Strasbourg is the capital of the Alsace region and the cultural center of northeastern France, famous for its beautiful palaces, museums, and parks.
What to do in Strasbourg
Strasbourg is an ancient city located in the Upper Rhine Valley on the border of France and Germany. The first settlements arose here in the 12th century BC. For a long time the city was a border zone of the Roman Empire and only at the end of the 5th century did it become part of the kingdom of the Germanic Franks. The influence of Germany and France caused the mixing of two cultures and gave the local streets a special charm that has survived to this day.
Strasbourg is one of the few cities that play a huge role on the political world stage. It is here that the European Parliament, the International Institute of Human Rights, the Palace of Europe are located. And the historical districts of the city are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tourists from all over the world come to appreciate the unique view of the ancient streets, see the Strasbourg Cathedral, Kammerzel’s house, and covered bridges.
The cultural life of Strasbourg is rich and varied:
- Every autumn, the Musica international festival starts. For two weeks, classical music centers are held in the city, gathering thousands of listeners.
- In September, Strasbourg invites you to the fantasy, science fiction and horror film festival. Famous actors, directors, critics come to the holiday. Guests watch new films, and the jury chooses the winner in the nomination of the best film.
- On the eve of Christmas, Strasbourg calls to the fair. The tradition of holding a Christmas market dates back over 400 years. Bright illumination is lit in the central squares, elegant Christmas trees and colorful tents with sweets and souvenirs are set up. The air is saturated with the aromas of gingerbread and coffee, people participate in contests, have fun and buy gifts.
Strasbourg is a great place for a family holiday. The city is famous for its parks, squares, ponds. In the shade of trees, playgrounds with trampolines, sandboxes and slides are equipped. For older children there is a rope town and a climbing wall. Adults and children go on an excursion to interesting places, ride a boat on the river, explore the surroundings.
A small island in the historic heart of Strasbourg, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its center is decorated with a square named after General Jean-Baptiste Kléber. The rectangular area is surrounded by buildings that house financial institutions and luxury stores.
In the middle is a statue of the general himself, and under the sculpture is his grave. At Christmas, a huge fir tree is placed on the square and a Christmas market is arranged. Streets lined with houses built in the style of brick Gothic and Baroque stretch from the square.
In the western part of the island of Grande Île lies the Petite France quarter, indented by narrow tributaries of the Ile River and reminiscent of Venice. In the Middle Ages, millers, tanners, fishermen settled here, so many buildings have sheds on the roofs for drying skins and spacious porches near the water, convenient for trade.
Now Petite France is one of the main tourist attractions. People come to see picturesque canals, openwork footbridges, gothic churches and houses.
The historic central square has an original shape, reminiscent of the Latin letter L. It is framed by four-story mansions in the traditional German style with high roofs. The main architectural ensemble is the Strasbourg Cathedral. Not far from it are the house of Kammerzel, the pharmacy “At the Deer”, the Imperial School of Military Medicine.
Near the pharmacy there is a Büschmesser column. Previously, with its help, the figure of stonemasons was measured. Today, this procedure is so popular with tourists that the city authorities had to veneer the column with marble so that it would not wear off.
The square, built at the end of the 19th century, is located near the embankment in the Grand Île area. It is a rectangle with a ring road, inside which is planted a park with benches, flower beds, fountains. In the middle of the park is a monument to the inhabitants of Strasbourg who died in the war between Prussia and France. On the western side of the square rises the Rhine Palace. Next to it are the Strasbourg National Theater and the university library.
A long square in the north of the Grande Île is named after Marshal François-Marie de Broglie. It is famous for the fact that it was here that the Marseillaise was first heard after France declared war on Austria. This song later became the country’s national anthem.
The modern Broglie Square resembles a boulevard: a wide alley is laid in the center, plane trees grow along it and there are trade pavilions. In December, the square becomes the main venue for the Christmas Market.
Vauban Dam and Covered Bridges
The 16th century military engineer Sebastian Vauban designed a system of defensive fortifications on the border with Germany. Part of them is the dam, which received the name of the designer. The structure is 120 meters long and consists of 13 arches. Inside there are locks, which once could block the water in the river and flood the nearby territory, preventing the enemy from moving forward.
Stone figures of gargoyles, brought here from the Rohan Palace and Strasbourg Cathedral, are exhibited in the corridor. Next to the dam are the Covered Bridges spanning the Ile River and four gloomy towers.
A road bridge was laid across the Rhine, connecting Germany and France. The concrete and steel structure, 245 meters long, 18.5 meters wide and 5 meters high, was put into operation in 1960. The bridge is a symbol of the commonwealth of the two countries. With 130,000 vehicles passing through it every day, it is the most visited border crossing point between Germany and France.
Kammerzell is considered to be the most famous medieval house of Strasbourg. The multi-storey building built on the Cathedral Square attracts attention with its rich external decoration.
The Gothic mansion is decorated with 75 windows. Each of them is finished with skillful wooden decor depicting the figures of saints, zodiacal symbols, mythological animals. Multi-colored stained-glass windows shimmering in the sun are inserted into the windows.
The original wall decoration has been preserved in the interior. Kammerzell has a hotel and an upscale restaurant serving cukrut, foie gras and flammkuchen.
The beautiful Baroque palace was erected by order of Cardinal de Rohan-Soubise in 1742. The facade of the building overlooks the embankment. You can enter the courtyard through massive gates decorated with columns, carved ornaments, and sculptures.
King Louis XV, Queen Marie Antoinette, Emperor Napoleon and his wife stayed at the Rogan Palace. Today, under the roof of the architectural complex there is an archaeological museum, a museum of history and applied arts.
The Art Nouveau palace appeared in Strasbourg at the beginning of the last century. The original building was intended for the city choir, and for many years it housed the Strasbourg Philharmonic. The mansion is considered a historical monument and is under state protection.
The four-storey building is decorated with arched windows and graceful terraces. The main concert hall is decorated in the Baroque style. The interior is dominated by frescoes, stucco, crystal chandeliers. The palace is currently undergoing restoration — the opening of the concert hall is scheduled for 2020.
The Baroque mansion, built in the early 18th century for Count Jean Reynar, has a large portal, an imposing courtyard and two decorative facades. The interiors are decorated with gilded stucco panels, colorful paintings, paintings, and tapestries.
After the French Revolution, the house was confiscated. Since 1805, it housed the city hall, a drawing school, and a municipal museum. Today, the city hall is located in a new building, and the old town hall is used for celebrations and official events.
The French Baroque palace belongs to the Roman Catholic Church. The architectural ensemble, erected in 1732, is the residence of the Bishop of Strasbourg, so the entrance there is limited. Tourists can admire the appearance of the original building and examine the facade, decorated with arched windows, stucco, curly lattices. A small garden is planted in the inner courtyard, open to visitors.
European Parliament building
The European Quarter is located in the eastern part of the city, where international institutions are concentrated. The building of the European Parliament, built in 1999, is considered the central composition. The house has an elongated shape and rises along the Ile River, as if hanging over it.
The glazed multi-storey façade is adorned with a tall tower. In front of the main entrance there is a sculpture by Lyudmila Cherina “Europe in the Heart”. A pedestrian bridge crosses the river, connecting the European Parliament with other parts of the city.
Palace of Europe
The grand opening of the Palace of Europe took place in 1977. Outside, it resembles a fortress, thanks to the numerous narrow windows that look like loopholes. The nine-story pink sandstone building has 17 boardrooms and over 1,000 offices.
The flags of the member countries of the European Union flutter in front of the entrance. Inside are the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of the Council of Europe. Nearby rises a futuristic building with two sloping towers — the European Court of Human Rights.
The construction of the Gothic cathedral in Strasbourg was completed in 1439. The red sandstone structure is a masterpiece of medieval architecture. The western facade is decorated with openwork patterns, lancet windows, thousands of stone figures. On the north side rises a tower with a stepped narrow spire.
Outstanding elements of the decor are multi-colored stained-glass windows, tapestries, busts of saints at the main altar, and a pipe organ. In the south transept there is an astronomical clock created in 1843. A complex mechanism shows the orbits of the planets of the solar system, calculates leap years and the dates of church holidays.
Church of Saint Thomas
The first Christian church was erected on this site in the 6th century. The structure was burned several times, destroyed during wars, but always restored. In 1521 the temple was rebuilt in the late Gothic style. The interiors are decorated with frescoes, stained-glass windows and sculptures.
In the crypt are the mausoleums of Marshal Maurice de Sachs and Bishop Adeloch, decorated with life-size stone statues. Silberman’s 1741 organ stands in the central hall.
St. Paul’s Church
The graceful church stands proudly on the banks of the Ile River in the center of Strasbourg. The building, designed by Leo Müller in the 19th century, resembles a medieval cathedral: the Gothic facade is decorated with intricate ornaments, a round rose window in the center, and two pointed towers on the sides. There are bells at the top.
The walls of the temple are painted with frescoes illustrating the lives of saints and leaders of the Reformation. Church services are held to the sounds of an ancient organ.
Museum of Fine Arts
On the ground floor of the Rogan Palace there is a museum of fine arts. The collection includes paintings, sculptures, engravings by Italian, Flemish, Dutch and French masters. Among the best canvases are “Portrait of a Young Lady” by Raphael, “Portrait of a Bearded Man” by Tintoretto, “Portrait of Luidia Cattaneo the Pagan” by Anthony van Dyck, “The Beautiful Strasbourg Woman” by Nicolas de Largillière and “Vanity” by Hans Memling.
Modern Art Museum
The Art Museum of Contemporary Art was founded in 1973. 18 thousand works of art are exhibited in the spacious halls. Among the exhibits are paintings, drawings, sculptures, engravings, photographs. Permanent exhibitions include paintings by Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Wassily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso. The museum’s photo library contains thousands of photographs by famous photographers: Nadar, Etienne-Jules Marey, Robert Mapplethorpe.
On the territory of the Rogan Palace there is a huge collection of the archaeological museum. The exhibition departments cover the history of Alsace, from the Neolithic era to the present day. Guests are shown the bones of ancient animals, ritual objects, stone weapons, kitchen utensils.
The attention of visitors is attracted by things found in Celtic burial mounds, Roman temples, Frankish castles. Among the valuable exhibits are ancient coins, bronze figurines, jewelry.
The Science Center opened its doors in Strasbourg in 2005. Its goal is to interest children, teenagers and increase the intellectual level of children. Museum exhibitions introduce young guests to the animal and plant world, teach them to understand the physical properties of water, talk about the structure of the human body and natural phenomena.
On the tour, children solve puzzles, riddles, conduct chemical and physical experiments. Le Vaisot Science Center has a large garden in the courtyard. It is equipped with playgrounds, picnic areas, areas for observing nature.
Museum of Zoology
In the 19th century, the authorities of Strasbourg acquired the collection of the naturalist Johann Hermann and handed it over to the management of the city university. The exhibits became part of the natural history museum, which grew and developed rapidly.
Today the museum has a huge collection of amphibians, invertebrates, fish, mammals, birds and insects. Visitors can see stuffed giraffes, tigers, skeletons of prehistoric animals. In a separate room, personal belongings, diaries and documents of Johann Hermann are stored.
In the vicinity of Strasbourg, a fort has been preserved, built by order of General von Moltke after the city came under the control of Prussia during the Franco-Prussian war. The fortifications, designed to protect against French attacks, consist of high massive walls, watchtowers, powder magazines, barns.
After the return of Alsace to France, the fort was named after General Jean Rapp. Today, the architectural complex is equipped with a museum. The guests are shown the garrison, soldiers’ rooms, guns, maps of the area, documents.
The botanical garden in Strasbourg is considered one of the oldest in France. It was founded in 1619 for the scientific research of the medical academy. After the First World War, the area fell into disrepair, and many greenhouses collapsed. The restoration took many years.
Today the garden is managed by the University of Strasbourg and consists of an arboretum, a tropical greenhouse, a pavilion with medicinal herbs, a rose garden, and a lake with lilies.
Friedel Wildlife Park
In the southern suburbs of Strasbourg, it is easy to find a wildlife park that can interest children of all ages. The area of 2 hectares is planted with coniferous and deciduous trees. The center is equipped with a large artificial pond, which has become a home for ducks and swans.
Walking near the water, guests can see pheasants, peacocks, pink flamingos. In the green zone there are enclosures and spacious pens with domestic animals: sheep, cows, rabbits, guinea pigs, turtles. Children will be allowed to stroke and feed the animals, ride a pony.