Why is Strasbourg so famous?
Since I’ve been living in Germany for a long time I’ve heard a lot about the architectural beauty of Strasbourg. Nevertheless I’ve never understood exactly why it is so popular until I decided to visit it. Surprisingly for me Strasbourg plays an important role as a business, commercial, and even cultural centre. It has a major political function in Europe by being the seat of the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, and the European Court of Human Rights. Moreover it’s the capital of Alsace in northeastern France and located near the border with Germany.
Although today Strasbourg is a part of France, it has not always been that way. The capital of French Alsace has been a subject of multiple wars between France and Germany. In fact, it became a French city in 1681. In 1871, after the Franco-Prussian War, the city became German again, and only until the end of World War I, in 1918, when it reverted back to France. Due to all these happening you can immerse into the mesmerising blend of German and French culture and architectural influences.
Whether you’re interested in discovering the unique architecture, taking a stroll through a charming historic district, or trying delicious local cuisine, Strasbourg has something for everyone.
Is one day in Strasbourg enough?
Strasbourg is a compact and walkable city that’s why one day is enough to see the main sights. However if you’re visiting the city for the Christmas markets, then it’s better to add one more day. There are 11 markets in total and each one of them is special in their own way. Also if you would like to go shopping or have a romantic getaways then 2 days would be ideal. All in one Strasbourg is a city that offers visitors a unique blend of history, culture, and cuisine. Its mix of French and German influences makes it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in European history and culture.
Here is a comprehensive guide to exploring the best of Strasbourg.
Where to stay in Strasbourg?
We were searching for a modern hotel close to the train station since we were arriving in the evening by train with our kids. So just stone’s throw away from the main train station I booked voco® Strasbourg Centre – The Garden a few days in advance and was positively surprised how marvellous it is! First of all I need to say that the service in Strasbourg is top. We were greeted immediately at the front reception desk by friendly and kind staff members. They were happy to help us with any questions, took their time and were very polite. And actually we experienced it everywhere we went in Strasbourg. We also experienced that everywhere we went people tend to make mistakes but they do admit and solve it in a friendly way.
The hotel offered a modern and contemporary style with an eco-friendly ethos. I really liked the design, the high quality products in the room and great extras like salty pretzels and cocoa, coffee in the room. The rooms are simple and not big but we had enough space for 2 adults and 2 kids. Comfortable beds and a fantastic walk-in shower. At the breakfast we could enjoy a good variety of delicious food like pancakes with caramel sauce! Coffee and various drinks like strawberry juice were also presented to the guests. And important to mention the location, it took us just 10-15 minutes to get to the city centre.
Also a tip for every traveller, always book a hotel room through the official website and not the third party like booking.com for example. It’s cheaper and often you get some extras.
One day in Strasbourg (the perfect itinerary)
- Pick Up Strasbourg Pass
- Discover La Petite France
- Ponts Couverts and Barrage Vauban
- Visit the iconic Strasbourg Cathedral & The Astronomical Clock
- Kammerzell House
- Have lunch at L’Epicerie
- Boat Tours on the River ILL
- Visit Neustadt Disrict
- The European Parliament
- Food & Drink
- Have dinner at The Hip Brewery, TIGRE
Pick Up Strasbourg Pass
Definitely purchase a Strasbourg Pass online. You can pick it up afterwards at the Strasbourg Tourist Office (17 Place de la Cathédrale). Your official Strasbourg city pass will be activated within seconds. You can use the pass up to 7 days, although it’s worth it even if you’re only spending one day in Strasbourg. The Strasbourg Pass features all of the highlights to do in Strasbourg. It offers you free admission to some attractions and a reduced price at others. For instance, you can take a boat tour in Strasbourg for less than the original price of 17€! It’s a great deal especially if you travel with the family.
Discover La Petite France
La Petite France is the most photogenic district of old Strasbourg. In the 16th and 17th centuries fishermen, millers and tanners once lived in these black and white half-timbered houses. They worked here where the cobblestone streets have been built level with the waterways.
I need to tell you the truth, the name La Petite France (Little France) is not given for any architectural reasons. In the 15th century, there was a hospital in this part of the city where patients with syphilis were treated. At that time the Germans named syphilis a French disease. This is how the name “La Petite France” was established.
Ponts Couverts and Barrage Vauban
Ponts Couverts and Barrage Vauban are significant part of La Petite France. They were built to defend the city. Ponts Couverts means covered bridges in French. They kept their name despite the fact that they lost their wooden roofs in the 18th century. So here you will discover three bridges and four 14th-century towers.
Barrage Vauban is a bridge from the 17th century and Nowadays it has a viewing platform on its roof, revealing beautiful views of Little France.
Strasbourg Cathedral and the Astronomical Clock.
Victor Hugo once said about Strasbourg Cathedral: “A prodigy of the gigantesque and the delicate.” Strasbourg Cathedral (1015-1439) is an incredible masterpiece of Gothic art and breathtaking symbol of the city. Finished in the 15th century, it’s 142 m high spire rises above all buildings in the Historic Centre. It’s characteristic colour of red sandstone from the Vosges that was used in the construction makes the Cathedral look unique. Numerous sculptures stand out from the wall highlighting the effects of shadow and light.
Great news: It’s free to visit Strasbourg Cathedral. There is also a viewing platform at 66m above sea level. It’s accessible by taking the 330 steps up the stairs for the price of €5. Doubtlessly, the best views are from the very top. From the platform of the cathedral, you can look over the entire Strasbourg. Good to know, on the first Sunday of every month, the entrance is gratis. But during the Christmas season, the platform is closed for visitors.
The most famous object in the cathedral is the Renaissance masterpiece from the 19th century, the Astronomical Clock. Swiss artists, mathematicians and technicians all worked together to create this wonder. The main attraction of the clock is its animated figures which come out every day at noon, except Sunday.
The Kammerzell House is one of the most famous sights of Strasbourg. It’s one of the rare well preserved medieval civil housing buildings in late Gothic style formerly belonging to, you won’t believe, the Holy Roman Empire!
It was built in 1427 but multiple times transformed in 1467 and 1589, the style of the building as it is now historically belongs to the German Renaissance. It is situated north-west of the Strasbourg Cathedral as a colourful but beautiful contrast.
Have lunch at L’Epicerie
If you want to immerse into the authentic French atmosphere then don’t hesitate to visit L’Epicerie. It’s a french sandwich and soup bar with friendly and helpful staff. Here you will find a menu with tasty open-faced sandwiches on sourdough bread with a variety of toppings.
Boat Tours on the River ILL
I love to explore cities by boat! So it’s time to use your Strasbourg Pass to take a boat ride along the the River Ill. Batorama is one of Strasbourg’s boat trip providers, which take you for a 70-minute city tour to discover the beauty of the Alsatian capital. You will see the Petite France district, the Neustadt (the imperial quarter), as well as the European institutions from the water. It’s definitely the most relaxing way to observe magnificent Strasbourg, travel through canal locks and beneath old charming bridges. Moreover you will learn facts about the city!
Visit Neustadt Disrict
The Neustadt district is the former German district of Strasbourg that has been designed to show the Prussian power. Once part of the second German Empire, Strasbourg went through a quick plan of urbanization and since then it’s architectural mixture was nominated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Anyone who loves to observe impressive architecture has to visit this area of the city. Its wide streets lined with buildings from different styles starting in the late 19th through to the early 20th centuries. Start with Place de la République Square, the new political and administrative centre of the city. It displays a park and a splendid set of monuments, including the Palais du Rhin. To the east of the plaza, you can find the National and University Library, the second-largest French library regarding the number of books. Right next to it, you can admire the National Theatre of Strasbourg.
Definitely have a stroll through the district to see the fantastic architectural mix of the Neustadt District. It includes remarkable homes in Art Nouveau style. This part of the city resembles an open-air museum because everywhere you look you will see phenomenal architectural masterpieces!
The European Parliament
As I mentioned before, Strasbourg is not only the official seat of the European Parliament, but also the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights. While walking through the Neustadt district you will reach the impressive European Parliament building. It’s a great example of contemporary architecture. You can learn more about how Europe works by taking a tour inside the European Parliament. The tour lasts about an hour. You can actually visit the Hemicycle of the European Parliament (no need to book in advance).
Food and Drink
No visit to Strasbourg would be complete without sampling some of its world-renowned cuisine. The city is known for its delicious Alsatian dishes, which combine French and German influences. One of the most famous dishes is choucroute garnie, which consists of sauerkraut, sausages, and potatoes. Another must-try dish is tarte flambée, a thin-crust pizza-like dish topped with cream, onions, and bacon.
To wash down all of the delicious food, visitors can try some of the local wines, including the famous Riesling and Gewurztraminer. And for beer lovers, Strasbourg is home to several breweries, including the Brasserie de l’Espérance and the Brasserie Fischer.
Dinner Time: The Hip Brewery, TIGRE
Wether you’re a beer lover or not definitely visit this cool and modern place! It features a very trendy décor, visible brewing tanks and the impressive bronze tiger. Brasserie du Tigre presents hip beers, inspired by a Parisian trend that rejects the idea of beer being unsophisticated. There is a lovely menu with various dishes and snacks. Must visit place in Strasbourg!