Strasbourg. The Alsace region you need to visit now
Home to the European Parliament, Strasbourg, a town of Germanic influence, is a fascinating place to discover. Bordering the German city of Kehl, Strasbourg is a charming and scenic town you could visit every time of the year. As the capital of the Alsace region, there are other beautiful towns that you can see, such as Colmar and Mulhouse. With my regular work visits to Strasbourg, I believe the Alsace region is a must-visit. You can choose to visit either during the winter to see the Christmas markets or during the spring and summer. Autumn also has its charm.
The Christmas Markets are the oldest in Europe, dating back to 1570. By the cathedral and Place Kléber, you will find small wooden huts and a Christmas tree. Navigating the city is accessible with the tram that connects all the important areas. You can reach the European Parliament from the center in 15 min. The architectural style of Strasbourg draws you in and makes you fall in love with the city. Known as Art Nouveau, this style is a decorative elegant art of different shapes and lines that originated in Brussels, Belgium.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotels in Strasbourg are pretty expensive, probably due to the monthly plenary sessions of the European Parliament, which bring people from all over Europe and possibly the world. If you want to get a better price, it is good to book well in advance, but even in this case, you will have to pay more than 50 euros for a room. If you’re on a budget, the best place is People's Hostel in the center. A shared room in a female or male dorm is around 25 euros a night. December might be double but still cheaper than the rest of the city. I stayed with them more than ten times, and it’s a place that many people frequent. They also have private rooms you can book, which are double or triple the price of a shared room. The bedsheets are clean and comfortable to sleep.
There are lots of great restaurants in Strasbourg. You can go to a traditional Alsatian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, or Lebanese. These are some of the restaurants that I tried.
Les Chefs d’Oeuvre d’Alsacehas traditional local food such as tarte flambée, a thin pizza crust with cream cheese, onion, and bacon. Another dish is called Choucroute, the French word for sauerkraut, accompanied by sausage, pork ribs, ham, and potatoes. Cordon Bleu, a schnitzel of beef or pork wrapped in cheese, is also a typical dish.
Hey Mama has delicious lunch and breakfast options. Make sure to book a table in advance because it’s always busy.
Restaurant Japonais HiBiKi, located a bit outside the center of Strasbourg, in the Schiltigheim neighborhood, is hands down the best Japanese place. The menu is not very big, but everything is made fresh. You must call before to reserve a table because the place is small. I particularly loved the salmon with miso paste and the homemade black sesame ice cream. Two Japanese men run the place, which is why it is so authentic.
The pedestrian-friendly historic center is the best part of the town and is easy to explore in two to three hours. The Ill River that passes through Strasbourg creates a very romantic atmosphere. Walking along the river banks is both a therapy and a spectacle, watching the swans, seagulls, and grey herons. As you explore the streets, you will notice the stork figurine everywhere. This is the mascot of the town, and it symbolizes good luck. The Notre Dame Cathedral is another central heritage that is impossible to miss. It’s a glorious Gothic cathedral from the Middle Ages with a gigantic astronomical clock and phenomenal detail. It’s probably still a mystery how it was built like many similar cathedrals worldwide. Exploring Strasbourg’s streets is enjoyable as everything is beautifully decorated, colorful, and generally well-maintained. You will make many stops in the delicious bakeries and chocolate stores.
This part of the city was the fishermen, millers, and tanners central district. Today, it is a tourist area showcasing beautiful traditional old-style houses made from half-wood from the 16th and 17th centuries. Influenced by German culture, the houses have many decorations, symbols, and sculptures that make them unique. As you might have noticed, the center of Strasbourg is one big island (Grande Île) surrounded by the Ill River on one side and the Canal du Faux-Rempart on the other.
Founded in 1902, the Alsatian Museum will introduce you to the traditional Alsatian house. It is very central, and it makes for a great exploration. The ticket is 7.50 EUR/person, which is not too bad. Except for Tuesdays when it is closed, you can visit from 10 AM to 6 PM the rest of the days. The interior is well-preserved and displays the daily life of the French/Germans at that time. Pottery has a long-standing tradition in Alsace. Only two towns continue the pottery tradition today: Soufflenheim and Betschdorf. InPoterie Alsace, next to the cathedral, you can buy authentic pottery products made in Alsace.
Ponts Couverts de Strasbourg& Barrage Vauban
These are located within a 5-minute walk from each other and are beautiful bridges with fantastic panoramic views across the city. The Vauban Dam was built between 1686 and 1700 and is now used to cross the river and offer a great view over the Petite France Quartier. Alternatively, you can rent electric boats without a permit to go on the river. You can check their prices at the website Marin D’eau Douce.
Located right in the center, it will be difficult to miss it. It’s a gorgeous building by the canal. Right in front of it is Batorama, a boat sightseeing company that offers rides across the center and to the European Parliament. It is worth trying it.
Botanical Gardens of Strasbourg University
I went to visit in the summer, and it was magnificent. The entrance is free, and you can spend as many hours there as you want. There are over 6000 species of plants, an arboretum, a greenhouse, and a planetarium. It’s a quiet and beautiful green place to explore.
This park is the perfect location to see hundreds of storks. Their nests are above the buildings and electricity pillars, and it’s incredible to see them flying around. In the spring and summertime, Strasbourg and its parks are an absolute splendor. This extensive park has beautiful flower arrangements and lakes—a must-see.
Strasbourg is a gorgeous place to explore, and I am sure you will fall in love with this town. Alsace region is a beautiful mix of cultures that is worth visiting. Happy discoveries!