This exploration is presented by National Geographic Traveller (UK).
Strasbourg, the capital of the historic region of Alsace, is a city that boasts a distinct personality, resulting from its centuries-long alternation between French and German rule. At the city’s core lies the Grande Île, an island in the River Ill that reflects Strasbourg’s vibrant cultural fabric. A stroll through its narrow, cobbled streets reveals traditional timber-framed architecture and the imposing Strasbourg Cathedral, a Gothic marvel with a 466ft spire that dates back to the 15th century.
Initiate your journey by diving into local arts, customs, and dialects at the creatively designed Alsatian Museum, nestled within medieval homes connected by wooden stairs and antique corridors. With more than 5,000 artefacts—ranging from clothing, furniture, and toys to religious artworks—it provides a fascinating insight into rural Alsace’s life in the 18th and 19th centuries. For an artistic contrast, visit the Fine Arts Museum inside the Rohan Palace, exhibiting significant works such as Nicolas de Largillière’s La Belle Strasbourgeoise and Cornelis Engelsz’s St Adrian Civic Guard, among other treasures.
Savour a satisfying local dish for lunch—choucroute garnie, an Alsatian take on sauerkraut accompanied by pork cuts and sausages, is a culinary highlight. Maison Kammerzell, an iconic 15th-century restaurant adjacent to the cathedral, is a must-visit. For a lighter alternative, Mama Bubbele, situated just outside the Grand Île, offers tarte flambée, known locally as Alsatian pizza, topped with a variety of ingredients including creme fraiche, bacon, and onions.
Yet, the culinary jewel in Strasbourg’s crown is the one-Michelin-starred restaurant Au Crocodile. Renowned for its exquisite dining experience, it’s named after a taxidermied crocodile brought from Egypt by a Napoleon army captain. Chef Romain Brillat masterfully crafts menus offering a contrast to the city’s traditional cuisine—expect dishes like roasted monkfish with wild garlic and green asparagus or Jersey beef sirloin with lemongrass jus.
After your meal, the Büchmesser, a narrow arch opposite the cathedral facade known for measuring locals’ waistlines since the Middle Ages, awaits your visit.
Modern Strasbourg reveres cartoonist and illustrator Tomi Ungerer, who has a museum dedicated to his vibrant children’s illustrations and satirical work. Located in the Neustadt district, renowned for its UNESCO-listed architecture and mix of styles, this museum offers a unique perspective on the city’s cultural legacy.
Venture to the heart of Neustadt to discover the immaculate Jardin de la Place de la République. For broader green vistas, rent a bike from Velhop, Strasbourg’s local bike-sharing service. Known as France’s cycling capital, the city offers 373 miles of cycling routes. Your pedal journey can lead you to Parc de l’Orangerie, the city’s oldest park, where you can canoe and spot storks, Alsace’s emblematic bird.
For accommodation, consider the Okko hotel in the recently developed Presqu’île Malraux district, offering double rooms from €85 (£74), room only.
This feature has been made possible with the support of the Strasbourg Tourist Office, Maison Kammerzell, Relais & Chateaux, and Okko Hotels.
Published in the Jul/Aug 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK).
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Strasbourg travel guide
What is the historical significance of Strasbourg?
Strasbourg, the capital of the historic region of Alsace, has belonged alternately to both France and Germany over the centuries. This has led to the development of a unique cultural identity, reflected in its architecture, language, and traditions.
What can one experience in the Grande Île of Strasbourg?
Grande Île is the historic centre of Strasbourg. Here, one can stroll through narrow, cobbled streets, appreciate the traditional timber-framed architecture, and visit the Gothic Strasbourg Cathedral with its 15th-century spire.
Where can I learn about Alsatian culture and history in Strasbourg?
The Alsatian Museum, set in medieval houses, provides a fascinating insight into rural Alsace’s life in the 18th and 19th centuries with over 5,000 artifacts. The Fine Arts Museum in the Rohan Palace also offers a glimpse of the region’s artistic heritage.
What are some traditional dishes to try in Strasbourg?
Choucroute garnie, an Alsatian take on sauerkraut with pork cuts and sausages, is a local culinary highlight. Tarte flambée, often referred to as Alsatian pizza, is another popular dish served with creme fraiche, bacon, and onions.
What are some places of interest for art lovers in Strasbourg?
Art lovers can visit the Fine Arts Museum, which houses significant works like Nicolas de Largillière’s La Belle Strasbourgeoise. Additionally, the Tomi Ungerer Museum showcases vibrant children’s illustrations and satirical work by the city’s revered modern artist.
Are there any notable outdoor activities in Strasbourg?
Strasbourg, known as France’s cycling capital, boasts 373 miles of cycling routes. You can rent a bike from Velhop, a local bike-sharing service, and explore parks like Parc de l’Orangerie, where you can canoe and spot storks, the symbol of Alsace.
Where is a recommended place to stay in Strasbourg?
Okko Hotel in the newly developed Presqu’île Malraux district is a recommended place to stay in Strasbourg. It offers comfortable accommodation with double rooms starting from €85 (£74), room only.