Strasbourg is the capital, and one of the largest cities, of the Alsace region of France. It is also the official seat of the European Parliament. This city has a strong Franco-German heritage, as it has been a territory that has been disputed throughout history by the French and the German. French since the end of WWII, it has since been a bridge (quite literally) of unity between the two countries. Within the next few years, a tram is even expected to be set up between Strasbourg and its German neighbour Kehl, making it the first international “inner” city travelling system. Grande Île, the historical center of the city, has been declared a UNESCO World-Heritage site since 1988.
Here are some of the top things to visit if ever you get the chance to explore this unique city.
Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg — This beautiful gothic cathedral is famous for its astronomical clock, which shows more than just the time. It also tells us the day of the week, the month, the year, the sign of the zodiac, the phase of the moon and the position of several planets. Furthermore, the cathedral has only one bell tower, which gives it a very unique look.
Palais Rohan — The palace house three of the cities most important museums; the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Decorative Arts and the Museum of Fine Arts. The palace itself, commissioned by the Bishop of Strasbourg, was built in the 18th century. Notable guests include Louis XV, Marie-Antoinette, and Napoléon Bonaparte.
Petite France — Petite France is a historic part of the city, located on the Grande Île. In the Middle Ages, it was home to fishermen, tanners and millers, and the layout today is the same as it was ages ago.
Barrage Vauban — This dam was constructed in the 17th century and had mainly defensive functions. It was meant to enable the rise of the water levels of River III, which would lead to the flooding of the lands south of the city. Today, the dam and its 13 arches, is home to many sculptures and has a great viewing terrace from which one can see the Ponts Couverts bridges, which date back to the 13th century.
Place de la République — Located in the Neustadt (New City), and originally named “Kaiserplatz”, it is meant to represent German power. Five important buildings were erected around this place, including the Imperial Palace, the National Library, the Parliament, two ministry buildings and the University of Strasbourg.
Kehl — Strasbourg’s German neighbor, Kehl, is a short walk away, across the Rhine River. The first permanent bridge between the two was built in the 14th century. The village shares a park with Strasbourg, called le Jardin des Deux Rives. Throughout history, it has often suffered the same fate as Strasbourg, switching back and forth between Germany and France. However, since 1953, the city has remained a part of Germany.
We also ended up going on a day trip to Colmar, which is another little town in Alsace — Post coming soon!
And for more things to do in France, make sure you check out my post on my favourite places to visit in Paris!