Stars of the show

As the French choose Kay­sers­berg as their favourite vil­lage for 2017, Vicky Leigh takes a tour of this year’s top five and finds out why they’re all wor­thy win­ners

Living France - - Lifestyle -

Many peo­ple plan­ning a move to France dream of liv­ing in a quin­tes­sen­tial French vil­lage. In­deed, as I men­tioned in last month’s wel­come let­ter, our re­cent reader sur­vey con­firmed that it’s very much on your wish list when house-hunt­ing across the Chan­nel.

There’s cer­tainly no short­age of lovely vil­lages to choose from across the coun­try – some 32,000 of them in fact, ac­cord­ing to the Plus Beaux Vil­lages de France as­so­ci­a­tion.

If you’re strug­gling to de­cide which one to pick as the lo­ca­tion for your French home, then per­haps the French them­selves could give you a nudge in the right di­rec­tion. Ev­ery year since 2012, view­ers of the tele­vi­sion pro­gramme Le vil­lage préféré des Français have been asked to vote for their favourite vil­lage from a short­list of con­tenders (one se­lected to rep­re­sent each re­gion), based on which one best rep­re­sents the “charm, au­then­tic­ity and beauty of the built en­vi­ron­ment”. These are their top five for 2017.

1KAYSERSBERG, Haut-Rhin, Grand-Est

It’s easy to see why Kay­sers­berg was crowned as this year’s win­ner – with its pretty pas­tel-coloured houses and quaint cob­bled streets, it’s the per­fect choco­late­box vil­lage. Tucked away in France’s north-east­ern cor­ner and home to just 2,700 in­hab­i­tants, it al­ready at­tracts some 700,000 vis­i­tors each year and if pre­vi­ous cham­pi­ons are any­thing to go by, this fig­ure could be boosted by as much as 40%. It’s an­other ac­co­lade for the Haut-Rhin de­part­ment too – nearby Eguisheim took the ti­tle in 2013.

Along with the rest of Al­sace (as the re­gion was known be­fore it merged with Cham­pagne-Ar­denne and Lor­raine in 2016 to be­come Grand-Est), Kay­sers­berg was an­nexed by Ger­many be­tween the Franco-Prus­sian War and the First World War, and nu­mer­ous traces of its past can still be seen. A high fortress keeps a watch­ful eye over the vil­lage, serv­ing as a re­minder of its strate­gic im­por­tance and pro­vides a clue to the ori­gin of its name – Kay­sers­berg means ‘Em­peror’s moun­tain’ in Ger­man and refers to the rock on which this im­pos­ing mon­u­ment stands. The Église Ste-Croix with its eye-catch­ing cop­per dome is an­other ex­am­ple of Kay­sers­berg’s

strik­ing ar­chi­tec­ture, which, along with the friendly lo­cals and charm­ing streets, helped it to se­cure the cov­eted ti­tle of vil­lage préféré des Français.

And then of course there’s the wine. Sur­rounded by rolling vine­yards, Kay­sers­berg is one of the stop­ping points on Al­sace’s fa­mous Route des Vins so you’ll find plenty of places to sam­ple the lo­cal tip­ple, while the tra­di­tional win­stubs serve up hearty meals con­sist­ing of tra­di­tional Al­sace del­i­ca­cies. For a truly mag­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence though, Kay­sers­berg is the place to be at Christ­mas. As home to one of the old­est marchés de Noël in the re­gion, the vil­lage is trans­formed into a win­ter won­der­land with charm­ing wooden huts selling every­thing from dec­o­ra­tions and toys to food and warm­ing vin chaud. If you’re imag­in­ing a scene from a Christ­mas card then you’re al­ready there.

PROP­ERTY PRICES: HAUT-RHIN

Av­er­age house price: €191,000 Av­er­age apart­ment price: €1,430/m2

Colour­ful Kay­sers­berg

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