Located at the border with Germany in the historic region of Alsace, Strasbourg is the eighth populace city in France. Strasbourg’s historic city centre, Grand Ile was classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988. Strasbourg is immersed in Franco-German culture and that is one reason I wanted to visit.
To understand this a bit more, let me give you a brief history (really brief) of the city. According to Wikipedia, Strasbourg arose from a Roman camp of Argentoratum in 12 BC. Between 362 and 1262, Strasbourg was governed by the bishops of Strasbourg. In 1262, the citizens rebelled and Strasbourg became a free imperial city. It became French in 1681 after the conquest by Louis XIV. In 1871, it became German again after the Franco-Prussian War. In 1918, at the end of World War I, it became French again. After the defeat of France in 1940 (World War II), Strasbourg came under German control again. Towards the end of World War II in 1944, it again became a French city. In 2016, it was promoted from the capital of Alsace to the capital of Grand Est.
In the Middle Ages, Strasbourg became an important center of trade and industry and was known for its universities and libraries. It was also the site of the first European Parliament, which was established in the city in the 1980s. Today, Strasbourg is known for its beautiful historic center, home to a number of medieval and Renaissance-era buildings, its vibrant cultural scene, and numerous museums, galleries, and theaters. To top it off, the city is notorious for its Christmas markets boasting some of the best in Europe.
About a two-hour train ride, and it’s not a cheap trip. At $132 per person round-trip, we looked at it as we would a cruise excursion. Except here we’re touring on our own at our own pace. We’ve got all day and I can’t wait to show you this fantastic charming city east of Paris.
Strasbourg sits on the Rhine River on the border with Germany. It may be a city you port in on a Rhine river cruise. For us, we took the train from Gare de l’Est in Paris. We prepurchased our tickets online at SNCF. As I said before, the price wasn’t cheap at around $132 USD per person round trip.
What To Do
*The “Petite France” Quarter
*The Cathedral of Notre-Dame
*The Covered Bridges
*Hotel des Postes
Unfortunately, all the Christmas markets had been removed by the time we arrived (December 28). All that was left was the 60-foot Christmas tree that adorned the central square. It was a grand tree and it too would soon be removed from sight.
We arrived on a cool 52f degree overcast day that, in a way, fit the mood. The streets were crowded with sightseers gawking at the historic buildings and Christmas decorations. We made our way down Rue Du Marie Kuss and crossed the bridge into the old town. We really should have made a list of things to see but we do enjoy an aimless stroll.
Besides being the “Christmas capital of the world” Strasbourg is known for its middle-aged architecture. There’s no better place to view this style than in The Petite France district and the House of Tanners. We lucked out that the sky cleared enough for the sun to poke its head out and say…”Gotcha!”
We did manage to experience many of the amazing historical sites even though a deluge of rain began after just 2 hours after our arrival. Luckily we had planned for this and brought umbrellas but it still made for a moist experience. On the positive side, it cleared out many of the tourists.
To get a great view of the old city, you should do as we did and make your way over to the Covered Bridges and the Vauban Dam. You can ascend stairs in the Dam to get a great overlook of the Covered Bridges (tip-they’re not covered but once were).
These have kept their name despite the fact that they lost their roofs back in the 18th century. They are overlooked by three towers dating from the 13th century, which are the remains of the former ramparts that once guaranteed the independence of the former Strasbourg Republic. Immediately after the absorption of Strasbourg by France in 1681, a new ring of fortifications was built here by Vauban.
Yes, Strasbourg is a fantastical city that is just magical during Christmas. If you plan to visit, do not do as we did by visiting AFTER Christmas but rather before. They waste no time removing the market. I can only imagine how gorgeous this city would be in the spring and summer with flowers decorating every turn. If you’re visiting a neighboring city, you should definitely make a stop in Strasbourg.
Visit Strasbourg France Welcome in Strasbourg – Office de tourisme de Strasbourg et sa Région (visitstrasbourg.fr)