Straddling France and Germany well inland from the ocean, the Alsace is a picture-perfect region with its own individual character that is evident in the striking architecture, unique cuisine, and colloquial language spoken by the locals. A true blend of both countries, the Alsace offers tourists insights into both French and German culture in addition to its spectacular countryside.
The main city in this region is Strasbourg, an unbelievably beautiful place that seems to be straight out of a fairytale. Intersected by the Rhine river which runs from The Netherlands to Switzerland, Strasbourg has been an important settlement since the days of the height of the Roman Empire. Travellers can take a river cruise through Strasbourg for an enviable view of the city from the water. Expect to see striking medieval buildings perched along the edge of the river, juxtaposed by a backdrop of majestic modern monuments such as the European Parliament building.
Use this guide to explore the best of Strasbourg, a fascinating city that walks the line not only between France and Germany but also between the old world and the new.
The Cathedral of Notre Dame
Often confused with the cathedral of the same name in Paris, which was also built during the medieval period, the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Strasbourg is a masterpiece of Christian Gothic architecture that took over 400 years to complete between the 11th and 15th centuries. It’s 142m spire atop the bell tower seems almost weightless, while hundreds of sculptures adorn the exterior walls. Inside, see stained-glass windows that are centuries old, and climb to the top of the bell tower for incredible views across the city.
The ‘Petite France’ Quarter is unquestionably the most picturesque part of the city of Strasbourg. Once the home of the key working industries from fishermen to millers and tanners, this riverside community is now a well-preserved collection of half-timbered houses with stylised exteriors characterised by crisscrossed wood, tiny balconies adorned with fresh flowers, and paint in pastel hues. Recognised by UNESCO due to its historical significance, this area of Strasbourg will take your breath away and offers an alluring environment for photographs.
The German Imperial Quarter
Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Neustadt District (or German Imperial Quarter) gives you a taste of the other key country in Strasbourg’s contested history. In contrast to the simple charm of Little France, the city’s German Imperial Quarter has a stately elegance with wide avenues lined with trees and open squares showcasing grand buildings in eclectic contemporary styles such as Neo-Gothic and Neo-Renaissance. The Place de la République sits at the centre of the district, and here you can view the immense Rhine Palace, Strasbourg National Theatre, and Church of St. Paul which all date back to the 19th century.