Strasbourg’s fascinating French-German heritage
Written by Keator Cheng
On 26 May 2024

Strasbourg, the capital of the Grand Est region in northeastern France, is a city steeped in history and cultural charm. Nestled on the banks of the Rhine River and bordering Germany, Strasbourg is a vibrant blend of French and German influences.

From its well-preserved medieval architecture and world-renowned institutions to its culinary delights and festive traditions, Strasbourg is a city that invites exploration and discovery.

Historical and architectural wonders

Photo by Vincent NICOLAS on Unsplash

Strasbourg’s historical significance is immediately evident in its stunning architecture. The city’s centrepiece, the Strasbourg Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg), is a marvel of Gothic architecture. Completed in the 15th century, this towering edifice features intricate stone carvings, stunning stained glass windows and an astronomical clock that captivates visitors daily with its midday show. Climbing the cathedral’s 330 steps rewards you with a panoramic view of the city’s rooftops and the Rhine River.

Adjacent to the cathedral lies the charming neighbourhood of La Petite France, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This area is characterised by its cobblestone streets, half-timbered houses and picturesque canals. Historically home to tanners, millers and fishermen, La Petite France offers a glimpse into Strasbourg’s medieval past. A leisurely boat tour along the canals provides a unique perspective of this enchanting quarter.

A hub of European institutions

Photo by Hassan Anayi on Unsplash

Strasbourg is not just a city of historical significance, it is also a hub of modern European politics and culture. The city hosts several important European institutions including the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights. Visiting the European Parliament offers insights into the workings of the European Union and the democratic processes that shape the continent.

Guided tours of the Parliament’s impressive hemicycle are available, allowing visitors to learn about the legislative procedures and the history of the European Union. The Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights also offer tours and exhibitions, providing a deeper understanding of human rights and democracy in Europe.

Culinary delights

Strasbourg’s culinary scene is a delightful fusion of French and German flavours. The city is famous for its Alsatian cuisine, which includes hearty dishes such as choucroute garnie (sauerkraut with sausages, pork and potatoes), tarte flambée (a thin crust topped with crème fraîche, onions and bacon), and baeckeoffe (a slow-cooked casserole of meat and potatoes).

No visit to Strasbourg is complete without sampling its excellent pastries and desserts. Kougelhopf, a sweet, yeast-based cake studded with raisins and almonds, and pain d’épices, a spiced gingerbread, are local favourites. The city’s Christmas markets, held in the historic centre, are a feast for the senses, offering an array of traditional foods, mulled wine and artisanal crafts.

Festivals and events

Strasbourg is a city that loves celebrations and its calendar is filled with festivals and events that highlight its rich cultural traditions. The most famous of these is the Strasbourg Christmas Market, one of the oldest and largest in Europe. Held annually since 1570, the market transforms the city into a winter wonderland, with hundreds of stalls selling festive goods, delicious treats and handcrafted gifts.

Another notable event is the Strasbourg Music Festival, which takes place in June. This festival showcases a diverse range of musical genres, from classical and jazz to contemporary and world music, performed in various venues throughout the city. The Strasbourg Film Festival, held in September, is another cultural highlight, attracting filmmakers and cinephiles from around the world.

Art and museums

Strasbourg boasts an impressive array of museums and art galleries that cater to a wide range of interests. The Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMCS) houses an extensive collection of works from the late 19th century to the present day, including pieces by renowned artists such as Rodin, Kandinsky, and Picasso.

The Alsatian Museum provides a fascinating look into the region’s folk traditions, showcasing costumes, furniture and everyday objects from the past. The museum is housed in several connected Renaissance buildings, adding to its charm and historical significance.

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