Last Updated on 13/11/2021 by secretmoona
Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace, is a beautiful city with many historical and architectural heritage.
For several years, the Alsace region, particularly Strasbourg, had been on the list of places I wanted to discover. Wanting to avoid the crowd for my first visit to the city, I decided to discover Strasbourg at the end of September because, being the off-season, it is less touristy, and the weather is still relatively good during that period of the year. I, therefore, decided to spend two days there. The city is a great weekend break idea for couples, families, and also solo travellers.
- 1 Why visit Strasbourg?
- 2 Strasbourg Cathedral
- 3 Climb to the top of the cathedral
- 4 Explore Grande Île, Strasbourg’s historic centre
- 5 Place Kleber
- 6 Stroll in “Petite France”
- 7 Discover the Covered Bridges
- 8 Visit the Barrage Vauban
- 9 Discover Strasbourg on a boat tour
- 10 Discover the historical and cultural side of Strasbourg
- 11 Explore the European District
- 12 Eat a flammekueche
- 13 Get a taste of the Kugelhopf
- 14 Relax at the Orangerie Park
- 15 Dine with the locals in an Alsatian winstub
- 16 Visit France’s Most Famous Christmas Market
- 17 Learn about Alsatian wine
- 18 Practical information
- 18.1 How to get to Strasbourg
- 18.2 How to get around Strasbourg
- 18.3 Best time to visit Strasbourg
- 18.4 Where to stay in Strasbourg
- 18.5 PIN IT!
Why visit Strasbourg?
France, within the Grand Est region. It sits on the banks of the Rhine River and closes to the German border.
The Alsatian and European capital is a city full of charm. With a mix of French and German culture, Strasbourg delight tourists with its architecture, cuisine, crafts and Christmas market. I have always been attracted to those German-style timbered houses. Whether you are travelling for history and culture, food and wine or simply interested in discovering another beautiful French city, there are many things to do in Strasbourg.
Start your day with a visit to the most famous monument of the city, the magnificent Notre-Dame de Strasbourg cathedral. It is preferable to visit early in the morning to avoid the crowd. As the symbol of the town, the cathedral is the oldest Gothic cathedral in the world! The cathedral is imposing as it is impressive.
At 142 metres, the cathedral is one of the tallest globally and has a unique feature: it has only one tower! Built in pink sandstone from the Vosges mountains, the facade has a pinkish or reddish colour depending on the time of the day.
The inside is also impressive and features beautiful stained glass windows, an imposing astronomical clock and a rose window. Every day at 12.30 pm, the clock comes alive with Christ and his twelve apostles making an appearance in what is known as the “Apostle’s Parade”.
Access is free.
Climb to the top of the cathedral
Another way of exploring the cathedral is to go up on its “platform”. To reach the viewing platform, you have to climb 332 steps in a spiral staircase which gets narrower the higher you get. There are different staircases for ascending and descending, which means that you don’t cross people going the other direction.
Since the viewing platform is perched 66 metres high, you get a splendid panoramic view of the city. On a clear day, you can see the Vosges mountains and Germany’s Black Forest.
Access to the viewing platform is € 8.
Explore Grande Île, Strasbourg’s historic centre
Grande Île is Strasbourg’s historical centre and a UNESCO World Heritage-listed island bordered by the River Ill. Walking along the streets of the Grande Île is the best way to discover the evolution of Strasbourg, which has been, in turn, German and French. The buildings show both countries’ influences.
One of the landmarks not to miss is the impressive Maison Kammerzell. The timbered building is the oldest pharmacy in France and was originally the home to a wealthy cheese merchant. It is now a famous restaurant renowned for its fish sauerkraut.
You can also explore the city by bike. Strasbourg is a bike-friendly city and has a vast network of cycling paths. So why not get on a bike on a nice day?
Place Kléber is the most important square in Grande Ile and Strasbourg. It’s close to both Petite France and the cathedral. Generally, squares in France are where events are held and where people meet and mingle. There are lots of shops, restaurants, old and new buildings around the square, and it’s pleasant to stop by on a nice day while taking in the atmosphere. For those visiting during the Christmas celebrations, you can admire the beauty of the square with the giant Christmas tree erected right at the centre of the square. You can enjoy the many Christmas markets present on this place Kléber, just like everywhere in the city.
There are other places worth passing by. Place du Marché Gayot is a lovely square full of bars and cafés and an excellent place for people-watching. Place Gutenberg is another shopping area ideal for shopaholics. The square was named in honour of Gutenberg, who invented the printing press while in Strasbourg. The square is close to the old Town Hall, now the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI).
Stroll in “Petite France”
Easily reached from Place Kleber, Petite France is the most famous and picturesque district in Strasbourg. With its half-timbered houses, its balconies and bridges overflowing with flowers, its canals, its small bridges, its quays where it is good to stroll or picnic and its welcoming terraces, it is truly a charming place. You almost forget that Petite France is located in the heart of the city!
Take a stroll to discover the picturesque district, wander along the cobbled streets, admire the traditional half-timbered houses and cross the different bridges. Petite France is everything I had imagined Strasbourg to be and more.
The touristy area was once home to fishermen, artisans, tanners and millers, but now it is full of small cafés and restaurants with lovely terraces and souvenir shops.
Discover the Covered Bridges
While exploring Petite France, you will get to see the covered bridges or “Pont couverts”. The bridges, three bridges lined with fortified medieval towers, were previously built to reinforce the fortification on the waterways. However, the wooden rooftop covering the bridges have long gone, but the name stuck. The bridges, which traverse the four channels of the Ill River, are not covered by the way.
Visit the Barrage Vauban
Not far from the Covered bridges stands the Vauban Dam. It was built in the 17th century as a barrier to alter water flow and as a defensive measure to deter enemies. Visiting the dam is one of the top things to do in Strasbourg as it offers an excellent viewpoint. The “barrage” bears the name of the French military engineer who served under King Louis XIV. He is the mastermind behind most of the main defensive fortifications in France. My Must see walled cities article list some of his masterpieces.
The dam is free to explore and offers a panoramic view of Petite France, the Ponts Couverts, and the cathedral spire when you climb on the roof. I believe it is one of the most photographed landmarks in Strasbourg. I was so in awe of the scenery that I forgot to take snapshots!
Discover Strasbourg on a boat tour
A nice way of discovering the city of Strasbourg is by taking a boat tour. Boat tours are sometimes hit and miss. I did not enjoy the time in Annecy, for example. However, the tour of Strasbourg is well worth the euros. The boat trip with Batorama offers plenty to see; the Ill river and canals surrounding the historic centre. The boats depart from Place du Vieux Marché aux Poissons, at the foot of Palais Rohan on the Grande Ile. Each route allows travellers to see the city’s must-see sights, including Grande Ile and Petite France, Neustadt (German-style imperial district) and the European Parliament.
During the length of the ride, you get to learn about the history of Strasbourg (commentaries through individual headphones are available in 12 languages). There are choices of covered and uncovered boats so that you can enjoy the ride no matter the weather.
Tickets can be purchased at the Batorama Docks and their office in Place de la Cathédrale, located next to the Tourist Office. It’s better to book in advance, especially during the high season.
- Strasbourg, Grande Ile: 45mins: * Full price: from 10,70 € / 4-12 years: from 6,40 €
- Strasbourg: 20 centuries of history: 1h15 mins: * Full price: from 14,00 € / 4-12 years: from € 8,00.
Discover the historical and cultural side of Strasbourg
There are several museums to visit in Strasbourg where you can learn about Alsatian history and culture. Start with the Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (“Musée d’art Moderne et Contemporain de Strasbourg”), located close to the Vauban Dam and Petite France. After admiring some contemporary pieces of art by the likes of Picasso and Monet, make your way to the Alsatian Museum (“Musée Alsacien”) and Strasbourg Historical Museum (“Musée Historique”) to learn about Strasbourg and Alsace in general. The Palais Rohan, an 18th Century French palace that houses three different museums, is not missed either. Home to the Fine Arts Museum, Archaeological Museum, and Decorative Arts Museum, the palace exhibits fine art and decorative arts, with a whole floor dedicated to archaeology. The boats depart next to the Palais Rohan, so you can make a stop there before embarking on your boat tour.
Explore the European District
Just like Brussels and Luxembourg, Strasbourg is a European capital. It is home to various European Institutions like the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, and the European Court of Human Rights. As such, the European district is an exciting area to discover and explore. As you stroll through the surrounding neighbourhoods, you will come across interesting buildings and nice green places, including the Orangerie Park. If you are looking for interesting things in Strasbourg, visit one of the institutions like the Palais de l’Europe.
Eat a flammekueche
While in Strasbourg, a thing you must do is to sample the regional treat called flammekueche (or tarte flambée in French). It’s like a thin pizza topped with various ingredients like cheese, crème fraîche, onions or lardons (smoked, cubed bacon). There are lots of places which make this popular dish. To get a taste of a good flammekueche, head to La Binchstub. They have welcoming staff, a great setting and of course, delicious tarte flambée! The “Chevre-Thym-Miel” with goat’s cheese, honey and thyme are divine. You also have other options like a dessert version, “Banana, Toblerone” or “Traditionnelle,” filled with lardons and onions. Flam’s is also a top restaurant specialising in the dish.
Get a taste of the Kugelhopf
Kugelhopf are traditional cakes enjoyed all year round but more so during the festive period. They are brioche-like cakes made from flour, yeast, egg and sugar. They also contain raisins, dried fruits, and nuts. They are perfect for tea time! They are found in many bakeries, but La Maison du Kougelhopt is famous for them. I received one as a welcome treat from my hotel and had to get some to bring home. That’s how delicious they are!
Relax at the Orangerie Park
When the weather is lovely, a walk in the public park is always a good idea. Parc de l’Orangerie is Strasbourg’s oldest and largest park. Built in the 17th century, the park has an artificial lake and countless flowers, plants and trees. It is also home to storks (the symbol of Alsace!) nesting on trees or rooftops. The park is a pleasure to stroll, relax or enjoy a picnic.
If you have time, stop for a walk at the Botanical Garden, it is the second oldest in France after the one in Montpellier.
Dine with the locals in an Alsatian winstub
Strasbourg has a unique history and culture as the city belonged to Germany and France. Therefore, the food and the region’s specialities influence both countries. To get a taste of Alsatian dishes, you will need to go to a winstub.
Like English pubs, these traditional restaurants are great to sit down to eat or for a drink. On the menu, you’ll find dishes like baeckeoffe (meat and vegetable stew), tarte flambée, cordon bleu, Vol-au-vent, spaetzle, fleischnacka, sausages and sauerkraut (pickled cabbage). La Maison des Tanneurs, located in Petite France, is a charming winstub to try or Au Pont Corbeau, near the Alsacian Musum.
Visit France’s Most Famous Christmas Market
Strasbourg’s Christmas market is without a doubt THE most famous in the world. From the end of November through 25th December, the city comes to life with festivities. Although the primary location for the big traditional market is Place de la Cathedrale, chalets are also scattered over several sites, including Place Broglie and Place Kleber. The streets are bustling with chalets and trees illuminated by twinkling lights.
Traditional decorations, gifts and treats are sold, including pretzels, mulled wine and crepes.
Learn about Alsatian wine
Alsace wines are not as famous as other regions like Bordeaux, Burgundy or Champagne, but they deserve attention. Situated in the foothills of the Rhine valley beneath the Vosges mountains, the Alsace region produces primarily dry and fruity white wines like Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. You’ll find some Pinot Noir too.
To learn about the wines, head to the Historic Cellar of Strasbourg Hospices. The cellar, which has symbolized the tradition and ancestral know-how of Alsace wines for more than 600 years, is filled with history holds the oldest wine in the world preserved in barrels and restored historic casks. You have the opportunity during the 45 minutes tour to taste a selection of wines.
If you’re searching for a good one to try or take home, visit Au Millésime, which offers a great selection of Alsacian wines. The sommelier is happy to give expert advice with a smile.
The Alsace Wine Route, France’s oldest wine route, is the perfect trip for wine lovers. The route running from north to south passes through picturesque villages and other winegrowing villages.
How to get to Strasbourg
Train to Strasbourg
Strasbourg is well served by train, and the train station is located right in the city centre. From Paris, the journey takes about 1h45 mins by TGV INOUI or longer with the TER. The most convenient way to reach Strasbourg from London is by taking the Eurostar from St Pancras and changing at Lille or Paris.
Travelling by bus
If you are nearby, it might be an excellent option to travel by bus. Otherwise, the bus is the most budget-friendly way to travel to Strasbourg. Many companies serve the city, such as Flixbus, BlaBlaBus, Eurolines or Isilines.
Flying to Strasbourg
Strasbourg International Airport (SXB) is in the nearby town of Entzheim, just over 6 miles away from Strasbourg. Shuttle trains take less than 10 minutes.
How to get around Strasbourg
Strasbourg is a compact city so, you can wander around and access most of the main sites on foot.
By public transport
Strasbourg has a great network of buses and trams. Tickets are available to purchase from the vending machine or via the CTS Strasbourg mobile app. A single ticket costs €1,70 with the app or €2 on the bus. You can also purchase 24h (€6,90) or three days (€9,30) tickets, giving you unlimited rides during the time limit.
Renting a bike is made easy in Strasbourg. Like many cities in France, Strasbourg offers a bike rental program called Vélhop which allows you to hire per hour or day. Pay just €1 an hour or rent it for the whole day for €6.
Renting a car is the ideal option if you are planning to explore the neighbouring cities and towns, depending on the
Best time to visit Strasbourg
I don’t think there is a wrong time to visit Strasbourg. However, the city is lovely during the summer period, with flowers in full bloom. Despite it being busy, summer offers the best weather for long walks around the city. Autumn also provides pretty sights with the changing of leaves. December is extremely popular as the city transforms into THE capital city of Christmas. The streets of the city bustle then with festivity.
Where to stay in Strasbourg
Strasbourg has plenty of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets. For first time visitors, the city centre (Grande Ile and Petite France) are the best choice as you want to stay closer to the main attractions. Staying near the train station is also perfect for those staying only one night or making day trips.
I stayed at Voco Strasbourg Centre – The Garden, which is only 10 minutes away from the train station and 15 minutes from Petite France. The boutique hotel is perfect for your short stay. From the moment I walked in, I was in awe of the lovely decor and atmosphere. I liked the attention to detail put into the hotel: it’s modern, stylish, and has comfortable rooms. The hotel also has fantastic facilities, including a small sauna/pool. As for the team, they were super welcoming, attentive and professional.
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