According to Andyeducation.com, the French city of Strasbourg has a special history and an important one in contemporary Europe. If you look at the history of Strasbourg, you will see that Strasbourg has had to deal with changes in which country the city belongs several times. Through wars and annexations, Strasbourg has been alternately French and German. Strasbourg has been part of France since 1945. That is why the French name Strasbourg is officially used and only the Germans still use the name Straßburg. During a visit to the city you will see the mix of cultures in different ways. Since Strasbourg has been French for decades, the Frenchification has largely supplanted the German identity.
Within Europe, Strasbourg is one of the cities where the European Parliament carries out its work. The plenary meeting takes place here once a month. The European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe are also based in Strasbourg. Strasbourg’s status as one of the two European capitals may give the impression that you are dealing with a city where politics and business reign supreme. The fact that Strasbourg has a beautiful and romantic historic center is less known to the general public. Thanks in part to the internet, more and more tourists are discovering that Strasbourg is worth a visit. As a result, the visit is not limited to holidaymakers who want to spend a day in the capital of this fascinating region during their holiday in Alsace. In recent years there has been a clear increase in Dutch tourists who make a stopover on their way to or from their holiday destination to discover Strasbourg. Its convenient location along various travel routes makes it easy to plan a day (or two) in Strasbourg.
Do you want to know what to see and experience in Strasbourg? To make it easy for you, we have put together a fascinating top 10 sights of Strasbourg for you.
Strasbourg ‘s Top 10 Things to Do
#1. Covered Bridges
The historic center of Strasbourg is mainly located on the island that lies between the two arms of the River Ill. The Ponts Couvert are one of the most beautiful vestiges of medieval Strasbourg. The Ponts Couverts (in German: Gedeckte Brücken) are a set of three bridges and four towers that form a fortification built in the 13th century on the River Ill in the city of Strasbourg in France. The three bridges cross the four river channels of the River Ill that flow through Strasbourg’s historic Petite France district.
The construction of the Ponts Couverts started in 1230. They were opened twenty years later – in 1250. As a defense mechanism, they were replaced in 1690 by the Barrage Vauban, just upstream, but remained in use as bridges. Each of the bridges was covered with a wooden roof that served to protect the defenders in wartime. The roofs were removed in 1784, but the name Ponts Couverts (Covered Bridges) has remained in use ever since.
#2. Strasbourg Cathedral
Strasbourg Cathedral towers over Strasbourg’s old town. It has been doing that since the Middle Ages. The construction of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg (as the cathedral is officially called) took almost three centuries. The foundation stone was laid in 1176 and construction of this cathedral was not completed until 1439. The Strasbourg Cathedral is characterized by the use of pink sandstone. The combination with the Gothic appearance creates a beautiful building that can rightly be seen as the face of the city.
The tower of Strasbourg Cathedral is one of the tallest church towers in the world. The height is no less than 142 meters. As a result, Strasbourg Cathedral has been the tallest structure in the world from 1647 for more than two centuries. The 147 meter high Nikolaiturm took over this title in 1876. The second church tower was never built. As a result, the facade of the church building is asymmetrical.
You can visit Strasbourg Cathedral for free. If there is a line at the entrance (which happens regularly on busier days), it’s because of checks on the contents of bags that go inside. You don’t have to pay an entrance fee to visit the Strasbourg Cathedral.
#3. Vauban Dam
The Barrage Vauban, or Vaubandam, is a bridge and fortification built in the 17th century on the River Ill. At the time it was known as the Grand Sluis (grande écluse), although it does not function as a navigation lock in the modern sense. Today it serves to display sculptures and has a rooftop viewing terrace, overlooking the earlier Ponts Couverts bridges and the Petite France district. The viewing terrace is only open during the day. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult to photograph the Ponts Couvert from here during the so-called blue hour. The total length of the Barrage Vauban is 120 meters. It was officially opened in 1690.
#4. Palais Rohan
The Palais Rohan has stood in the heart of Strasbourg since the mid-eighteenth century, a stone’s throw from the cathedral. Cardinal Armand-Gaston-Maximilien de Rohan-Soubise commissioned the construction. The palace is built in the regional Baroque architecture that was widely used at the time. The Palais Rohan was given a new purpose after the Germans took Strasbourg after the Franco-Prussian War. It became the main building of the University of Strasbourg for more than a quarter of a century. The Musée des Beaux-Arts has been housed in the building since 1899. This art museum focuses largely on the European old masters. At a later stage, two museums were added to the Palais Rohan: the Musée archéologique and the Musée des Arts décoratifs.
#5. Place Kléber
The centrally located Place Kléber is the largest, best known and most visited square in Strasbourg. In the past, the rectangular square was successively called Barfüsserplatz and Waffenplatz. The square has also taken several forms. Green spaces were set up in 2007, for example. In the center of Place Kléber is the statue of Kléber. The body of the revolutionary general Jean-Baptiste Kléber is buried under the monument. The Aubette is the most striking building on the square. This elongated building is a fine example of neoclassical architecture.
In December, a huge pine tree is placed on the Place Kléber. The annual Strasbourg Christmas market is then held around this approximately thirty meters high Christmas tree. The inhabitants of the city provide gifts here for the less fortunate fellow citizens.
#6. Little France
You may see Petite France as the lively tourist center of the city. This part of Strasbourg is known for its cobbled streets, well-preserved half-timbered houses and a number of conveniently placed man-made waterways. The aforementioned Barrage Vauban is part of La Petite France, as is the Ponts Couvert. You can say that La Petite France is charming any time of the day. The best time to walk through La Petite France is the hour after the sun has set. The artificial lighting in combination with the not yet completely dark sky provide an almost fairytale appearance.
#7. Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art
The Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain is the museum where you can admire modern art and contemporary art. The MAMCS is one of the largest of its kind in France. The Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain houses extensive collections of paintings, sculpture, graphic arts, multimedia and design from the period between 1870 (Impressionism) and today, as well as a wide variety of pieces in the photo library. The museum has a total of about 18,000 works. Numerous exhibitions are organized every year, showing either the work of a particular artist or a retrospective of an artistic genre.
#8. Batorama tour boat
A city rich in water such as Strasbourg is perfect for a boat trip. It is a relaxing and excellent way to see the city from a different point of view. In Strasbourg there is one provider of commercial cruises and that is Batorama. This company offers several boat trips departing from the Place du Vieux Marché au Poisson. The pier is directly south of the cathedral. Tickets can be purchased through the Batorama website, at the vending machines at the pier and at the office at 18 Place de la Cathédrale. There is sailing all year round. In the summer the number of sailings is a lot higher than during the quieter months.
#9. new town
The Neustadt (German for New Town) is a district of Strasbourg. In 2017, the heart of the district was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, as an extension of the site to include the older city center (Grande Île) and Strasbourg Cathedral. The district is a unique example of urban planning, combining the Haussmann model with elements of Germanic architecture and urban planning. The Neustadt consists of a number of public buildings and monuments that are today classified as so-called ‘Monuments historiques’, such as the National Theatre, the Palais Universitaire and Palais du Rhin. The Place de la République is the main square of Neustadt.
Built in 1427, Maison Kammerzell is one of Strasbourg’s most famous buildings and one of the most ornate and well-preserved medieval bourgeois residences in late Gothic architecture in the areas formerly owned by the Holy Roman Empire. It is located on the Place de la Cathédrale, northwest of the Strasbourg Cathedral, with whose pink color it contrasts picturesquely from the opposite direction.
Parking in Strasbourg
Parking in the center of Strasbourg can be an expensive and inconvenient affair. On the street you have to pay almost everywhere to park your car. The amounts for parking can be considerable. With progressive parking rates, people try to limit parking on the street as much as possible. In some places you can park for free in Strasbourg for up to one hour with the help of the well-known blue parking disc.
Most people opt for the convenience of a parking garage. From our own experience we can recommend Parking Center Historique – Petite France. This well-lit and fairly spacious parking garage is located at the Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, on the edge of the historic center. The parking rates are – certainly for a city like Strasbourg – acceptable and the big advantage is that you don’t have to maneuver your car through the streets of the old center.