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Mulhouse

 

Mulhouse (i.e. mill house) is a city and commune in the Haut-Rhin department of the Alsace region, very close to the French border with Germany and Switzerland.

It is the second largest city in the Alsace region after Strasbourg. Mulhouse is the principal commune of the 33 making up the Mulhouse Alsace Agglomération (population 267,759).

Mulhouse is famous for its museums, especially the Cité de l’Automobile (also known as "Musée national de l’automobile") and the Musée Français du Chemin de Fer (also known as "Cité du train"), respectively the largest automobile and railway museums in Europe. An industrial town nicknamed "the French Manchester", Mulhouse is also the main seat of the Upper Alsace University, where the secretariat of the European Physical Society can be found.

The town doesn't play a large part in the Alsace tourist circuit, being better known as an industrial centre, but you will discover an interesting historic centre and some very impressive museums if you take the time to visit.

EXPLORING MULHOUSE

The centre of the town is quite compact and easily explored on foot. Start your visit in the historic centre of Mulhouse at Place de la Reunion. In and around this attractive square you can see:

Christmas market in Mulhouse

- the protestant Temple of Saint-Etienne, a large neo-gothic style church built in the 19th century - inside the church you can see the stained glass windows from the 12th century church that previously stood in the same location.

- the 16th century Town Hall, landmark site of the town with its decorative facade and now home to the history museum

- the Mieg House, a 15th century townhouse that was for a long time the home to one of the wealthiest families in Mulhouse

- the pharmacy on the Place de la Réunion was built in the 15th century and has been a pharmacy since the middle of the 17th century, which must be some kind of record for a successful business! Go inside to take a look at the painted ceiling.

Among other notable monuments in the centre of Mulhouse you can see a fine 18th century townhouse called the Loewenfels House; the picturesque little Chapel of Saint John (13th century; and another impressive 18th century house called Villa Steinbach (the villa Steinbach now houses the Mulhouse Museum of Fine Arts).

While little remains of the medieval Mulhouse and the original fortifications have long since disappeared you can still see the four stone gateways that once gave access to the city centre.

MULHOUSE MUSEUMS

It is the highly renowned museums that attract many visitors to Mulhouse (the town claims to be the most important centre for museums in Europe), and the town has several that cover a wide range of interests. The most popular include:

Bugatti car in Mulhouse museum

Cité de l'automobile: the National Car Museum of France contains several hundred exceptional cars from across the last century, and various exhibits that help bring the history of cars and motor racing to life.

The collection of bugattis alone makes the museum worth a visit. Featuring everything from childrens cars to racing cars, and everything motor related in between, it is generally considered to be the best car museum in the world

Cité du Train: every trainspotters dream, this extensive museum has a very large collection of trains covering the entire period from when they were first introduced in France around 150 years ago

History Museum: discover the history of Mulhouse throught the exhibits in the museum based in the elegant Town Hall

Musée de l'impression sur étoffes: the original wealth of the town was in part due to the textile industry, which is celebrated in this museum. It is an interior designers dream, with the largest collection of printed materials you can imagine, drawn from all periods of history and all cultures

Museum of Fine Arts: this museum has works of art by a wide range of painters and artists from the last few centuries

There are also several smaller museums in Mulhouse, including museums dedicated to wallpapers and electrical energy.

OTHER MULHOUSE HIGHLIGHTS

As you explore Mulhouse you will see several buildings painted using 'trompe l'oeil', and the town also contains several parks and gardens including the Zoo and Botanical Gardens, the most popular tourist destination in Alsace.