From the moment you step into Strasbourg, you’ll feel it. A pleasant, welcoming vibe that’s a lot more than the friendliness of locals, the ease of getting around, or the odd familiarity of the storybook houses. Even on your first hour in the city, you’ll feel a sense of belonging – that you’re not a tourist to be scrutinized or a stranger to be wary of. In a city that’s a mix of a lot of things, it’s just natural to fit in.
Strasbourg is known for many things – as the capital of the historic wine-growing region, Alsace; as the seat of the European Parliament; as the setting of one of the world’s biggest and oldest Christmas markets; and as a border city that derives from both French and German cultures – an intoxicating mix of countryside hospitality and multicultural charm.
Whether you’re here for the wine, the history and culture, or just to relax for a little holiday, there’s a lot to love in Strasbourg.
Best things to do in Strasbourg – overview
- Tourist map of Strasbourg
- What to see and do in Strasbourg
- Where to eat and drink
- Day trips in and around Strasbourg
- Trip planning guide – getting there and around, where to stay
- Beyond Strasbourg – exploring the Alsace region
- Download the PDF version
Most of Strasbourg’s best sights are concentrated in the Grand Ile (or Grand Island), the city’s historic city center. Other interesting sights like the European Quarter and the Jardin des Deux Rives are just one bus ride away.
Use this Google map to help you get around Strasbourg.
Day 1 – Exploring Strasbourg’s historic center
The Grand Ile (or Grand Island) is Strasbourg’s historic city center. It was classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988, the first time a designation was given to an entire city center.
The buildings in the historic center show a mix of French and German influences, with designs dating from the medieval ages and throughout European history. A day of walking around the Grand Ile is the best overview of Strasbourg’s evolution through the ages.
This walking itinerary is only 3 KM long and covers the essential sights in Strasbourg’s historic center. Depending on how much you want to linger in certain areas, you can do this in half a day or stretch it out to two days.
Start at Gare Centrale
Gare Centrale (or Gare de Strasbourg) is the city’s main railway station. If you’re coming from outside Strasbourg or its outskirts, most public transportation converges here. You’ll also find plenty of parking spaces around the area. More importantly, you’ll love to see the station’s gorgeous façade.
From the Gare Centrale, walk southeast to the beautiful western district of Petite France.
Get great views at the Barrage Vauban
On the way to the heart of Petite France, you’ll come across the Barrage Vauban, a bridge built in the 17th century that also acted as a weir (a barrier that alters the water flow), and a form of defense. This defensive measure was actually used in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian war – the river Ill’s water level was raised and completely flooded the northern part, making it impassable to the enemies.
In more peaceful times (like now), it serves as a viewing deck where you can see how the channels converge.
Walk around Petite France
Continue walking around the Petite France. You’ll see remnants of the historic quarter’s past, when it served as home to the city’s tanners, millers, and fishermen.
Cross the Ponts Couverts, admire the half-timbered houses and buildings, and snap your pictures along the flower-decked bridges.
Not to ruin the romantic mood, though, but here’s a fun little fact about the name “Petite France.” It was called such because in the 16th century, the district housed a hospital where people suffering syphilis – then called Franzosenkrankheit or “French disease” by the Germans, as they believed French troops were the ones responsible for spreading it – were treated. Thus, the name stuck.
If you’re up for some brunch, check out the La Corde a Linge, a café and restaurant by the canal serving great Alsatian and French dishes, with a fine selection of wines. We especially loved the beef tartare and the spätzle.
Continue your walk to the Krutenau district
Once you’ve had your fill of Petite France, continue your walk eastward to the Krutenau district.
You’ll pass by the Musée alsacien, a museum depicting daily rural life in Alsace in the 18th and 19th centuries; the Palais Rohan, a masterpiece of French Baroque architecture and home to the museums of decorative art, archaeology, and fine arts; and amazing viewpoints along the quay.
Learn more about Alsace in these museums, or continue your walk to Strasbourg’s architectural gem: the Cathedral.
Visit the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg is considered to be one of the finest examples of late Gothic architecture.
Built from 1015 to 1439, it was the world’s tallest building from 1647 to 1874 (for 227 years!) and presently the sixth tallest church in the world and the highest existing structure built entirely in the Middle Ages. But enough of the numbers – the moment you see this massive structure, you’ll be in awe.
Fun fact: sandstone from the Vosges mountains gives the cathedral its pink hue.
Take some time to admire the cathedral’s façade and interiors, then escape the crowds and head over to Place Kléber.
Unwind at Place Kleber
Place Kleber is the largest square in Strasbourg’s city center. This is also the city’s commercial area where you’ll find plenty of shopping options
For non-shoppers, this is a great place to take in more of the city’s vibe. If you’re visiting in December, make sure to hop over to the Christmas market.
End the day with good food and wine
Now it’s time to eat! As a wine region with both French and German influences, Alsace has a unique gastronomy that’s not to miss. Here’s what to eat and where.
Day 2 – Visit the city’s green spaces
On your second day, explore the city’s green spaces. Strasbourg has a great network of cycling paths and you can easily rent a bike for a few hours up to a few days.
This itinerary goes to two beautiful parks in Strasbourg – Jardin des Deux Rives and Parc l’Orangerie. From the Gare Central and back, this route is 16 kilometers. If you prefer to go by public transportation, though, you can take Bus #2 to go to the bus stop Jardin des Deux Rives and the bus stop Tauler, to get to the Parc de l’Orangerie.
Jardin des Deux Rives
Jardin des Deux Rives (or the Two Shores Garden) is located on both banks of the Rhine – in France and in Germany – linked by a beautiful footbridge. This is the concrete expression of Strasbourg’s “internationalism,” a symbol of French-German friendship, and for travelers, a thrill to visit for its cross-border appeal.
From here, you can explore the German town of Kehl, or make your way back to Strasbourg’s city center. Make sure to stop by the next green space on our itinerary on your way back.
Parc de l’Orangerie
The Parc de l’Orangerie is located in the quiet European quarter of Strasbourg. It also houses a zoo, a small farm, and a bowling alley. But best of all, it’s the ideal place to just relax on a bright afternoon.
Alsace’s friendliness permeates all the way into its regional cuisine. If you’re not one for haute cuisine, you’ll be happy to discover that Alsatian gastronomy is genial and generous – think taverns lively with the sound of conversation and cutlery, and large plates and bowls filled with scrumptious fare that’s somewhere between hearty bar food and stylish comfort food.
When in Alsace, you have to try choucroute – the regional version of the German sauerkraut, which is fermented cabbage usually served with chicken, pork, or sausage. You can have this along with many other traditional Alsatian dishes at Maison des Tanneurs, a picture-perfect restaurant in Petite France.
If you’ve worked up a huge appetite and need some carbs, hop over to La Corde a Linge, also in Petite France, and have a huge plate of their spätzle – soft egg noodles that come with a variety of sauces. You may want to try spätzle with munster cheese, a soft cheese that’s made from milk from the Vosges, and an Alsatian specialty.
If you’re more of a pizza and beer kind of person, head to the Academie De La Biere, where you can fill up on beer and tarte flambee (also called flammekueche). They have locations in Petite France and near the Cathedral.
Strasbourg is definitely an exciting city – one in which you can spend days exploring. But don’t forget to venture outside the city! Just outside the city lies one of France’s most gorgeous wine regions. And even if you’re not particularly fond or interested in wine, you can’t say no to the many lovely towns you can visit on a day trip or two. Here’s how to visit the gems of Alsace.
Alsace road trip itinerary – The best way to explore Alsace is by going on a road trip. In this post, I share my Alsace road trip itinerary along with practical tips about renting a car and driving in France.
If you’d rather not drive, though, here are some day tours you can join. They all begin from Strasbourg and come with exciting itineraries and expert guides.
Pearls of Alsace – This day tour from Strasbourg is perfect for you if you love charming and historic towns. You’ll get to tour Colmar, Eguisheim, and Riquewihr, which are all picturesque towns known for their wine and scenic sights.
Grand Crus Wines Private Tour – If you want a more wine-centric tour, join this one instead. Follow the historic Alsace wine trail and sample the best Rieslings, Muscats, and Gewurtztraminers of the region. The best part? You won’t need a designated driver for this wine tour. They’ll pick you up and drop you off at your hotel so all you really need to do is show up and enjoy!
Alsace Christmas Markets – Visiting during the Christmas season? Strasbourg has one of the oldest and grandest Christmas markets in Europe and the smaller towns around the region have followed suit with their own holiday merriment and traditions. Take part as Alsatians celebrate the season in this festive tour.
Tell us: What are you most excited about your holiday in Alsace?
Flying: Strasbourg has its own international airport in Entzheim, just 16 KM from the Strasbourg city center – check for flights to Strasbourg here. From the airport, you can ride a shuttle train into the city. Other nearby international airports are in Stuttgart and Paris.
Renting a car: If you’re continuing your holiday into the Alsatian countryside, it’s best to get a rental car once you’re about to leave Strasbourg. Reserve your car in advance and pick it up either at the Strasbourg airport or near Gare Centrale.
We got ours from Avis via the RentalCars booking website. Their pick-up office is near the Gare Centrale – once you exit the station, turn right and walk all the way to the end of the station. The Avis office, along with Sixt and Budget, are across the flags, beside Burger King.
I highly recommend getting your car only when leaving Strasbourg or if you plan to go on day trips outside the city. Compared to driving in the Alsatian countryside, driving within the city can be a pain. There’s occasional heavy traffic and parking is quite difficult to find within the center. If you must drive, though, ask if your hotel can reserve a parking slot for you. Otherwise, you can park at the street parking slots for free from 7 PM to 9 AM the next day.
By trams and buses: Strasbourg has a great network of trams and buses. There are many kinds of tickets you can choose from – find more information here. You can get your tickets from a vending machine at major tram and bus stops (like the Gare Centrale and the Etoile Bourse, if you’re arriving by bus), or onboard from the driver (slightly more expensive).
If you need to ride the tram or bus just once for the day, get the ALLER SIMPLE ticket (EUR 1.70 from the vending machine). If you want to go around the city in trams and buses for the day, you can get the 24H ticket (EUR 4.30) or if there’s 2-3 of you, the 24H TRIO (EUR 6.80) is a great deal. Validate your tickets before getting onboard trams, and validate them when getting on buses (beside the driver).
By bike: Another great way to see the city is on bike! Strasbourg has a great network of cycling paths and you can easily rent a bike.
Where to stay in Strasbourg
Strasbourg has no shortage of gorgeous hotels that will make your holiday all the more special. For a romantic or leisurely trip, stay at one of the gorgeous boutique hotels in Petite France – Hotel and Spa Le Bouclier d’Or and Cour du Corbeau are wonderful options.
If you want to have a more restful stay away from the tourist scene, stay in the European quarter, near the Parc de l’Orangerie. La Residence de l’Orangerie is a lovely guesthouse in a quiet area.
For a budget stay, check out City Residence Strasbourg – it’s a short walk from the city center and the best value accommodation in the city.
A road trip in the French wine region is one of the best ways to experience Alsace. See all the beautiful towns, natural landscapes, and hiking trails you can visit in this road trip guide.
Strasbourg is a great base for exploring the northern Grand Est region, but for the southern parts, stay in Colmar instead. Check out our recommendations for a great stay.
This timeless post puts into words what I cannot quite. Like I ventured in the beginning of this post, there something about Strasbourg (something that you’ll feel when you’re there), and Alan Riding eloquently discusses what that something is.
I focused on the historical sights within the city, but if you’d like a deeper understanding of Alsatian art, here are the places to visit.
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I hope this guide helps you plan your trip to Strasbourg! Don’t forget to download the handy PDF travel guide. Also, I’d be super grateful if you can share this with your friends or on social media so more people can find it.
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First published – October 14, 2017
Last updated – October 31, 2018 – updated and added travel-planning information