What To Do in Strasbourg: a Local’s 15 Top Tips

what to do in Strasbourg
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Find out what to do in Strasbourg, France in 2021

We’re thrilled to welcome another guest post on Berlin & Around! This article on what to do in Strasbourg was submitted by Claire, an American blogger and the founder of The Millennial Abroad, where she writes about expat living and her adopted home.

Claire has lived in Strasbourg for two years. During the pandemic, she started an inspirational series of interviews called 52 Weeks of Fearless, where she shares the stories of other millennial women living abroad.

Let’s discover Strasbourg with her!

what to do in Strasbourg
In this article, guest blogger Claire tells us what to do in Strasbourg from a local’s perspective. (Photo by Claire.)

Discover 15 Strasbourg insider tips

Strasbourg is rarely the first city that comes to mind when people think about traveling to France. But it is definitely worth a visit! Indeed, Strasbourg is the capital of the Alsace region, where you’ll be able to experience a unique blend of French and German culture.

Strasbourg is a mid-size city that lies directly east of Paris. It takes just over two hours to get to from Gare de l’Est. Strasbourg is most known for Christmas markets, where tourists from all over the world come between the end of November and Christmas Eve to warm their hands on cups of vin chaud (hot wine) and sample an impressive array of comfort foods and festive sweets. 

what to do in Strasbourg
The famous Strasbourg Cathedral. (Photo by Claire).

Close on the heels of this notoriety are long-awaited springs and summers, when the city bursts into bloom after a long, cold, and rainy winter. That’s when the Batorama boats take to the canals, street artists sing and make music on Place Kléber, and a playful wind commonly referred to as “the Devil’s wind” chases laughing children around the base of the majestic, single-spired Cathedral. 

You’ll find insider tips as well as some often-cited activities on this list of what to do in Strasbourg, but I’ve tried to add a local twist to all of them based on my personal experience living in the city.

what to do in strasbourg
La Petite France. Photo by Stefan K on Unsplash.

What to do in Strasbourg: Sights and Strolls

Visit the Cathedral – but don’t let your awe keep you from noticing the details

No article on “what to do in Strasbourg” would be complete without mentioning the famous Cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic workmanship.

Crafted from sandstone brought in from the nearby Vosges Mountains, this now-Catholic church has changed religious hands many times. It’s also home to a massive astrological clock, housed inside the body of the church.

My favorite part about this iconic Alsatian landmark? Paying only 4 Euros to go up to the lookout platform and surveying Strasbourg from a bird’s-eye view. On the way down, I take care to notice all of the different statues carved into the side of the building.

what to do in strasbourg
Wondering what to do in Strasbourg at the Cathedral? Seek out unconventional panoramas from the view platform. (Photo by Claire.)

Stroll around Petite France and Ponts Couverts – and maybe escape the city for a riverside stroll

First off, make sure you wear practical shoes for this adventure so you’re properly equipped to navigate the cobblestones.

Starting from the city center, you’ll go through Petite France first. It’s hard to believe now, but this area used to be smelly and dirty and full of sick people (a hospital was the central feature). If you look closely, many of the buildings are literally sagging with the weight of this neighborhood’s centuries-old history.

The area is characterized by a housing style known as “half-timbered.” Many of the homes are painted a cheerful pastel color, but white with brown timber is a classic, too. Today, many of the buildings have been converted into hotels and restaurants.

Related: if you love half-timbered houses, make sure you also check out Bamberg, Germany!

what to do in strasbourg
What to do in Strasbourg: wander around Petite France, full of quintessential cuteness – like half-timbered homes. (Photo by Claire.)

As you leave Petite France, you’ll arrive at the Ponts Couverts, which date back to the first half of the 13th century. They were originally constructed to fortify the city from invaders, but today you can go up to the roof for a panoramic view of the surrounding area.

Be sure to hold on to your hat! It gets windy up there. After you come down, take the exit across the canal from the Modern Art Museum and follow the path along the canal – it opens up to a little path that is gorgeous for a stroll on a sunny day.  

what to do in strasbourg
View from the top of Ponts Couverts on a clear day. (Photo by Claire.)

Go kayaking up the canal for a local’s view of greater Strasbourg

The ASPCA (located at 20 rue de la Plaine des Bouchers) offers kayak rentals for 15 euros for two hours. On a sunny day, make sure to apply plenty of sun screen and enjoy a paddle up the canal outside the main island of the city center.

Check out the “Hogwarts” of Strasbourg

This historic building is now an international high school called “Lycee International des Pontonniers.” How cool would it be to be able to go to school here?

what to do in Strasbourg
Lycee des Pontonniers aka the French Hogwarts. (Photo by Claire.)

Go behind the popular Parc de l’Orangerie and admire the Russian Orthodox Church

I’m not Russian or Russian Orthodox, but there is something so peaceful and beautiful about this church right along the waterway.

what to do in Strasbourg
The Russian Orthodox Church is especially striking on gray days. (Photo by Claire.)

Visiting in the summertime? You can’t miss the light show on the Cathedral

The “spectacle” as it’s called in French typically begins at the end of July and runs through mid-September, and this year it’s bound to be especially stunning.

what to do in strasbourg summer
At the top of our list of what to do in Strasbourg over summer: check out the light show at the Cathedral. (Photo by Claire.)

What to do in Strasbourg: Shopping and Art

Check out French artists’ work at the Carré d’Artistes

If you’re wondering what to do in Strasbourg as an art lover, make sure to visit the Carré d’Artistes, tucked off of the Cathedral square. One of 30 international galleries founded by a French woman entrepreneur, this organization seeks to make art accessible to all.

Featuring an intimate space and mostly French artists from all around the country (there are a couple from other countries though!), this gallery is great for fantasizing about starting one’s own art collection someday.

Carre d’Artistes is just a few steps from the Cathedral. (Photo by Claire.)

Go thrifting! There are so many awesome places here!

In the short time I’ve lived here, I’ve witnessed a building wave of interest in thrifting. In particular, the pandemic seems to have driven the social media accounts of secondhand shops to new heights, and many now have distinct vibes and personalities that can be felt via their handles!

A few of my favorites are: Rehab Secondhand Shop, Friperie Le Leopard, and Le Grenier.

Window shop and meander along the Quai des Bateliers

What to do in Strasbourg that combines shopping and sightseeing? Discover the Quai des Bateliers and Krutenau neighborhood.

Behind the Cathedral is a wide outer road that curves around the outside of the city centre for several hundred meters, called Quai des Bateliers. It’s a great entry point to explore the vibrant and funky Krutenau neighborhood. Krutenau was once home to fishermen. Today, it houses trendy shops and art galleries, as well as Strasbourg’s only vegan kebab, Vegeman!

what to do in strasbourg
View of the Cathedral from Quai des Bateliers.

What to do in Strasbourg when you’re hungry

Try tarte flambée 

What to do in Strasbourg when your stomach starts to rumble? Go for a tarte flambée, of course! This is one of the Alsace region’s signature dishes. It resembles a flatbread pizza, but there’s actually a regional history behind this simple classic.

Like so many city fads and fashions, tarte flambée was originally considered un-chic. It comes from the countryside and was thought a peasant dish until industrial breadmaking ovens were popularized in the restaurant business. 

Now, tarte flambée is a signature at happy hour and pairs well with a local Fischer beer or regional white wine (Riesling, Sylvaner, etc).

First-timers, be sure to try a classic with cream, onion, and lardon (little bacon pieces) first! After that, go for a Munster, which is a classic regional cheese!

what to do in strasbourg
What to do in Strasbourg? Eating tarte flambee is a must! (Photo by Claire.)

Enjoy one of Strasbourg’s many Asian foodie joints

Sometimes, the answer to “what to do in Strasbourg” takes you out of Alsace. I’m not sure why, but this city is chock full of incredible Asian fusion food joints.

My favorite sit-down is Thai Square, which also happens to be two steps from where I live! I also love Pho Asia, Dim Sum Sam, and Ramen Shop. Many of these places also offer great lunch menus and I love a good local white wine with an Asian lunch.

What to do in Strasbourg for lunch? Why not sample some Thai fusion. (Photo by Claire.)

Get the best ice cream in town

If you’re jonesing for ice cream, you could throw down 6 euros on a milkshake from Five Guys that is perfectly situated to intercept anyone on the Grand Ile who may want a burger, fries, or a frozen treat.

But, if you exercise just a smidge of restraint and walk about 150 meters past Five Guys and turn a corner, you’ll arrive at the back of a long line of locals who are waiting to order from an incredible homemade ice cream shop. Here, a double scoop is half the cost of a milkshake. You’re welcome. This is Glacier Toscani (4 Rue de la Lanterne).

what to do in Strasbourg
Salted caramel and chocolate is a winning combo in any language. (Photo by Claire.)

Don’t skip these bakeries and cafes!

Getting hungry after all this exploring? Keep an eye out for these two bakeries: Les Mains Dans La Farine and Au Pain de Mon Grandpere. These are two reliably great bakeries with multiple locations around the center. I love the former for their amazing beignets and the latter for their baguettes.

If it’s time for a coffee break, make sure you check out my guide to the best cafes in Strasbourg, featuring 8 local-approved spots.

What to do in Strasbourg for dinner: 1300+ restaurants to choose from!

No trip to Strasbourg should be complete without experiencing an evening of French dining from one of the incredible gastronomic options.

While there are 5 Michelin-starred restaurants to choose from, one of France’s specialties is preparing multi-course meals that allow you to dine like royalty without having to break your credit card.

My personal favorite? The Piano Grill. Insider tip: make a reservation using The Fork app for potential discounts!

what to do in Strasbourg
Pondering what to do in Strasbourg for dinner? PianoGrill is always the move. (Photo by Claire.)

Sip a late-night cocktail in one of Strasbourg’s secret bars

If you’re wondering what to do in Strasbourg in the evening, be sure to visit one of these hidden gems!

All over the city are “secret” bars that feature exquisite cocktail lists. And the bartenders have memories so incredible that they can create anything on the list without once referencing the ingredient list.

One of these establishments is Aedaen Place. You have to enter into a pizzeria and walk directly to the door at the back, which is the entrance. You’re technically not allowed to take photos in these bars.

So, in the spirit of passing information along according to these rules, I haven’t taken any during my visits. You’ll just have to go and see for yourself 😉

Aedaen Place is located at 4-6 Rue des Aveugles.

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What NOT to do in Strasbourg

This post focuses on what to do in Strasbourg, but I’d like to add one thing not to do! Please for the love of all that is good in the world, do not visit the gigantic Primark!

I’m not usually the preachy type, but I do have one soapbox that I will unapologetically stand on: I will never understand why this place always seems to have a line spanning nearly two blocks full of shoppers ready to binge on fast fashion.

The clothes are cheap and the Irish brand gets a terrible rating on Good On You, which should be enough to deter people and remind us of our responsibility to be mindful about the importance of finding more sustainable options. If I see you in this line, you’ll be getting some strong stink eye from me.

Much of what to do in Strasbourg takes place canal-side. (Photo by Hugues de BUYER-MIMEURE.)

Are you packing your bags for Strasbourg yet?

I live in an incredible little city with so much to offer, so it’s actually quite hard to answer the question “what to do in Strasbourg” in a single post. On the flip side, one of the things that makes Strasbourg such a great place is that after two years there still is so much more to discover and explore!

 

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