Strasbourg is a particularly picturesque city, one of the most beautiful and coquette French cities within the Alsace region. Walking down the narrow yet intriguing streets you can explore century old houses revealing a very German-French architecture.
Often overlooked, this is a city that deserves your attention just as much as Paris or any other city in France. Read more below why we think Strasbourg should definitely make it on your list of must see things in France.
- Travel to and Around Strasbourg
- Where to Stay in Strasbourg
- Things to do in Strasbourg
- 1. Explore the Square Louise-Weiss
- 2. Take a photo of Ponts Couverts de Strasbourg
- 3. Go up Barrage Vauban
- 4. Walk down the Petite-France
- 5. Check out St. Thomas Church
- 6. Learn about Alsatian German Ethnics at the Alsatian Museum
- 7. Have a Coffee at Place Kléber
- 8. See the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Strasbourg
- 9. Learn about European Politics at the European Parliament
- Other things to do in Strasbourg
- Food and Drinks Highlights
- Final Thoughts
Strasbourg, a picturesque city nestled in the north-eastern part of France, is a captivating destination for tourists seeking a blend of history, culture, and charm.
Situated near the border with Germany, Strasbourg is the capital of the Alsace region and is renowned for its unique blend of French and German influences.
At the heart of Strasbourg lies the Grande Île, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the historic centre of the city. The iconic Cathedral Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, with its stunning Gothic architecture, dominates the skyline.
Visitors can climb to the top for panoramic views of the city and the Rhine River. Strolling through the cobblestone streets of La Petite France, a historic quarter with half-timbered houses and canals, offers a glimpse into the city’s medieval past.
Strasbourg is also famous for its European institutions, hosting the Council of Europe and the European Parliament. The European Quarter showcases modern architecture and symbolises the city’s role in fostering international cooperation.
One of Strasbourg’s most enchanting features is its intricate network of canals, making it a joy to explore by boat. The Ill River winds through the city, offering scenic boat tours that provide a unique perspective on Strasbourg’s landmarks.
Food enthusiasts will delight in the local gastronomy, which seamlessly blends French and German culinary traditions. Alsace is renowned for its white wines, and Strasbourg’s numerous cosy bistros and winstubs serve up regional delights such as sauerkraut and tarte flambée.
Travel to and Around Strasbourg
The city itself is accessible by most means of transportation and flights to this destination tend to be fairly accessible especially out of season. On this occasion we travelled by train to Bern as part of our summer 2023 Interrail trip.
Strasbourg’s main airport is Strasbourg Airport (SXB) which has arrivals from many European destinations. We’ve often seen well priced flights from London. If you are looking for suitable flight options, make sure to check out this article with top tips on how to find cheap flights.
Strasbourg boasts an efficient and diverse transport system that facilitates easy exploration for tourists.
We found that a day ticket was fairly affordable and covered the attractions we needed. Alternatively there are other options and tickets on offer such as the Strasbourg City Card.
We would say that unlike Lisbon or other cities where the use of public transport is a must, here walking would get you to most places you want to go to. Perhaps the only place a bit further out is the European Parliament for which you may consider a tram journey.
Here’s an overview of the key elements of the city’s transport infrastructure:
- Trams – cover major attractions, connecting key points in the city centre, making it convenient for tourists to hop on and off. The trams are clean, reliable, and offer a scenic way to travel through Strasbourg.
- Buses – complementing the tram system, Strasbourg’s bus network provides additional coverage, reaching areas not directly served by trams. Buses are especially useful for exploring neighbourhoods beyond the city centre and are an economical option for getting around.
- Bikes – Strasbourg is a bike-friendly city with well-marked bike lanes and numerous bike-sharing stations. Tourists can rent bikes to explore the city at their own pace, taking advantage of dedicated cycling paths along the river and through parks.
- Boats – The Ill River flows through Strasbourg, and boat tours offer a unique perspective of the city. Several companies provide guided boat tours that take visitors along the canals, offering a leisurely way to enjoy the scenic beauty of Strasbourg.
- Car Rentals and Taxis – while public transport is excellent, those who prefer more flexibility can opt for car rentals. Taxis are also readily available for convenient point-to-point travel, although they are generally more expensive than public transportation
- Travel Passes – for tourists planning to use public transport extensively, Strasbourg offers various travel passes that provide unlimited access to trams and buses for a specified period. These passes are cost-effective and make it easy to navigate the city. We got a day pass for our visit.
Overall, Strasbourg’s well-integrated transport system offers tourists a variety of options to explore the city efficiently, whether by tram, bus, bike, boat, or on foot.
Where to Stay in Strasbourg
In general, there are plenty of hotels and accommodation options, however, we would recommend staying somewhere central as you can get around quite easily.
We would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. Use the widget below to find the best accommodation in Strasbourg for your specific dates.
On this occasion, we didn’t sleep in Strasbourg as our schedule was just to stay the day and then sleep in Bern later that night.
When looking for accommodation, like we say in our article on how to plan a holiday, do account for the overall cost as you have to factor in breakfast.
Things to do in Strasbourg
The main old city centre of Strasbourg is not a fairly large area to cover, particularly the Petite France area. If looking to do most of the things we list below, you will notice that Strasbourg can be easily done as part of a weekend city break or if ambitious like us, in a day!
We would suggest, you start early in the morning however, this may not be quintessential as the tourist population is much lower here than in other places. Overall, expect a pleasant time, you will also notice that there are no crowds for you to bump in, making the overall trekking experience a breeze.
1. Explore the Square Louise-Weiss
Although a small square with a special charm, surrounded by water, located in Petite France area, near Ponts Couverts. It’s a wonderful place for a walk nonetheless.
There are a lot of beautiful buildings and some restaurants and coffee shops. It’s a great start to your visit in Strasbourg.
2. Take a photo of Ponts Couverts de Strasbourg
The Ponts Couverts, or Covered Bridges, is an iconic historical site that adds to the city’s picturesque charm. Located in the heart of Strasbourg’s medieval quarter, the Ponts Couverts consist of three bridges and four towers that once served as part of the city’s defensive fortifications.
We found the covered bridges to be very picturesque but also different to other types of fortifications often found in old historical cities such as this.
We particularly enjoyed the nice hot summer day with the cooling effect from the river. You can often see many locals going for a run through the nearby footpaths by the canals.
3. Go up Barrage Vauban
The Barrage Vauban, is a historic dam and defensive structure that has evolved into a popular tourist attraction.
Built in the 17th century by the military engineer Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, the Barrage Vauban is a masterpiece of military architecture. It was originally constructed as part of the city’s fortifications.
The Barrage Vauban offers panoramic views of Strasbourg’s historic district, including the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, the Ponts Couverts, and the picturesque Petite-France neighbourhood.
4. Walk down the Petite-France
Petite-France is one of the most picturesque and charming neighbourhoods in Strasbourg, known for its half-timbered houses, canals, and cobblestone streets.
Similar to many German cities or Tudor style buildings, Strasbourg offers amazing views of these houses and is simply a pleasure to walk by them and observe them.
Petite-France was historically the district of tanners, millers, and fishermen. This can be easily seen by some of the remaining water mills left for decorative purposes.
Nowadays the district is dotted with charming restaurants, cafes, and shops. It’s a delightful place to wander, stop for a meal, or shop for souvenirs.
We even sat down later that day to enjoy a nice refreshing bottle of cider by the shade of a walnut tree whilst watching tourists like us searching for a shaded table to enjoy their lunch.
5. Check out St. Thomas Church
St. Thomas Church has its origins in the 12th century, with the current structure dating back to the 15th century. It is a classic example of Gothic architecture.
St. Thomas Church, with its rich history, Gothic architecture, and cultural significance, contributes to the diverse tapestry of Strasbourg’s landmarks and is a noteworthy stop for those exploring the city’s heritage.
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6. Learn about Alsatian German Ethnics at the Alsatian Museum
The Musée Alsacien is dedicated to preserving and showcasing the cultural heritage of the Alsace region, known for its distinctive blend of French and German influences.
Housed in several historical buildings in Strasbourg’s Old Town, the museum itself is an architectural gem. The buildings reflect traditional Alsatian architecture, providing a fitting backdrop for the exhibits.
We particularly enjoyed exploring the Museum as it revealed how people used to live back in the days and overcome the hardships of those days. It was also interesting to learn the many similarities the people in this region shared with the wider Germanic world.
The museum’s exhibits feature a wide range of artifacts, crafts, and everyday items that offer insights into the daily life, traditions, and customs of the people of Alsace over the centuries. This includes textiles, ceramics, furniture, and more.
7. Have a Coffee at Place Kléber
Place Kléber is the main square and a vibrant focal point in the heart of Strasbourg, France. Named after General Jean-Baptiste Kléber, a native of Strasbourg and a hero of the French Revolutionary Wars, the square is a central hub for both locals and tourists.
One prominent structure on Place Kléber is the Aubette building. Originally designed as a military guardhouse, it now houses restaurants, shops, and a cinema.
The equestrian statue of General Kléber is a prominent feature at the centre of the square. It’s a popular meeting point and a symbol of the city’s history.
When sitting on the benches nearby you can also see many locals enjoying their lunch in the shade. It’s a great place to sit down and have a drink as well and enjoying passing people.
8. See the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Strasbourg
The Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Strasbourg, commonly known as the Strasbourg Cathedral, is a magnificent masterpiece of Gothic architecture located in the heart of Strasbourg.
Construction of the cathedral began in the 12th century, and it was completed in the 15th century. It stands as a testament to the skill and artistry of medieval builders.
The Strasbourg Cathedral is a prime example of High Gothic architecture. Its intricate design includes elements such as pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and flying buttresses.
The façade of the cathedral is adorned with numerous sculptures and intricate carvings, depicting biblical scenes, saints, and other religious motifs. The Strasbourg Cathedral is part of the historic centre of Strasbourg, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The cathedral houses a famous astronomical clock, known as the Strasbourg astronomical clock (Horloge astronomique de Strasbourg). It is a marvel of Renaissance engineering and showcases the movements of celestial bodies. It is very similar to the one found in Venice and Prague.
Overall, we really enjoyed our visit there, however, we suggest you do make an effort to avoid the crowds.
This is because in order to avoid overcrowding staff only let a few cohorts of people at a time. So you might end up waiting in the sun (or rain) till you get your turn to enter. This could be a while.
Tip: make sure you dress appropriately and have your shoulders covered as you may be refused entry.
9. Learn about European Politics at the European Parliament
The European Parliament in Strasbourg is an important institution within the European Union, and while primarily a political hub, it also has touristic significance.
A few years ago we enjoyed visiting the European Parliament in Brussels and were glad to have the opportunity to visit the one in Strasbourg as well.
The Louise Weiss Building, which houses the hemicycle (parliamentary chamber), is a striking example of modern architecture. Its distinctive design and glass façade make it a notable landmark in Strasbourg.
Another thing we linked was that you can actually go all the way up and see the views. Upstairs you will find a terrace overlooking Strasbourg. Whilst the views aren’t breath-taking by any means it still is a great opportunity to check them out.
Depending on the schedule, visitors might have the opportunity to witness plenary sessions where Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) discuss and vote on legislative matters.
Inside the parliament we also enjoyed the fairly green interior garden they have. Overall it creates a very nice and serene ambiance.
There are also a few exhibitions, we particularly enjoyed the The Parlamentarium Simone Veil one where through some immersive videos they highlight the history and importance of the institution.
The choice of Strasbourg as one of the official seats of the European Parliament is symbolic, emphasizing the goal of fostering European unity and reconciliation.
The city’s location on the French-German border and its historical significance make it a powerful symbol of reconciliation and cooperation.
While the European Parliament primarily serves as a political institution, its presence in Strasbourg offers tourists the opportunity to engage with European politics and appreciate the symbolic significance of this international hub within the charming and historic city.
Other things to do in Strasbourg
If you have more time or would like to explore more of Strasbourg, here are some suggestions about other things to do in this beautiful city.
Food and Drinks Highlights
Strasbourg, boasts a distinctive cuisine influenced by both French and German culinary traditions. Strasbourg’s cuisine reflects a rich cultural tapestry, blending the best of French and German culinary traditions.
The city’s diverse offerings make it a delightful destination for food enthusiasts eager to explore unique flavours and regional specialties.
Here’s a brief overview of Strasbourg cuisine:
- French-German Fusion: Strasbourg’s location on the border between France and Germany has resulted in a unique culinary blend. The cuisine is characterized by the use of both French and German ingredients, techniques, and flavours.
- Alsace Specialties: The Alsatian region, to which Strasbourg belongs, is renowned for its specific culinary identity. Alsatian cuisine combines elements of hearty German fare with the finesse of French cooking.
- Flammekueche (Tarte Flambée): A traditional Alsatian dish, Flammekueche is a thin, crisp pizza-like tart topped with crème fraîche, onions, and bacon. It’s a delightful and savory treat.
- Choucroute Garnie: A classic Alsatian dish featuring fermented cabbage (sauerkraut) served with various garnishes, such as sausages, smoked pork, and potatoes.
- Baeckeoffe: A slow-cooked casserole combining marinated meats (typically lamb, beef, and pork) with potatoes and root vegetables, seasoned with Alsatian herbs.
- Tarte à l’Oignon (Onion Tart): A savoury onion tart featuring a rich filling of caramelised onions, cream, and sometimes bacon, encased in a buttery pastry crust.
- Pretzels: Soft and chewy pretzels, known as “bretzels” in the region, are a popular snack and often enjoyed with local beer.
- Alsace Wines: The region is celebrated for its white wines, particularly Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Gris. These wines complement the local cuisine and are often enjoyed with Alsatian dishes.
- Beer: Strasbourg is situated in a beer-loving region, and local breweries produce a range of beers, including the refreshing and slightly bitter Alsace beer.
- Kugelhopf: A ring-shaped cake with a distinctive fluted design, often made with almonds and raisins. It’s a popular dessert in the region.
- Berawecka: A traditional Alsatian Christmas cake made with dried fruits, nuts, and spices.
Below is a selection of places we would recommend when visiting the city:
Enjoy a Traditional Meal at Aux Vieux Strasbourg
Situated in Old Town Strasbourg, Au Vieux Strasbourg is a great way to experience the cuisine and ambiance of Strasbourg. We found the menu to be extensive and had most of the local dishes one would expect.
The food was good, but not great, however, it gives you a good idea of what people in the area might eat. Also being very close the the main cathedral this should be another perk for checking this place out.
I had the Cordon Bleu (yes, I know, but I love it!) and Hristina had the Alsatian Potatoes with bacon and cheese sauce. The food wasn’t bad and the cheese sauce was ok but could have been more thick for that extra umph.
To drink, we had one of the local beers which were light but flavoursome. Perfect for a hot summer’s day.
Have a Pastry at L’Atelier 116
How can you come to France and not enjoy a French pastry? We suggest you definitely go for a treat at L’Atelier 116 and try one of their many decadent delights.
You can enjoy anything from local tarts to mousses – the choice is yours. Bonus, the coffee isn’t too bad either! Seating can be a bit hard to get by especially outside but I guess that’s the case with all good pastry shops.
We tried a selection of pastries and all simply delivered. Everything felt buttery and crisp, the way it should be.
Our final thoughts about Strasbourg are that it’s an incredible place to spend a weekend. The wonderful surroundings, impressive nature and the overall good value for money touristic attractions make Strasbourg an excellent contender for your next travel destination.
We think prices for accommodation and food can be prohibitive for many but even so, a day trip still wouldn’t hurt which is what we did on this occasion.
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