Latest update: 25 April 2021
Strasbourg in France is a lovely city for a weekend break or a stopover when traveling through West Europe. In only a few hours of being here, I’m already charmed by Strasbourg and discover that there are more than enough sights and activities to entertain me for a weekend.
Where is Strasbourg actually located?
Strasbourg is up in the northeast of France. The city is located on the Rhine – Germany is already across the river even. Strasbourg is situated in the Alsace region, and it is even the capital of Alsace. Alsace is the smallest region in France. That’s it for topography, let’s get to the sights. 😉
A French city with a German zest (“schwung”)
Strasbourg is not only extremely close to Germany, but it has also regularly been a part of Germany. In wartime, France and Germany took turns claiming the city. After the Second World War, Strasbourg officially became part of France. The French say Strasbourg, the Germans Strassburg, and in Dutch I say Straatsburg.
Strasbourg is definitely an extraordinary city due to these French and German influences. You can see the mix in the architectural style, hear it in the dialect and taste it in the food.
Sightseeing in Strasbourg
Strasbourg has gained a reputation for being the seat of the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights, and the European Parliament’s seat. A boring city you say? No, there is a lot to do in Strasbourg. The cathedral of Strasbourg is impressive, the old city center seems to come straight out of a fairy tale book where a walk along the river is wonderfully relaxing. In just one day it’s easy to discover many sights in Strasbourg. So, take advantage of the following 7 Strasbourg tips – lots of things to do in Strasbourg!
If you know what you want to do in Strasbourg, check if you can score a good deal with the CityCard. With the CityCard you can do many activities for free and get discounts on other Strasbourg attractions. Check the CityCard here.
Tip 1 – Strasbourg Cathedral
Strasbourg Cathedral is located on Grande Île. It is the tourist epicenter of the city. Around the cathedral, you will find many terraces and souvenir shops. Don’t be put off by that because a visit to the cathedral is really worth it. First, it is a huge cathedral, and second, there is a lot to see inside. There is a lot of stained glass, religious art, and I love the huge organ. That’s the highlight for me, but officially the highlight is the 19th-century astronomical clock that still works today.
If you feel like it, for € 5 you can climb the tower (332 steps) for a nice view of the city.
Tip 2 – Historic city center on an island
The Rhine runs along with Strasbourg, and the river Ill flows through Strasbourg. The Ill splits in two around the historic center. The intermediate section is called Grande Île. Here you find the cathedral and the Rohan Palace. This piece of Strasbourg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Grande Île ended up on that list thanks to its many monuments and well-preserved medieval buildings. It’s absolutely worth wandering through the streets while looking up once and awhile.
The oldest part of Grande Île is La Petite France. Fishermen, millers, and tanners used to live here. Now it is the most touristic part of the city. Rightfully so, as the houses seem to come from a fairytale book, and the canals and narrow streets invite you to dive deeper and deeper into the neighborhood.
Tip 3 – Stroll along the river L’ill (Ill river)
Especially on a sunny day, a walk along the river is wonderful. There is a walking path along the water and many benches to sit on. The Quai des Bateliers is a good place to hang out for a bit, and you can also have a look at the locks. With a little luck, a boat will just pass, and you can see how the water descends and rises so that the boat can continue its w
Tip 4 – Walk on the Barrage Vauan
For a nice view over the historic center of Strasbourg, you have to head towards the Barrage Vauan. It is a defense work, roofed bridge, and weir in one. You can either walk across this dam to the other side of the water or cross it through the roofed part. Obviously, you have to take the stairs and go up to enjoy the view. You will not only see La Petite France, but also the Ponts Couverts: the three bridges and four towers that were built in the 13th century to protect the city.
Tip 5 – Modern-day Strasbourg
Although the heart of the city throws me back in time, the city also has many modern parts. Because the historic center is so impressive, you would almost forget that. So for a more complete picture of the town, walk through the streets around the center. There you will find all the chain stores, restaurants and even some street art here and there.
Tip! Discover Strasbourg by bike. Book your bike tour at Baja Bikes. The bike tours are available in Dutch, German and English.
Tip 6 – Visit the European Parliament in Strasbourg
Surprise! The European Parliament is located in Strasbourg. Not Brussels? Well, once a month, the whole circus moves from Brussels to Strasbourg – seems like a bit much right? It actually happened very gradually after World War II and this situation, which consists of compromises, was officially enshrined in the EU treaty in 1992.
You can visit the parliament building and the Hemicycle (the enormous horseshoe-shaped meeting room) for free. There is an audio tour of about an hour, available in all languages of the European Union. You cannot make a reservation, so just go there. You can enter at any time on Friday afternoon and Saturday. During the week there are timeslots on a first-come, first-served basis. There are 75 spots available per time slot. So check the timeslots on the website of the European Parliament in Strasbourg – and don’t forget your ID!
Tip 7 – Restaurants in Strasbourg
In Strasbourg, you are going to find a lot of German and French food in restaurants. So expect nutritious, filling food paired with plenty of wine. The Riesling grape comes from the Alsace region and sauerkraut dishes are popular. That’s called choucroute in Strassbourg. Almost everywhere you go, you can order a tarte flambee, it turns out that is the same as a flammkuchen. You just need to know.
When in France… I just HAVE to eat a steak tartare. That doesn’t seem to be a regular dish on the menu though, but I manage to find the perfect spot. The place to be for steak tartare in Strasbourg is La Hache – a French bistro with huge portions and an even larger wine list. Love it! It is decorated with a lot of wood and blue colors that give it a traditional look and feel. The service clearly struggles with the English language but knows how to solve it charmingly and I have a delicious lunch here.
Speaking of restaurants in Strasbourg and food … I saw this walking tour where you independently (without a guide) follow a route, and you get a snack or a drink at various places. It seems like s a fun and tasteful – pun intended – way to discover Strasbourg’s eateries. Book the tour here.
My recommendation for a hotel in Strasbourg!
Strasbourg hotels are by no means cheap. I find that the Hotel Ibis chain is always a good deal, so definitely check out Hotel ibis Styles Strasbourg Petite France. A well-kept hotel within walking distance of all the sights and attractions. Fine for a short stay.
I have a corner room with a nice bay window. Breakfast is simple because there is no kitchen, but it’s more than enough to fill your stomach for a day of sightseeing in Strasbourg. Ibis has more hotels in Strasbourg, so check them all out before you book.
The hotel has its own paid parking lot for a fee and if it is full, you can park at a parking garage in the center at a reduced rate. Parking for a day costs around € 18. If you think that’s too expensive, you can go to a P&R spot on the outskirts of the city. You pay about € 4 and that includes public transport (tram) to the town.
Check out Booking.com for more hotels in Strasbourg.
More France inspiration?
Would you like to take a travel guide with you on a trip? I love Lonely Planet’s practical guides, available at Amazon.com and Book Depository, among others. The latter is usually the cheapest, but shipping takes a bit longer.
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