Alsace - Franco-German entente between Rhine and Vosges Mountains

Prices from £2,295


17 Sep 2020 - 23 Sep 2020
Duration: 6 nights
Ref: 20ALSA
With: Lecturer to be confirmed


Prices from £2,295
Single Supplement: £340
Deposit: £200

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Claimed, conquered and re-conquered by kings, emperors and generals for more than five centuries, Alsace is neither entirely French nor wholly German, its distinctive culture influenced as much by its middle-Frankish past as by its larger neighbours to the east and west. For centuries one of the most contested borders in Europe. In 1945 Alsace changed hands for the fourth time in just 75 years. Today, however, the region at the centre of Western Europe seems to embody the transformation of international relations since World War Two. Its largest city, Strasbourg, our base for this tour, represents a delicate but still intact European unity as the seat of the European Parliament, and both city and region exemplify much of the very best of continental culture, from Strasbourg’s intimate mediaeval core to the celebrated vineyards and villages of the Route des Vins. The complex but prosperous history of the region is reflected in these handsome towns, which mix German and French styles with a distinct Alsatian vernacular, most notably their traditional half-timbered houses. We will visit some of the finest examples of this architecture, including Obernai, with its well-preserved mediaeval walls, Colmar, home to Grünewald’s preternatural Isenheim Altarpiece, and the Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg, an imposing 12th century castle set in the thickly forested Vosges mountains. These are all located on the so-called wine road, and wine will of course be a feature of the tour, with a tasting combined with lunch in the lovely village of Ribeauvillé.

DAY 1:

Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris, continuing by TGV to Strasbourg, arriving early evening. After settling in at the hotel, an introductory walk will lead us through atmospheric lanes and along picturesque canals of the district known as ‘Petite France’, once the somewhat less salubrious tanners’ quarter.

DAY 2:

Strasbourg's skyline is dominated by its Minster, the tallest building in the world for over 200 years. One of the finest High Gothic cathedrals in existence, it is densely populated with handsome statues, most memorably the Pillar of Angels heralding the Last Judgement. The nearby Musée de l’Œuvre Notre-Dame contains many of the Minster's original sculptures, among them works by Nicolaus Gerhaert van Leyden, one of the most inventive sculptors of the middle of the 15th century. The museum also displays a wonderful collection of mediaeval Alsatian decorative arts. After lunch, walk past the splendid Palais Rohan to the mediaeval churches of Saint-Pierre le Jeune and of Saint Thomas, the latter harbouring a rare 12th century sarcophagus and an over-the-top tomb of Marshall Maurice de Saxe, designed by 18th century sculptor Jean-Baptiste Pigalle.

DAY 3:

Colmar, capital of local wine production, is the best-preserved town in all of Alsace, with many timber framed houses and once home to Martin Schongauer, whose innovative prints of the 1470s and ‘80s played a seminal role in the development of copper engraving. The Musée d’Unterlinden features several of Schongauser’s religious paintings, but the haunting masterpiece is the Isenheim Altarpiece, a complex polyptych of highly expressive figures and colours created by Mathis Grünewald in the 1510s. After lunch we continue to Ottmarsheim, to see the simple yet fascinating octagonal 11th century abbey church, one of the finest examples of Ottonian religious architecture.

DAY 4:

Ascend into the Vosges to visit the great 12th century castle of Haut-Koenigsbourg, burned by besieging Swedes in 1633 and restored by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1908 as Prussia’s western border fortress. Continue to the pretty walled town of Ribeauvillé, home to one of the oldest viticulture cooperatives in France, where we will enjoy a wine tasting with our lunch. Afterwards we return to Strasbourg, the rest of the day is free for further exploration, or to sleep off the lunch.

DAY 5:

A full day excursion along the 'wine road' begins in Rosheim, where the sights include the 12th century church of Saint-Pierre-et-Paul and its richly decorated apse. From there continue to nearby Avolsheim whose Chapel of St Ulrich is adorned with rare 13th century murals. After lunch, we visit the mountain top abbey of Mont Sainte-Odile, before descending to Obernai, a pretty village with intact fortified town walls.

DAY 6:

By coach to Marmoutier, once home to a monastic community originally founded by Irish monks in the late 6th century. Its imposing Romano-Byzantine façade dates from the 12th century. Continue to Neuwiller-lès-Saverne to see the Catholic church of Saints-Pierre-et-Paul, a harmonious mix of architectural styles from the Romanesque to the Baroque, and the Lutheran Saint-Adelphe. At Wingen-sur-Moder, a recently-opened museum dedicated to art nouveau glass designer René Lalique.

DAY 7:

After some free time in the morning, we leave Strasbourg for Paris by TGV and continue by Eurostar to London St Pancras.


Twin/double share: £2295 per person
Double room for sole use supplement: £340
Tour without flights cost: £2195
Deposit: £200 per person


  • Return travel by Eurostar from London St Pancras International to Paris Gare du Nord and TGV (high speed train) between Paris Est and Strasbourg
  • Private coach transfers and excursions
  • Six nights’ bed and breakfast in the 4* Hotel Hannong, Strasbourg
  • Three dinners and one lunch
  • Guided visits to sites listed in the programme
  • Services of the lecturers and a local tour manager
  • Detailed programme and study notes
  • All entrance fees, taxes, and gratuities for coach drivers and waiters


Full of charm, luxury and design, the four star Hotel Hanong is well-placed in the centre of the historic town, close to main tourist attractions. The rooms are smoke-free and sound-proofed and feature a TV, safe and tea and coffee making facilities.