When you hear the name of Strasbourg, several international institutions might come into your mind. Most notably, the European Parliament. It’s true, Strasbourg is one of the few cities in the world that’s not a state capital, yet hosts international organizations of the first order.
The city’s international status was acquired in 1979 with the opening of the European Parliament there. The cultural scene in Strasbourg is a mix of Franco-German culture, this diversity in the culture of the city was mainly fueled by the violent dispute over it through history.
Having been seized several times by the Germans back during the First and Second World Wars, this helped enrich the city with the culture of both countries. Throughout history the city acted as a cultural bridge between the two countries, especially through the University of Strasbourg; the second largest in France.
Located on the eastern border with Germany, which is formed by The Rhine, the historic center of the city lies on the Grand Île on the River Ill which at that point runs parallel to The Rhine.
Several waterways connect the two rivers through the city. The city has an oceanic weather with warm and relatively sunny summers. Cool overcast winters and an average of 30 days of snow days a year make the weather in the city perfect for your visit.
The city is rich in architectural heritage, museums, parks and world-class educational institutions. The Ill River, divides and surrounds the Grand Île (Big Island) on which most of the city’s famous buildings are situated.
How to get to Strasbourg?
- Fly in:
The nearest airport to the city is Strasbourg SXB. Taking a flight to Strasbourg is the most expensive way to get there. Unless you’re outside Europe and flying in is the easiest option, it’s more advised to take the train. The cheapest plane ticket from Paris, for example, will cost you around 50 Euros.
- By train:
For less than 50 Euros you can get a one way train ticket from Paris to Strasbourg, which is the cheapest ticket if you book your journey in advance. If you book your train ride on the same day, the price can go up to about 110 Euros.
The train will take you from the Paris Gare de l’Est to Strasbourg in about 2 hours. If you book a train ticket from Zurich, the three hour ride will cost you around 67 Euros.
- By bus:
A bus ticket from Paris to Strasbourg will cost around 16 Euros for the cheapest ticket and will get you there in well over 6 hours. A bus from Zurich will take the journey in a bit over 4 hours for tickets starting at 14 Euros.
- By car:
If you feel like driving the way there, you can rent a car from Paris for three days which will cost you around 105 Euros without adding the cost of fuel. The car ride will take well over 4 hours to get you to Paris.
Renting a car from Zurich is very costly. A car will be at your disposal for three days for almost 500 Euros, not including the price for fuel. You can check the website Rentalcars to check for the best car rental deals across Europe.
Always remember to book your trips in advance to get the best ticket prices, the closer your booking time is, the higher the prices will be.
Shall we explore the Franco-German city of Strasbourg?
In addition to being home to many European institutions, Strasbourg has a wide variety of historical sites, fine arts museums, University museums, museums in the suburbs and parks that will enchant you. So, let’s get to it!
Historical Landmarks around Strasbourg
- Place Kléber (Kléber Square):
The central square of the city of Strasbourg, it’s located at the heart of the city’s commercial area. The square was named after the French revolutionary general Jean-Baptiste Kléber of whom there’s a statue in the square. The statue was completed in 1838 and below it there’s a vault with Kléber’s remains in it.
Every Christmas season a huge fir tree is set up in the south west of the square, people put gifts for the poor beneath the tree and about 50 booths set up to make a small village of sharing. The entire area was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 which was the first time such an honor was bestowed upon an entire city center.
2. The Aubette:
This historical building on Place Kléber in Strasbourg was built between 1765 and 1772. L’Aubette went through many stages of care and neglect from its start in the 13th century up until the 1920s. Even though Place Kléber was paid much care, no one seemed to care about The Aubette.
In the 1920s, three architects were commissioned to bring the building back from the dead. Theo van Doesburg, Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Jean Arp were in charge of the two cafes and two dance halls, the entrance aisle, tearoom and two bars, the basement, the passage and billiard room. All three artists worked together in designing the stairwell.
The current Aubette has three rooms that are open to the public with free admission on Place Kléber. The building has a gallery, theater and a café.
3. Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg (Strasbourg Cathedral):
Also known as Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg, many parts of the cathedral give an example of Romanesque architecture, it’s widely considered among the finest examples of Rayonnant Gothic Architecture. Construction works began in 1015 and were only finished in 1439.
A Roman settlement by the name of Argentoratum existed on the same site since 12 BC, it was a strategic point and trading center for many good and later for textile and luxury products. The first cathedral on the site was erected in about 550 – 575 but no traces remain of it today.
In 1015, the first stone of a new cathedral was laid by Bishop Werner. The wooden roof beams of this cathedral made it prone to fires which broke quite often and reconstructions and renovations had to take place after each fire.
The church suffered from 4 major fires through its history yet kept its essentially Romanesque style. Works on the church were often interrupted due to wars and political crises.
Construction of a new and more beautiful cathedral began in 1200 with additions of Gothic elements, following the style that appeared in northern France in the 12th century.
Rayonant additions to the cathedral were made between 1277 and 1439. The construction plan was inspired in part by French cathedrals, particularly the Basilica of Saint-Urbain of Troyes. An installation of the rose window took place with 12 statues of the apostles above it.
Like the city of Strasbourg, the Strasbourg Cathedral has German and French influences, all the while keeping its Romanesque features.
During the French Revolution, the church was subjected to severe vandalism. Some revolutionaries called the Enragés, smashed the 215 statues over the portals with hammers, along with the angels and the crowns and scepters of the statues of the kings.
Many of the cathedral’s precious objects were confiscated until its return to the control of the church in 1801. After which a series of major reconstruction and renovations works were carried out.
In 1915, a large scale project was launched to replace the entire foundation of the cathedral with concrete after architect Johann Knauth discovered cracks on the first pillar of the norther side of the nave. The project was completed in 1926 after the end of the First World War.
Air raids destroyed parts of the cathedral during the Second World War and restoration works were only finished in the early 1990s. Restoration works on the tower were finished in 2006 and another restoration campaign started in 2014 on the south transept.
Some of the original and delicate works of sculpture and art from the cathedral were moved to The Musée de l’Œuvre Notre-Dame or the Museum of the Work of Notre-Dame to protect them from environmental damage.
These include some of the original statues from the portals from the 13th century, the earliest plans of the cathedral as well as paintings and tapestries. Other works and objects from the cathedral, such as the mechanism of the original astronomical clock, can be found in the Musée des arts décoratifs de Strasbourg.
- Église Saint-Étienne (Saint Stephan’s Church):
This church is located at the Saint-Étienne Catholic College in Strasbourg and serves as the college’s chapel. A Roman fort once occupied the position of the current church, and a church replaced it in 717 and was rebuilt in 1220 in Romanesque-Gothic style.
After the French Revolution, the building was used as a warehouse then as a theater. In 1802, the church was deprived of its tower and in 1805 it was transformed into a theater.
During the Second World War, the building suffered great damage from the bombing and restoration works were carried out over time. Restorations took place in 1956 and 1961. The church was classified as a historical monument in 1962.
The college, on the other hand, started work in 1861 as a little seminary to teach future priests as well as lay students. Since the church is part of a school, public access is limited and is only possible on special occasions such as European Heritage Days.
5. Église Saint-Thomas (Saint Thomas Church):
The church is built on the site of a former worship place under the patronage of Thomas the Apostle from the 6th century. In the 9th century a church with an adjoining school were built and burned down in 1007 and in 1144.
Construction began in 1196 on the façade of a new fortress-like building built in Romanesque style. The work was interrupted several times and was only completed in 1521 in late Gothic style. The church became a historical monument in 1862.
6. Église protestante Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune (The Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune Protestant Church):
From both art historical and architectural viewpoints, this church is one of the most important church buildings in Strasbourg. The oldest part of the church is the small lower church that’s used as a burial crypt, it comes from the remains of a Columbian church from the 7th century.
Different parts of the church date back to different eras. The Gothic main building dates back to the 14th century. The church fell into decay between 1897 and 1901 and was picked up in neo-Gothic style by architect Carl Schäfer.
7. Église Saint-Guillaume (Saint William’s Church):
This church on the banks of the Ill River has an interesting looking exterior that represent both Gothic and Baroque styles. Construction of the monastery was undertaken by the Knight Henri de Müllenheim who wanted to build one for the Hermits of Saint William; an order of mendicant monks.
The building was consecrated in 1301 and finished in 1307. The church is the only remnant of this group of monks with its early Renaissance stained glass and furniture.
- Église Saint-Jean de Strasbourg (The Church of Saint Jean):
A historical monument since 1946, this church is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and is a former church of the Saint-Marc convent. The church was completely destroyed after bombing in the Second World War leaving only the walls and the steeple. A provisional church was built in 1946 and was consecrated in 1947.
The reconstruction of the destroyed church began in 1962 and was completed in 1964. In 1965, the provisional church was demolished and the new one resumed service. The roofs and the bell tower were fully restored between 2013 and 2014.
- Église Sainte-Madeleine (The Sainte-Madeleine Church):
This church is the fourth one dedicated to Mary Magdalene in Strasbourg since the 13th century. It was classified as a historical monument in 1898. The Gothic style church was built completed in 1478 only to be destroyed by a fire in 1904. All that remained of the last Gothic structure in Strasbourg was the choir which housed fragments of some frescos.
The current church built in 1907 is more spacious and airy. It was damaged by the British and American bombing during the Second World War and was again rebuilt in 1958. A part of the former cloisters from the earlier convent can still be seen, surrounding the adjacent school building.
- Église Saint-Pierre le Vieux (Church of Old Saint Peters):
This Catholic and Lutheran Church is first mentioned in 1130. In 1535, a Latin school or Middle School was opened at the church. In the 19th century, the Catholic part of the church was extended and opened in 1867. By that time, a wall was built inside the church to limit the Protestant services to the nave and it was only in in 2012 that a door was built in that wall to connect the two parts of the church.
- Place Broglie:
Located on the Grande Île, the ancient city center of Strasbourg, it is one of the main squares of the city. It’s well known for its historical and prestigious surroundings, the Opera House, the City Hall, the Governor’s Palace, the Perfect’s Palace, the Strasbourg building of the Banque de France and the historic Mess Building. You can reach the square to spend a day marveling at its beautiful neighbors by using the tram as it is a stop on the Strasbourg tramway.
- Le Neue Bau (The Neubau):
The name means “new building” and it was built indeed as one, as it was built for no specific purpose but to add some space to the older administrative buildings that comprised the old Town Hall; it was demolished in 1781, the Chancery; demolished in 1800 and the Mint which was demolished in 1738.
The new Town Hall was looted during the French Revolution when all its furniture was gone. In 1792, it served as the Chamber of Commerce. In the 2000s, the Neubau was completely renovated. This example of Renaissance architecture acquired a historical landmark status in in 1995.
- Palais Rohan (Rohan Palace):
This architectural, historical and cultural landmark was built next to Strasbourg Cathedral in the 1730s and finished in 1742. It is the former residence of the prince-bishops and cardinals of the House of Rohan; an ancient French noble family from Brittany and is considered a masterpiece of French Baroque architecture.
Since its completion it was residence for several French monarchs such as Louis XV and Napoleon. The palace was mostly built in yellow sandstone and pink sandstone for less visible parts. During the French Revolution, the palace was confiscated from the House of Rohan and became state-owned.
It became the new town hall in 1791 after which most of the furniture and art from the palace were sold. In 1793, the eight life-sized portraits of prince-bishops were destroyed and replaced in 1796 by allegories of civic virtues.
Between 1872 and 1884, the palace served as the Imperial German version of the University of Strasbourg, as the seat of the faculties of Law, Philosophy and Sciences. Then the palace served as the University’s library until the opening of the National and University Library in 1895. After this the palace became the property of the city and was adapted to host the municipal art collections.
Even though restoration works were under way after the damage caused by bombardment in the Second World War, a fire broke in 1947 destroying a huge part of the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in the palace. Restoration works resumed from the 1950s and were not finished until 1990s.
Chambers of the prince-bishops and cardinals are divided into the grand apartment and petit apartment. The library serves as the nave of the palace’s very small chapel. The French Ministry of Culture listed the palace as a historical monument in 1920.
- Hôtel de Hanau (Hôtel de ville or City Hall):
The current building was built between 1731 and 1736. It was originally owned by the rulers of Hanau-Lichtenberg which was a country of the Holy Roman Empire. After the French Revolution, the palace became state-owned. The building has acquired the status of City Hall since 1805.
Now, it is used for weddings, official receptions and banquets. The administration of the Metropolitan city of Strasbourg is run from the centre administrative near Parc de l’Étoile. The city hall is open for visitors on special days such as European Heritage Days. The building has been declared a historic monument since 1921.
- Hôtel de Klinglin (Currently known as Hôtel du Préfet):
The building is designed in a different style than most buildings in Strasbourg; with a straight and crescent looking façade instead of two straight ones. It was built between 1732 and 1736. Until the French Revolution, the building served as the seat of the royal Intendancy.
Between 1789 and 1799, it was used as the seat of the Directoire du district. Since 1800, the building served as the residency of the perfect of Bas-Rhin. The building was severely damaged during the Siege of Strasbourg in 1870; the roof collapsed and almost all the interior was damaged, only the exterior walls survived.
Restoration works quickly began afterwards using as much of the original material as possible, only the shape of the roof was modified and a balcony was added. The building was dubbed a historical monument in 1970. It is also open for visitors on European Heritage Days.
- Hôtel des Deux-Ponts (Currently known as Hôtel du gouverneur militaire):
The current official residence of the military governor of Strasbourg is located on Place Broglie on the Grande Île. Built between 1754 and 1755, the building was designed as a hôtel particulier. The hôtel featured a courtyard, two ornate façades, a grand portal and a French garden.
The hôtel became state-owned after the French Revolution in 1791 and since then served as the official residence of the military governors and chiefs of staff. It was classified as a historical monument in 1921 and is open for visitors on European Heritage Days.
- Opéra de Strasbourg (The Strasbourg Opera House):
Located on Place Broglie on the Grande Île, this opera house was declared a historical monument in 1921. Built on the ruins of a previous opera house; destroyed by a fire in 1800, on the same location, plans to build it were altered several times until the final opening of the opera in 1821.
The opera was damaged during the Siege of Strasbourg, it was then rebuilt and re-opened in 1873. The auditorium can receive 1,142 guest and has seen performances by great artists such as George Szell.
- Palais du Rhin (Palace of Rhine):
This palace is located in the German quarter of Strasbourg in the Place de la République. The palace is a huge building, along with its surrounding gardens and the neighboring stables are a notable example of the 19th century Prussian architecture.
After the Franco-Prussian war, Strasbourg was annexed by the German Empire and as the capital, a decision was made to build a palace that symbolizes imperial power. Hence, works began in 1884 and finished in only five years.
The building’s purpose changed as politics changed as well. It was converted into a military hospital during the First World War. After the city returned to France in 1920, the building earned its current name when the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine moved in.
The palace was classified as a historical monument in 1993 and currently houses the Direction régionale des affaires culturelles of Grand Est and the Direction régionale des affaires culturelles of Alsace.
- Place de la République (Imperial Square):
One of the main squares in the city of Strasbourg, it is surrounded by historical monuments on three sides by five buildings. The Palais du Rhin, the National and University Library, the Théâtre national de Strasbourg, the Préfecture of Grand Est and Bas-Rhin and the tax center Hôtel des impôts.
Layout and construction of the square began in 1880, it was designed to surround a circular garden in the middle. The area was previously occupied by city walls which were demolished after the Franco-Prussian War.
Ginkgo biloba trees, which were presented by Emperor Meiji of Japan to his German counterpart were planted in the central garden in the 1880s and they stand today. Contrarily, a purple beech and a fern-leaf beech which were planted between 1883 and 1887 were rooted out by a storm in 2019!
20. Palais des Fêtes (Festival Palace):
This music venue in the Neustadt district of Strasbourg is a historical monument since 2007. The palace was built between 1901 and 1903 during which Strasbourg was a German city and was one of the first buildings in the city to use reinforced concrete. The palace was originally built as the Sängerhaus (singer’s house).
The Art Nouveau style was adopted for the building of the palace except that the auditorium was decorated in Neo-Baroque style. The palace included a restaurant big enough to host 300 people. A new story was added in 1904 including a rehearsal room.
Plans to expand the building by adding a new wing at the rear were carried out after Strasbourg became a French city again. In 1921 works were finally finished. The inner decoration of the main auditorium was completely modified in 1933. Even though Strasbourg was bombed several times during the Second World War, the palace was not hit.
Since the Orchestre philharmonique moved out of the palace in 1975, it was home to La Philharmonie which is a medium-sized professional orchestra that performs three times a year. The palace now is a venue for concerts, jazz concerts, rock, gospel and other non-classical music genres.
The Marseillaise wing in the palace is home to the municipal ballet school and the Sängerhaus wing holds regular conventions such as the Anime convention “Japan Addict”. The palace has been undergoing restorations since 2011 and was scheduled to reopen in January 2020 except that the reopening was delayed till the end of that year.
- Villa Schutzenberger (Hôtel Schutzenberger):
The current seat of the seat of the European Audiovisual Observatory since 1992 was originally built for the owner of the Schutzenberger brewery. Construction works began in 1897 and finished in 1900. The villa is one of the most prominent examples of Art Nouveau architecture in Strasbourg.
The villa was sold to the municipality and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe had rented the entire building in 1989. The villa is open to visitors on special days such as European Heritage Days.
- Hôtel Brion (Villa Brion):
This small example of Art Nouveau in the Neustadt district of the city of Strasbourg has been a historical monument since 1975. It was built by Auguste Brion in 1904 for himself, he used timber framing and walls of reinforced concrete while their surfaces were covered in stonemasonry. Between 1926 and 1972, the building was used as an actual hotel; called Hôtel Marguerite but it’s been in private hands since 1980.
- Observatory of Strasbourg:
After the University of Strasbourg was reestablished in 1872, construction on the observatory began in 1875. The observatory’s official inauguration was in 1881. Scientific research before the First World War was minor as the observatory lacked enough staff to operate the machines.
The main observations were of comets and variable stars, binary stars and photometry of nebula. The observatory is currently home to the Strasbourg Astronomical Data Center, established in 1972, it collects and distributes astronomical information.
The city of Strasbourg is rich in museums of all backgrounds such as fine arts museums and university museums. The museums showcase an array of works, such as Old master paintings, decorative arts, prints and drawings and artefacts from Ancient Egypt.
- Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg (Museum of Fine Arts of Strasbourg):
The museum is housed on the first and second floors of the Palais Rohan since 1898, it is home to the old masters paintings collection of the city of Strasbourg. The museum mainly displays works by non-Upper Rhenish artists from between the 14th century and 1871 and by Upper-Rhenish artists between 1681 and 1871. The museum originally held 1,934 works since 2015 but that collection was enriched even more with donations in 2019.
- Musée de l’Œuvre Notre-Dame (Museum of the Oeuvre Notre-Dame):
The first document mentioning the museum dates back to 1281. The Museum is the city of Strasbourg’s home for Upper-Rhenish fine arts and decorative arts dating from the early Middle Ages to 1681. The Museum is most famous for holding a collection of original sculptures, glass windows, architectural fragments and plans of the Strasbourg Cathedral.
- Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain de Strasbourg (Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Arts – MAMCS):
The museum was founded in 1973 and reopened in its own building in 1998. The museum houses collections of paintings, sculptures, graphic arts, multimedia and design starting from 1870 until today. Its collection reached the whopping number of 18,000 works.
The museum organizes annual exhibitions of certain artists or a particular genre of art. The museums houses the Art Library of the Municipal Museums, the Art Book Shop of the Municipal Museums and a multipurpose auditorium for conferences, films and concerts along with a café on the terrace.
- Musée des Arts décoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts):
Located on the ground floor of the Palais Rohan, it is made of two halves. One half comprises of the beautiful chambers in late baroque, Rococo and Empire styles. The other half is a magnificent display of the art of Alsatian porcelain, gold and silversmith masters between 1681 and 1870.
After the bombing of the Palais Rohan during the Second World War, the chambers were restored bit by bit over time up until the 1990s and the interior furnishings were built as well. The museum also displays elements of the first astronomical clock of Strasbourg Cathedral. It is said that the clock is the world’s oldest automation.
5. Cabinet des estampes et des dessins (Print Room):
The museum is dedicated to the collection of prints and drawings, woodcuts and lithographs of a period of five centuries from the 14th to the 19th century. In 2015, the entire museum collection was estimated an epic 200,291 pieces and was even enriched by donations in 2019.
- Musée Tomi Ungerer/Centre international de l’illustration (Tomi Ungerer Museum):
This museum is dedicated to the different works of Tomi Ungerer was opened in November 2007. It displays 11,000 graphic works of art by Ungerer and some of his most famous colleagues such as Ronald Searle. The museum is spread over three floors in one half of the former Villa Greiner. In 2015, the number of pieces showcased in the museum were estimated at 24,170.
- Musée zoologique de la ville de Strasbourg (Zoological Museum of the City of Strasbourg):
The construction of this natural history museum started in 1890 until 1893 to accommodate the large natural history collection bought by the city from Johann Hermann. The museum has collections of birds, marine mammals, invertebrates and insects. Currently the museum has been closed for renovation and expansion works since 2019.
- Gypsothèque de Strasbourg:
This museum is located in the basement of the Palais Universitaire of Strasbourg. The museums houses a classical cast collection and it is the second largest cast collection in the whole of France and the largest university cast collection in France.
Even though plans were made to move the casts from the basement into their own separate building, they’ve stayed there since the outbreak of the Second World War and have stayed there since.
- The Musée de Sismologie et Magnétisme terrestre (The Museum of Seismology and Terrestrial Magnetism):
The museum is located within the historic campus opposite the botanical garden of the University of Strasbourg. It operates under the guidance of the School and Observatory of Earth Scienes. The observatory recorded its first earthquake in 1892, it took place in Asia.
The museum was created in 1992 to celebrate a 100 years of earthquake recordings in Strasbourg. The museum exhibits old measuring instruments in Seismology and recordings of the Earth’s magnetic field as well as their evolution over the years. The museum opens on Wednesdays and Saturdays and by reservation for groups.
- Musée de minéralogie (Museum of Mineralogy):
The museum displays historical collections of minerals and is operated under the supervision of the University of Strasbourg. It is home to more than 30,000 samples of minerals, gems and stones from France, Germany and the former Soviet Union, Russia, Romania and The USA are also on display.
One of the most astonishing piece is a cast of the largest single piece of gold ever found; a 68 Kilograms piece of gold found in Australia. The museum is located in the Paleontology and Mineralogy faculty building of the University of Strasbourg.
- The Musée d’Égyptologie (Museum of Egyptology):
The Egyptian collection at this museum consists of various archeological items that were brought from both Egypt and Sudan. A total of 6,500 items such as statues, sarcophagi, vases and amulets. There are casts, stampings and more than 5,000 old photographs on glass plates.
- Crypte aux étoiles (Stars Crypt):
Located in the basement of the historical building of the Observatory of Strasbourg, it showcases a wide collection of ancient astronomical observation and measuring devices such as telescopes, clocks and theodolites.
- Musée archéologique (Archeological Museum):
The largest of the Alsacian museums in the city, it is located in the basement of the Palais Rohan. The museum showcases large numbers of regional archeological findings from Prehistory to the Merovingian dynasty.
The Society for the Conservation of the Historical Monuments of Alsace was established in 1855 expanded and publicly displayed the archeological collections donated by historian Johann Daniel Schöpflin to the city of Strasbourg.
However, a large number of the collections were destroyed in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War. When reconstruction works of the city were underway, the Archeological Museum moved into its current premises now.
The museum was completely renovated between 1988 and 1992. Due to the ongoing excavation works made in and around Strasbourg, the museum’s collections continue to grow until this day. The museum presents an overview of the human habitat in the region beginning with the earliest traces of Human dwelling and settling.
- Musée alsacien (Alsatian Museum):
Opened in 1907 and bought by the city of Strasbourg in 1917, it is dedicated to the different aspects of the daily life (mostly rural) in pre-industrial and early industrial Alsace. The museum contains over 5,000 exhibits and is known for aiding in the reconstruction of the interiors of several traditional houses. A wide collection illustrating the daily life of Alsatian Jews. The museum is located in several Renaissance timber framed houses on the banks of the Ill River.
- Le Vaisseau (The Vessel/Ship):
It is an interactive science center that opened its gates in 2005. Designed for children and teenagers aged 3 to 15, its main aim is to introduce young people to science and technology. The Vessel’s motto is “Science while having fun”.
Following a science exhibition in 1998, the General Council of the Bas-Rhin picked up an interest among young people towards science and the idea of an interactive science center was later proposed.
The first stone of construction was put in 2003 and children of the Wangenbourg summer camp picked the name Le Vaisseau. Renovation works begun in 2014 in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the center.
-There are six main scientific themes presented by The Vessel:
- Being Human: Through two main elements; a path in the dark and an obstacle course, the children learn about the human body and raises their awareness to disabilities.
- The Animals: A space that focuses on learning about animals.
- I Build: Equipped with a building site suitable for children from age 3, this space is designed in a way to help children familiarize themselves with the world of building and construction and discover the processes of design and fabrication using different techniques.
- Water: This exhibition is dedicated to studying the physical properties of water, its importance and the techniques developed to master it.
- Log’hic: Mathematical concepts are presented in this section in the form of riddles, puzzles and brain-teasers.
- The Garden: Relaxation spaces, various elements to observe nature, an educational beehive and insect hotel are spread across 5,000 square meters.
From August to September every year, the center holds an exhibition for different themes each year. Of the previous themes were visual disabilities, the wind, mathematics, botany and the human body.
16. Musée historique de la ville de Strasbourg (Historical Museum of the City of Strasbourg):
It is located in the Renaissance building of the former slaughterhouse (Grande boucherie) and is dedicated to the tumultuous history of the city from the early Middle Ages until the contemporary period.
17. Musée vodou (Voodoo Museum):
The museum who showcases one of the most important collections of private Voodoo art in France was established in 2014. The museum takes residence at the old water castle of Strasbourg which was built in 1878 and a historic monument since 1984.
Dubbed the “Biggest collection of African Voodoo art pieces in the world”, the collection in the museum comprises of 1060 pieces of which 220 pieces are on display at the permanent exhibition under the name “Voodoo as an art to see differently”. The pieces of the collection originate from Togo, Benin, Ghana and Nigeria.
The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday, from 2 pm to 6 pm. A group of minimum 8 people can make a reservation for a visit outside the set hours. Young people are also welcome to discover the mysteries surrounding voodoo culture.
- Musée du barreau de Strasbourg (Strasbourg Bar Museum):
Created in 1823, this museum traces the work and history of the city’s lawyers. The museum contains manuscripts, documents, engravings and rare objects to help you learn more about his profession. Guided tours can be booked from the museum and it is distinguishable by the quality of given explanations.
- Musée Les Secrets du Chocolat (Museum of the Secrets of Chocolate):
Located in the suburban area of Geispolsheim, it’s about 10 minutes from downtown Strasbourg. Various areas of the museum explore different themes, a demonstration workshop, a conference room where seminars can be held and a restaurant.
The history of the use of cocoa beans, starting from the Aztecs, is illustrated using exhibits and multimedia. You will learn about the process of making chocolate in this delicious museum and there’s even a discovery workshop where children aged 5 to 12 can learn about the process.
The museum is accessed through a small courtyard with storefronts that copy the style of Paris in the day of the Marquise de Sévigné, whom you learn about during your tour at the museum and how she was connected with the Marquise de Sévigné brand of chocolate.
- Fort Frère (Strong Brother):
Originally called the Fort Großherzog von Baden, the fort is part of the fortified belt of Strasbourg, in Oberhausbergen in Alsace to be exact. The fort is part of a group of 14 fortifications built around the city.
The fort served several purposes since its construction. From a place of defense during the First World War, then as a prison camp. French troops took back the fort from their German counterpart after a grueling fight on 23rd of November 1944.
Currently, the fort is property of the French Army which entrusted it to the fortifications section of the Sports and Artistic Club of the Strasbourg Garrison. The fort has been open to guided tours since 2002.
21. Fort Rapp (Once known as Fort Moltke):
Located in in Reichstett, which is a village 10 minutes away from Strasbourg. This fort is also part of the fortification belt built around the city of Strasbourg after its fall in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War.
The fort was built between 1872 and 1874, when the city was returned to France, the fort was renamed to Fort Rapp. As of fall 2008, 50% of the fort was available for tourist visits. It is open for tourists on weekends from mid-April to late September, with a guide present at the site.
- MM Park France (Military Park France):
Opened in 2017, this museum located in La Wantzenau, Strasbourg is dedicated to the history and legacy of the Second World War. The museum mainly includes the collections of two people, the founder; Eric Kauffmann and the Sussex 1944 collection by Dominique Soulier.
Kauffmann spent more than 20 years comprising his collections and had the opportunity to showcase it after buying the museum. The museum is the largest one in Europe dedicated to the Second World War.
The museum consists of two floors. On the ground floor there are two large exhibition halls, mainly vehicles, the leisure park and a restaurant. On the first floor there are weapons, uniforms and the room housing the 1944 collection.
A presentation on deportation is played at the museum. The rooms are also available for rent to hold events, seminars or meetings. There are several attractions you can make use of in the leisure park but are not included in the ticket price of the museum.
These being a flight simulator where you get to learn how to navigate while sitting in the cockpit of a WWII fighter, the D-Day course which is a treetop adventure course and zip line. Finally a shooting range where you can shoot the air rifle. There’s also a cinema projecting small films revolving around the war.
Internationally Renowned Music and Drama Institutions in Strasbourg
Apart from housing several European political Institutions, Strasbourg is also home to many international music and drama institutions.
- Opéra national du Rhin (National Rhine Opera):
This opera company includes the Opera in Strasbourg and the one in Mulhouse, where “Ballet de l’Opéra national du Rhin” is based and the one in Colmar as well with its training center for young singers known as Opera Studio. The Opera du Rhin was give the status of “national opera” in 1997 as an indication to its importance.
- Orchestre philharmonique de Strasbourg (Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra):
The orchestra was founded 1855, it is one of two permanent orchestras of the Opéra national du Rhin. The orchestra’s venue since 1975 has been the Palais de la musique et des congrès ‘Pierre Pflimlin’. Since its foundation, the orchestra had German and French identities until the city eventually returned to the sovereignty of France giving the orchestra its French identity back.
3. Théâtre national de Strasbourg (National Theater of Strasbourg):
This palace is located on Strasbourg’s Place de la République and it’s now occupied by a theater company of the same name; The National Theater of Strasbourg. The theater was built between 1888 and 1889 in a neo-Renaissance style and was originally built to hold the legislative assembly of the regional parliament of Alsace-Lorraine after the region had come under German control.
In 1944, during the Second World War, the east wing of the building that housed the chamber of the Assembly was destroyed due to bombing. After its reconstruction between 1950 and 1957, the east wing was rebuilt to house a theater auditorium instead.
In 1922, the Conservatory of Strasbourg was moved into the upper part of the building, a couple of teaching rooms and a concert hall was subsequently built. However, in 1995, the building was deemed unsuitable for the continuation of teaching music and the conservatory was moved out and the concert hall remains unused since then.
In 2016, the monumental pipe organ was removed from the building, restored and moved to Saint Stephan’s Church where it began a new life as a church organ instead of a concert organ. The National Theater of Strasbourg was declared a historical monument in 1995 along with its neighboring buildings in the Place de la République.
- Conservatoire de Strasbourg (Strasbourg Conservatory):
This prestigious music school was established in 1839 using donated funds by Strasbourg’s art patron Louis Apffel and the first class of the conservatory was held on January 3rd 1855. The conservatory resulted in the establishment of a symphonic orchestra that was the second in France after the one in Paris.
The conservatory moved into the building of the National Theater of Strasbourg in 1922 and moved out in 1995. The conservatory moved into two temporary buildings until a custom building was set up for it in the new Rivétoile development, the Cité de la Musique et de la danse which was inaugurated in 2006.
5. Laiterie (The Dairy):
As the name suggests, this used to be a dairy factory. It was built on the outskirts of Neustadt, the dairy factory where milk was pasteurized. Over time the work was moved to another closer facilities inside the area and the buildings were abandoned apart from some artists who set their workshops in the empty places.
This performance hall and cultural site was inaugurated in 1994, and has had the best of national and international performers give their shows within its walls. All genres of music were played inside, metal, rap, jazz, French songs, electro you name it.
Each year the managing company, Artefact PRL, organizes from 150 to 200 events bringing together from 70,000 to 100,000 spectators with more than 450, sometimes 650 artists or performance groups.
La Laiterie remains faithful to its message which is to receive both renowned and starting performers and artists from France and all over the world. It keeps its promise to give a chance to specialized artists and those still trying to find their ground. Artefact organizes two large-scale festivals. The first is Festival des Artefacts and the second is the Electronic Nights of the Ososphere.
The Dairy comprises of several buildings and cultural structures:
- The current music room: Divided into two rooms. The big room can fit 900 people and the Club which fits 300 people.
- Hall des Chars: In this hall, about 50 artists and emerging companies are brought together through the managing association; La Friche Laiterie.
- The CAJ Molodoï: Managed by the Molodoï association in support of the principle of self-management.
- The administrative headquarters of Taps; Théâtre Actuel et Public.
- The theater at the Taps-Laiterie.
- The Theater Factory: This building brings together the offices of theater companies, several festivals and many rehearsal rooms for theater and dance. All made available by the Culture Department of the city of Strasbourg.
- The Cité des Arts: A student housing building built during the Dairy’s rehabilitation.
- The bar “La Laiterie”: Currently closed.
- The building that once housed the former offices of the European Center for Young Creation and is currently empty.
- Au Zénith (The Zénith Strasbourg Europe):
The greatest Zenith in France in terms of capacity, this performance hall in Eckbolsheim can accommodate over 12,000 spectators. Construction works began in January 2006 and finished in December 2007 and the opening was in January 2008.
The building is made with only steel and concrete favoring durable and easily recyclable materials. From the outside the building is covered in orange canvas. This self-cleaning textile captures the light of day and sends it back at night to the greater Strasbourg area.
The light reflected by the canvas is the most mesmerizing scene. It is also used as a screen to display the festivities taking place inside.
Parks and Libraries in Strasbourg
It’s true, Strasbourg offers you prominent monuments, museums and cultural landmarks. But that’s not all this city offers you. Parks and libraries are also infused into the city’s plan for you. Let’s discover the parks and libraries in Strasbourg.
- Parc de l’Orangerie (Orangerie Park):
This park located on the opposite side of the Palais de l”Europe is said to originally been started in 1801. During the French Revolution, the city of Strasbourg inherited a 140 orange trees and had the current Joséphine pavilion to shelter them.
During the German period, the park was enlarged by adding the artificial lake and waterfall and the l’Orangerie was expanded as well. The Joséphine pavilion was destroyed in a fire and was rebuilt identically in 1968. The fountain of the Arbor was damaged following the fall of a tree and was reconstructed in 2012.
Nowadays, only three orange trees remain and are kept safe in a greenhouse of the park and is accessible to the public on certain days.
When you visit The Orangerie you can take a stroll to take a breath and enjoy the fountains sprinkled around or enjoy one of the many services available. There’s a zoo, a mini-farm, a stork reintroduction center, a bowling alley, a children’s car circuit and there are several games and sports grounds. You can even rent a boat to navigate through the lake.
Most importantly, there are ice cream vendors in different spots in the park where you can enjoy this delicious treat. The park and the Joséphine pavilion are both labeled as historical monuments. The park has also obtained the “EcoJardin” label.
- Parc de la Citadelle (Citadel Park):
Built in 1964, this park is located on the site of the old citadel in the Esplanade district. The district is built on the entire site of the old citadel. In 2009 and 2010, the park music and cultural festival Interference which was in early September. The park also contains an aquatic playground, sports’ field and the Oasis.
- Parc de Pourtalès (Pourtalès Park):
This public park in the north-eastern district of Robertsau is one of the largest parks in the city of Strasbourg. In the premises of the park there’s the Pourtalès Castle. Beside the castle, the park includes a garden bridge, a house, a farm, a garden fence, a greenhouse, a concierge, a dovecote, a driveway, a gate, a walkway, a fountain and two old ponds.
Not much remains of the original decoration of the park except for two withered statues; of Apollo and Flora. The removal of the canals in 1964 caused the ponds to dry up and the park was invaded by nature. Now, the park has a wild side and a natural side.
As a part of a project designed by the European Center for Contemporary Artistic Actions, an interesting collection of sculptures have been installed at different points in the park. For example, in 1988, Ernest Pignon-Ernest mixed humans and plants with Les Arbrorigènes which are characters covered with microalgae camouflaged in trees.
4. Jardin Botanique de l’Université de Strasbourg (Botanic Garden of the University of Strasbourg):
Established in 1619 for the city’s Académie (which became the university in 1621) makes it the second oldest botanical garden in France. It was created on the cemetery grounds of the convent Saint-Nicolas-aux-Ondes. The first published inventory of the garden in 1670 listed about 1,600 species.
Now, the garden contains about 15,000 specimens representing more than 6,000 species of plants. The garden consists of 9 plots surrounding the institute of botany: an arboretum, tropical greenhouse, cold greenhouse, the Bary Greenhouse, a greenhouse of grasses, a pond, the systematic garden, ecological plantings and useful plants.
- Parc des Contades (Contades Park):
Created in 1764, this public park in the city of Strasbourg has been through many stages of construction, destruction and renovation. The last modification works of the park date back to 1954 when the Great Synagogue was built. The park is perfect for strolls, has children’s play areas, sports fields, pétanque and ping-pong tables.
- Jardin des deux Rives (The Garden of Two Shores):
This is a cross-border public park that connects the city of Strasbourg in France and the city of Kehl in Germany. It’s located on either side of the river Rhine with a footbridge connecting the two sides. Originally, there were two parks on either side of the Rhine and the idea of a cross-border park was born in 1995 with the main goal of promoting harmonization.
Work on both sides began in 2002 with landscape designer Rüdiger Brosk from Germany and architect Marc Mimram from France working on both sides to finish the project in time. The inauguration took place in April 2004. Since 2005 , the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra has organized a large outdoor concert in the park every summer: the Deux Rives Symphony.
- Parc du Heyritz (Heyritz Park):
This public park is located near the civil hospital and the Place de l’Étoile. In 2010, the city of Strasbourg decided to turn the old wild green spaces around the hospital into a park and the park was inaugurated in 2014. The park has a water mirror fountain, a playground and an apparatus area.
8. Bibliothèque nationale de France (The National and University Library):
The present day library building was opened in 1895, after the destruction of the municipal library and the city’s archives during the Siege of Strasbourg. The German Empire founded this library in June 1872 and the library’s collection grew speedily due to donations from all over Europe and the United States.
After the return of the city to French authority, debate arose as to whether to keep the library or renovate it. Eventually, the government decided to keep the library. The library now holds about 3 million volumes which is the second largest collection in France.
- André-Malraux Media Library:
This public community library is the largest public library in eastern France. The library is located at a former port building and the library was inaugurated in 2008. The media library occupies six floors of which five are open to the public.
Festivals and Events in Strasbourg
The city of Strasbourg hosts multiple festivals and events around the year. Some of these take place at the Strasbourg city of Music and Dance.
- Festival Musica (September – October):
This celebration of contemporary classical music is the most famous festival in Strasbourg. This festival is a testament to the city’s long and rich musical history, all genres of music are played to entertain the visitors.
From orchestral pieces, jazz, rock and multimedia creations. The festival is based on two principles, Creation and Freedom. Both artists and the public are free to experiment with different styles of music and question their understanding of music. The festival is held annually since 1983.
- Carnaval de Strasbourg (March):
Make-up, costumes and music are the three pillars of any carnival and this one is no different. The procession through the streets of the city is surrounded by thousands of entertainers.
This carnival is very important in this part of the country as it marks the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring. Celebrators continue their celebrations in clubs after the parade is over. Participation in the carnival is free.
- Nuit des Musees (May):
The Museum Night is a nationwide initiative that encourages the city’s museums and university museums to open their doors to the public free of charge. It has been well received in the city of Strasbourg.
Special activities such as public readings, workshops and talks add more life to the convention’s program. Music and light shows accompany this event in many of Strasbourg’s beautiful buildings.
- Bastille Day (June 14th):
This national day commemorates the fall of the Bastille and the beginning of the French Revolution. The event is celebrated by an amazing firework show.
- Le Vaisseau Science Exhibition (August – September):
Held every year, the exhibition of Le Vaisseau is dedicated to re-introducing science to young people. Subjects such as visual disabilities, botany and the human body were among the themes once discussed in the exhibition.
- European Fantastic Film Festival (September):
This film festival takes place every year since 2008. It focuses on fantasy, science fiction and horror films and attracts visitors from all over the world. Since 2009, the festival starts its events with the Great Strasbourg Zombie Walk leading to the festival being the largest one in Europe.
- Jazz d’Or (November):
This celebration of the best European, especially France’s, jazz players – with important links to Germany. The festival holds around 30 concerts in 10 different locations around the city with different nationalities; French, German and American with various jazz styles.
- Christkindelsmärik or Christmas Market (November – December):
Held since 1570, this Christmas market is one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe. Vendors in the city prepare for this market months in advance. The little chalets huts in the Place Broglie, Place de la Cathedrale and other streets are illuminated and lined with vendors. Goods in this famous market vary from snacks to a huge array of gifts many of which are locally produced.
With over 300 stalls, this market attracts more than a million and a half visitor every year. You will find the stalls all around the city so you can enjoy sightseeing and stocking on your favorite shopping items during your time in Strasbourg.
You can’t be in the multi-culture city without giving its signature dishes a try.
Known as tarte flambée in French, this pizza looking dish will accommodate your preferences whether meaty or vegan. It’s made by rolling a very thin dough into a circle or rectangle, covering it with crème fraiche, onions and lardons if you’re not a vegetarian and then cooked into a wood-fired oven. You can also find it with extra additions like mushrooms or cheese, especially the local Munster cheese.
Consisting of dense pasta, almost similar to gnocchi, this dish might not be exclusive to Strasbourg but you will find it with the city’s touch on it. Munster cheese, ham, lardons and other garnishes are available for you to choose from.
The best way to start your day is by eating a traditional kougelhopf. It’s similar in taste and texture to French brioche but with the addition of dried fruits and almonds. The unique shape of the kougelhopf is given to it by baking it in a special round pan similar to that of making cupcakes.
You can easily spot it in the windows of local bakeries and if you’d like to eat it like the locals, it’s best with a strong espresso. However, it tastes just as good with tea or a cup of hot chocolate.
4. Choucroute garnie:
This dish is the most filling among Strasbourg dishes, which are equally delicious. It’s made from fermented cabbage cooked with Riesling and infused with flavors such as garlic and juniper berries. The dish is served with local sausages (Strasbourg sausage and Morteau are popular choices) and some potatoes if you’d like.
- Pain d’épices:
Although pain d’épices is mostly tied to the Christmas season, you can eat it at any time of the year in Strasbourg. Similar to a gingerbread cake, it’s made with honey, a mix of spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cloves and anise.
This combination of spices radiates warmth especially during the freezing Alsace winters. A thick slice of pain d’épices is the perfect component of a goûter; the French tradition of enjoying a sweet treat with a hot drink in the afternoon.
The aroma of these pain d’épices will engulf you in the warmest of sensations, promising you that the longer you stay in Strasbourg, the more you’ll enjoy your time.