the main tower's original circle, for instance. The site, panorama, drawbridge, and amply furnished imperial chambers may lack authenticity, but they are undeniably dramatic.

Maison Natale de Jeanne d'Arc

Fodor's choice

The humble, stone-and-stucco Maison Natale de Jeanne d'Arc—an irregular, slope-roof, two-story cottage—has been preserved with style and reverence, although there is little to see inside. The modern museum alongside, the Centre Johannique, shows a film (French with English subtitles), while mannequins in period costume recount the Hundred Years' War. After she heard mystical voices, Joan walked 19 km (12 miles) to Vaucouleurs. Dressed and mounted like a man, she later led her forces to lift the siege of Orléans, defeated the English, and escorted the unseated Charles VII to Reims, to be crowned king of France. Military missions after Orléans failed—including an attempt to retake Paris—and she was captured at Compiègne. The English turned her over to the Church, which sent her to be tried by the Inquisition for witchcraft and heresy. She was convicted and burned at the stake in Rouen. One of the latest theories is that Jeanne d'Arc was no mere "peasant" but was distantly connected to France's royal family—a controversial proposal that many historians discount.

Musée d'Unterlinden

Fodor's choice

The cultural highlight of Colmar is the Musée d'Unterlinden; once a Dominican convent and a hotbed of Rhenish mysticism, the building's star attraction is one of the greatest altarpieces of the 16th century, the Retable d'Issenheim (1512–16), by Matthias Grünewald, which is displayed in the convent's Gothic chapel. Originally painted for the convent at Issenheim, 22 km (14 miles) south of Colmar, the multipanel work is either the last gasp of medievalism or a breathtaking preview of modernism and all its neuroses. Replete with raw realism (note the chamber pots, boil-covered bellies, and dirty linen), Grünewald's altarpiece was believed to have miraculous healing powers over ergotism. Widespread in the Middle Ages, this malady was caused by ingesting fungus-ridden grains, and its victims—many of whom were being nursed at the Issenheim convent—experienced delusional, nearly hallucinogenic fantasies.

Arms and armor are among the treasures in the enchanting 13th-century cloister. Upstairs are fine regional furnishings and a collection of Rhine Valley paintings from the Renaissance, among them Martin Schongauer's opulent 1470 altarpiece painted for Jean d'Orlier. A copper-roofed wing has three floors dedicated to modern and contemporary art (including the Guernica tapestry by Jacqueline de La Baume-Dürbach), as well as temporary exhibition space.

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Musée de l'École de Nancy

Quartier Art-Nouveau Fodor's choice

France's only museum devoted to Art Nouveau is in an airy turn-of-the-last-century garden–town house built by Eugène Corbin, an early patron of the École de Nancy. Re-created rooms show off original works by local Art Nouveau glassmakers Emile Gallé, Antonin and Auguste Daum, Amalric Walter, and other artisans. Immerse yourself in the fanciful, highly stylized, curlicue style that crept into interiors and exteriors throughout Nancy in the early 20th century, then became a sensation around the world.

Musée Départemental d'Art Ancien et Contemporain

Fodor's choice

A renovated 17th-century hospital on an island in the center of Épinal is home to the spectacular Musée Départemental d'Art Ancien et Contemporain. The crowning jewel here is Job Lectured by His Wife, one of the greatest works of Georges de la Tour, the painter whose candlelight scenes constitute Lorraine's most memorable artistic legacy. Works of other old masters on view (including Rembrandt, Fragonard, and Boucher) were once part of the famous collection of the Princes of Salm. The museum also contains one of France's largest collections of contemporary art, as well as Gallo-Roman artifacts, rural tools, and local faïence. The museum will be closed for major renovations from October 2023 through 2026.

Petite France

Fodor's choice

With gingerbread, half-timber houses that seem to lean precariously over the canals of the Ill, plus old-fashioned shops and inviting little restaurants, "Little France" is the most magical neighborhood in Strasbourg. The district, just southwest of the center, is historically Alsatian in style and filled with Renaissance buildings that have survived plenty of wars. Wander up and down the tiny streets that connect Rue du Bain-aux-Plantes and Rue des Dentelles to Grande-Rue, and stroll the waterfront promenade.

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Place Stanislas

Ville Royale Fodor's choice

With its severe, gleaming-white, classical facades given a touch of rococo jollity by fanciful wrought gilt-iron railings, this perfectly proportioned square may remind you of Versailles. It is named for Stanislas Leszczynski, twice dethroned as king of Poland but offered the Duchy of Lorraine by Louis XV (his son-in-law) in 1736. Stanislas left a legacy of spectacular buildings, undertaken between 1751 and 1760 by architect Emmanuel Héré and ironwork genius Jean Lamour. The sculpture of Stanislas dominating the square went up in the 1830s. Framing the exit, and marking the divide between the Vieille Ville and the Ville Neuve (New Town), is the Arc de Triomphe, erected in the 1750s to honor Louis XV. The facade trumpets the gods of war and peace; Louis's portrait is here.

Abbaye d'Andlau

Built in the 12th century, the Abbaye d'Andlau has the richest ensemble of Romanesque sculpture in Alsace. Sculpted vines wind their way around the doorway as a reminder of wine's time-honored importance to the local economy. A statue of a female bear, the abbey mascot—bears used to roam local forests and were bred at the abbey until the 16th century—can be seen in the north transept. Legend has it that Queen Richarde, spurned by her husband, Charles the Fat, founded the abbey in AD 887 when an angel enjoined her to construct a church on a site to be shown to her by a female bear. The abbey is open daily from 10 to 4.

Avenue Foch

Quartier Art-Nouveau

This busy boulevard lined with mansions was laid out for Nancy's affluent 19th- and early-20th-century middle class. At No. 69, built in 1902 by Émile André, the occasional pinnacle suggests Gothic influence; André designed the neighboring No. 71 two years later. Number 41, built by Paul Charbonnier in 1905, bears ironwork by Louis Majorelle.

Nancy, Grand-Est, 54000, France

Barrage Vauban

Just beyond the Ponts Couverts is the grass-roofed Vauban Dam, built by its namesake in 1682. Climb to the top for wide-angle views of the Ponts Couverts and, on the other side, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. Then meander through its echoing galleries, where magnificent cathedral statuary lies scattered among pigeon droppings.

Ponts Couverts, Strasbourg, Grand-Est, 67000, France
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Rate Includes: Free

Basilique du Bois-Chenu

The ornate, late-19th-century Basilique du Bois-Chenu, on a hillside high above Domrémy, has enormous, painted and mosaic panels expounding on Joan's legend in glowing Pre-Raphaelite tones. Outside are serene panoramas of the gently rolling, emerald-green Meuse Valley.

88630 Domrémy-la-Pucelle, Domrémy-la-Pucelle, Grand-Est, 88630, France

Basilique St-Maurice

The small but bustling Vieille Ville is anchored by the lovely old Basilique St-Maurice, a low, gray-stone sanctuary blending Romanesque and Gothic styles. Note its sturdy belfry and deep, ornate, 15th-century entry porch.

Épinal, Grand-Est, 88000, France

Bibliothèque Humaniste

Among the precious medieval and Renaissance manuscripts on display at the Bibliothèque Humaniste, founded in 1452 and installed in the former Halle aux Blés, are a 7th-century lectionary and a 12th-century Book of Miracles. There's also a town register from 1521, with the first-ever recorded reference to a Christmas tree.

Brasserie l'Excelsior

Quartier Art-Nouveau

This bustling brasserie has a severely rhythmic facade that is invitingly illuminated at night. Inside, the decor continues to evoke the Belle Époque.


Ville Neuve

This vast, frigid edifice was built in the 1740s in a ponderous Baroque style, eased in part by the florid ironwork of Jean Lamour. The most notable interior feature is a murky 19th-century fresco in the dome. The Trésor (Treasury) contains minute 10th-century splendors carved of ivory and gold but is only open to the public on rare occasions.

Rue St-Georges, Nancy, Grand-Est, 54000, France

Cathédrale Notre-Dame

Dark pink, ornately carved Vosges sandstone covers the facade of this most novel and Germanic of French cathedrals, a triumph of Gothic art begun in 1176. Not content with the outlines of the walls themselves, medieval builders lacily encased them with slender stone shafts. The off-center spire, finished in 1439, looks absurdly fragile as it tapers skyward some 466 feet. You can climb 330 steps to the base of the spire for sweeping views of the city, the Vosges Mountains, and the Black Forest.

The interior presents a stark contrast to the facade: it's older (mostly finished by 1275), and the nave's broad windows emphasize the horizontal rather than the vertical. Note Hans Hammer's ornately sculpted pulpit (1485) and the richly painted 14th- to 15th-century organ loft that rises from pillar to ceiling. The left side of the nave is flanked with richly colored Gothic windows honoring the early leaders of the Holy Roman Empire—Otto I and II and Heinrich I and II. The choir is not ablaze with stained glass but framed by chunky Romanesque masonry. The elaborate 16th-century Chapelle St-Laurent, to the left of the choir, merits a visit; turn to the right to admire the Pilier des Anges (Angels' Pillar), an intricate column dating from 1230.

Just beyond the pillar, the Renaissance machinery of the 16th-century Horloge Astronomique whirs into action daily at 12:30 pm (but the line starts at the south door at 11:45 am) with macabre clockwork figures enacting the story of Christ's Passion. One of the highlights: when the apostles walk past, a likeness of Christ as a rooster crows three times.

Collégiale St-Martin

Built between 1235 and 1365, this collegiate church is essentially Gothic (the Renaissance bell tower was added in 1572 following a fire). There are some interesting medieval sculptures on the exterior, and the interior, which was heavily vandalized during the Revolution, includes an ambulatory, a rare feature in Alsatian sanctuaries.

22 pl. de la Cathedrale, 68000, France

Église des Dominicains

The Flemish-influenced Madonna of the Rosebush (1473), noted German artist Martin Schongauer's most celebrated painting, hangs in the Église des Dominicains. Stolen from St-Martin's in 1972 and later recovered, the work has almost certainly been reduced in size from its original state. It nevertheless still makes an enormous impact. The grace and intensity of the Virgin match that of the Christ Child, yet her slender fingers dent the child's soft flesh (and his fingers entwine her curls) with immediate intimacy. Schongauer's text for her crown is: Me carpes genito tuo o santissima virgo (Choose me also for your child, O holiest Virgin).

Colmar, Grand-Est, 68000, France
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Rate Includes: From €2, Closed Mon., Wed., and Jan.–Mar.

European Parliament

This sleek building testifies to the growing importance of the governing body of the European Union, which used to make do with rental offices in the Palais de l'Europe. Eurocrats continue to commute between Brussels, Luxembourg, and Strasbourg, hauling their staff and files with them. One week per month (August excepted), you can slip into the hemicycle and witness the tribune in debate, complete with simultaneous translation. Note: you must provide a pièce d'identité (ID) before entering. You don't have to reserve in advance, but space is limited so arrive early. If you do get in, you can also visit Le Parlamentarium, where high-tech, interactive modules explain how the European Union works.

Kappelturm Beffroi

Place du Marché, in the heart of town, is dominated by the 13th-century Kappelturm Beffroi. The stout, square structure is topped by a pointed steeple that's flanked at each corner by frilly openwork turrets.


Like a private backyard for the Eurocrats in the Palais de l'Europe, this delightful park is laden with flowers and punctuated by noble copper beeches. It contains a lake and, close by, a small reserve of rare birds, including flamingos and noisy local storks.

Strasbourg, Grand-Est, 67000, France

La Petite Venise

To find Colmar at its most charming, wander along the calm canals that wind through La Petite Venise, an area of bright Alsatian houses with colorful shutters and window boxes that's south of the center of town. Here, amid half-timber buildings bedecked with flowers and willow trees that weep into the eddies of the Lauch River, you have the sense of being in a tiny village.

Quai de la Poissonnerie, Colmar, Grand-Est, 68000, France

Maison aux Arcades

Up the street from the Ancienne Douane on the Grande-Rue, the Maison aux Arcades was built in 1609 in High Renaissance style with a series of arched porches (arcades) anchored by two octagonal towers.

Maison Pfister

Built in 1537, the Maison Pfister is the most striking of Colmar's many old dwellings. Note the decorative frescoes and medallions, carved balcony, and ground-floor arcades.

11 rue Mercière, Colmar, Grand-Est, 68000, France

Musée Alsacien

In this labyrinthine, half-timber home, where layers of carved balconies sag over a cobbled inner courtyard, local interiors have been faithfully reconstituted. The diverse activities of blacksmiths, clog makers, saddlers, and makers of artificial flowers are explained with the help of old-time craftsmen's tools and equipment.

Musée Bartholdi

The Bartholdi Museum is the birthplace of Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi (1834–1904), the sculptor who designed the Statue of Liberty. Exhibits of the artist's work claim the ground floor, and a recreation of his Paris apartment is upstairs. The creation of Lady Liberty is explored in adjoining rooms.

Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain

At the city’s modern and contemporary art museum, Adrien Fainsilber’s stunning 1998 building sometimes outshines the displays inside. The latter includes a choice collection of 20th-century fine art, graphic art, and photography. Downstairs there is a permanent collection of Impressionists and Modernists up to 1950, with some notable furniture by Spindler and Carabin. The mix of 20th-century artistic movements featured helps you compare and contrast modern pioneers like Monet and Gauguin with the New Realists. Drawings, watercolors, and paintings by Gustave Doré, a native of Alsace, are enshrined in a separate room. Upstairs is a space dedicated to modern art exhibitions and installations.

Musée de l'Image

This museum is next door to the town's most famous printing workshop, L'Imagerie d'Épinal. Begun in 1796, L'Imagerie has produced woodcuts, lithographs, and other forms of printed imagery that are displayed here, offering a beautiful—and often critical—pictorial history of France.

Musée de l'Œuvre Notre-Dame

There's more to this museum than the usual assembly of dilapidated statues rescued from the cathedral before they fell off (you'll find those rotting in the Barrage Vauban). Sacred sculptures stand in churchlike settings, and secular exhibits are enhanced by the building's fine old architecture. Subjects include a wealth of Flemish and Upper Rhine paintings, stained glass, gold objects, and massive, heavily carved furniture.

Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires

Vieille Ville

Just up the street from the Palais Ducal, this quirky museum is in the Couvent des Cordeliers (Convent of the Franciscans, who were known as Cordeliers until the Revolution). Displays re-create how local people lived in preindustrial times, using a series of evocative rural interiors. Craftsmen's tools, colorful crockery, somber stone fireplaces, and dark waxed-oak furniture accent the tableaulike settings. The dukes of Lorraine are buried in the crypt of the adjoining Église des Cordeliers, a Flamboyant Gothic church; the detailed gisant (reclining statue) of Philippa de Gueldra, second wife of René II, is executed in limestone and serves as a moving example of Renaissance portraiture. The octagonal Ducal Chapel was begun in 1607 in the Renaissance style, modeled on the Medici Chapel in Florence.

There are major restorations underway until 2027, and currently only the Église des Cordeliers is open to the public.

64 Grande-Rue, Nancy, Grand-Est, 54000, France
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Rate Includes: Free (Église des Cordeliers only) during restoration work, Closed Mon.