Alsace has through its history changed hands between Germany and France on several occasions. The local culture is distinct and very different from any other in France, and the region offers historic cities, castles and interesting countryside. The capital of Alsace is Strasbourg, among other things known for its stunning Strasbourg Cathedral, a unique example of a mix of roman and gotich architecture.
40 km to the south of Strasbourg is the beautiful Colmar, a renowned tourist destination. In between are many picturesque small towns such as Kaysersberg, Obernai, Ribeauvillé,Rixheim and Riquewihr, one of the most enchanting villages in Alsace. Parking is outside the town walls and entrance into the old town is through a series of old gates in the large clock and watch towers. There are old houses from the 16th and 17th centuries, many still have wells and fountains and their courtyards are overlooked by galleries above.
Alsace is also famous for its wine production and the Alsatian Vine Route is very popular to follow from village to village trying the local wines.
Many would mention Lorraine in the same breath as Alsace, but Lorrain is a very different region. It borders the countries of Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. Lorrain is famous for its crystal production, reputed to be the most elegant in Europe, and for those looking for a bargain there are many factory shops offering discounts of up to 40%.
Metz is the capital of the Lorraine region and is located in the Moselle department that borders Luxembourg and Germany. Nancy is the cultural capital of the region and a lively city with a big student population. The Old town of Nancy, the Place Stanislas, fountains and iron gates are among the many attractions in this friendly city.
The Champagne-Ardenne region is the home and birthplace of champagne. The region holds many treasures: a rolling countryside, dotted medieval churches, timeless castles and villages along winding waterways, historic fortifications in the forested Ardennes, and vineyards as far as the eye can see between Reims and Epernay.
Reims functions as the center of champagne production, but it has also played a prominent ceremonial role in French monarchical history as the traditional site of the crowning of kings of France; for about 1,000 years almost all French kings were crowned here. The cathedral, Notre-Dame de Reims, was formerly the place where numerous kings of France were coronated.
Franche-Comté is a little known region that borders Switzerland and shares much of its architecture, cuisine and culture. Between the Vosges range of mountains to the north and the Jura range to the south, the landscape consists of rolling cultivated fields and dense pine forest.
The Jura mountains are not as majestic as the Alps, but more accessible and are France's first cross-country skiing area. It is also a superb place to hike and there are some fine nature trails on the more gentle slopes. The Doubs and Loue valleys, with their timbered houses perched on stilts in the river, and the high valley of Ain, are popular visitor areas. The capital city of the region is the historical city of Besançon. Other principal cities in the region are Belfort, Montbéliard and Dole.