The modern town of SAARBRÜCKEN is not a place to go out of your way for, but is nevertheless a lively university town whose closeness to the French border comes across in attitudes and food. The background to this is the subject of the town’s local history museum, Historisches Museum Saar, the most rewarding of the city’s museums, though it’s a close-run thing with the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte with its hoard of Celtic treasures. The city centres on St Johanner Markt, the most obviously historic part and hub for a series of lively restaurants and cafés. From here Bahnhofstrasse, the main shopping street, heads north to the Hauptbahnhof, paralleling a promenade along the River Saar over which lies an area known as Alt-Saarbrücken. Most of Saarbrücken’s few real sights are clustered here, including the remains of an eighteenth-century Schloss, built during the city’s heyday under Prince Wilhelm Heinrich (1718–68) and designed by court architect Friedrich Joachim Stengel, who was also behind several Baroque townhouses and churches in the surrounding area.

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