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Tourist Places To Visit In Strasbourg
Situated along the French-German border, Strasbourg is the capital of the Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine region and boasts a 2000-year old history. The rivers Rhine and Íle are an important part of the city’s geography and have contributed towards Strasbourg becoming one of the most important river ports in France. A city that boasts both contemporary and antiquated cultural significance, Strasbourg is also one of the capitals of the European Union and houses several international institutions. Local attractions include historical sites that portray influences from the medieval period and the Renaissance era, along with charming locales that are perfect for simply enjoying a relaxing evening with family and friends. These are some of our recommendations for the best places to visit in Strasbourg.
Strasbourg’s Cathedralé Notre-Dame is a spell-binding monument that is easily also the most magnificent structure you’ll see in the city. Its construction was completed in 1439, and for more than 300 years up till the late 1800s, it was the tallest monument in the world. The stunning rose-coloured sandstone appears to glow gold if you stay long enough to admire its beauty at dusk.
The giant astronomical clock within the church is one of its major highlights and features a little performance of sorts at 12.30 pm every day when the clock chimes solar noon. 12th and 14th-century stained glass windows light up the interiors during the day, and on the outside, the viewing platform is located at a height of 66 metres that can be reached via a spiral staircase to allow some astounding views of the city. The rest of the tower soars another 76 metres high, with the total height of the spire being an astounding 142 metres.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is an island bordered by the river Íle; one of several islands on the river but clearly the best known. Also known as Strasbourg’s city centre, it is also a good place to start your exploration of the city, with a lot of the historical monuments that make Strasbourg famous located within the vicinity. The streets of the island are lined by quirky bright-coloured houses and lively cafes; the alleys get lantern-lit at night, which creates an ethereal atmosphere. It is a great place to simply amble around aimlessly while soaking in the historic atmosphere.
La Petite France
Situated on the Grand Íle, La Petite France or ‘Small France’ got its name when the locals sent their patients suffering from syphilis to be treated here in the regional hospice that used to be a part of the island. Once a poor and trodden area, it began to develop when fishermen, millers and traders settled here and built their dwellings. Even today, the narrow lanes crisscrossed by canals are packed with charming little houses and buildings, most of which are very old structures dating from the 16th and 17th-century.
Tradesmen from the Middle Ages practised their craft here once and have left their mark in this little district. Early morning or late evening is the best time to be here to enjoy the stunning views of river Íle and other surrounding structures.
This fortified bridge was built sometime in the 1600s and was originally meant to serve as a cornerstone of the city’s defences. The bridge-cum-dam has undergone substantial restoration since and is now free to visit for all, making it a popular tourist spot. An internal corridor runs through the length of the structure from where you can reach up to the terrace. A gorgeous view of La Petite France and the Strasbourg cathedral can be enjoyed from here, including the towers of Port Couverts, which are a set of three fortified bridges that became obsolete after the completion of Barrage Vauban.
The Church of Saint-Thomas is a significant part of Strasbourg’s skyline for many reasons. For starters, it is located on the site of the ancient church that was built in the 6th-century and was dedicated to Saint Thomas. After it was burnt down in a fire, a reconstruction of the church was done in the 12th-century; the locals began to fondly refer to it as ‘petite fille de la cathedralé’ or ‘daughter of the cathedral’. The church is also proof of Strasbourg’s cultural diversity; during the Protestant Reformation of Alsace, this cathedral was the main Lutheran place of worship when Strasbourg became a part of France and is still used as a Protestant house of worship.
The cathedral as we see it today was completed in the early 1500s and is still the only example of a German-style church in the region. The Alsatian style of architecture can also be appreciated in the equal heights of the nave and aisles, which is in contrast to the architecture of other churches in France. The clock in the church has struck the hours four minutes early for 400 years now to make itself heard over the city’s Cathedralé Notre-Dame.
Strasbourg is located in Alsace, which is one of the smallest parts of the country and has always been an area of conflict between the Germans and the French. This area has also derived cultural influences from both countries, which visitors can learn all about in Musée Alsacien located in a 17th-century house along the river Íle. The galleries in this museum offer visitors a glimpse into what a typical life in this part of France was like between the 7th and 19th-century; religious traditions, arts, reconstructions of home scenes and replicas of ancient household objects on display here depict rural life and culture in Alsace in the old times.
Culturally diverse as it is, Strasbourg is home to the European Parliament and one of only three non-capital cities in the world to have an international institution. The Parliament has 12 sessions annually, each lasting four days, and it is possible to visit the building both during the sessions and when none are going on as well. Visits can be organised individually or in groups.
Palais des Rohan
Constructed in the early 1790s, this Episcopal palace was designed by French architect Robert de Cotte and served as the lavish residence of Prince Bishop of Strasbourg – Cardinal Armand-Gaston de Rohan-Soubise. Often addressed as ‘mini Versailles’, this opulent structure is as exquisite in design on the inside as it is on the outside and was modelled after the luxurious mansions of Paris.
The building consists of three museums that visitors should definitely explore. The Archaeological Museum is located in the basement and contains exhibits from the Palaeolithic era to 800 AD. The ground floor has the Museum of Decorative Arts that were the former apartments of the Rohan Cardinals. It houses a collection of ceramics, silverware and paintings that provide a glimpse into the lavish lifestyle of the nobles in 18th-century. The Museum of Fine Arts on the first floor contains artworks from famous artists around the world dating from the Middle Ages to modern times.
Parc de l’Orangerie
During the French Revolution, about 140 orange trees were confiscated from Chateau de Bouxwiller, which were then granted to the city. These orange trees were planted in this park, which lent it its name and Parc de l’Orangerie came into being around 1801. Today, only three of these trees remain and you can still see them on occasions in the park’s greenhouses.
One should also keep in mind that the park’s name is all that is associated with oranges; there are loads more to explore here like lakes where you can enjoy boating, wide green lawns that are perfect for picnics, along with a farm and mini-zoo for kids as well. One of the park’s main features is the stork reintroduction centre. The stork is an important animal in Strasbourg’s folklore that recently suffered from a strong threat of extinction. Due to the city’s constant efforts, the dwindling population has been reinforced with the introduction of hundreds of baby storks in the centre.