Tucked away in the northeast of France, Strasbourg is renowned for its marvelous medieval center and important European institutions.
Strasbourg may be situated in France now, but its German roots are still very evident. This city boasts charming half-timbered houses, cobbled squares and one of the largest medieval quarters in Europe. Even its cuisine is an interesting blend of German and French influences. And this probably should not be too surprising.
Strasbourg is located on the border of both countries and over the years, it has ping ponged back and forth between German and French control. Today, this historic city is not just the capital of the Alsace region of France — it is also the official seat to the European Parliament.
See also: Where to Stay in Strasbourg
Alongside its historic heart and ginormous Gothic cathedral, there are many excellent tourist attractions in Strasbourg to explore. You can also take some peaceful cruises along the Rhine river and sample delicious Alsatian dishes.
On top of all this, it also boasts some of the best Christmas markets in Europe and doesn’t lie all that far from both mountains and wine country. With so many things to do in Strasbourg you’ll need at least a few days to explore it all.
Map of Tourist Attractions in Strasbourg
In this post, we'll cover:
20. Saint-Thomas Church
Just a short walk from the cathedral is another of the city’s most important and impressive places of worship: the stunning Saint-Thomas Church. Most known for the role it played during the Protestant Reformation of Alsace, it exhibits some exquisite late-Gothic architecture.
While an even earlier sixth-century church once stood here, the current Lutheran one was ‘only’ built in 1196. Very sturdy looking, it eventually ended up taking well over a century to complete. Rising at either end of its enormous five-naved hall are now an imposing belltower and soaring cupola.
Inside is just as striking as marvelous stained-glass windows and monumental tombs line its walls. Particularly striking features are its remarkable fresco representation of Saint Micheal and the richly decorated sarcophagus of Bishop Adelochus. Its ornate 1741 Silbermann organ also attracts lots of attention as Mozart played the masterfully crafted instrument several decades later.
19. Maison Kammerzell
Another of Strasbourg’s most beautiful historical buildings is the amazing Maison Kammerzell which overlooks one corner of the cathedral. Very well-preserved, the fine old burgher’s house is one of the best remaining examples of Alsatian architecture.
Now home to both a chic hotel and restaurant serving traditional fare from all around the region, the half-timbered building impressively dates to 1427. We were absolutely gobsmacked by the splendid stained-glass windows and intricately carved decorations that covered its fading facade. While some sculptures depict religious scenes or Zodiac signs, others are of famous figures such as Caesar and Charlemagne.
Graceful stone arches, fragments of frescoes and phenomenally painted floral motifs and scenes of local life also decorate its interior. Due to the restaurant’s horrific reviews, we decided to give it a skip and head elsewhere after snapping some photos of its lovely late-Gothic exterior.
18. Modern and Contemporary Art Museum
After seeing so many centuries-old historic attractions in Strasbourg, the excellent Modern and Contemporary Art Museum makes for a very pleasant change. Located near the Petite France area, it houses an extensive collection of thought-provoking paintings, photos, sculptures and prints.
One of the largest museums of its kind in France, it occupies a gigantic glass building alongside the Ill River. Established in 1973, its 18,000 or so objects include everything from Impressionist paintings and imaginative video installations to Surrealist masterpieces, decorative artifacts and more.
Within its spacious galleries, guests can examine arresting artworks by renowned names like Monet, Rodin, Picasso and Kandinsky. After perusing Brauner’s brilliant paintings, venture up onto its rooftop terrace for divine views over the river and Petite France.
17. Cave des Hospices
A fascinating place, the Cave des Hospices see you head underground to explore the cool, cramped cellars of Strasbourg Hospital. Created in 1395, it now has wonderful tours and wine tastings for you to enjoy.
Originally used to store wine, grain and perishable goods for patients and visiting pilgrims, the cellars slowly expanded as landowners donated more and more land. Now a popular tourist attraction, its dimly lit tunnels are lined by enormous oak barrels full of outstanding Alsatian wines.
On tours, you’ll learn about the atmospheric old cellars’ history and see the world’s oldest wine which dates to 1472. Afterwards, you can even try some locally-produced wines and pick up some bottles to take back as souvenirs and gifts.
16. Le Vaisseau
Long a firm favorite thing to do with families, Le Vaisseau is full of fun exhibits and exciting hands-on science experiments. Set just southeast of the center along the Bassin Dusuzeau, its enthralling activities are sure to keep young ones entertained for hours.
First opened in 2005, the state-of-the-art education center occupies a hulking great concrete building down by the waterfront. Inside are 130 interactive exhibits with some focusing on anatomy and the animal kingdom and others on science and mathematics.
Very well done, its displays see kids learn through play, touch and by creating whatever they set their minds to. Besides building things and splashing about with water, they can explore all the museum’s sensory trails or watch 3D films. The perfect activity for a rainy day, it lies not far from the ruined fort in Parc de la Citadelle.
15. European Parliament
Although Strasbourg is known for its gorgeous historic old town, it is also equally famous for being the official seat of the European Parliament. Each month, members meet here to vote and debate on a variety of proposals during meetings known as plenary sessions.
There are a total of five buildings that make up the Parliament, with the principal structure being the Louise Weiss building. This structure has a 750-seat chamber and is one of the biggest and most visible buildings in the city. Tours of the European Parliament are available, and travelers who time their visits at the right time may even be able to sit in on one of its sessions.
14. Place Gutenberg
This square is named after Johannes Gutenberg, who is famous for inventing the movable type printing press in 1440. And where did he develop and refine this important invention? In the city of Strasbourg, of course.
Today, this square boasts a statue of the inventor as well as a vintage carousel that is a fun diversion for children. There are also a number of nice restaurants around the square where visitors can grab a bite to eat. Place Gutenberg is conveniently located close to the cathedral and to Petite France.
13. Musée de l’Oeuvre Notre-Dame
Located alongside the cathedral is yet another of the city’s best museums: the magnificent Musée de l’Oeuvre Notre-Dame. A must-visit for art aficionados, it boasts a breathtaking collection of Upper Rhenish fine arts and decorative pieces.
Itself a work of art, the museum’s old building exhibits an enthralling mix of Gothic and Renaissance architectural features. While its east wing already dates to 1349, many of its holdings are even older. Its rooms contain not just sculptures and stained-glass windows from cathedrals but paintings and carvings from the Middle Ages too.
Amongst its most incredible artworks are the twelfth-century Tete de Christ and Christ on the Cross stained-glass windows. Other than all their colourful designs, we really enjoyed seeing the museum’s amazing old statues and altars. Very tastefully laid out, these worn, weathered figures lie right beside bas reliefs, baptismal fonts and stone pillars.
12. Historical Museum
For those interested in learning about the city’s captivating past, the Historical Museum is definitely the place to go. Packed with age-old artifacts and engaging exhibits, it shines a light on Strasbourg’s tumultuous history from the Middle Ages up until contemporary times and the European institutions.
Now located along the Ill river, the museum occupies the city’s former slaughterhouse – the sixteenth century Grande Boucherie. Its displays cover the Alsatian settlement’s socio-economic, political and geographic importance over the ages. Other exhibits explain how it kept swapping hands between France and Germany before eventually being chosen as the home of the European Parliament.
As you explore its rooms, you’ll see historic maps and models next to old globes, jewellery and other glittering treasures. Vintage vehicles are also on display as are weapons and uniforms explaining the area’s involvement in WWII.
11. Barrage Vauban
Located on the River Ill, the Barrage Vauban is a pink limestone structure that was originally built as part of Strasbourg’s defenses. Also known as the Vauban Dam or the Great Lock, the Barrage Vauban was considered an engineering triumph when it was first erected in the 17th Century.
In the event of an enemy attack, the dam would have been used to flood the River Ill so as to prevent invaders from reaching Strasbourg. Today, visitors can walk the interior corridor and also climb to the roof to enjoy impressive views of the surrounding area.
10. Christmas Markets
Strasbourg calls itself the “Christmas Capital.” Why? Because it is home to one of the oldest and largest Christmas markets in Europe. So it’s not surprising that the holiday season — which runs from the end of November to the end of December — is one of the best times to visit this beautiful city.
Strasbourg’s historic city center is where visitors will find the approximately 300 Christmas stalls that are brimming with unique arts and crafts, holiday decorations and delicious foods. With its many enticing scents, magical sights and holiday sounds, Strasbourg’s Christmas Markets are a delight to all of the senses.
9. Place Kleber
Located in the city’s historic center, Place Kleber is Strasbourg’s central square. It features a statue of Jean-Baptiste Kleber, who was an important general during the French Revolutionary War and who was born in Strasbourg in 1753. Today, this square, which was named in the general’s honor, is lined with popular stores and crowned by the historic Aubette Palaces.
It is also an excellent spot to people watch. Place Kleber is especially festive during the holiday season when it is graced with a large Christmas tree and dotted with stalls filled with crafts, traditional ornaments and delicious local goodies.
8. Saint-Pierre Le Jeune Church
For approximately 200 years, this beautiful church was divided into two — with one side being for the Protestants and the other for the Catholics. Appearance-wise, this church also has a split personality.
The exterior is understated and passers-by might be tempted to keep on walking past it. But the interior is quite the opposite, with colorful frescoes that date back to the 14th and 15th centuries brightening the interior.
In addition, this church also contains a well-known 18th-century organ. this is a very old church. It, in fact, contains the remains of a small Columban church that dates back to the 7th century, and its cloister dates back to the 1000s. Because of its beautiful artwork and interesting architecture, Saint-Pierre Le Jeune is considered to be one of Strasbourg’s most important churches.
7. Boat Tour
One of the most popular things to do in Strasbourg is to take a scenic boat tour of its winding waterways. These take you below dozens of charming old bridges and alongside all its banks lined by beautiful historic buildings. As you sit back and relax, your expert guide will explain the spellbinding sights you pass on either side.
From the center of town, a couple of companies run excursions either around the Grande-Ile, along the Ill or even up the Rhine. These often take you by the old timbered buildings of Petite France, the Pont Couverts and Barrage Vauban. Others instead pass the European Parliament or head out to see some of the surrounding countryside.
Whatever option you select, you’re guaranteed to see a lot with some tours including dinners, drinks and snacks. You can even take a boat tour in the evening when the city is so delightfully lit up against the dark night sky by hundreds of twinkling lights.
6. Palais Rohan
Magnificent and impressive, the Palais Rohan was once the home to the prince-bishops and cardinals of the House of Rohan. It was built in the early 1700s and designed by the architect Robert De Cotte, who also designed the royal chapel at Versailles.
This beautiful landmark has hosted numerous famous figures in French history, including Marie Antoinette and Napoleon. This building remained with the House of Rohan until the French Revolution, when it was auctioned off.
Over the years, it changed hands several times and at one point, it even served as Strasbourg’s town hall. Today, it is home to three museums, the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Decorative Arts and the Museum of Fine Arts.
5. Ponts Couverts
Once an important part of the city’s defenses, the pretty Ponts Couverts now instead make for some fantastic photos. Erected across the Ill river, the set of three historical bridges and fortified medieval towers guard the southwest side of the Petite France quarter.
Built in 1230, the sturdy stone structures cross four rushing channels that course their way through the old neighborhood. Until Barrage Vauban was constructed just upstream in 1490, they played a key role in defending Strasbourg from attack.
Although their wooden roofs were removed a couple of centuries later, the ‘covered bridges’ are still known by the same name. Used every day by pedestrians, they are lovely to stroll across while taking in the phenomenal views and architecture.
4. Musee Alsacien
Located in several 17th-century houses that are linked together with passageways, this fascinating museum is dedicated to giving visitors a glimpse into the rural life and art of the Alsace region during the 18th and 19th centuries.
This museum is a treasure trove that contains more than 5,000 exhibits and includes costumes, toys and furniture. Musee Alsacien, which opened in May 1907, also has displays showing the interiors of different homes from that period, as well as of workshops. For example, visitors can see the way an upper class home looked in comparison to that of a middle-class house.
3. Parc de l’Orangerie
This park, which is located across from the European Parliament, is perfect for visitors looking for a peaceful getaway. This lovely park is named for the 140 orange trees that were taken from the Chateau de Bouxwiller, a moated castle, during the French Revolution and given to the city of Strasbourg.
The trees were planted in the park’s Josephine Pavilion, which was named after Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife. Sadly, only three of those original trees remain. Today, this park is a popular place to picnic and just enjoy a little leisure time. It contains a lake — where one can rent a rowboat in the summer — playgrounds, a mini-zoo and many pretty flowers and plants.
2. Strasbourg Cathedral
Gorgeous and eye-catching, the Strasbourg Cathedral was the tallest building in the world for 227 years until its reign ended in 1874. This stunning cathedral does, however, still hold on to the honor of being the highest building to have been built completely during the medieval period that is still surviving today.
It is also the sixth-tallest church in the world and considered by many to be one of the most beautiful Gothic cathedrals in Europe. Also known as Strasbourg Cathedral de Notre-Dame, this church boasts a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic architecture and an impressive interior, including stained glass windows that date all the way back between the 12th and the 14th century.
1. Petite France
Definitely the most picturesque part of the city, Petite France is known for its charming cobblestone streets and canals lined by handsome half-timbered houses. Occupying the southwest of the Grande Ile, its historic streets are atmospheric to explore with photoworthy spots wherever you look.
Once home to tanners, millers and fishermen, its narrow alleys and waterfront buildings now instead attract tons of tourists. Wonderfully well-preserved, many of its quaint old edifices date to the 1500s and 1600s. Among the most impressive are the majestic Maison des Tanneurs and all the traditional Alsatian homes along Rue du Bain-aux-Plantes.
Lots of its half-timbered houses now contain cosy cafes and classic restaurants serving tasty dishes from around the region. Its romantic riverside walks and relaxing ambience only make the area even more special to amble around. One of the most beautiful places we’ve been in France, its gorgeous streets also host a magical Christmas Market each winter.
Where to Stay in Strasbourg
As most of its main sites are found within the Grande Ile, the city’s historic heart is certainly the most convenient place to stay in Strasbourg. Lots of hotels and accommodation options also lie just off of the central island, not far from the train station.
Ten minutes walk from both the cathedral and station is the sleek, modern Hotel D. While its rooms are spacious and elegantly decorated, the four-star hotel’s spa means you can relax in style. Friendly and welcoming staff are also on hand to point you towards all the tourist attractions nearby.
Facing Strasbourg’s imaginative train station is the Grand Hotel – another comfy, convenient option for travelers. Ideally placed for dropping off your luggage and heading straight to the Grande Ile, the three-star hotel has a cool design and decor. It also offers guests a buffet breakfast, parking discounts and is located right next to numerous shopping and dining options.
How to get there
[p>Aside from its own international airport, Strasbourg also lies within bus, train or driving distance of several other airports. These include those of Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg and Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden. Around two to three hours away are both Stuttgart Airport and Frankfurt International Airport.
The city is also well-connected by train with TGV and ICE high-speed trains whisking travelers both towards Paris or into Germany. Within two hours, you can reach everywhere from Frankfurt, Metz and Basel to Paris, Luxembourg and Saarbrucken.
Other than exploring its historic center on foot, you can also take buses and trams out to the handful of sites that lie outside the Grande Ile.
Approximate travel times:
- Colmar – 30 minutes by car, 30 minutes by train
- Basel (Switzerland) – 1 hour by car, 1 hour by train
- Freiburg (Germany) – 1 hour by car, 1 hour 30 minutes by train
- Heidelberg (Germany) – 1.5 hours by car, 2 hours by train and bus
- Paris – 4.5 hours by car, 2 hours 20 minutes by train
- Frankfurt (Germany) – 2 hours by car, 2 hours by train
Best Time to Visit Strasbourg
Despite lying far inland, Strasbourg has an oceanic climate with relatively warm, sunny summers and cold, cloudy winters. As such, May through September is the best time to explore the city and enjoy some outdoor activities.
While the spring and autumn temperatures range from 15 to 19°C (59 to 66°F), summer usually hits the mid-twenties (mid-seventies in Fahrenheit). Whenever you visit though, bring a jacket as every month of the year has 12 to 17 days with at least some rain!
Although they are peak season, hotels are actually cheaper in July and August though flights are more expensive. While this is a lovely time to take boat trips along the Rhine, it is when its restaurants and bars are at their busiest.
Despite the worse weather, spring and autumn can be pleasant due to the pretty flowers and colourful tree leaves. Check beforehand when the European Parliament is holding sessions as this pushes up hotel prices considerably.
Another hugely popular time to visit Strasbourg is from late November to late December when its famous Christmas market creates a magical atmosphere. Temperatures drop to 5°C (41°F) and all its squares and streets are packed with people.