Fine museums in a sprawling industrial city
www.tourisme-mulhouse.com. This sprawling industrial metropolis makes a bizarre contrast to rural Alsace and may seem best avoided. However, Mulhouse is a repository for half-a-dozen good to great museums well worth a detour.
The two nationally important museums are out in the suburbs. To the north, Cite de l’Automobile chronicles the history of the motor car through more than 500 vehicles from a 1878 steam-driven Jacquot to the Porsches and Ferraris of the 1960s. Most of the exhibits were amassed by industrial heavyweights, the Schlumpf brothers, including the largest collection of Bugattis (129) in the world. To the west, you will find Cite de Train, at Dornach. Elegant French rolling stock such as a sumptuous roving drawing-room built for Napoleon Ill’s ADC; several steam locomotives including the gleaming Art Deco-style Président de la République; signal boxes and railroad memorabilia are displayed in a disused station. The adjacent Musée Sapeur-Pompier (www.musee-sapeur-pompier.fr) features terrific firemen’s helmets, engines and fire-fighting equipment dating back to pre-Revolutionary days.
In the city centre, the gabled and gilded 16thC Hôtel de Ville houses the Musée Historique, 4 rue des Archives. The Musée des Beaux-Arts, 4 place Guillaume-Tell, has some fine Flemish works; but best of all is the Musée de I’Impression sur Etoffes, (www.musee-impression.com), with its stunning collections of fabrics and printed textiles from around the world. In a related field, the Musée du Papier Peint, rue Zuber, in the suburb of Rixheim (6 km E via route de Mulhouse) plunders the archives of wallpaper manufacturers Zuber & Co. (which date from 1791) to dramatic effect (www.museepapierpeint.org).
Children might appreciate a romp around the Parc Zoologique et Botanique (S via boulevard Léon-Gam-betta) with more than 1,000 animals from cheetahs to zebras. Another outdoor attraction is the Ecomusée Alsace, at Ungersheim (12 km N via D430/D44), with 30-plus reconstructed 15th-19thC traditional Alsacien buildings.