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 Grand Est region of France — it is also the official seat to the European Parliament. Here’s a look at the top tourist attractions in Strasbourg:
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.
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.
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.
The Pont Couverts is part of the defensive work that once protected the Strasbourg’s historic quarter,. Today, visitors can still see the four towers and a set of three bridges that were built in the 1300s. Until the 1700s, these bridges, which cross channels of the River Ill, were covered by roofs to protect the men that were defending them. Although those covers have long since been removed, the bridges still retain the name Pont Couverts, which means covered bridges. Today, the handsome structures make an excellent backdrop for photographs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With its medieval half-timbered houses that date back to the 16th and 17th century, Petite France is one of the most picturesque old towns in Europe. It is also home to many of Strasbourg’s best known attractions, including the Pont Couverts. And with its cobblestone streets and pretty canals, Petite France is also a lovely place to take a stroll and to soak in the historic atmosphere. Want to try some traditional Alsace fare? Then stop at one of the numerous restaurants and grab a bite to eat. Petite France is also ground zero for Strasbourg’s many themed Christmas markets.