14 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Strasbourg
With its soaring cathedral, charming burghers' houses, and elegant Louis XV buildings, Strasbourg has a distinctive Old World character. The quaint cobblestone streets and picturesque canals of the ancient quarters (on the Grande-Île) invite visitors to explore the city. Thanks to its advantageous location at the intersection of important traffic and commerce routes on the Rhine River, Strasbourg has prospered throughout its 2,000-year history. In the 13th century, it became the richest city in the Holy Roman Empire and a place where art and learning flourished. Today, Strasbourg is still a city of culture and boasts exceptional museums of fine arts, archaeology, and traditional Alsatian crafts.
See also: Where to Stay in Strasbourg
1 Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg
Considered one of the most beautiful monuments of Western architecture, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame looms over Strasbourg with its massive tower. This impressive Cathedral built out of red Vosges sandstone took several centuries to complete and displays a range of architectural styles-from 12th-century Romanesque to 15th-century Late Gothic. The exterior of the Cathedral functions as a lesson in biblical stories, complete with hundreds of figures. The 13th-century west front facade depicts scenes of the Christ's Passion, the work of Master Erwin and his successors. On the south side are famous allegorical sculptures of the Church and the Synagogue created by a German artist circa 1230. Two features added in the 15th century include the exquisite octagon of the north tower and the openwork spire. Until the 19th century, the 142-meter spire of the Strasbourg Cathedral was the highest in the Christian world.
The Strasbourg Cathedral has exceptional medieval stained-glass windows that compare in magnificence to those at the Cathedral in Chartres. Among the most splendid are the stained-glass rose window in the west front and the Byzantine-style stained-glass windows in the choir. With colorful light filtered through these windows, the Cathedral's nave provides an inspiring space for spiritual contemplation. Another of the Cathedral's most exquisite works is the "Coronation of the Virgin" tapestry, which ranks among the highest achievements of religious art. The Cathedral has an enormous organ that features animated figures. In the south transept stands the horloge astronomique, a Renaissance astronomical clock. This masterpiece of timekeeping entertains visitors with a parade of the apostles every day at 12:30pm. After touring the inside of the Cathedral, visitors can ascend to the top of the tower for a magnificent view of the city, the Rhine plains, the Black Forest, and the Vosges Mountains.
Address: 1 Rue de Rohan, Strasbourg
2 Quartier des Tanneurs (La Petite France)
The most atmospheric section of Strasbourg's historic center, the Quartier des Tanneurs has a charming Alsatian character. This district is part of the Grande-Île (a large island surrounded by the River Ill) that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Also known as "La Petite France," the Quartier des Tanneurs delights tourists with its winding maze of canals and narrow old streets lined by perfectly maintained half-timbered houses. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the neighborhood was home to the city's leather tanners and fishermen. One of the must-see attractions in this quarter is the beautiful Rue du Bain-aux-Plantes, where the lovely Maison des Tanneurs (now a restaurant) is located. A stroll along this cobblestone street offers a chance to admire the beautiful houses with their flower-bedecked balconies. Along the river banks of the Grande-Île, tourists and locals alike enjoy pleasant walks away from the urban hustle and bustle. The tree-lined river banks are landscaped, adding to the picturesque setting. To the south-west are the Ponts Couverts (Covered Bridges), four bridges that were formally roofed. Four of the town's medieval defense towers also stand on these bridges. From the Grande Écluse (Covered Bridge that is the Vauban Dam), there is a panoramic view of the other Covered Bridges and the Strasbourg cityscape in the background. The Grande Écluse is open to the public during the day and is illuminated at night.
3 Maison Kammerzell
Near the Place de la Cathédrale is another of Strasbourg's most important sites, the Maison Kammerzell. This building (now a hotel with a renowned restaurant, located opposite the Tourist Office) is the finest old burgher's house in the city. Considered a gem of Alsatian architecture, the Kammerzell House features a stone-built ground floor, half-timbered upper floors, traditional leaded windows, and rich carved ornamentation. The building's ground floor with its carved stone arches served as a space where merchants sold their wares during the 15th century. Another interesting half-timbered house located in the area (at the Place de la Cathédrale and Rue Mercière) is the Pharmacie du Cerf. This building was constructed in 1567 on a site that has been a pharmacy since 1268. Nearby on the Rue des Juifs are the ruins of the ancient Roman fort, giving visitors a sense of the city's cultural heritage that dates back two millennia.
Address: 16 Place de la Cathédrale, Strasbourg
4 Eglise de Saint-Thomas
The Church of Saint-Thomas is located on the site of an ancient church built in the early 6th century, dedicated to the Apostle Saint Thomas. After being destroyed by fire, the Church of Saint-Thomas was rebuilt in the 12th century. Strasbourg residents fondly call this church the "petite fille de la cathédrale" ("daughter of the cathedral"). The building exemplifies the Alsatian Gothic style of architecture with five naves of equal height. The choir houses a magnificent Baroque mausoleum of the Maréchal de Saxe, who was famous for his distinguished career in the military. During its 800-year-history, the Church of Saint-Thomas has been most renowned for the role it played during the Protestant Reformation of Alsace. The church was a center of the Lutheran movement in the region. The church has a clock, which for 400 years has struck the hours four minutes too soon-to make itself heard before the Cathedral clock strikes. The church is still used as a Protestant house of worship and offers religious services every Sunday morning as well as daily at noon.
Address: 11 Rue Martin Luther, Strasbourg
5 Eglise Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune
The Eglise Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune was founded in the 7th century as a Merovingian chapel. In the 11th century, the chapel was turned into a Romanesque church and that was transformed into a Gothic-style church during the 13th and 14th centuries. The church nave features beautiful vaulting with carved consoles depicting a lion to represent Saint Mark and a man slaying a dragon. The cloister of Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune dates back to the 11th century and is the only entirely preserved ancient cloister in Strasbourg. During the Reformation (beginning in 1524), the Eglise Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune became a Protestant house of worship and since then has been used for both Protestant and Catholic worship. The Church of Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune is still an important Protestant church in Strasbourg and offers traditional religious services, concerts, and celebrations.
Address: 3 Rue de la Nuée Bleue, Strasbourg
6 Maison de l'Oeuvre Notre-Dame
In 1349, the workers responsible for the maintenance of the Cathedral established a house at the Place du Château called the Maison de l'Oeuvre Notre-Dame. The east wing of the building is the oldest part (and was renovated in the 16th century) and the west wing was built from 1579 to 1585. The house contains the Musée de l'Oeuvre Notre-Dame, which displays originals of sculpture from the cathedral and a collection of paintings by artists from the Upper Rhine region of Alsace.
Address: 3 Place du Château, Strasbourg
7 Palais Rohan (Musée des Beaux-Arts and Musée des Arts Décoratifs)
The elegant 18th-century Palais des Rohan was the former residences of the Bishop-Princes from 1732 to 1742 (until the French Revolution). The rest of the immense building houses three exceptional museums. Located on the first floor of the Rohan Palace, the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Museum of Fine Arts) has an excellent collection of paintings by Italian, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, and French masters from the Middle Ages to modern times. There are works by Botticelli, Courbet, Delacroix, Giotto, Goya, El Greco, Rubens, and Véronèse among others. The Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts) is located on the ground floor of the Rohan Palace, the former apartments of the Cardinals of Rohan. Visitors can see the sumptuous rooms of the bishop's apartment, including a library, print room, and chapel, as well as the collection of decorative arts. The collection includes ceramics, porcelain, paintings, time pieces, and goldsmith's art. Located in the Rohan Palace basement, the Archaeological Museum has one of the best collections of antiquities in France. The collection includes items from prehistory to the Middle Ages.
Address: 2 Place du Château, Strasbourg
8 Musée Alsacien (Alsatian Museum)
Located in a patrician house built in 1620, the Alsatian Museum displays a collection of folk art, furniture, costumes, and domestic items. Visitors can view thousands of objects that offer an insight into rural Alsatian life in the 18th and 19th centuries. The museum also features rooms that represent the interior style of different regions of Alsace, including the agricultural plains and the Vosges Mountains. A tour of the museum gives visitors a feel for the charm of Alsatian homes.
Address: 23-25 Quai Saint-Nicolas, Strasbourg
9 Place du Marché-aux-Cochons-de-Lait (Suckling Pig Market Place)
Near the Maison de l'Oeuvre Notre-Dame is the picturesque Place du Marché-aux-Cochons-de-Lait, one of the city's most charming squares. The square takes its name from the ancient market where suckling pigs (an Alsatian culinary specialty) were sold. Farther west is the Grande Boucherie, built in 16th century as a meat market, which now houses the Historical Museum.
10 Quartier Krutenau
One of Strasbourg's most lively neighborhoods, the Quartier Krutenau combines Old World charm with trendy restaurants, fashionable shops, and art galleries. This district of canals and half-timbered homes was once where boatmen and fishermen lived, as indicated by the names of streets such as the Rue St-Nicolas-aux-Ondes and the Rue de la Tour des Pêcheurs. This quarter has a friendly village atmosphere and is a pleasant area to take a sightseeing stroll.
11 Historical Museum
Located in the Grande Boucherie (the city's former meat market building), the Historical Museum offers a comprehensive exhibit of paintings, graphic art, weapons, and everyday objects. The collections span the centuries from the Middle Ages to the French Revolution with a few rooms dedicated to the Napoleonic and modern eras. Visitors will learn about Strasbourg's politics, society, and economy throughout the ages. The museum dedicates exhibits to important political figures such as the famous General Jean-Baptiste Kléber. Also on display are the costumes and furniture of ordinary citizens, which offers insight into everyday life of Strasbourg in times past.
Address: 2 Rue du Vieux Marché aux Poissons, Strasbourg
12 Musée d'Art Moderne & Contemporain
Across the street from the Historical Museum is the Ancienne Douane (Old Customs House), which dates back to 1358. The building now houses the Museum of Modern Art. The museum has an expansive collection of 19th and 20th century paintings, including works by Hans Arp, Braque, Klee, Max Ernst, Rodin, Renoir, and Degas.
Address: 1 Place Hans-Jean Arp, Strasbourg
13 Parc de l'Orangerie
To the southeast of the Palais de l'Europe is the beautiful Parc de l'Orangerie, the oldest park in Strasbourg. The Orangerie Park was created in the early 19th century for the Empress Joséphine. The garden's Pavillon Joséphine is now used for exhibitions and receptions. Perfect for romantic strolls and leisurely picnics, the park has an idyllic atmosphere complete with a lake and waterfall. The park's vintage car track, miniature farm, and small zoo (available free of charge) will delight children. The park also features a gourmet restaurant and a bowling alley.
Address: Avenue de l'Europe, Strasbourg
14 Palais de l'Europe
Strasbourg was chosen as the capital of the European Union because the city became a symbol of reconciliation after the Second World War. The ultramodern Palais de l'Europe was built from 1972 to 1977 as a fortress-like structure of nine stories. The interior courtyard has a tent-like chamber where the Parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe and the 434 members of the European Parliament meet.
Address: Council of Europe, Strasbourg
Other Places of Interest
At the center of Strasbourg's German quarter is an impressive Egyptian-style fresco, created in 1905 and influenced by Art Nouveau designs. Visitors are surprised to find this unexpected piece of artwork on the facade of a building on the Rue du Général Rapp.
Address: 10 Rue du Général Rapp
The centerpiece of the Place Gutenberg is a 19th-century statue dedicated to the famous Strasbourg resident Gutenberg, who invented the printing press. On the southwest side of the square is the finest Renaissance building in Alsace, originally the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) and now occupied by the Chamber of Commerce (tourist information office). At the corner of the square near the Rue Mercière, there is a magnificent view of the front of the cathedral.
Place de la République
This expansive park-like square in the German quarter was intended to be the "new town" of Strasbourg after it was conquered by the Germans in 1870. The layout of the square exemplifies the grandiose scheme of urban planning envisioned by the Germans. In the center of the square is an interesting war memorial created in 1936. The monument depicts a woman with two sons, one who died for France and the other who died for Germany.
Synagogue de la Paix
Built in 1954, this building was created to replace the historic synagogue that was destroyed by the Nazis in 1940. The nearby Contades Park (20 Avenue de la Paix) is a peaceful space with leafy pathways, ideal for enjoying an afternoon stroll. During summertime, concerts are held at the cast-iron gazebo of the Villa Osterloff located at the back of the park.
Address: 1 Rue René Hirschler, Strasbourg
Christmas Market (November 28th to December 31st)
Strasbourg is famous for its festive and traditional Christmas markets, which have been a tradition since 1570 when the event was called "Christkindelsmärik" ("Market of the baby Jesus"). Every year in time for the holidays, Strasbourg's houses, streets, and churches are decorated with Christmas lights, and a giant 30-meter Christmas tree is placed in the center of the city at the Place Kléber. Strasbourg's Christmas markets are among the largest and most interesting in Europe. The city has eleven sites throughout the city's historic center with 300 "chalets" featuring typical Christmas decorations, arts and crafts, and seasonal Alsatian food such as gingerbread and foie gras. Some of the Christmas Market highlights include the markets at the Place Broglie and Place de la Cathédrale, the Trading Post of the Wise Magi, the Village of Small Food Producers, and the Market of Christmas Delicacies of Alsace.
European Fantastic Film Festival (September)
The Strasbourg European Film Festival is dedicated to the genre of fantastic cinema, including animation, science-fiction, fantasy, and horror. The festival features independent and studio films as well as documentaries and vintage revivals. Audiences have a chance to learn about renowned cinema directors and to discover new talent in the industry.
Festival of Music (June)
The Strasbourg Festival of Music is an annual two-week festival that takes place in June. The repertoire focuses on well-known classical composers such as Bach, Mozart, and Verdi along with some contemporary works. The festival includes symphonic, choral and chamber concerts, and piano recitals. The venues are equally impressive and include the Cathedral, the Church of Saint-Pierre le Jeune, and other historic buildings in Strasbourg.
Festival Musica of Today's Music (September - October)
The Festival Musica is an annual three-week festival featuring soloists, choirs, and orchestras. Musicians from around the world perform modern music and showcase innovative technologies and new styles.
Address: Cité de la Musique et de la Danse, 1 Place Dauphine, Strasbourg
Street Arts Festival (mid August)
In August, the streets and squares of Strasbourg come to life with free animation. There are more than 50 performances in the city center, all designed to bring good humor and cheer. Acrobats and clowns offer amusing spectacles such as puppet shows, mini circus acts, juggling, magic tricks, and burlesque. There is also a dance party and fireworks finale.
Where to Stay in Strasbourg for Sightseeing
Most of Strasbourg's tourist attractions are located in the city's historic UNESCO World Heritage Site of Grande-Île, a large island surrounded by the River Ill. Along with the square dominated by the magnificent cathedral, Strasbourg's most picturesque section is the Quartier des Tanneurs. Also known as La Petite France, this is a maze of narrow canals and streets lined by half-timbered buildings. More hotels convenient for sightseeing are in the lively Quartier Krutenau, another neighborhood of canals and half-timbered homes just across the river. Here are some highly-rated hotels in Strasbourg:
- Luxury Hotels: Preserving the building's historic character while adding luxurious modern comforts, Hotel Cour du Corbeau Strasbourg - MGallery Collection is near the cathedral and all the major sights. Also mixing historic architecture and decorative features with modern amenities (including a spa), Hotel Le Bouclier d'Or is in La Petite France and convenient to several restaurants. In La Petite France and within walking distance of several museums, Regent Petite France & Spa is a repurposed medieval mill.
- Mid-Range Hotels: In a 15th-century building at the edge of La Petite France, Best Western Hotel De L'Europe is a few blocks from the cathedral. The boutique Hotel Rohan offers contemporary rooms in the narrow pedestrian streets next to the cathedral, a five-minute walk from the boat tour dock. Hotel Cathedrale is right across from the cathedral, surrounded by restaurants and shopping. Front rooms have cathedral views.
- Budget Hotels: Also close to the cathedral, Suisse Hotel is a few steps from the three art and archaeology museums and the river cruise dock. A five-minute walk from the train station, Mercure Strasbourg Centre Petite France is near the bridge to the Grande-Île. Hotel Aux Trois Roses is only a two-minute walk to the cathedral, amid the restaurants and cafes of lively Krutenau.