If you want to visit a German city but you are also curious about French culture and you don’t have enough time to do both, I have the perfect advice for you: Spend a day or two in Saarbrücken, capital of the German state Saarland.
The 177.000 inhabitant city lies in Southwest Germany about 5km from the French border. And that’s probably the reason for its famous star restaurants and “strange language”: Their dialect has a lot of French influence. For example, they say “I have cold”, just as in French, or pronounce words in a different way to other Germans. On holidays you can listen to at least as much French as German in the city centre: The closest French cities are 70km or more away, which is why so many people from smaller French towns all come to Saarbrücken to do shopping or profit from its nightlife. Another more delicate reason for French men to visit the city might be its status as a prostitution capital: While prostitution in France is illegal, German Saarland offers Europe’s biggest brothel.
Despite the French proximity, few inhabitants speak their neighbour’s language. Both sides are not really known for being “best friends”. One reason might be the city’s history: Saarbrücken was annexed to France twice in the 20th century.
One weekend is definitely enough to visit the city’s city centre with its cute old town, Sankt Johanner Markt, such as its castle and the stone bridge across the river Saar. If possible, try to be there in December to get to know Saarbrücken’s pretty Christmas market. Or extend your stay and spend one more day in Strasbourg, France, or in Luxembourg, which are only about one and a half hour away each.