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
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