Do you love to wander around canals, visit old towns with half-timbered homes, get tipsy with good wine, and taste freshly baked goods from patisseries? Then, look no further than Strasbourg! This city lies in the Grand Est region (formerly known as the Alsace region) in northeastern France, along the border with Germany.
Throughout its history, Strasbourg has been influenced by French and German culture and practices. It even changed nationalities between French and German as the countries fought over control due to its location. Thanks to these changes and its history, you’ll find that Strasbourg has a unique mix of French and German characteristics, which influences everything from the dialect to the cuisine.
Half-timbered architecture and cobblestone streets are found in its historic city center, along with picture-perfect canals and quaint shops selling must-try regional wines. There’s also the impressive Gothic architecture of the Notre-Dame Strasbourg Cathedral, the festive spirit of the famous Christkindelsmärik Christmas market, and so much more!
Strasbourg also serves as the home of the European Parliament. As such, not only has history been made in Strasbourg, but it continues to have front-row seats as new laws are created. Whether you’re a history buff or a food fanatic, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy in Strasbourg.
With so many things to see and do, you might not know where to begin. So we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Strasbourg for you. Stick to these fun and unique Strasbourg bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring this fascinating French city!
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15 Fun and Unique Things to do in Strasbourg
1. Look Up at the Notre-Dame Strasbourg Cathedral
The Notre-Dame Strasbourg Cathedral is a must on your Strasbourg bucket list. It was built between the 13th and 15th centuries combining both the Romanesque and Gothic styles of architecture. Its highest and only spire is 143 meters long, and it is a masterpiece considering when construction took place.
You can admire the 18-meter-high astronomical clock that indicates both the official and solar time and the massive Pillar of the Angels that depicts the scenes of the Last Judgment. Not to mention all the stained glass that surrounds the architecture!
What we particularly love about the cathedral is that despite its highest spire, the narrow streets leading to it hide it somehow. Just follow the sounds of the church bells, and once you reach one of its corners, you’ll find the cathedral in all its glory. Multiple shops and restaurants surround the area, so take your time exploring and taking everything in.
2. Get Festive at the Strasbourg Christmas Market
The Strasbourg Christmas Market (Christkindelsmärik) is held annually starting from mid-to-late November until December 24. As one of the top Strasbourg attractions, around two million visitors attend the Christmas market to experience its magic each year.
The Christmas Market is a dream with over 300 stalls, miles upon miles of Christmas lights, and let’s not forget the impressive Great Christmas Tree in Place Kléber. You can even lace up your ice skates and enjoy time with friends or family as you gaze at the Christmas tree. If tree decorating is your thing, take the opportunity to decorate one at the Place du marché Gayot!
Stalls offer a little bit of everything, including furniture, handmade rocking horses, hand-sewn fabric and wooden hearts, homemade cakes, scented wax Christmas tree decorations, pastry cutters, organic and fair-trade coffees, and Christmas socks, just to name a few.
Don’t forget the food and drinks! You’ll want to try a Vin Chaud (a hot mulled wine), the pain d’épices (a spiced bread), and the bredele (a traditional buttery/spiced cookie, like gingerbread cookies!). Some of our personal favorites include the boules de neige, which is a snowball-shaped treat with mousse that’s covered in divine toppings, like coconut flakes.
There’s so much to experience at the Strasbourg Christmas Market, so take advantage if you happen to be there during the holiday season and cross it off your Strasbourg bucket list!
3. Explore Strasbourg at its History Museum
If you would like to learn about the history of Strasbourg, the best place to do so will be at its History Museum, located in a building that used to be a slaughterhouse. You’ll learn everything there is about Strasbourg – from the Middle Ages all the way to the French Revolution.
The museum allows you to take a stroll at your own pace and provides you with free audio guides. You will learn about the political, economic, social, and cultural history of three distinct periods – the Germanic Holy Roman Empire, Royal City, and the current metropolis. You’ll be gazing at scale models, paintings, and military weapons in exhibition rooms designed like stage sets.
The museum is housed in a Renaissance building located by the Ill River, so feel free to take a stroll and watch the boats as they sail by the museum.
4. Visit the Botanical Gardens of Strasbourg University
Wear your comfortable shoes as you walk through the art and science trails at the botanical gardens of Strasbourg University. Established in 1619, this is the second-oldest botanical garden in France. There’s no doubt the botanical garden has survived all sorts of historical events – from the French Revolution all the way to World War II.
You’ll be able to see over 6,000 species of plants and some exceptional trees, such as the pecan tree, a giant sequoia, and even a few bald cypresses. The land where it is located (formerly an informal cemetery!) houses a two-story tropical greenhouse, a greenhouse just for grass, and a pond.
Entrance is free, but you can choose to take a guided tour for individuals or groups. So visit the garden, stroll around, and when you get tired, take a break by the pond under the shade of a tree.
5. Take a Stroll around the ‘Petite France’
Petite France is one of the most charming and picturesque old towns you’ll ever visit. It wasn’t always that way, as it used to be an unpopular location in the Middle Ages. Hanging hides and skins would give off an awful smell, but don’t worry, that’s no longer the case!
Petite France is a pedestrian-friendly area, and walking is the best way to enjoy it. You’ll find narrow streets, shops, and half-timbered homes. Make sure you make dinner reservations at the Maison des Tanneurs (House of Tanners) restaurant by the Ill river canal. The building has been classified as a historical site since 1927.
Many compare Petite France to a small-scale Venice as the Ill River fans out into five riverside promenades. You can start walking at the Ponts Couverts de Strasbourg, followed by the Rue du Bain-aux-Plantes, then head out to Place Benjamin Zix, and end your stroll at the Pont du Faisan.
6. Gaze at the Covered Bridges of Strasbourg
The Covered Bridges (Pont Couverts) of Strasbourg are an extension of Petite France. Despite the name, the three bridges lost their roofs in the 18th century. But these bridges still overlook four towers that date back to the 14th century.
The Pont Couverts served as a defensive mechanism during wartime, and its covered roofs provided protection to the defenders. Nowadays, the bridges remain functional, and you can take a stroll as you make your way around the center of Strasbourg. The fortified towers lining the set of bridges have been classified as historical monuments since 1928.
We decided to walk toward the bridges and enjoyed all of our stops at the shops along the maze-like pathway. The bridges and towers look impressive, and dare we say, the architecture looks pretty modern considering when they were built! Another option is to take a private boat tour and check the bridges out from the river instead.
7. Discover the History of Temple Neuf
We didn’t know what to make of Temple Neuf and its long history. Between 1248 to 1531, the general site where Temple Neuf is located used to be a monastery and then a major hub for German mysticism (a late medieval Christian mystical movement). The movement has been tied to the Reformation movement started by Martin Luther.
In 1561, Temple Neuf became a Lutheran church, and when Louis XIV of France annexed Strasbourg in 1681, it became a Catholic cathedral, but there were Protestant services too. The location used to house the Strasbourg Library. But the 400,000 items in the library were tragically lost due to a fire during the Franco-Prussian war.
Temple Neuf was rebuilt in 1874 using pink sandstone in the Neo-Romanesque style. Nowadays, it offers different worship services for people of diverse Christian religions, like Catholic and Lutheran. The temple also hosts a series of concerts, expositions, and cultural activities.
Whether you visit for its history, architecture, services, or concerts, the temple offers a little bit of everything to its visitors!
8. Cycle around Strasbourg
If you feel like taking a bike ride, then you’ll enjoy cycling along Forts Trail. It is a cycle route that crosses the border into Germany following a ring of defensive fortifications. There are 85 kilometers of trail, but despite how long it is or how long it will take you, the trail is fairly easy to follow.
The trail will take you by 19 forts, diverse landscapes, villages, orchards, and forests, including the Robertsau, Neuhof, and Illkirch nature reserves. You’ll notice that you’ll be cycling along the water of the Marne-Rhine Canal and the Rhine and Ill rivers.
Don’t worry if the Fort Trail is a bit intimidating, as Strasbourg has around 600 kilometers of bicycle paths. Strasbourg is actually the fourth-most bike-friendly city in Europe! You’ll definitely be able to cover more ground and sights on two wheels instead of two feet. Use a trusty map of the many paths and rent a bike to cycle around Strasbourg.
9. Cruise along the Rhine River
You may think the Rhine River is in Germany, but the river has served an important part in the history between France and Germany, as it is a natural country borderline. So, why not take a nice short cruise along the Rhine? Batorama offers 45-minute and one-hour circuits, during which you can enjoy Strasbourg from the river.
Your journey can take you through the gates of Petite France and past the imperial sector, palaces, public buildings, Neustadt, and Grande Ile. Grande Ile is an island that stands in the middle of the Strasbourg city center. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, so if you have a UNESCO bucket list, you’ll be able to cross this one off!
If you have the little ones in tow during your cruise tour, rest assured they won’t be bored. Batorama offers an audio commentary developed by writers and comedians to keep your kids entertained while they learn from Captain Hans Trapp and his trusted parrot, Coco.
If politics are your thing, we recommend you take the short cruise trip that will take you to the European Parliament. You have the option to disembark there if you want to pay it a visit.
10. Pick Up Picnic Supplies at La Nouvelle Douane
La Nouvelle Douane is a 250-meter shop located in the heart of Strasbourg. You’ll feel as if you are at a farmer’s market! It’s open daily from Monday through Friday between 9 am and 7:30 pm and on Saturdays between 8 am and 6:30 pm.
Around 21 producers from the Alsace region provide seasonal products, such as fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, and of course, wines! Bring your best French market basket (our favorite is made out of palm fiber). Then, buy some of the fresh, high-quality products for a mini-picnic or to snack on the go as you continue to explore Strasbourg.
Some of our favorites snacks we found there were grapes, walnuts, chestnuts, apples, and pears. Combined with a little bit of French cheese and wine, it makes for an excellent picnic lunch!
11. Give your Sweet Tooth a Treat from a Patisserie
We loved all the patisseries we encountered in Strasbourg! Each of them had colorful display windows with a multitude of French pastries. With so many beautiful goodies, it was hard to decide what to get!
If you like macarons, head over to Macarons and Inspirations by Elisabeth Biscarrat. You’ll find macarons in almost every color you can imagine with a wide variety of different flavors. Our favorites were the addictive lemon and chocolate macarons.
If you love gingerbread, then you can do no wrong by trying a pain d’épices (a spiced bread) at Mireille Oster. You’ll enjoy different and rich flavors such as ginger, lemon, dates, and even goji berries. Some of our favorites included the 7-spice gingerbread with lemon, citron, orange, cardamom, and almonds.
But that’s not all! French pastries are delicious, so make sure you try some Mille-feuille, tartes, St. Honoré, operas, madeleines, and of course, the classic buttery and flaky croissants. There’s a little bit of everything for every taste.
12. Attend a Concert at Zénith de Strasbourg
Zénith de Strasbourg is an indoor sporting arena and concert hall designed by Massimilano Fuksas. It’s fairly new, as it opened in 2008. International musicians, artists, and sporting teams come to Strasbourg to entertain the locals.
The incredible building itself is eco-friendly, as it was built with recycled materials. It even has energy-saving materials! With its top-notch acoustics, the Zénith is even suitable for opera and philharmonic orchestra concerts. Some of the artists who have performed at this location include Elton John, Lady Gaga, Coldplay, and so many more!
Zénith de Strasbourg also provides drinks and food before and after each show, and during intermission, so you have the opportunity to refresh with a drink (or two!) while you enjoy the show. If you do attend an event here, be sure to leave your camera at the hotel because they’re prohibited.
Be sure to check the website to see what’s happing during your visit to Strasbourg.
13. Sip Wine at the Cave des Hospices de Strasbourg
Spend a day sipping and tasting wine as a trusty guide drives you through the Alsace Wine Route (Route des Vins d’Alsace). You can either do a half-day or full-day tour to visit some of the charming villages and towns along the route. You can spend the 105 miles traveling through the Vosges Mountains while passing wineries and vineyards.
You’ll notice that despite being in France, most of the architecture will have a German influence with their half-timbered buildings and cobblestone streets.
You won’t be disappointed with the wine either. Try the Riesling – it was our favorite! Riesling comes from a white grape that originated in the Rhine region. The grape is used to make dry, semi-sweet, sweet, and even sparkling white wines that you’ll definitely want to sample.
Don’t forget to try any dishes from local restaurants that use Riesling as one of their ingredients. You won’t regret it. We tried a soup with spices, white cheese, and Riesling that we couldn’t get enough of.
14. Get Tipsy at the Strasbourg Wine Fair
Since you’ll be in wine country, why not attend the Strasbourg Wine Fair if it just so happens to coincide with your holiday? The association of Independent Wine Growers (Vignerons Indépendants of France in French) has about 10,000 winemakers that host a wine fair in Strasbourg every year.
Winegrowers use the event to present a variety of wines, and because they offer cellar-direct prices, you won’t break the bank. You can taste a variety of wines, including Alsace, Bordeaux, Bourgogne-Beaujolais, Champagne, and Cognac, to name a few.
The Wine Fair happens yearly in February at 7 place du Wacken 67007 Strasbourg, France, so make sure you get your tickets!
But don’t worry if February isn’t in your schedule, as Strasbourg and the areas around it host wine festivals on different dates throughout the year.
15. Eat a Tarte Flambée and Choucroute
Don’t forget to get a taste of the French food! Or is it German? As is the case with many other things in the Alsace region, you’ll notice a fine line between the mix of French and German in nearly every aspect of life, including the cuisine.
The Tarte Flambée (or Flammkuchen in German) resembles a pizza, but it’s far from it. It is made with bread dough rolled out just like a pizza, but it’s very thin with a rectangle or oval shape. It’s so thin that its edges crack like crackers!
The original recipe of the Tarte Flambée includes Fromage blanc or creme fraíche, thinly-sliced onions, and small pieces of bacon (lardons). It is delicious! We tried that one as well as a version that included Fromage blanc, pears, and cranberries. It may sound weird, but it was equally as delicious.
Another option is to try Choucroute, which is made with pickled cabbage. When you see it at first, you may recognize it as German sauerkraut. They are almost the same, but one of the key differences is that Choucroute is made with wine. It is also served with sausages, salted meats, and potatoes, so you’ll have your fill with this tasty plate.
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Strasbourg. What’s your favorite thing to do in Strasbourg?
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