- the thematic guide to France
- things to see and do
For visitors wanting to see Paris and one other French city - or indeed
just one French city other than Paris, Strasbourg is the place.
The great west facade
of Strasbourg's medieval cathedral towers over the surrounding
buildings of the old city.
Strasbourg is one of the great historic cities of
Europe, and its history is very different from that of Paris.
In the year 840 AD, on the death of the Emperor
Charlemagne's son Louis the Pious, the great Frankish "Holy Roman"
Empire was split into three parts. West Francia in the west became the
heartland of modern France. East Francia in the east became Germany;
and between them lay Middle Francia – an area today made up
of small states, Luxembourg Belgium, the
Netherlands,and Switzerland. Between Luxembourg and
Switzerland middle Francia included the duchies of Alsace, Lorraine and
Burgundy, which are today part of France. But this was not always the
Alsace, and with it Strasbourg, only
became French in the 17th century. Alsace was French from 1648 to 1871,
but during this time it remained German- speaking. From 1871 until
and again from 1940 to 1944, Alsace was annexed by Germany.
While today the people of Alsace all speak
French, the historic Germanic culture of the city of Strasbourg is
tangible, and indeed part of the city's identity. Many signs are
written up in both French and Alsatian (a dialect of German), or
sometimes just in Alsatian; and signs on many historic buildings are
written up using the classically German Gothic script.
As for wining and dining, Strasbourg's gourmet
traditions are quite distinctive, and more German than French.
is something between a quiche lorraine and a pizza, and
sauerkraut in English or German, is a major speciality.
Another popular dish is baeckoffe,
an oven-baked meat and potato dish.
Alsace and Strasbourg are also famous for their pain
d'épices, a kind of spicebread or gingerbread,
in the runup to Christmas.
For a classic Strasbourg dining experience,
visitors have a large number of Alsacian restaurants and Winstubs; the
latter are typical Alsace restaurants, mostly furnished with wooden
chairs and tables, decorated in Alsace style, and often housed in old
half-timbered buildings. They are Alsace's equivalent of an old
fashioned English pub, where people go as much to drink - in this case
local Alsace wine - as to eat.
Strasbourg is the second most popular
tourist city in France, after Paris; and there are three main
attractions. Firstly the cathedral,
the second most visited French cathedral after Notre Dame de Paris;
secondly the picture-book historic quarter of Petite France, with
its half-timbered medieval houses and its quays overlooking branches
of the river Ill (that is the river " ill "); and thirdly the
market. The Christmas market, or
Christkindelsmärik, the market of the child Jesus, is the
oldest and biggest historic Christmas market in Europe, and fills the
squares and old streets round the cathedral for the whole of December.
Old city fortifications and part of Petite France, by the river Ill
Near Petite France is the Barrage Vauban, a
17th century covered bridge and walkway across the river.
But there is plenty more to see and do in
Strasbourg, showing location of main sites. The map is about 1800
metres across. Tram routes in brown
One of the great things about Strasbourg as a
city-break destination, is that you can do so much on foot. The old
city is quite small. Just next to the cathedral, in and around the
Palais Rohan, is a cluster of museums, the most impressive of which is
the Strasbourg art
gallery, or Musée des Beaux Arts. One
of the best provincial art
galleries in France, the gallery has a small
but rich and representative collection of European art from the
Renaissance onwards, including works by Giotto, Botticelli, Raphael,
Rubens, El Greco, Van Dyck, Corot, Courbet and many more. The Palais
Rohan, a fine eighteenth-century palace, also houses the Museum of Decorative Arts,
and the Strasbourg
Archeological Museum; and just across the street is the Strasbourg historical museum.
A single day pass for all the Strasbourg museums
costs less than separate entrance tickets to two individual museums.
The pass also includes access to Strasbourg's
other great museum, the Strasbourg museum of modern and contemporary
art, or MAMCS.
Very easily accessible – just a short walk from Petite France
across the Barrage Vauban, this is a small but good modern
art gallery, opened in 1998. Its permanent collection contains works
from the Impressionists onwards, including Monet, Sisley, Renoir,
Signac, Vlaminck, Picasso, Braque, Chagall, Miro, Magritte, Kandinsky
and many more.
The other popular tourist attraction in
Strasbourg is to take a boat
trip on the river Ill. Boats leave from in front of the
Palais Rohan, by the museums, and take visitors round the island in the
river Ill on
which the historic city of Strasbourg is built.
the area - northern Alsace
The Haut Rhin
The historic city of Strasbourg lies a mile from
the Rhine, in the fertile valley that is flanked to the west by the
Vosges mountains, and to the east by Germany's Black Forest. Both are
easily accessible from Strasbourg.
For a quick trip into
Germany, it is very easy to drive or take the train across the Rhine to
the German town of Kehl, but that is not terribly interesting.
A more interesting trip is to drive or take the train to the
town of Offenburg, 25 km (15 miles) from Strasbourg, a town with an
attractive centre... but not as attractive as
A day trip into the Vosges
can combine a visit to the impressive Chateau du Haut Koenigsburg 60 km
south of Strasbourg, near Séléstat, and near
there to the picturesque small Alsace wine-route town of Kaysersberg.
Click here for more on visiting Alsace
and photos Copyright © About-France.com 2003 - 2017
Plan of Strasbourg from an open-source original from
Accommodation in Strasbourg
choice of carefully selected hotels in Strasbourg.
These hotels are conveniently sited in or near the city centre, and
all have good write-ups. Click links for details
and to book at best rates .
Régent Petite France
historic buildings the heart of old Strasbourg, on an island
in the River
. By many accounts the best hotel in Strasbourg -
certainly the finest location.
Cour du Corbeau
- Four star boutique hotel in a historic traditional Alsatian
half-timbered building, in the old part of town a short distance from
- Four-star hotel located in an eighteenth century building
in old Strasbourg; close to the historic Petite France
and to Place Kleber.
- Four star hotel with parking, located in central
Strasbourg, close to the shops, the cathedral and historic districts.
- Three star boutique hotel in a historic building in old Strasbourg;
perfectly located in a quiet street just a few yeard from the
and a short walk to the cathedral and other sites.
- Classic three-star hotel ideally located in old Strasbourg, between
Petite France and the cathedral.
Hotel Royal Lutetia
hotel easily accessible just off Avenue des Vosges, between
the old town and the European Parliament.
- Modern three-star hotel located
between the train station and the old city, and close to shops and the
Ibis Centre Ponts couverts
- Large modern two-star beside the
river near the MAMCS, and close to Petite France and the old parts of
Strasbourg. Parking (charge).
Ibis Centre Petite France
- Two-star hotel located between
the train station and the old town. Public parking.
Stylish hotel ten minutes' walk (or tram
ride) from historic centre. 45 rooms. Onsite private parking (charge);
easy access by car.
more three-star hotels
for a full list of three star hotels in Strasbourg
- Classic two-star hotel with terrace ideally located in old
Strasbourg, two minutes walk from the cathedral and the museums. Free
- Small two star hotel on pedestrian square 200
metres on foot to the cathedral, museums and boat trips. Onsite parking
- Small friendly two-star hotel, 17 rooms, less than 150 metres from
the cathedral. Free wifi.
for a full list of two star hotels in Strasbourg