Visit Strasbourg: From Petite France to European Parliament
Wondering about the top experiences in Strasbourg? Let this guide unveil the essential sights and activities that this iconic French city has to offer. Indeed, Strasbourg's allure extends beyond its famed Christmas market and delightful mulled wine!
Personally, I dislike people who think that Paris is France and it’s enough to see only this city. Trust me, France is highly diverse and has so many gorgeous cities & hidden gems that at some point you want to keep visiting this country. That’s why I’d like to share my recommendations on Strasbourg.
This gem has held the distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. Serving as the city's historical heart, the Grande Île is home to many of Strasbourg's iconic landmarks. Among them is the globally acclaimed Strasbourg Cathedral (known as "cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg" in French), four ancient churches, and numerous 18th-century hotels and palaces.
Tip: Wear comfortable walking shoes to best explore the cobblestone streets and hidden corners of this charming district.
Strasbourg Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg)
One of the finest examples of Gothic architecture, the Strasbourg Cathedral towers over the city's skyline. It's famous for its intricately designed facade, stunning stained glass windows, and the astronomical clock. The panoramic views from the top, after climbing its 332 steps, are breathtaking. It's not only a religious site but also a testament to the city's architectural prowess. Many people want to come inside, if you are wondering without a guide, the cathedral may look like any other French church but larger. Tip: Visit early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid crowds and catch the play of light through its windows.
Explore Strasbourg's Historic Churches, Including St. Paul's
Beyond the iconic cathedral, Strasbourg boasts a rich tapestry of ecclesiastical architecture. On the Grande Île alone, there are four medieval churches waiting to be explored. Notably, St. Thomas Church, nestled within, is home to a striking Baroque funerary art piece – the tomb of the Marshal of Saxony. The Saint-Pierre-le-Vieux Church stands out as Strasbourg's earliest significant Christian edifice. For art enthusiasts, the church of Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune is a must-visit, with its captivating 14th-century frescoes. The Saint-Etienne Church, another gem, has earned its place as a classified historical monument. Rounding off this religious journey is St. Paul's Church, which sits at the confluence of the Zorn and Mullenheim platforms.
La Petite France
A picturesque district, La Petite France boasts half-timbered houses, serene canals, and cobblestone streets. It's the historic heart of Strasbourg, where tanners, millers, and fishermen once lived. Today, it's filled with charming restaurants, boutiques, and art galleries. Stroll around to soak up the romantic and medieval ambiance of this quarter. It is kinda funny because you can find La Petite France in Colmar (you should definitely visit this city) too. Every gorgeous Alsacian city has La Petite France if the river flows in the city center.
Tip: Consider taking a boat tour around the canals to get a unique perspective of this district and its surroundings.
Just a stone's throw away from the Cathedral lies Place Gutenberg, a square dedicated to the man who revolutionized the world with the invention of the printing press — Johannes Gutenberg. Having resided in Strasbourg for a decade, a statue commemorating his significant contributions stands proudly in the square. Historically, from the Middle Ages up until the 18th century, this place served as the city's political and administrative hub. The Renaissance facade of the Chamber of Commerce further enriches its historic charm.
An architectural masterpiece, Palais Rohan represents the brilliance of French Baroque architecture. Built in the 18th century for the prince-bishops, today it houses three major museums: the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Decorative Arts, and the Museum of Fine Arts. Each museum offers a distinct and rich collection, making it a cultural hub in Strasbourg. Tip: Allocate ample time for this visit, especially if you're keen on exploring all three museums.
Parc de l'Orangerie
The oldest park in the city, Parc de l'Orangerie offers a peaceful retreat with its lake, waterfall, and beautiful flora. It's home to storks, which are considered a symbol of Alsace. The park also features a small zoo, boating options, and playgrounds for children. It's a perfect place for relaxation and leisurely walks. Tip: Don't miss the Joséphine Pavilion, a charming tea room located within the park.
The Covered Bridges
Just a short distance from Petite France are the "Les Ponts Couverts de Strasbourg," or the Covered Bridges. Interestingly, they still bear the name despite no longer having a roof. Originally constructed as part of the city's defense mechanism, these bridges bolstered the fortifications along the waterways. They linked three medieval towers, remnants of old city walls, and were once adorned with wooden galleries. However, these galleries have since vanished.
Strasbourg is at the heart of European politics, hosting the official seat of the European Parliament. The modern and impressive Louise Weiss building, where plenary sessions take place, is a must-visit. Guided tours are available, offering insights into the workings of European democracy. Tip: Plan ahead and book a tour in advance, especially if visiting during a plenary session week.
Visiting The Best Christmas Market in Europe
Strasbourg is often fondly referred to as the "Capital of Christmas" due to its enchanting Christmas markets, a tradition that dates back to 1570. Every year, the city transforms into a winter wonderland, drawing visitors from all corners of the globe to its festive stalls, twinkling lights, and the sweet aroma of mulled wine and gingerbread.
One of the unique and delightful aspects of Strasbourg's Christmas celebrations is the city's affinity for teddy bears. Over the years, teddy bears have become an emblematic symbol of the Yuletide season (in other words Christmas Season) in Strasbourg. During the festive season, numerous teddy bears of all sizes and forms can be spotted around the city - hanging from balconies, adorning shop windows, and even sitting beside market vendors. They bring an added touch of warmth and coziness to the festive ambiance. And it surely looks amazing!
Whether you're wandering through the maze of festively decorated stalls, sipping on a cup of warm mulled wine, or simply enjoying the sight of teddy bears playfully displayed throughout the city, Strasbourg's Christmas markets offer a magical experience that beautifully blends tradition with a touch of whimsy.
For more info- check Official Website for Christmas Markets in Alsace.