Things to do in StrasbourgFrance | Alsace
The official seat of the European Parliament and steeped in Franco-German culture, the Alsatian capital serves as something of a microcosm for the region itself, as unique cultures blend together amidst charming timber-framed buildings. Below, I’ve collected some of my favourite things to do in Strasbourg.
A Few Things to Do in Strasbourg
The old part of Strasbourg is located on a small island in the River Ill. It can easily be explored on foot or by bike. (Bicycles can be rented in a small shop on the Place de la Cathédrale.)
The River Ill splits into several channels at the Ponts-Couverts of La Petite France, the quartier in the southwestern part of the island. The Ponts-Couverts (covered bridges, pictured above) are at least as old as the 13th century, when they formed an integral part of the city’s defences. They were originally built of wood and roofed with tiles. Four stone towers guard the bridges, facing out on the Barrage Vauban.
The Barrage is an enormous dam dating from the end of the 17th century, designed to prevent attackers from entering the city. In the event of a siege, engineers would close the dam completely, backing up the river and flooding the enemy armies off the plains. This dramatic defensive strategy was last used in 1870 against a German siege.
La Petite France
La Petite France is a charming quartier; the Grande Rue forms the northern border. It was once where Strasbourg’s tradespeople lived, hence the names of the streets, squares and monuments: Maison des Tanneurs, rue des Moulins, Place des Meuniers, etc.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg
The quartier de la Cathédrale surrounds the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, the city’s main landmark. Constructed of dark pink sandstone from the Vosges Mountains, it was built between the 12th and 15th centuries, in the classic Gothic style. Its single spire can be seen all over the city. (Be sure to climb the 328 steps for a fantastic view!) On summer evenings, there is often an impressive light show on the façade of the cathedral that is best viewed from one of the many cafés on rue Mercière.
North of the cathedral, on the other side of rue des Hallesbardes, is the Carré d’Or, or golden square, formed by rues du Sanglier, des Orfèvres, du Temple Neuf and du Chaudron. This is a great spot for shopping: be sure to visit La Boutique d’Antoine Westermann on rue des Orfèvres; and of course the three-star Michelin restaurant Buerehiesel, known for its famous frog-leg soup (you can even get the soup to go!). Also on rue des Orfèvres is the fine cheese shop Au Vieux Gourmet (try the ripe Munster). For Alsatian foie gras, pop into La Boutique du Gourmet, and for fines sweets and dessert, Naegel is Strasbourg’s finest.
Place St. Etienne
East of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg is the rue des Juifs, and the charming Place St. Etienne. This is the centre of Strasbourg’s nightlife, and is frequented by students and backpackers. Wander down to Quai St. Etienne for a view of the canals, the weeping willows, the churches of St. Etienne and St. Guillaume, and the tiled, classical buildings of the Quartier Allemand.
South of the cathedral is the Palais Rohan, home to three excellent museums: Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Musée des Beaux Arts, and Musée Archéologique.