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Strasbourg: border city with an important architectural heritage

This article is also available in: Italian

Strasbourg (about 270,000 inhabitants, the urban area over 700,000), is the capital of Alsace, capital of the department of Lower Rhine, is located on the border with Germany along the banks of the Ill river and in the vicinity of the Rhine, between the two mountain massifs of the Vosges and Forêt-Noire.

Strasbourg is one of the capitals of the European Union, home to important institutions such as the European Parliament (together with Brussels and Luxembourg), the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights.

During the Roman Empire, Strasbourg, at that time called Argentoratum, was a border city along the Rhine. In the Middle Ages the city became a bishopric (4th century) and then, in the 14th century it became a free city within the Sacred Roman Empire. During this period, it was home to markets and an important commercial centre.

At the end of the 17th century Strasbourg became part of the possessions of the Kingdom of France, in September 1870 the city became part of the German Empire to which it remained linked until the end of the First World War, when it returned to being French.


In 1988 the historic center of Strasbourg, called Grand Île, was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, surrounded by the two arms of the Ill river, the Grande Ile, presents a surprising complex of monuments, among these the cathedral , four ancient churches and the Palais Rohan (ancient residence of the Prince-Bishop) as well as numerous medieval houses that characterize the entire historic center. The most characteristic neighborhood of Strasbourg is the neighborhood called “Petite France”, a neighborhood on the water with its canals and characteristic wooden houses from the 16th and 17th centuries.

Thanks to its location along the border between France and Germany, the city has the characteristics of both nations, the picturesque central area of “Petite France” resembles a place from a fairy tale, with wooden houses with flower-laden balconies that they are reflected in the water.

The Ponts Couverts, located in the “Petite France” area, are together with the cathedral the most famous tourist image of Strasbourg, defended by four 13th century towers, they are all that remains of the ancient fortifications.

Among the most notable buildings in the city we can certainly include the marvelous Notre-Dame Cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic art. The church was built starting in 1015 and was finished in 1439 with the construction of the spire, 142 meters high. The façade is stupendous and grandiose, with hundreds of sculptures it has been defined as the largest illustrated book of the entire Middle Ages. The interior is no exception, with 12th-14th century stained glass windows, a beautiful rose window, a monumental organ and finally the true masterpiece: the Astronomical Clock from the Renaissance period, with mechanisms from 1842 whose movements can be admired all over the world. days at 12.30. In front of the clock is the “Column of Angels”, a representation of the Last Judgment. The climb to the terrace (329 steps) with an extraordinary view is recommended.

The Church of Saint-Thomas, in Alsatian Gothic art, has its main attraction in the mausoleum of the Maréchal de Saxe, a masterpiece of 18th century Baroque funerary art. The Church of Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune, a Gothic church, built between 1031 and 1053, preserves some wonderful 14th century frescoes. The Maison Kammerzell is an ancient house of merchants and traders from the 15th-16th century. The “Quartier Allemand” (German Quarter) was built between 1871 and 1918 around the current Place de la République, at the time of its construction the neighborhood called “new city” represented an imperial urban model, characterized by large streets, administrative and cultural buildings, among these are the Palais du Rhin, the University Library and the National Theatre. Located between the university campus and the historic center, Krutenau is a lively neighborhood renowned for its nightlife.

In the so-called “Quartier Européen” (European Quarter), the buildings that house the headquarters of some European institutions are also important: the European Parliament (Parlement Européen), consisting of a building from which the dome of the hemicycle emerges, designed for 750 parliamentarians , a 60 m tower. with 17 floors and 1,133 offices, spaces dedicated to work, communication and relaxation); the Council of Europe (Palais de l’Europe); the Palace of Human Rights (Palais des Droits de l’Homme), designed by the British architect Sir Richard Rogers, co-author of the Center Beaubourg in Paris, was inaugurated in 1995 and is the seat of the European Court of Human Rights ‘Man.

Strasbourg Christmas Market (Marché de Noël): Strasbourg has a rich tradition of Christmas markets, in fact the “Christkindelsmärik” (the “Baby Jesus Market”) has been held there since 1570. The Christmas Market extends over various streets and squares in the city centre, in particular Place Broglie and Place de la Cathédrale, very beautiful especially in the late afternoon, when the city turns on its lights and the shop windows shine, the decorations embellish the facades, the smells of spices and cinnamon fill the air, and Christmas carols resonate from the churches. The market is full of traditional products and objects, sweets, hot wine, pancakes, decorations for the tree and the nativity scene. In addition to the classic stalls, numerous events are organized during the Christmas period including concerts, entertainment and boat trips in the city for children.


Among the city’s museums, the following are worth mentioning: the Palais Rohan, former residence of the prince bishops, was built between 1732 and 1742 and today houses three museums: the Museum of Decorative Arts (Grands Appartements et Musée des Arts Décoratifs), in the rooms of Grands Appartements with exposed Hannong porcelain, pieces of furniture, sculptures and paintings, clockwork pieces, and ironwork, goldsmithery.

The Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts) with the masterpieces of the great European painters (Italian, French, Spanish, Flemish and Dutch painting, from the 14th century to 1870; works by Giotto, Botticelli, Raphael, Correggio, Veronese, El Greco, Rubens, Van Dyck, Ruysdaël, Tiepolo, Canaletto, Goya, Corot, Delacroix).

The Archaeological Museum (Musée Archéologique), one of the most important in all of France, features sculptures from the Bronze and Iron Ages, pieces of Roman-era weapons and jewels from the Merovingian era.

The Museum of the Work of Notre-Dame (Musée de l’Oeuvre Notre-Dame) presents some of the greatest masterpieces of medieval sculpture from the cathedral. The Alsatian Museum (Musée Alsacien), a museum that houses evidence of traditional life in Alsace: decorated furniture, costumes, popular ceramics, toys, religious and profane images.

The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain), with works by Monet, Picasso, Kandinsky and Brauner, the view from the panoramic terrace on the Ponts Couverts and Petite France is very beautiful. The Historical Museum, dedicated to the history of the city. The Zoological Museum. The Tomi Ungerer Drawing and Illustration Centre, dedicated to Tomi Ungerer, designer and illustrator born in Strasbourg.

Other cultural attractions in Strasbourg are: Le Vaisseau (“the vessel”), a space dedicated to science for children and adults; the Planetarium; the Naviscope Alsace; the “Les secrets du chocolat” Museum; the Museum of Seismology and the Museum of Mineralogy; finally, the city is rich in numerous parks.


Strasbourg has the most important tram network in France, with 5 lines totaling 53 kilometers and over 70 stations. The bus network is also very developed with 320 km of lines, including 30 urban lines and 11 interurban lines.

Strasbourg can be explored very well by public transport, and even if you are on the outskirts of the city, you can easily reach the center by public transport, to facilitate their use, on the outskirts of the city there are car parks called Relais-Tram which allow you to park your car near a tram stop and arrive in the city center by tram in a few minutes. The price of parking also includes a return tram ticket for each car passenger, the daily cost of such a ticket is €2.80 (€3.10 for Parking Relais Rotonde). The Relais-Tram car parks have opening hours from Monday to Saturday from 7am to 8pm, outside of these opening hours parking is free but the tram ticket must obviously be paid.


AIR: Strasbourg-Entzheim International Airport (Aéroport de Strasbourg) is located approximately 10 km west-southwest of the center of Strasbourg. Strasbourg airport is connected to the city center by a bus service that connects the airport to a tram stop with which you can reach the city centre. Inside the airport there is also a railway station with train services especially during rush hours.

Other airports close to Strasbourg are Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg (130 km from Strasbourg) and Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden (58 km from Strasbourg).

TRAIN: Strasbourg is excellently connected to the European railway network, the city is in fact connected via TGV high-speed trains to Paris, via the TGV Est line (Paris-Strasbourg). The train allows you to quickly reach the main French (Paris 2h20′, Lille 3h20′, Nantes 5h10′, Rennes 5h10′, Bordeaux 6h20′), Swiss (Zurich, 2h10′) and German (Munich 3h40′) cities.

Strasbourg climate.


This article is also available in: Italian

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