5 Reasons Why Strasbourg Needs to Be Your Next Destination

It’s been over two years since I visited, but Strasbourg is still at the top of my mind when I think of France and all it has to offer. While often overshadowed by Paris or a sunnier Nice, Strasbourg is easily one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. If you haven’t yet had a chance to visit Strasbourg, you should add it to the top of your list!

A little context

Strasbourg is the capital city of the Alsace region in France, about 2 miles from the German border. Its site has been occupied for over 600,000 years, first by the Celts, then by the Romans (where it was called Argentoratum), then by the Alemanni, Huns and the Franks.

The city has also been a point of dispute between France and Germany for centuries, being shuffled back and forth after different wars. You can definitely see this cultural mix in Strasbourg, which makes the city even more fascinating!

Today, Strasbourg is the seat of the European Parliament and houses the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights. It joins the ranks of only Geneva and New York for being an international capital without being a national capital (which is pretty cool to us politics nerds if you ask me).

Its historic city centre, the Grande Ile, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, the first time this was done to an entire city. La Marseillaise was composed in Strasbourg and Strasbourg Cathedral celebrated 1000 years in 2015.

If that’s not enough reason for you to visit I’m going to throw a little more at you. Hopefully, you’ll want to book a one-way ticket to Strasbourg after you finish reading this post!

The architecture

Who doesn’t love those story-book European houses? Strasbourg’s colourful timbered houses give me some definite dream home inspiration and make every corner of this city an absolute joy to explore.

 

strasbourg architecture

strasbourg architecture timbered housing

strasbourg canal houses

The FOOD

I mentioned earlier that you can definitely see the franco-german influences in Strasbourg, and that definitely comes out in the food. I not only had some of the best French pastries in my life in Strasbourg, but I got to try some Alsatian specialities and see just how influenced this part of France is by German culture. The food in Alsace is definitely more hearty than other areas of France, and that just made me like it even more!

Wondering what to try? Alsace is famous for its sauerkraut (choucroute), which can be found on the menus of most restaurants. Spätzle, thick dumpling-like noodles, served often alongside a meat dish, is now one of my go-to pastas at home because I fell in love with it in Strasbourg!

  • Check out La corde à linge, situated in the heart of Strasbourg, for some delicious Alsatian specialities

spatzle strasbourg alsatian food

If you eat one thing in Strasbourg, try a tarte flambée or flammekueche, a thin pastry crust covered with cream, onions and lardons (bacon) served on a large wooden platter (I added munster cheese on mine because #whynot). Bonus: they even make dessert tartes flambées, which are just as delicious as the main dish.

  • Visit Restaurant le Gruber, a traditional winstub (“wine lounge” or traditional Alsatian restaurant), steps away from Strasbourg Cathedral. You’ll want to try each and every one of their tartes flambées while enjoying the convivial and quirky atmosphere.

tarte flambee strasbourg alsatian cuisine

The history

If you’re a history nerd, Strasbourg will definitely keep your attention. It’s not often you can visit a city that has seen over 600,000 years of action (and has the artefacts to prove it). It was first settled by proto-Celts in 1300 BC and was developed into a market town named Argentorate by the Celts at the end of the third century BC. The first mention of the Roman military outpost Argentoratum was in 12BC.

After successive rulings by the Alemanni, the Franks and the Huns, it came under the control of the Holy Roman Empire in 923. It became a free city of the Holy Roman Empire in 1262. Construction on Strasbourg Cathedral finished in 1439, surpassing the Great Pyramid in Egypt as the world’s tallest building until 1874. A few years after that, Johannes Gutenberg created the first moveable type printing press in Strasbourg.

  

In 1681, Louis XIV annexed Strasbourg, but it was annexed back by Germany after the Franco-Prussian War ended in 1871. After World War I, Strasbourg was annexed back by France. And then back to Germany in 1940. And, finally, back to France in 1944.

These seemingly constant back-and-forths (not to mention the fact that Strasbourg lies just a couple miles away from the contemporary German border) show just how unique the Strasbourgeois culture is. You’ll find that many people are bilingual in French and German, and some might even know Alsatian, a southern German dialect influenced by French (though this is more common in the countryside, and losing out to French and German). Also, look out for the bilingual street signs!

Whew. As you can see, lots of fascinating history graces this beautiful city; it’s hard not to become obsessed. For the best ways to experience the history and culture, check out:

Strasbourg Cathedral

I covered a bit of the history of Strasbourg Cathedral above, but here’s a little more: Today, it is the sixth tallest church in the world and the tallest building surviving from the Middle Ages. It has been used for several religious structures dating back to Roman times and is absolutely gorgeous inside!

strasbourg cathedral interior

strasbourg cathedral clerestory stained glass

strasbourg cathedral astronomical clock

Palais Rohan

palais rohan strasbourg

This museum houses the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Decorative Arts, and the Museum of Fine Arts. It’s right next to the cathedral and perfect for marvelling over some really cool artefacts. My friend and I visited the archaeological museum and I’ll be forever grateful to her for having the patience while I ogled over every item!

Musée de l’Œuvre Notre-Dame

strasbourg views

Views from the museum

Also located right by the cathedral, this museum houses medieval and Renaissance art from the cathedral itself and surrounding region. Shoutout to Siobhan again for sticking it out with me on this one! It’s a great museum, especially for some more history absorption ;)

For contemporary history…

Check out the European Parliament, Council of Europe, and European Court of Human Rights buildings. They’re about a 30-minute walk from the city centre and have some really funky architecture. Plus, being in the legislative capital of Europe is pretty cool.

european parliament strasbourg

The people

One of the things that can quickly affect my opinion of a place is the people. All the people I came across in Strasbourg were very nice. Funnily enough, most of them started speaking to me in German when I approached them (my blonde hair is deceiving!) and were surprised that I spoke French and English but not German. They took the time to ask me and my friend where we came from, what we were doing in Strasbourg, and what we studied at university. I’ve rarely encountered such nice people in a large city and that really gave the already wonderful Strasbourg some bonus points!

Christmas!

While I haven’t experienced this one first hand, it’s certainly something high on my bucket list. Strasbourg is the capital of all things Christmas, especially when you consider that it’s Christmas market, the oldest in Europe, has been around since 1570. I’ve seen my fair share of Christmas markets around Europe and this one certainly tops them all. I can only hope to go one day myself!

strasbourg christmas market

(Thanks for these beautiful pictures, Lee! So jealous you got to visit Strasbourg at Christmastime!)

strasbourg christmas market

Obviously, Strasbourg has so much to offer, and I can only begin to touch upon it here. If you would like to read about what I did in Strasbourg two years ago, you can read my posts here and here.

If this post has convinced you to visit, the train from Paris to Strasbourg is only about a 2h2o minutes!. *checks flights to Paris*

Have you visited Strasbourg? Were you just as enamoured with it as I was?

5 Reasons Why Strasbourg France Needs to Be Your Next Destination: This city with great history, food, culture, and sights makes for a perfect, must-do trip!

5 Reasons Why Strasbourg France Needs to Be Your Next Destination: This city with great history, food, culture, and sights makes for a perfect, must-do trip!

France, Travels
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38 Comments

  • Reply
    Dunstetter
    16 May 2017 at 18:06

    I was raised in Strasbourg and still consider it as my hometown… as much as I love it I do think it dates back 6000 years…
    600 000 is a bit much “neh” ( no in alsatian)

    • Reply
      almathews
      16 May 2017 at 18:34

      According to the website of le Musée Archéologique, “Des premières traces de l’occupation humaine vers – 600 000 ans avant J.-C.” It does sound like too much to me too but they have the artefacts to prove it!

  • Reply
    Alicia
    20 May 2017 at 13:56

    I’ve never been to Strasbourg…In fact, I’ve only been to northern and western France. But Strasbourg is HIGH up on my bucket list!! I love the mixture of French and German culture that seems to be present, and you’re right, those fairy tale-like houses definitely draw me in!

    • Reply
      almathews
      20 May 2017 at 15:22

      So funny, I’ve only been to northern, eastern and southern France! Haven’t made it to the west yet! Strasbourg is SO beautiful. All of Alsace is, really. I would love to rent a car there one day and just drive from town to town!

  • Reply
    Caroline
    20 May 2017 at 13:56

    Ah this is somewhere I’d love to go! A really good mix of French and German culture. And I love spätzle too :-D

    • Reply
      almathews
      20 May 2017 at 15:23

      Yeah, it’s a fascinating mix of both cultures. And yesss the spätzle is heavenly!!

  • Reply
    RJ
    20 May 2017 at 14:11

    I’d love to visit Strasborg! I’ve never really been interested in visiting France, but this place caught my eye a few years ago. I studied in Germany at a University and fell in love with the architecture, among other things. And the Christkindlmarkt looks amazing!

    • Reply
      almathews
      20 May 2017 at 15:25

      If you love Germany, then this might be a good introduction to France! Lots of German influence (and German speakers) and you can even walk back over to Germany if you decide you don’t like Strasbourg haha! It’s such a cool mixture of the two cultures and definitely worth a visit!

  • Reply
    Angela
    20 May 2017 at 16:05

    It looks like a town from Beauty and the Beast! I love France and would love to visit. Off to Toulouse next weekend!

    • Reply
      almathews
      21 May 2017 at 10:50

      Yeah it totally does!! Enjoy Toulouse :) I’ve never been but everything in France is so beautiful. The geographic diversity is amazing.

  • Reply
    Lana
    20 May 2017 at 17:09

    I was in Strasbourg 10 years ago, a few days before going to Paris. I agree with you, it’s such a cute city, and you made a nice description of historical context. Strasbourg is naturally between two countries-cultures, and has the charm of both :)

    • Reply
      almathews
      21 May 2017 at 10:51

      Thank you! It is such a lovely place. So happy to hear you’ve been and that you enjoyed it!

  • Reply
    Louise Allonby
    20 May 2017 at 17:10

    My sisters visited here with school a few years back. It looks like an interesting place. I’m particularly interested in the architecture of different place, I find it fascinating. Great post

    • Reply
      almathews
      21 May 2017 at 10:53

      Yeah, the architecture is really beautiful. I love the architecture of new places too and Strasbourg’s architecture was definitely fun to explore!

  • Reply
    Audrey
    20 May 2017 at 22:42

    love your article on Strasbourg, it looks like there’s such an amazing atmosphere! Particularly like the paragraph on the Christmas market. The taste flambee comes next :D

    • Reply
      almathews
      21 May 2017 at 10:54

      Thank you so much! I wish so badly I could’ve gone to the Christmas market, but that is something for next time I guess ;) The tarte flambee was SO good though!

  • Reply
    Sara
    21 May 2017 at 03:54

    Ah this place looks so beautiful. Every time I see photos of it, it makes me want to go even more! And that museum looks awesome! Hopefully make it here one day!

    • Reply
      almathews
      21 May 2017 at 11:00

      It is! You should definitely go if you get the chance. And the museum is a dream, especially if you love history!

  • Reply
    Eloise
    21 May 2017 at 03:58

    Strasbourg is a fantastic town. I was still a kid when I visited it, but I have good memories and I’d love to go back. I love your pix!

    • Reply
      almathews
      21 May 2017 at 19:30

      Thank you so much! :) I hope you get to visit again, it’s so beautiful!

  • Reply
    Only By Land
    21 May 2017 at 06:27

    I have been to a few cities that have been declared UNESCO heritage site (at least the historic centers), it’s interesting to know Strasbourg was the first city to be declared a UNESCO heritage city (the Grande Ile). I love photographing buildings and the colorful houses of Strasbourg look perfect for me, I’d just need a bit of luck with the weather! It’s good the people were friendly and welcoming, this makes a huge difference.

    • Reply
      almathews
      21 May 2017 at 19:32

      Yes! I love photographing buildings and streets and Strasbourg, too, is certainly perfect for that! The weather I had was decent–it would be sunny one minute but then cloudy and very cold the next. I guess that’s what I get for visiting in early spring though!

  • Reply
    Clare
    21 May 2017 at 06:52

    I haven’t made it to Strasbourg yet, though I have seen quite a bit of France. It does look like a pretty city and hopefully one day I will get there. The food certainly looks great and I would love to give that a try.

    • Reply
      almathews
      21 May 2017 at 19:32

      I hope you can make it there soon. The food is so delicious, and it was really interesting to see the influences of both French and German cuisine.

  • Reply
    Raghav - TickerEatsTheWorld
    21 May 2017 at 09:40

    Funny thing is that I lived in Germany for 4 years and every few weeks someone or the other from my college would go to Strasbourg, but I just never got around to it. Looking at your photos I really missed out on it. It really does look like a beautiful little town and the architecture does look a bit Germany like but still unique and a lot more colourful. Next time when i’m in the area ill make a stop.

    • Reply
      almathews
      21 May 2017 at 19:34

      Too funny! I feel like I did the same thing when I studied in London. I never got to make it to Scotland or Ireland (due to unfortunately timed Friday evening and Monday morning classes) and I feel like I missed out! I hope you get to Strasbourg soon, it’s definitely worth a visit!

  • Reply
    Ellis Veen
    21 May 2017 at 11:19

    Strassboutrg is not that far from where I live and still I have never been there. Especially the food convinced me I should indeed visit it soon.

    • Reply
      almathews
      21 May 2017 at 19:35

      Oh I hope you can go soon! The food is so delicious (and the pastries are to die for!)

  • Reply
    Natasha
    21 May 2017 at 12:12

    I hadn’t considered going here before but actually seeing all this beautiful architecture and history has inspired me to visit. Such a beautiful place and we love history so like you say it would for sure have our attention

    • Reply
      almathews
      21 May 2017 at 19:44

      Yeah the history was fascinating. I loved learning about the region as it was completely new to me and the fact that there is so much history there makes it well worth the visit!

  • Reply
    Jurga
    21 May 2017 at 12:34

    Strasbourg is so picturesque, isn’t it! We’ve been several times and it never gets boring. Did you climb the Cathedral tower? The views are well worth the pain in the knees :)

    • Reply
      almathews
      21 May 2017 at 19:45

      I didn’t get a chance to climb to the top, unfortunately! Which is weird, because I usually like to climb to a high point in each city. It’s just something to add to the list for next time (hopefully when I’m in better shape;) )

  • Reply
    Katie
    21 May 2017 at 12:52

    I 100% agree with this! It’s such a magical place and so close to Colmar which is such a fairytale!

    • Reply
      almathews
      21 May 2017 at 19:36

      YES! I went to Colmar on a day trip from Strasbourg and fell in love. It really looks like it was created straight from a fairytale! I would love to explore more of the region.

  • Reply
    yukti
    21 May 2017 at 14:28

    Stratsbourg is teally pretty city on France – German border. The beauty of houses are amazing. Cathedral bells ringing sounds are heard all over in the city. We also went to Black Forest from here. We went during Easter Break so saw painted eggs in shop missed Xmas time.

    • Reply
      almathews
      21 May 2017 at 19:46

      Oh, I hadn’t thought of going to the Black Forest from there! I was there just before Easter so I missed the eggs. It would be great to return during Christmastime!

  • Reply
    Abhinav Singh
    21 May 2017 at 15:49

    True. When you think France, Paris comes first to the mind. Strasbourg sure is an offbeat choice. You have shared interesting snippets from the history of Strasbourg. I am much impressed with the architecture.

    • Reply
      almathews
      21 May 2017 at 19:47

      Thank you! I like showing people that there is more to France than just Paris (which is also lovely). The architecture is amazing.

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