Strasbourg means ‘City of the Roads’. It sits on some of Europe’s main transport routes – and on the intersection between France and Germany. Strasbourg has frequently changed hands between the two countries, and even now your French-to-English pocket dictionary won’t help – the capital of France’s Alsace region is German-speaking.
Strasbourg is the seat of such weighty institutions as the Council of Europe and theEuropean Parliament, which explains why so many of its inhabitants look rather serious. Or maybe they’re just worried that with so much architectural splendour (Strasbourg was the first entire city to be granted World Heritage status), they’ll be overrun by visitors wanting to stay if they look like they’re having too much fun. Notre Dame Cathedral in the heart of the Grand Ile is a highlight, but there’s also enough after-dark energy in Strasbourg to get even the most boring bureaucrat bopping!
Strasbourg's Top 10
10. Cave des Hospices de Strasbourg A wine cellar inside a hospital… Gotta love the French!
5. Parc de l’Orangerie A family haven where swans float on a lake amongst little boats. Playgrounds and a mini zoo keep the kids occupied.
9. Jardin des Deux Rives This 60-hectare garden straddling both banks of the Rhine comes complete with a suspension bridge!
4. Palais Rohan Built for the city’s bishops in the 18th century and truly palatial. There are a number of interesting museum exhibits as well.
8. European Parliament You can sit in on debates, but bring your ID – security is tight.
3. Musee Historique This museum, interestingly situated in a 16th century slaughterhouse, traces Strasbourg’s development.
7. Musee d’Art Moderne et Contemporain A glass and steel cube plays home to an excellent collection of modern art and first-rate river views.
2. Musee de l’Oeuvre Notre-Dame Home to the oldest stained glass artwork in France, plus sculptural treasures from the Gothic, Renaissance and Romanesque periods, this is a feast for any art lover’s senses.
6. Petite France A pretty medieval area with narrow lanes, canals and half-timbered houses covered in geraniums.
1. Cathedrale Notre-Dame This gothic masterpiece comes complete with menacing gargoyles and sharp spires.
- Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg - A Roman Catholic cathedral considered one of the best examples of late Gothic architecture.
- Kriegstor - This war gate is an example of Prussian military architecture that was popular during the 1880s.
- Barrage Vauban - A weir built in 1700 that is several stories high and contains many sculptures and a terrace on the roof.
- Palais du Rhin - A huge building with gardens found in the German section of the city.
- Opera National du Rhin - Renovated in 1873 after the German bombing.
Strasbourg Art & Culture
- Musee de l’Oeuvre Notre-Dame - An extensive collection of medieval and Renaissance art.
- Cabinet des Estampes et des Dessins - The museum in Strasbourg houses lithography, drawings, woodcuts and engravings.
- Le Vaisseau - A technology and science centre specifically for children.
- Musee Alsacien - A museum dedicated to showing all aspects of Alsatian life.
- Musee de la Navigation sur le Rhin - An old shop that shows the history of navigation on the Rhine River.
- Place des Halles - More than 100 restaurants and shops.
- Rue Hellebardes and Gutenberg - Streets that have designer clothing stores for both men and women.
- Marche aux Puces - This flea market is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays at the rue de Vieil-Hopital.
- Rivetoil - Contains higher-budget shops and cafes located between the tram stops of Etoile bourse and Etoile Polygone.
- NORMA - An outlet that offers cheap groceries and local beers and wines of Strasbourg.
Gay & Lesbian Strasbourg
- Bar Le zoo - The local gay bar that opens late and stays open all night long in Strasbourg.
- So Divine - A gay and lesbian spot with three floors devoted to good food and wine.
- JJ’s Club - Small and gay-friendly bar with a dance floor and a crowd of all ages.
- Antracte Cruise Club - A gay sex club with a video room, playground, private cubicles and more.
- Offshore Club - A gay club with DJs and dancing all night long.
- Jardin des Deux Rives - Contains parklands, promenades and play areas that straddle both sides of the river, connected by a sleek suspension bridge.
- Parc de l’Orangerie - A flower park created in the 17th century with a mini zoo.
- Grande Ile - A big island surrounded by the two arms of the river and containing many monuments in a relatively small area.
- Canal Boat Tour - Enjoy the river by taking a canal boat tour viewing some of the most beautiful parts of Strasbourg.
- Natural Park Vosges du Nord - Designated UNESCO area that contains a biosphere reserve and more than 60 percent of the park is forest.
- Spend the day watching tennis at the Internationaux de Strasbourg.
- Put on your hiking boots and follow the trails through the Voges or the Black Forest.
- Get a professional guide and do some rock climbing; spots are available for beginners to experienced climbers.
- Choose from grade I to grade IV rapids for a day of canoeing or rafting.
- Get exercise using the gym, courts and other facilities at the Eau Vive health club.
Hundreds of free outdoor art exhibits fill the city in August for the Street Art Festival, accompanied by clowns and brass bands.
Food stalls spring up all around Strasbourg in July for the European Food Festival. Creamy cheeses, cool beers and freshly baked bread lure in foodies from around the region.
Colourful lights and fireworks light up Notre Dame Cathedral each night of the Ete a Strasbourg in June.
September’s European Bric-A-Brac and Antiques Fair at the Parc des Expositions sells loads of trinkets and antiques from all over Europe.
The Festival Musica puts a Strasbourg spin on modern classical music at various locations throughout September and October.
When To Go
- Winter in Strasbourg can be cold and snowy, but this is also Strasbourg at its most beautiful.
- Flowers (and tourism) blooms from March to May.
- Summer (June to August) brings the biggest crowds and warmest weather. Temperatures occasionally top 30ºC (86ºF).
- Trams are a great way to get around the Grand Ile, with four main lines starting at Place de l’Homme de Fer.
- Shuttle buses or city trams run every 40 minutes from the airport to town.
- You can get to Paris by train in only 2 hours 20 minutes.
The capital of Alsace in France, a notable hub of wine and gastronomy, is a study in contrasts. Close proximity to Germany adds a minor twist to Strasbourg's identity. Inhabitants revel in a cultural legacy that is special within France and as a result, the city is a wonderful discovery.
Strasbourg is on the cusp of a major transformation, from heritage city to one that plays a critical role in the European Union. As the base for many institutions that contribute to the overall direction of the continent, Strasbourg is a popular destination. Terrific architecture, parks and museums round out what has become a modern, cosmopolitan town.
The Strasbourg Cathedral is by far the primary attraction in the city, if not one of the best in France. The spire, once the tallest structure in the world, is visible from the Black Forest across the River Rhine. Construction first began on the cathedral in the 12th century, with many phases of renovation over subsequent decades. While the exterior is remarkable, to truly appreciate the historical house of worship, one must tour the entire facility.
Petite-France is one of the best preserved medieval quarters in Europe. Ancient timber facades compete with Baroque sandstone structures among the narrow, picturesque streets.
The Church of Saint-Thomas is notable for several reasons. The primary Protestant church in the city, none other than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart gave a recital here in 1778. Construction of the cathedral began in 1196 and took some time to complete: 325 years to be precise.
The Rohan Palace is famous the world over as one of the best models of classic Baroque architecture. Built between 1731 and 1742, the grand palace was at one time the home of Louis XV, Marie Antoinette and Napoleon Bonaparte. Today Rohan Palace contains three of the most vital museums in Strasbourg: the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Decorative Arts and Archaeological Museum.
Strasbourg's reputation as a capital of culture is not mere hyperbole in France but rather, on the record across Europe and abroad. The city has several fine foundations in the realm of music and theatre.
The Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra has been around since 1855, with regular recitals throughout the year. The Opéra national du Rhin performs in the spectacular city opera house. The National Theatre Company is one of the best in France.
Festivals in Strasbourg tend to reflect a love of instrumental music, from the excellent Jazz d'Or Festival in November to Musica, a celebration of contemporary classical music in September.
December is a big deal in Strasbourg, with a festive Old Europe vibe in the streets. A Christmas market at Place de la Cathédrale features vendors with decorations and traditional yuletide treats.
With a location in the middle of Europe, Strasbourg has a continental climate. The city calendar features four seasons, with 10 days of rain a month on average.
- Winter (November to February) -1-8°C
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