At the end of the XXth century, the fourth city of Alsace after Strasbourg, Mulhouse, and Colmar. Founded around the year 1000 on the Moder river in one of the largest forests of what later became France.
Its residents acquired legal privileges by 1164, including its own Magistrate, use of the forest resources, fishing rights, and duty-free trading in the Holy Roman German Empire, thanks to Frederick I, known as Barbarosa or Barberousse, of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, heir to the chateau of Haguenau built by Frederick le Borgne in 1114 or 1115.
A series of temporary alliances beginning in the period 1250-1273 culminated in the charter of the League of Ten Cities in 1354. The other members were Selestat, Colmar, Turckheim, Wissembourg, Obernai, Rosheim, Kaysersberg, Munster, and Mulhouse.
In 1648, the Alsatian Decapole (League of Ten Cities) was annexed to France and soon dissolved. (In 1681, Strasbourg chose the protective strength of the King of France over the imaginary power of the Emperor, and relinquished its independence; Louis XIV pretty much left things as they were in Strasbourg, though).
As is no doubt par for the course in this region, Haguenau changed hands several times through the centuries: occupied by Swedes 1632-3, by the French in 1634; captured by Germany in 1870 following the battle of Froeswiller, taken back by the French 26 November 1918, recaptured by Germany in 1940, liberated in early 1945. This last siege is described in "Band of Brothers" by Stephene Ambrose, chapter 14.
Unlike a few nearby towns, Haguenau never developped an industrial base of much consequence, but rather was an administrative and services center. In 1808, the Lycée (high school) was started, and in 1855 the first train arrived in the Haguenau station. In 2003, for a population of about 25000, the town had 35 hairdressers or barber shops, 12 pharmacies, 9 opticians, 27 temporary employment agencies.
Each year the town organizes a "Hops Festival" (Fête du Houblon) in late August. While beer is certainly consumed, the festival's main agenda is cultural: singers and dancers from many countries perform during the week. In the spring, another festival called "humor of notes" rallies performers combining music and comedy.
All is not rosy in Haguenau. Cars are set on fire, although nowhere near as often as in Strasbourg, even on a per capita basis. Drugs are sold, and overdoses occur; Haguenau has been a marketplace for drugs for decades. Domestic and extra-domestic violence occur, too: fights in bars and bowling alleys, parking lots; in late 2003 a man shot and killed a 23 year old man who walked in front of his window, because he mistook him for another young man "who had it coming"; this led to feuds in the neighborhood between the family of the sniper and family and friends of the victim.