As part of the annual TV show Le Village Préféré des Français, the people of France just voted on the country’s favorite village. The winner? The small town of Hunspach. Located about a 45-minute drive north of Strasbourg in the Bas-Rhin department, in the historic Alsace region near the German border, Hunspach has a population of just under 700. Hunspach beat out 13 other villages to win the title. The beach town of Les Anses d’Arlet in the French Caribbean island of Martinique took second place, and Ménerbes, a walled hilltop village in Vaucluse, came in third.
Unsurprisingly, most people outside of France likely haven’t heard of Hunspach, despite its close proximity to the Rhine River and the popular tourist towns of Strasbourg, Mulhouse, and Colmar. But there are several reasons why it’s worth taking note of this beautiful village.
For starters, the town retains most of its historic architecture, consisting of black-and-white half-timbered houses that locals often decorate with red geraniums in window boxes. But Hunspach won this year’s contest for more than its aesthetic value. Located at a crossroads in Europe, it has a fascinating history.
First documented in 1298, Hunspach has been a part of multiple countries over the centuries. In 1619, it came under Swedish administration, but after it was attacked and destroyed in 1633 by imperial troops of the Holy Roman Empire during the Thirty Years War, it was repopulated with Swiss immigrants. By 1787, Sweden returned it to France. A century later, in 1871, all of Alsace became part of the German empire. Even though Alsace returned to France in 1918 at the end of World War I, Germany occupied the region during World War II.
What to do in Hunspach
Hunspach’s most popular attraction, Fort Schoenenbourg, is located about two miles outside of the village in the forest. It is one of the largest structures of the Maginot line, a series of fortifications built in the 1930s along the German border to defend France against invasion. (While typically open to the public for visits, it is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)
In 2021, the former Drachenbronn military base—about a 10-minute drive west of the village—will be converted into “chemin des cimes de l’Alsace verte,” which translates in English to the “path of the peaks of green Alsace.” The elaborately named attraction is a 98-foot-tall observation tower with 360-degree views of the surrounding forests that you access by hiking along an elevated wooden trail.
Where to stay in Hunspach
Because of its small size, Hunspach has limited restaurants and places to stay in the village proper. However, the Gîte & Chambres d’hôtes Sabine Billmann bed-and-breakfast is located in the heart of the village in one of the historic half-timbered buildings. You can also consider staying at the Auberge du Cheval Blanc, a hotel in an 1822 coaching inn with a restaurant with two Michelin stars; it’s about a 20-minute drive west of Hunspach, in the town of Lembach.
See the full list of finalists of the Le Village Préféré des Français 2020
- Hunspach, Bas-Rhin
- Les Anses d’Arlet, Martinique
- Ménerbes, Vaucluse
- Pont-Aven, Finistère
- Pierrefonds, Oise
- Batz-sur-Mer, Loire Atlantique
- Trôo, Loir-et-Cher
- Montpeyroux, Puy-de-Dôme
- Montfort L’Amaury, Yvelines
- Chablis, Yonne
- Aubeterre sur Dronne, Charente
- Saint-Bertrand de C., Haute-Garonne
- Giverny, Eure
- Cargèse, Corsica
Hunspach takes over the title from the 2019 winner, Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue, a coastal village of 2,000 people about a 30-minute drive northwest of Utah Beach in Normandy. It is known for being home to one of the oldest oyster basins in Normandy, as well as for its two 17th-century towers that belong to the Fortifications of Vauban UNESCO World Heritage site, a network of 12 sites around France built by King Louis XIV’s military engineer. In 2018, the village of Cassel in French Flanders near the Belgian border won.
This article originally appeared online on June 25, 2018; it was updated on June 26, 2019, and again on July 9, 2020, to include current information