Today’s Culture with Travel post is by Steven Guilbert
Considered to be the heart of Europe and one of France’s biggest cities, Strasbourg is well known for its unique architectural style and for the beauty of its Christmas market. Due to the proximity to the border, you can spot the German influence on every aspect of the city, leaving Strasbourg with an extraordinary European culture.
With summer waiting just around the corner, long gone are the days when tourists crawled into the city streets to have a glimpse of Christmas markets and decorations. Being so popular in winter, Strasbourg suffers by not being a prime destination during the rest of the year. Lucky for you, this city has a lot more to offer than winter vacation and if you have never visited Strasbourg, I hope this article will give you enough motivation to finally jump on a plane (or at least dream of it).
My Favorite Places to Visit in Strasbourg
The summer in Strasbourg is usually hot, sometimes very hot, but that also means a lot of sun and some fresh air from walking in the city center. You will get the best impression of the city by wandering around and discovering different neighborhoods, but don’t worry if walking is a problem for you, some people like to rent a bike or just take the tramway around for just a few euros every day.
Depending on when exactly you visit Strasbourg, the streets can be very alive. With the student population going home in July and August, the city can be very calm sometimes.
The Cathedral, the heart and soul of the city
First you will want to explore the city center and yes, you will look like any typical tourist in Strasbourg but there’s no other way to discover the city. You can’t miss the Cathedral, literally. If you get lost just search where it is and follow the path. The Cathedral is a Gothic masterpiece, outside you could spend hours looking at small details and hidden gems (if you do a city tour, the guides will point them out to you and if you’re not like me maybe you’ll even remember where they are). Inside you will love every color displayed on the stained-glass windows, then you can head to the astronomical clock. Every day at 12:30 it will come alive, the animated figures of the apostles will ring the bell. You can climb to the top of the Cathedral for a few euros (it’s free every first Sunday of the month) and have an impressive view of the city.
From Walking Around to Visiting Museums
From there you can either walk around in streets or head towards the nearby museum: the historic museum of Strasbourg, the Alsacian museum (Strasbourg is located in the region of Alsace) or to the “Palais Rohan”. Please note that they should cost between 5 and 10 euros but are all free for students. The city center is actually a small island, as it’s cut off entirely by a river and you have to cross different bridges to access it. And when I say small island, I mean it, you can do everything easily by foot and that’s why I advise you to wander around to see the architectural beauties scattered throughout the city. You should head out to the Place Gutenberg and Place Kléber, as they’re directly in the city center and usually strongly visited by locals, tourists and sometimes display attractions or special events. If you’re looking to do some shopping, grabbing something to eat or finding a bar, “Grand Rue” should please you, being the most famous street of the city.
Everybody will tell you the best place to stroll around is the neighborhood “La Petite France” as you can witness the old-fashioned buildings of Strasbourg while enjoying the atmosphere next to the river. As you get closer to the bridge leading off the island you should visit the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, my favorite one, and when you exit the museum you can climb on top of the “Barrage Vauban”, a bridge that will give you a different view of the city. Talking about it, during summer nights when the sun is long gone, Strasbourg has special shows involving this bridge and the Cathedral! Usually a few shows are planned during the night, an extraordinary animation is projected on a side of theses building with sound and everything to get a wow effect. It’s definitely worth watching, believe me!
You could even book a boat trip on the river with Batorama, and you will see various parts of the city and end up in front of the European Parliament for a visit. If you’re like me, you will like the architecture of the European institutions, very futuristic compared to the usual Colombage architecture. Same goes for the train station of Strasbourg, an ancient classical building inside of a giant and very modern dome: totally unusual and worth paying a visit!
The Places to Eat, Drink or Rest in Strasbourg
To be honest, there are so many good restaurants and bars in the city. But if you like to be cut off of the crowd, while being right in the middle of the city, you can go to a place called “Marché Gayot”, which is filled with a few bars. If you’re looking for something sweet or a cafe, I love “What the Cake” or “PUR etc”. For something small to eat and a beer you can check out “l’Atelier d’grand-père”, “l’Abattoir” for their french fries, or “l’Académie de la bière” for their numerous excellent beers. If you want to see a nice gallery (very pop culture influenced art) and also drink wine, you can check the “Popartiserie”. If you want to go out at night, Strasbourg has enough clubs for every kind of person. If you’re into karaoke, you’ll love the “Bunny’s” for example.
If you’re looking for a fancy restaurant and nothing casual, Yelp or TripAdvisor might help you more than me leading an average student life, but my friends like to eat at “La corde à linge” in La Petite France.
You will notice that most people just buy something to eat and drink in stores and then sit back either at the river or go to a park. “L’orangerie” is the most popular park of Strasbourg, you can relax there or visit the mini zoo inside of it for free. If you want to wander a little bit further, you could even go to the “Jardin des Deux Rives” and step foot on the german side. Some people like to cross the border to visit and do some shopping in the closest german city, Kehl, as everything is cheaper than in France.
Is Strasbourg your favorite summer destination yet ?
Of course, there are more things to do in Strasbourg that I didn’t mention, more museums, art galleries, beautiful small cities in the region Alsace to visit, the gigantic Christmas tree during winter, the Graffalgar hostel for street art lovers, hundreds of good restaurants, maybe even special events if you’re here at the right time, but I hope I gave you the big picture here! Strasbourg is beautiful, it’s small enough you will never get lost or feel anxious because of crowds but it has the potential of a big city with a lot to offer.