Far from the buzzing, croissant-filled arrondissements of Paris, the well-preserved city of Strasbourg exudes a much different side of French culture. Easily accessible on a quick two hour and twenty minute TGV ride from Paris, Strasbourg is located in the Alsace region of France, tightly hugging the border of Germany. The ancient city is often referred to as “The European Capital” because of the numerous European institutions that call it home, including The Council of Europe and The Court of Human Rights. Beyond the political conversations there is much to be discovered in the heart of Alsace and it is a must-see for those planning to travel to France.
Where does one start in order to best enjoy the Alsatian culture in Strasbourg? The Strasbourg Cathedral is the jewel of the city, a stunning display of medieval splendor that looks over the main shopping district and downtown area. Here alongside Place Kléber and Place Gutenberg, you can find luxury shops, shoe stores, chocolatiers and endless restaurants. Another favorite spot is “La Petite France” the old part of the city that got its name from switching back and forth between German and French rule for hundreds of years. The Ill river, a tributary of the Rhine, winds right through La Petite France and sets a perfect backdrop for pictures and sightseeing. This part of the city will bring you back in time, and you really might wonder if you are in France or Germany.
In the warmer months, the entire city is in bloom with colorful flowers, lively café terraces, and zooming bicycles. One of the best places for outdoor seating can be found along the bar boats at Quai de Pechêurs, which is a short walk from the downtown area. Here you can order local drinks, appetizers, or even a meal while enjoying the view of Alsatian life. Le Rafiot is great for a younger crowd, since the boat opens up as a dance club in the evenings. Live funk and jazz music drifts from Café Atlantico, and Café Cubana sets a fun, tropical scene.
For the winter months when Strasbourg vistors find themselves bundling up inside, the famous Maison Kammerzell offers authentic, award-winning Alsatian and French cuisine. For a more low-key vibe, the equally authentic Au Brasseur serves up homemade beer and tarte flambées; the large, flat Alsatian “pizza” sprinkled with ham, onions, and cheese. For English speakers who want a break from trying their French skills against the harsh Alsatian accent, any of the Irish pubs in the downtown area will provide a comforting atmosphere. The Dubliners has live music and endless rounds of traditional irish beers such as Guiness and Kilkenny on tap.
Many art and historical museums also exist in Strasbourg, along with a lively theatre scene. A local university offers French classes to exchange students from around the world, so don’t be suprised to encounter German, English, Dutch, and even Spanish while in this lively city. Whether you decide to focus on shopping, dining, or sight-seeing in Alsace, Strasboug is a city that offers a little bit of everything in all of the right doses. Contact us for more information about traveling to Strasbourg.0