Capital of Alsace region, Strasbourg houses the European Parliament and several other European and international institutions. However, that is not the reason the city is such a popular tourist destination. Located at the border with Germany, it features unique Rhineland architecture, with scenic lanes and typical black and white timber-framed houses.
Crossed by Ill River (a branch of Rhine), Strasbourg is France’s second largest college city. Its universities boasting famous former students, such as Goethe, the city lives up due to its great student population. The historical centre is included in Unesco’s World Heritage Sites, while the city’s Christmas Markets are among the most famous around the area.
Walking around the picturesque old centre is definitely the best way to explore Strasbourg. Also consider renting a bike to move around this super cycling-friendly city. Public transport includes four excellent tram lines and city buses. A daily Tourpass is worth purchasing if you plan to take more than two rides per day. Unfortunately all public transport stops operating before 12.30am.
Things to see and do in Strasbourg
Notre Dame Cathedral is one of Strasbourg’s most well-recognised landmarks. Built in Gothic architecture, this imposing cathedral dates back to 13th century. Detailed gargoyles and lovely stained-glass windows complement the church’s impressive interior. Tourists flock the cathedral at noon to watch the Astronomical Clock’s moving figures at solar noon (12.30pm). The clock features interesting elements of Renaissance design. Walk up to Notre Dame’s observation platform to enjoy some fascinating views of the city.
From Notre Dame Cathedral to L’Oeuvre Notre Dame Museum, you can admire one of the most outstanding collections of Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance sculptures. Some medieval paintings and ancient stained-glass artworks are also on display in this museum.
Featuring superb baroque architecture, Palais Rohan is a must-see when in Strasburg. Initially built to be the residence of the local Cardinal in 18th century, it also hosted Marie-Antoinette and Luis the 15th for one night. Today it houses three exceptional museums: Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Decorative Arts and the Archaeological Museum.
One of Strasburg’s most popular districts, Petit France is unquestionably the most picturesque quarter of the city. One of the best places to take an up-close look at the traditional black and white timber-framed buildings, it also features scenic lanes and charming canals. Built by the river, it used to be a commercial district during the Middle Ages. Enjoy the lovely views of PontsCouverts(bridges) and rest in one of the many cafes and restaurants.
If you are interested in European politics, you can visit Palais de l’Europe (base of the European council) and the building of the European Parliament. Palais de l’Europe is located by the river and visitors can only enter as a part of guided tours. The tours are held on weekdays, last one hour and are free to join. Just opposite toPalais de l’Europe, stands the modern glass building of the European Parliament. Visitors are welcome to sit and watch the meetings of the parliament. If you plan to do this make sure you have your ID with you. You can check on the days discussions are held on the institution’s official site or the tourist offices.
If you need a relaxing stroll among lush greenery, head northeast of Palais de l’Europe to get to Orangerie Park. A swan lake, play grounds and a small pudding zoo are available within the park’s grounds. Jardin des Deux Rives is another fine park. Former military base, the area was turned into a lovely garden, which spreads around both banks of Ill River.