Snugged along the eastern France, close to the borders of Germany is the beautiful city of Strasbourg. It is a perfect blend of France and Germany by all means. Strasbourg had been the epicenter of French and German wars. The city was seized every now and then by both the countries over centuries, finally becoming part of France after the world War II.
The off-shoot of this is the confluence of both French and German in culture, food, architecture, for which it was given a UNESCO heritage site status! Beer and wine culture exist side by side, tradition of half-timbered medieval houses co-exist with french mansions along with soaring cathedrals and scenic canals. Strasbourg is not just the congruence of unique cross culture appeal, but it is international, multi-lingual and gastronomic delight, a cosmopolitan hub and home of many European institutions.
Here are our top recommendations on what to do in this beautiful city.
So many pictures for one Cathedral is what comes to your mind first? Gotcha! But I have 100 more pictures that I am waiting to share with you. I know! I don’t want to stalk you with 100 pictures just yet. Hence decided to spare it on a separate post later.
So, here goes Strasbourg Cathedral (also known as Cathedral of Our Lady), one of the most impressive 15th century Gothic cathedral dominating the city’s skyline is a UNESCO heritage site. The interiors of the Cathedral include the 12th century stained glass windows, suspended pipe organ, richly ornate puplit, cathedral tapestries and the grand astronomical clock, a mathematical marvel. For adrenaline experience, climb the 300 odd spiral stairs and you will be dumbfounded by the views. You get to see as far as Black Forest on one side and Vosges mountain on another side, and the chic red roofed houses of Strasbourg.
This year is all the more special to the cathedral as they are celebrating 1000th anniversary of it’s foundation. To celebrate, they’ve put together a fascinating light and sound show showcasing the history of Cathedral in the Cathedral walls (above pictures). More photos and videos on the next post.
La Petite France
Perhaps the most prominent and picturesque place in Strasbourg is Petite- France (means Little France). So it’s only natural for this place to also be touristy, crowded, and dotted with ample restaurants and cafes. Situated along the canal on the island of River Ile, you will find immaculate half timbered houses sitting on either side with pretty windows and balconies. Add to it a splash of summer colors and geranium flowers along the canal, you can’t ask for a better postcard perfect location! Stroll along the canal watching these colorful buildings, smelling the aromas from the nearby bakery and restaurants, or even dine at one!
There are a range of European Institutions in Strasbourg, the oldest of which dates back to 1815. Currently there are 20 such institutions in this city either having a sole or one of their main seats here, which gives Strasbourg another name “Capital of Europe“. Some of the famous institutions include Council of Europe (European Court of Human Rights), European Parliament, Palace of Europe and information relays like European Documentation Centre, just to name a few. On the above picture is the European Parliament with monumental glass facade.
What was once a river defense (barrage) to store gunpowder and protect canons is now an impressive bridge in the Grand Ile. It was erected as a weir in the 17th century according to the plans of Marquis de Vauban (one of the foremost military Engineer famed for his designs in fortifications). Of all the 20 bridges that connect to the Grand Ile, this is the most beautiful bridge.
Les Ponts Couverts
Located at the end of the Petite France district is Ponts Couverts (meaning Covered bridge), a four tower bridge spanning across the River Ile. In middle ages, the bridges shown in the above picture used to be a covered bridge, and the then king used the bridge to protect the city and as a crossing point to the Alsace region. These bridges face Barrage Vaugan.
Batorama Boat Tours
Boat tours are the best way to experience the canals and architecture of Strasbourg. The boat tours start near the quay by Palais des Rohan and circumnavigates the Grand Ile taking you through the beautiful parts of the city, through the historic quarters of Grand Ile, Petite France district, and up until the European Quarters.
One of the striking features of Strasbourg is undoubtedly the architecture. If you notice, almost all the building structure follow a same pattern of having large windows on a 3-4 storey building topped with a steep red roof and small dorm windows on top.
Palais des Rohan
Rohan palace is one of the important buildings in Strasbourg. Built between 1732 and 1742, this is one of the beautiful creations of French 18th century architecture. Now the palace is home to archaeological and fine art museum.
A Culinary Delight
Being located strategically between two different cultures, Strasbourg has taken the good and the food of both the countries. Beer and Wine are equally famous. The Alsatian traditional food such as Bibeleskas, Bredele, Bretzel, Choucroute (Sauerkraut), Flammekuche are a treat to one’s tummy.
For more vegetarian friendly tummy, there are great vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Strasbourg. Some of the good veggie restaurants are Au Poitron, Krut’Herbes, Le Madras.
For 18.90 euros, you get Strasbourg Passwhich offers free entrance to the Cathedral’s rooftop, batorama tour and an audio guide for the city and the pass is valid for 3 consecutive days. On top of the free attractions, there are discounted attractions that you can explore at your own pace. This pass lets you explore the city without pressing the time.
Strasbourg is claimed as France’s most cyclable city. And the city also has some of the best tram transport. On top of this, all the main tourist attraction are within the walking distance.
The old town – Grand Ile has been part of UNESCO World Heritage Site. Strasbourg is a year round destination considering they are one of the best places to experience Christmas Markets in Europe.
We’ve put together a little video of Strasbourg for you to enjoy and feel the city’s beauty!
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Disclaimer: We were hosted by Strasbourg Tourism and were provided with 2 complimentary Strasbourg Passes. We were not compensated or asked to write a positive review. We only write what we experience. As always, all the opinions are our own.