In the Vosges mountains, there’s the white season of skis and snowshoes, and the green season of hikes through the forests, meadows and lakes. We could add a year-long rose season too; an emblem of the Vosges massif, sandstone and its coppery nuances illuminate many exceptional monuments, such as the Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg and the Saint-Dié cathedral, but also sublime landscapes that still bear the bruises of the First World War.
Must-sees on holiday in the Vosges mountains
A historic route at the heart of the Vosges
In the Vosges mountains, you have an appointment with history with a big H! At Hartmannswillerkopf, the memory of the First World War still lingers. This rocky outcrop 956 metres above the Alsatian plain has been nicknamed ‘the mountain of death’ or ‘the man-eater’ owing to the terrible fighting. Two visitor tours are available between trenches and old shelters, bringing this painful period back to life.
At the Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg, immerse yourself in a medieval universe worthy of any history book. Built in the 12th century, this mountain fortress with breathtaking views over the plain of Alsace, the Vosges, the Black Forest and sometimes the Alps, was fully restored in the 19th century in the spirit of the Middle Ages by the last German Emperor. And by visiting the admirable cathedral of Saint-Dié in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, you’ll traverse a few centuries of sacred art, from Romanesque to Gothic to contemporary, with stained glass windows that shine like jewels.
To breathe the pure mountain air of the Vosges and meet some discreet inhabitants, head to the Fougerolles animal park in Saint-Valbert: watch out for chamois, ibex, sika deer and red deer. In Gérardmer, climb towards the Tête de Mérelle where a 15-metre-high observatory tower offers a 360-degree view of the mountains. Recharge batteries at the Ribeauvillé balneotherapy centre, with the view as a bonus.
The Vosges mountains: a nature destination
Do you prefer winter when a snowy cloak covers the mountains, or summer when the soft green curves of the ‘ballons’ are revealed? Whatever the season, the Vosges massif is a paradise for nature lovers.
In winter head to Ventron, a small family resort ideal for cross-country skiing – or learn snowkiting in La Bresse, snowmobiling in La Schulcht or snowshoeing at Lac Blanc, which stretches across the bottom of a glacial crater encircled with fir forests. Unless you attempt to climb ice slopes with ice axes and crampons, as you can at Spitzkoepfe.
To recover from the adrenaline rush, an ecogîte in La Bresse welcomes fans of the unusual: there’s a Finnish outdoor bath and you wake up surrounded by deer, chamois and foxes. In summer, Lake Gerardmer is transformed into a vast 115-hectare playground for young and old, with many water activities. And you’ll never tire of hiking the trails: over 4,000 kilometres of marked trails stretch all over the Vosges. The Ballons des Vosges regional park is crossed by forests, stubble fields, peat bogs, glacial craters, rocky cliffs, lakes and rivers.
Don’t forget the famous Blue Line of the Vosges, marking the border between Alsace and part of Lorraine with no less than three hiking trails for routes of seven to nine days.
100% French artisan shopping at the heart of the Vosges
The Vosges massif is a region rich in savoir-faire and highly tempting for shoppers. From the Vosges forests come the local wooden toys, while elegant Baccarat crystal has stood the test of time since 1764, and Meisenthal Christmas balls are made from hand-blown glass. Try the local sweets of the Vosges, traditionally made with pine sap. Other delicacies to slip into the suitcase: mirabelle plum jam, the yellow gold of the Vosges; cream of Munster, the beloved cheese of the region; and gingerbread, flavoured with local honey.