Strasbourg is in France but has a German name. The city has always been on the border of two cultures, and it has been part of both Germany and France at different times. Now it's a symbol of a united Europe and is the parliamentary capital of the EU. Strasbourg is one of the cultural centers of France. and has the old Strasbourg university.
The city is almost 2000 years old. Christian churches that were built in the 12th century have survived in the old parts of the city. The historical center is on the picturesque island in the middle of the Ill river and is a UNESCO world heritage site. The old Strasbourg university is a nice destination. Many tourist sites are in the middle part of the city, and there are restaurants and shops in the old buildings.
How to get to Strasbourg
The distance between Paris and Strasbourg is about 400 km. In one day, you can leave Paris, see everything in Strasbourg, and get back.
The train to Strasbourg leaves once an hour between 6:40am and 8:50pm from the Eastern station. The fastest train from Paris to Strasbourg will get you there in about 1 hour 45 minutes. Overall, it's about two hours to the capital of Alsace. A second-class train ticket starts at 20 Euros, but that's only if you get the ticket very early. Usually a one-way ticket costs from 60-80 Euros. You can find the train schedule on this site.
If you're driving around France, then getting to Strasbourg is very easy. You can rent a car here.
Taking a bus is longer, but cheaper, and will take 6-7 hours. But we're just going for one day, so that won't work.
On foot, on a bike, or on a river boat
We recommend touring the historical center of Strasbourg on foot or on a bike. Strasbourg is the city in France with the most bikes. You'll see them everywhere. You can rent a bike here.
You can think of riding a river boat as a tour of the city. Riding on the canals, you'll see the main sights, and the bridges and floodgates will be lovely surprises. If you want to save money on cruise and tourist attraction tickets, you can get the Strasbourg City Pass, which works for three days and gives you the opportunity to go to ten key parts of the city for free or half price. You can buy tickets and look at the boat schedule here.
What to see in Strasbourg
One of the main tourist sites in the historical part of Strasbourg is the Strasbourg Cathedral. Construction started in the 12th century, but it still isn't finished. From the middle of the 17th century to the end of the 19th, the cathedral was the tallest church building in the world.
The cathedral features the famous astronomic clock that shows not only the time, but the location of the planets, the zodiac sign, and many other interesting things. A cuckoo bird comes out each hour and puts on a show. An old staircase goes up to the tower, and there's an excellent view of the city from the viewing platform.
During the French Revolution, they wanted to remove the very tall spire of the cathedral. And it somehow fell down due to the ideas of equality. The local smith cooled down the hot heads and thought of a trap and suggested putting a Phrygian cap on the spire. That's how the appearance of the building was saved. The cathedral is Roman Catholic, so there aren't any tours of it during mass.
This picturesque quarter is very popular among tourists. It received its name during German rule. There were many buildings here that offered the services of young girls. Despite this unattractive reputation, the quarter has a rich history. Tanners and fisherman lived on the streets of Petit France in the 16th century, which gave it a very distinct smell.
Now Petit France is a refined neighborhood with cozy buildings, quiet streets and beautiful covered bridges. The area isn't large, so you can walk through it in 30 minutes without rushing.
Strasbourg is the home to the EU's parliament. The city has more than 20 administrative offices from EU countries. They're all in the European quarter which is made up of a few neighborhoods. The quarter is next to the Ill river and the Marne-Rhine canal and has many building complexes that were built in a super modern style.
The river Ill goes to the Rhine, and the France-Germany border is three kilometers outside Strasbourg. The European Court of Human Rights, a large building with two large towers in the form of slanted cylinders, is next to the Marne-Rhine canal.
The botanical gardens aren't too large: less than 4 hectares (10 acres). However, these gardens have been delighting plant lovers with thousands of species for a long time. The park was founded in the 17th century in place of a monastery churchyard. The botanical gardens also contain the Strasbourg planetarium.
It's deservedly called the second most significant archeological museum in France. Some of its exhibits were collected in the late 18th century by a patron who left their collection to Strasbourg. The museum covers the time period from 600,000 years BCE to 800 CE. The collection is constantly being increased by gifts from benefactors and as the result of new findings. There are many archeological digs around Strasbourg, and the findings are added to the museum.
Strasbourg Museum of Fine Arts
This museum's collection began in 1801 as a result of the French revolution. Many places were built in the country to house the works of art taken from the church and nobility. The museum has burned down twice in its life, so there isn't much left of the original collection.
Some of the items were transferred from the Louvre, and several private collections were donated as well. So even though many works were lost the Strasbourg Museum of Fine Arts has still gathered a collection that any museum in the world can envy.
Museum of Modern Art
The city has one of the best French museums of modern art. Its full name is the Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. Like many museums, this one had a traditional start when a local collector donated his modern art collection to the city. The city government added to that gift, and built a museum that holds 19 thousand items.
What to eat in Strasbourg
You just have to spare some time for original Elsatian cuisine in Strasbourg. The local chefs cook aromatic, stewed meat. One of the delicacies is steamed rabbit in a wine sauce. Another popular dish is baked ham.
The masters make many types of sausage that you can buy in the city markets. Fish lovers can find many types of carp. The first carp were released into basins by the locals in the 12th century. The carp dish has become traditional in all Strasbourg restaurants.
The city is praised for its bakeries, many of which have been making bread since the 14th century. The recipe for a unique salty pretzel was only known by local bakers for many years. Strasbourg bakers offer meat pies, and you should treat yourself to their luxurious rich buns.
The symbol of Strasbourg is the white stork. According to the legend, it brings luck. A souvenir stork will be a nice reminder of your visit to the parliamentary capital of the EU.
Many people are interested in the wooden prints that show the surrounding scenery. These paintings on wood fit in nicely with any décor. Many souvenir items are made in a 17-18th century style.
A one-day trip to Strasbourg gives you a first impression of a unique city that's in the very center of Europe and on the border of two cultures. Of course, you can't see everything in one day, but you can always come back.
It's an unforgetable trip!