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Mulhouse is the more industrial and commercial of the two major towns of Alsace. But, as Moira McCrossan discovered, this ordinary provincial town has a vibrant social calendar, a fascinating history and an unique and amazing visitor attraction.

 

 

Mulhouse has a proud history as a free city in alliance with the mighty Habsburg Empire. Unusually Protestant in Catholic Alsace, the major church in the town is called the Temple of St Etienne. An elaborate Neo Gothic construction, completed in 1866, it replaced a church dating back to the 12th century with alterations and additions over the centuries. The beautiful 14th century windows have been retained in the temple, exquisite detailed picture stories for believers in a pre-literate age.

 

Travel Facts

 

 

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TRAVEL ESSENTIALS

Easyjet and BMI as well as other carriers fly to Basel Mulhouse Frieberg Euro airport from several UK airports. Mulhouse is a short drive from there.

When leaving the airport ensure you go through the correct gate at passport control or you might find yourself in Switzerland.

Tourist Information

Mulhouse Festivals

Mulhouse Tourism

Automobile Museum

 

 

 

 

 

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Mulhouse Alsace France

We have arrived in September in the middle of the Mulhouse Onion Festival, which marks the start of the onion season. The market place is packed with varieties of onion, onion tarts, onion soup, sausages and every other dish it is possible to imagine made with onions. Musicians, dancers and singers in colourful traditional dress have taken over Place de la Reunion as they do for the many other festivals in the Mulhouse calendar. For there is a festival at least once a month in Mulhouse, in the summer months, every week. They celebrate onions, textiles and automobiles, flowers, sport and dance, music of every kind from jazz to baroque and finally the year ends with the famous Christmas Market in November and December.

The festivals give a clue to the history of the town, the wealth of Mulhouse was built on textiles from the 17th century and then the chemical industry. Many of the fine houses in the historic centre were built by wealthy merchants in the 19th century. As were the fine arcades of the Place de la Bourse, above which comfortable apartments were provided for the managers of the industry. The textile museum shows the development of the industry from early beginnings, links with the cotton producers of Louisana to historic textile designs bought by IKEA.

The other major museum in Mulhouse is celebrated in the automobile festival. The Automobile Museum of Mulhouse is probably the best automobile museum in the world and is undoubtedly unique in terms of the numbers of rare automobiles in its collection and in the strange story of origin. Fritz Schlumpf and his brother ran a textile factory in Mulhouse, but they spent their money on collecting cars, in particular Bugattis.

Bugati Mulhouse Automobile Museum

When the downturn in the textile industry began in the 1960s, as Asian producers took over, they did not reduce their spending on cars, in fact by this time, it had become an obsession. When the business collapsed in 1977, angry workers invaded the premises where the cars were stored, maintaining that this profligate spending was responsible for the failure of the business. The workers took over the premises and raised funds by opening the collection to the public.

The brothers fled to their native Switzerland to escape, as the truth emerged about scale of the debt and the unprecedented size and value of the collection. Eventually the entire collection was taken over by the French government and opened as a museum. But it was not until 1999 that Culturespaces took over its management and it reopened in 2000, rebuilt, renovated and extended as the largest automobile museum in the world. It truly is one of the most magnificent museums, I have ever visited. The beautiful glass fronted building contains the original huge exhibition space with its art nouveau lamp posts; there is a track behind the museum, where many of the vintage cars are taken out for a ride; and the collection itself is amazing: six Hispano-Suizas, countless Bugattis, Rolls Royce and Mercedes as well as very early motor cars, tiny bubble cars and many more mundane cars charting the motoring history of the 20th century.

On the request of his daughter, Fritz Schlumpf did have the opportunity to return from exile to see his beloved collection once more before he died. And it must be acknowledged that the textile industry disappeared anyway, while Fritz Schlumpf has left a lasting and unrivalled legacy in this collection.

Hispano Suiza Mulhouse Automobile Museum Alsace

Were this museum all that Mulhouse had to offer, it would be worth a visit but there is so much more. Even walking around the town, it is vibrant with witty trompe l'oeil art on many walls and music, dance and flowers everywhere.

 



 

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