Canal holidays come in many different shapes and sizes, but few offer the same diversity of attractions as those on offer along the canals of Alsace & Lorraine. Here’s our take on the best ways to explore Alsace by canal…
Explore Alsace by Canal aboard luxury barge, Panache
The Rich History of Alsace
Most of Alsace, including the major city of Strasbourg, had become recognised as being part of France by the end of the 17th century.
However, the area retained a strong Germanic-Alsatian culture including its own language. It was also able to retain much of its own legal status that differed from that of France proper.
During the 19th century parts of the region became economically prosperous due to industrialisation, but it became increasingly subject to tensions between the rising power of Prussia and that of France. In the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, France was totally defeated and Alsace passed into the newly-formed Germany, where it remained until 1919 and the end of the First World War.
After 1919 and its return, successive French governments made concerted efforts to enforce the French language and culture onto the local population, though the area did become administered again by Germany after its occupation under the Nazis 1940-45.
However, in happier times, that 19th century economic boom helped fuel the development of a major canal system. As was the case elsewhere, these were largely killed off as economic routes by the late 19th and earlier decades of the 20th century due to competition from the railways and roads. They do, though, remain a magnificent resource for the 21st century’s leisure industry.
The Colmar Canal
To explore Alsace by canal, you’ll find yourself on the pretty Colmar Canal, completed in the 1860s. This route will take you through gently undulating countryside and vineyards.
The ancient town of Colmar itself is charming and well worth a visit – most notably the picturesque areas known as “Little Venice”.
The Sarre Canal
Built to carry coal from Lorraine into the industries of Mulhouse, this canal travels for just over 70 kilometres through a lovely rural backdrop.
You can also take a connecting boat trip to visit beautiful and symbolic Strasbourg.
The Rhine-Marne Canal
Today this great link passes by some fantastic castles and historic towns plus locations like Hochfelden, famous for its brewing! Pretty Saverne is also very attractive and famous for an incident in 1913 where the local population demonstrated against the German military’s extra-legal policies in and around the town.
The Rhone-Rhine Canal
The credit for the original idea here goes back to the Romans, though it was never built in antiquity.
Built in the 19th century to connect Alsace to Burgundy, it’s a masterpiece of engineering.
When you explore Alsace by canal, you’ll be treated to Black Forest backdrops and historic centres such as Belfort.
You can explore Alsace by canal on a 6-night all-inclusive cruise aboard luxury hotel barge, Panache.
The deluxe 12 passenger Panache offers 6 night cruises in Alsace from summer through to October and the ultra-deluxe 8 passenger La Nouvelle Etoile spends four weeks a year cruising this unique region.