Strasbourg isn’t just cute; it’s overwhelmingly picturesque. With half-timbered buildings, winding streets, and flowing canals it almost feels like a storybook. The region has a rich history that is both deeply French and German, but altogether unique. Here’s my guide to exploring (and eating and drinking) your way through the premier city of Alsace.
Before You Go:
Before you take on the cobblestone streets, I recommend stopping by the Strasbourg Tourism Office website. They have tons of recommendations for things to do, places to eat, and sights to see filtered by interest, location, and whether you’re travelling with kids. Did you know there’s a chocolate museum outside downtown Strasbourg?!
Another reason it helps to plan your itinerary in advance is that you can decide if you want to pick up a Strasbourg Pass. The Strasbourg Pass gives you free services and discounts at different locations all over the city, and it may save you some money depending on what you have planned.
What to Do:
The Strasbourg Cathedral, believe it or not, is the sixth tallest church in the world. Like many cathedrals, it has vivid stained glass, towering columns, and detailed figures, but it also has an astronomical clock.
It’s free to wander about the cathedral, but I highly suggest paying to climb to the observation tower (included in the Strasbourg Pass). You not only get a lovely look at the cathedral itself as you walk up the winding steps, but you get a magnificent view of the entire town.
If you’re interested in history and art museums, Palais Rohan should be your next stop as it’s right next to the cathedral. It was built in the 1730s as a residence for nobles, but today it contains three museums: the Archaeological Museum, Decorative Arts Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts. If those aren’t up your alley, you can wander about the courtyard and admire the building before moving along.
Since I wasn’t too familiar with the area, I decided that the city’s history museum was a must. The building actually used to be a slaughterhouse! It’s centrally located and loaded with all you need to know about the town starting from the Middle Ages until World War II. It was great to learn about the city’s early days as a free republic and how it developed it’s distinct Franco-German culture based on historical events.
This is a great place to visit with kids, as there are interactive points throughout the tour, like where I got to try on an old helmet!
If you want to know more about the people and culture of the region, the Alsatian Museum is a neat place to visit. Built into former townhomes, it recreates real rooms that existed in different times throughout Alsace, like an old apothecary shop, kitchen, and cellar. I loved how it explained the German and French influences, as well as how Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism coexisted in the region.
While not as interactive as the Historical Museum, I think children would still enjoy seeing what life was like in past times.
Part of the beauty of Strasbourg is that you can simply meander through the city enjoying the architecture and history that’s present at almost every turn. Petite France is the best neighbourhood for this. The half-timbered buildings here date from the 16th and 17th centuries when the neighborhood was dominated by fishermen, tanners, and millers.
Check out other list on the Strasbourg Tourism site for more ideas on things to do. You should know that Strasbourg is home to several important organizations, like the International Institute of Human Rights and European Parliament, which might be worth seeing if you’re interested in international relations.
Where to Stay:
Strasbourg is a great city for AirBnB. You can get affordable rentals right in the historic center where all the action is. I chose this one bedroom apartment right on the canal in Petite France that worked out perfectly. Check out the view from the window right onto the canal:
The city itself is very walkable, so as long as you’re staying near one of the main attractions you will easily be able to walk to the other ones. From Petite France to the Cathedral is about a 10 minute walk. There’s a Google Map at the bottom of the post with all the sites marked to give you a better idea of how to navigate the city.
Where to Eat:
For hip décor, standout meals, and good wine Café Aedaen is where it’s at. It’s a great spot for your first meal in Strasbourg.
If you’re looking for tasty food smack dab in the middle of the historic sites, go here. As we ate our meal several locals stopped by for what looked like steak sandwiches, and the menu has lots of Alsation dishes if you’re wanting local fare.
The dining experience at Black & Wine Bar is one of a kind. Located in the updated Hotel Hannong, it’s a modern art deco space with, as the name suggests, an amazing wine selection. I am forever indebted to our server who introduced us to Crémant, Alsatian sparkling wine.
This was my favorite meal in Strasbourg, and we ended up staying for several hours enjoying fine wine, charcuterie, and pear tarts. The service was impeccable and the meal unforgettable.
Here’s a Google Map with all the travel spots and restaurants marked from the post, as well as a parking garage near Petite France.