Strasbourg is located in France, but has the feel of small German town. Just a 15 minute drive from the German border, you can better understand the culture of this unique city. Strasbourg is part of the Alsace region of France which is an important wine-producing region of France. Alsace historically was part of the Holy Roman Empire and the German realm of culture. Since the 17th century, the region has passed between German and French control numerous times, resulting in a cultural blend. Germanic traits remain in the more traditional, rural parts of the culture, such as the cuisine and architecture, whereas modern institutions are totally dominated by French culture.
Views not to miss:
Petite France is the historic quarter of the city of Strasbourg which bustles with people flooding restaurants and shops. With its colorful, timber-framed architecture and flower-draped balconies, this is my number one view not to miss in Strasbourg. However, these colorful little buildings have quite a colorful past as well. The name Petite-France (“Little France”) was not given for architectural or patriotic reasons. It comes from the “hospice of the syphilitic”, which was built in the late fifteenth century on this island, to isolate and cure persons with syphilis. We enjoyed waking up early and walking alongside the river while the city was still asleep. We love experiencing the quietness of the streets early in the morning and watching them come alive.
The morning mist over the city had set in, therefore any viewing of the cathedral besides up-close-and-personal was not possible. However, if you are looking for an aerial view of the city on a clear day, a spiral staircase twists up to the 66m-high viewing platform, from which the Gothic spire soars another 76m into the air. From this vantage point, Strasbourg lays at your feet, the old city of tiled triangular roof tops and gable windows, interrupted by towers and churches. The west façade, most impressive if approached from rue Mercière, was completed in 1284, but the 142m spire – the tallest of its time – was not in place until 1439; its southern companion was never built. To appreciate the cathedral in peace, visit in the early evening, when the tour crowds have thinned out as well as the morning mist.
Things to do:
Stroll along the River Ill
The lower path along the river is lined with trees and gives you a perspective of the city as if you were floating along the river. It was an enjoyable walk especially early in the morning when you have the river mostly to yourself.
This place is more than just some place to grab a drink. Urban artists from various countries showcase their work at this gallery, wine bar and concert venue. There are regular free gigs, including pop and jazz Fridays and exhibitions, and the inner courtyard is a nicely chilled spot for drinks.
This is an island bordered by the River Ill in the middle of Strasbourg where you will also find the Cathedrale Notre-Dame. Also worth a stop is Au fut et a mesure where you can serve yourself directly from the beer pumps at the table at this industrial bar in the heart of Grand Ile.
Places to eat:
Maison des Tanneurs, 42 Rue du Bain aux Plantes – Traditional Alsatian Restaurant
This restaurant is prominently located in the historic Petite France area of Strasbourg. The building is decorated with red geraniums which are typical of the country houses in this region. I am 95% more likely to stop into a restaurant with flowers pouring from the balcony! For a reasonable price you can experience traditional Alsatian cuisine here like Choucroute Garnie, sauerkraut with cured pork, or Spaetzele, a traditional pasta made from egg noodles. Be sure to make a reservation for this one!
Academie de la Biere, 17 Rue de Adolphe Seyboth – Local brews
There is an extensive beer menu from local finds to craft Belgian brands. Pick your favorite and pair it with the local specialty – tarte flambee.
Au Petit Bois Vert, 2 Quai de la Bruche – Traditional Alsatian Cuisine
This is the perfect place to stop for an afternoon drink on the outside patio while taking in a view of the river and people watching. Notice the tree that towers over the patio dates back to Louis XIV era.
Day Trip: Alsace Wine Route