Like a ping pong, the region of Alsace has gone back and forth between France and Germany throughout its history, immersed in the Franco-German culture, one can definetly feel one is somewhere very different than the rest of France! Of course, You are in Alsace. The French have a saying about the region “they work like Germans, eat like the French and save like the Swiss“!. Although I haven’t visited majority of the region, Strasbourg is one beautiful and politically important city of France and that is a great place to start.
During my second year of French classes at the university in CA, I looked at an exchange program to Strasbourg, it sounded lovely, but of course it didn’t happen. Today, as I just wrapped up my 3rd visit to this beautiful town, I learned that Strasbourg University is the 2nd largest school in France, how little did I know at 22!
When you think of France, Strasbourg may not be at the top of your list, but I say add it! Strasbourg oozes with history , charming people, great food, amazing art and architecture, lovely wine, and a relaxed and happy atmosphere can be all part of your itinerary!
Who knows which dignetary or country president you might see when visiting Strasbourg as it is the center of European Union council, and the European Union’s second Parliament.
But above all, it has a charm that you will not see in any other region of France.
How to get there?
Many roads and options will take you to this famous European center! Choose any of the following:
- Strasbourg has its own Airport, so you could fly from Paris.
- You can also land in Paris and take the TGV directly from the Airport to be in Strasbourg in less than 2 hours! The Strasbourg SNCF Gare Central is truly at the center of the town and only minutes away from the Tram system, hotels, and more.
- If you drive from Paris , you take A 4 , and I would recommend a stop for lunch in Nancy, and you will be in Strasbourg under 5 hours. Lovely drive!
Getting around in the city
- Best way is simply walking, you can get from one side of the town to the other in 20 minutes!
- Strasbourg’s Tram is so efficient that even if you tried to get lost you can’t! Unlike the Paris metro. Lines A-G will take you from one side of the town to the other.In the Summer of 2017 the Tram way will have a stop at the foot of Gremany!
- Bikes have their own lanes throughout much of the city and it is common to ride the bike. You can rent VeloHops across the SNCF station or go to Rustine et Burette’s Bike Shop if you are a serious biker.
- The Feb 2017 winter visit proved to be a great opportunity for me to learn how to navigate this lovely city on foot and the fantastically easy to use Tram!
Do not MISS
My first visit to Strasbourg happened on September 22nd 2015, and it coincided with the Jour de partimone en France, the heritage day where all historical sites and musumes are free! Lucky me!
- Palais de Rohan is a beautiful Baroque style home of the bishops and cardinals of the ancient French noble families, and an architectural beauty.
- The 360 steps to the top of the Cathedral de Norte-Dame is a serious climb, but well worth it and I captured this brief panoramic view of this Alsacien town.
- Le Petite France, a beautiful and colorful quarter of Strasbourg, is filled with traditional Alsacien homes and wonderful restaurants with hanging flowers summer and winter!
- Wine tasting in the town of Barr and the La Route Due Vine on Obernai– you will need a car. If you are a bike rider, this is a lovely ride of oh 2 hours each way!!
- The beautiful walking bridge Jardin des deux Rives will connect you to Germany at almost no extra cost to your French trip! This historic bridge will take you to charming Kehl, Germany in less than 5 minutes over the Rhone river. This is the same spot that President Obama, Germany, and France meet for the Nato Summit in 2009. I loved knowing the bit of history and walked the bridge in the winter rain.)
- European The European Parliament, always in the news, and the European Council both in Strasbourg, make this city one political power in Europe! Both locations are worth seeing with beautiful architecture and space design. Just the row of nations flags and the art in the front is site seeing of its own.
- Le jardine de l ‘Orangerie, Josephine Bonaparte was loved by Napoleon and the French! So, no surprise that she has a little house (more like a villa) in the Le jardin de l’Organerie, Pavilion de Josephine across from the European Council. The park itself is lovely and Josephine’s villa, which now hosts events and meetings, adds a historical charm to this tranquil park.
- The German district, you can clearly see the difference in the architecture and the city planning of this quartier compared to the rest of Strasbourg. Walk over the bridges and check out the garden behind the university.
Where to stay
Lucky me I have stayed at the chez Colledani, my dear friends in Strassbourg, two out of the three trips! But in Feb 2017, just for you, I tried a lovely Airbnb and checked out several hotels! Here is a list of hotels and Airbnb’s in the center of the town.
- Maxime-Henri’s place across the petite France. I loved staying at this VERY clean and convenient apartment. If you are on a budget, this place is super and for $66 a day you and 2 of your besties can stay here! The Tram B stopped in the front and the restaurant across the street was quite a hip place!
- Other lovely Airbnb options mid to high end, ranging from $75 to $300 a day can be found here.
- Hotel de Regent de Contandes is a 4-star hotel, so beautiful you never want to leave. It is located in the German quartier of Strasbourg. Still a 10 minutes’ walk to the center of the town.
- Across from the SNCF Gare there is an array of hotel ranging from 2-3 stars. Including; Mercure, Ibis, and more middle of the road hotels.
- For luxury hotel, the beautiful Les Haras will please the most chic traveler!
Shopping- if you are lucky to be in France in July or January/Feb to take advantage of the twice a year sales, Grande Rue is a great place to start.
- Monoprix and Carrefour are everywhere, so are a lot of small groceries.
- Coffire Angel is a small and friendly hair salon in little France.
- TChip- just on the other side of the great Cahteral de Notre Dame.
- Beaute Ongle – off of Grand Rue is a great place to get your nails done.
Where to Eat
Endless choices of food in Strasbourg. In the summer, you can smell the most traditional food of Alsace, Tarte Flambe (white French cheese with bacon and onion thin crust oven baked bread- delicious!), in the old town, someone is baking it at every corner!
You can find traditional French food to simple Crepe, to Italian, to Lebanese to Chinese and more! You can buy a Pollet de Roti and a baguette and sit on a bench facing the river Rhone if you like! The Saturday market is in the heart of the shopping center and you will find plenty of wonderful cheeses and produce no matter the season. Here are a list of few restaurants that I tried and my dear local friends told me to list just for you!
- Café Bretelles is a SUPER café that offers breakfast and lunch. My friend Gabi wanted coffee and a traditional breakfast. So we stumbled across this great café by accident! I think it is a must, a jewel in Petite France and Krutenau location .
- Engeign du Restaurant– 10 Rue de L’outre
- Le Michele Brasserie – 22 Ave Marseilles, loved by local, it was closed
- Cafe Brant – lovely and classic in the very chic French style. If you are brave to eat the Tartar (raw seasoned beef) , it looked good. I opted for the soup as I had a trouble cold in February !
- Pont du Vogse– loved by the locals and a super delicious menu.
- Creperie du bol l’air- a little hole in the wall with delicious crepes, try the Crepe du Client where you can add your own combination for only 8 euros! As always, have a cup (Bol) of Cider with your crepe, it is the tradition.
- Maison Kammerzil is the oldest building in Strasbourg is a lovely hotel and restaurant that is a national heritage as well as wonderful food with excellent service!
- Les Haras Brasserie– saving the BEST for last! An old military horse staple that is totally and beautifully restored. Excellent food and reservation is a MUST. You can’t walk in and expect to be seated, you MUST call a week ahead of time.
- Christian Salon de thé is a heavenly café that will give you the best chocolate, pastries, and more! You can’t miss this place.
Coming in late 2017.
I hope to explore a bit of Metz, Nancy and a few smaller villages, which is now part of the Grand Est region of France. The Alsace region has been the home of 4 Noble prize winners including Albert Schweitzer!
Until my return, if you visit the Alsace region, be sure to visit:
- Colmar , known as the capitale des vins d’Alsace, wine capital of the region. You may not think of Alsace as a wine producing region but the dryness of the Colmar area is a perfect environment for delicious Gewürztraminer and Pinot gris
- The Haut-Koenigsbourg castle, a middle aged castle that has played a stratgiic role in France and Europe. I hope to see it next year.