Updated September 2019
I first visited Strasbourg in 2015. I loved it so much that I decided to go back again in 2018 for its famous Christmas markets. I even have a potential trip there this coming Christmas!
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!
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.
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 kinds of pasta 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
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 muenster 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.
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:
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!
Learn more about visiting Strasbourg Cathedral.
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 marveling over some really cool artifacts. My friend and I visited the archaeological museum and I’ll be forever grateful to her for having patience while I ogled over every item!
Musée de l’Œuvre Notre-Dame
Also located right by the cathedral, this museum houses medieval and Renaissance art from the cathedral itself and the 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 the European Court of Human Rights buildings. They’re about a 30-minute walk from the city center and have some really funky architecture. Plus, being in the legislative capital of Europe is pretty cool.
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!
I have experienced Strasbourg during Christmas first hand, and it’s certainly something that should be high on everyone’s bucket list. Strasbourg is the capital of all things Christmas, especially when you consider that its 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!
Learn more about why you should visit Strasbourg during Christmas.
If this post has convinced you to visit, the train from Paris to Strasbourg is only about a 2h20 minutes!. *checks flights to Paris*
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)
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!
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!
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!
Ah this is somewhere I’d love to go! A really good mix of French and German culture. And I love spätzle too :-D
Yeah, it’s a fascinating mix of both cultures. And yesss the spätzle is heavenly!!
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!
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!
It looks like a town from Beauty and the Beast! I love France and would love to visit. Off to Toulouse next weekend!
Yeah it totally does!! Enjoy Toulouse :) I’ve never been but everything in France is so beautiful. The geographic diversity is amazing.
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 :)
Thank you! It is such a lovely place. So happy to hear you’ve been and that you enjoyed it!
Louise Allonby says
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
Yeah, the architecture is really beautiful. I love the architecture of new places too and Strasbourg’s architecture was definitely fun to explore!
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
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!
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!
It is! You should definitely go if you get the chance. And the museum is a dream, especially if you love history!
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!
Thank you so much! :) I hope you get to visit again, it’s so beautiful!
Only By Land says
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.
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!
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.
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.
Raghav - TickerEatsTheWorld says
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.
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!
Ellis Veen says
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.
Oh I hope you can go soon! The food is so delicious (and the pastries are to die for!)
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
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!
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 :)
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;) )
I 100% agree with this! It’s such a magical place and so close to Colmar which is such a fairytale!
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.
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.
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!
Abhinav Singh says
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.
Thank you! I like showing people that there is more to France than just Paris (which is also lovely). The architecture is amazing.
Erin @sevenwanderers says
We’ve been to France twice in the last few years and never made it to Strasbourg. After reading this I’m kicking myself. How could we have missed it? Looks and sounds amazing and exactly like the towns we love exploring the most. Can really see the German influence too, those buildings remind me so much of the ones we saw in Frankfurt
It is absolutely amazing! I hope you can make it over there next time you’re in France :)
Strasbourg really is a great destination, been there twice now. Certainly, as you mentioned, the architecture is immensely charming and you did a great job of capturing it with your photos. The food is undeniably some of the best I’ve had and that tarte flambée is reminding me that it is lunch time!
Thank you so much! I completely agree with you about the food. It is to die for! I ate so much there.
Iza, Walk About Wanderer says
You have mentioned really interesting points about Strasbourg. The houses are really beautiful. I have seen them only in story books. The construction of the Strasbourg Cathedral is incredible. The tarte flambée looks delicious. It looks like a flat bread with lots of cheese.
Thank you! Strasbourg is beautiful, especially with all the storybook architecture. The tarte flambée is just that! A flat bread with cheese, cream and bacon :)
You’ve really sold Strasbourg to me! To be honest, I knew little about this city, so it’s really interesting to know more about it, including how Germanic it looks. Had I just looked at your photos, and taken a guess where those timber houses were from I would have said Germany without hesitation!
I’m so glad! It’s a wonderful city. Its history fascinates me, especially with its German and French ties. Hope you can make a trip there soon :)