Looking for some cool things to do in Strasbourg? Let this post be your guide on what to do year round.
Oh, pretty Strasbourg! Believe it or not, I’ve only been to France once before this two-week trip. It was an all-too-brief 72 hours in Paris back when I was a student studying abroad in Madrid. That was over a decade ago, so I’ve had a long time to slowly grow a list of places I want to visit.
At the very top of that list, with its many, many fairytale villages, one of which inspired one of my favorite Miyazaki films, Howl’s Moving Castle, was the Alsace region. Since Strasbourg is its main city (and Pennsylvania has a city named Strasburg), I’ve always known of its existence. However, I truly didn’t know much beyond its famous Christmas market, which attracts something like 2 million visitors every year to a city of less than 300,000.
When I found out my friend, Silvia’s parents retired here, I convinced her to invite me along to her next visit. Lucky for us, they’re both pretty big travelers and interested in history and architecture, so it was like having our own local experts to take us around.
Check below for all the cool things we got up to!
Quick Strasbourg Tips
- Getting in: The easiest way to get to Strasbourg is via train. If you’re flying into Paris, there’s a station connected to the airport. From the Strasbourg station, you can walk or take the tram to your hotel.
- Getting Around: It’s very easy to walk all around Strasbourg, especially the main historic center. You could also rent bikes, do a segway tour, or see the city by private boat. I don’t recommend driving in town at all, though you may want to rent a car to visit the small villages in Alsace.
- Where to Stay: Mason Rouge (Grand Île), Hotel Les Haras (Petit France), Hotel Tandem (near train station)
16 Sightseeing Things to Do in Strasbourg
1. Take a stroll through Grand Ile
The historic center of the city is La Grande Île de Strasbourg. Like the name suggests, it really does sit on its own island, surrounded by the River Ill to the south and the Canal du Faux-Rempart to the north. The whole area was the first of its kind to be entirely named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s here you can find all the charming medieval architecture you could ever want to see.
As soon as you arrive, I recommend taking the time to just stroll through and enjoy all the views. I went for a morning run and kept stopping to walk because I was so distracted by how beautiful the area was!
Since Silvia’s parents are not, in fact, available for other tours, try this private walking one if you want to learn more.
2. Visit the Notre Dame Cathedral
Like most French cities, Strasbourg has its own cathedral to end all other cathedrals, and in this case it’s the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg. You could absolutely give yourself lifelong neck and eye problems standing and looking at ALL the detail on its Romanesque, Gothic exterior, that’s how detailed it was. Silvia’s dad explained it was created so that someone could explain the bible stories to anyone who couldn’t read them themselves, which I thought was quite clever.
The whole cathedral took over 400 years to complete and was actually the tallest building in the world for 227 years from 1647 – 1874. You can go inside, visit the Musée de l’Œuvre Notre-Dame to learn more, and, of course, go to the top for the views!
3. Check out Place Kléber (where the Christmas tree is)
Grand Île is made up of a number of places or plazas/squares but by far the largest and most central is Place Kléber, named after French Revolution General Jean-Baptiste Kléber who was born here. If you visit during Christmas, this is where you’ll see the tree and the main hub of the market.
4. Check out Place Gutenberg
Another significant place to visit is Place Gutenberg, which, of course, was named for Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press. It’s not certain that he specifically invented it in Strasbourg, but at the very least he printed his first works here.
Be sure to stop in, see the cute carousel, and say a quick thanks at his statue for inventing one of the most important tools for spreading information probably ever!
5. Take a moment to admire the prettiest high school ever
One of the most photographed spots in Strasbourg, Lycée International des Pontonniers is, believe it or not, an active high school. The best view is from the bridge in front.
6. See many of the other churches and cathedrals around the city
While the Notre-Dame is by far the most grandiose, there are many, many other churches all around the city that are quite pretty on their own. We had a view of the Neo-Gothic Église réformée Saint-Paul from our hotel window and the Lutheran Paroisse Protestante Saint-Guillaume makes for a pretty sight when you’re walking along the river. Don’t skip going inside the Église Saint-Thomas as there’s an organ played by Mozart himself inside.
7. See the Ponts Couverts from the top of Barrage Vauban
For those looking for that view of Strasbourg, you’ll want to go over to the Barrage Vauban, a stone bridge and dam from the 1600s. Head to the top of the bridge and take in the Ponts Couverts, a series of four towers and three buildings from the 1250. They were built to help defend the city and took twenty years to build in total!
8. Buy a book at one of their 40+ librairies
Fellow book lovers rejoice! There’s an abundance of bookstores spread out around the city. Silvia’s dad mentioned there were well over forty, and while I haven’t see all forty, I believe him. I swear every street we turned onto had at least one libraire. If you want English books, there’s a specific bookstore in Place Kléber that’s supposed to have a decent selection.
9. Enjoy your book by the river
Once you’ve picked out your book (or 5, I won’t judge), bring it down to a nice, shady spot along the river to read. It really is so lovely to see people of all ages sprawled out with a physical book in hand. When we visited, Silvia’s mom took us to a nice little dock off Quai des Bateliers. If you visit on the weekend, there’s a bit of an outdoor market as well.
10. Visit one of Strasbourg’s many museums
If you enjoy a nice museum or just want to learn more about Strasbourg and Alsace’s history, there are plenty of museums you can enjoy. Silvia’s Mom and I went to the very cute Alsatian Museum, which showcases life during pre-industrial revolution. It’s very charming and much bigger than it seems from the outside.
Some other museums that seemed interesting:
- Historical Museum of the City of Strasbourg
- Museum of Decorative Arts
- Strasbourg Museum of Fine Arts
- Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art
11. Catch a show at the Opéra national du Rhin
For opera lovers, this is where you want to go! You can check their website for upcoming shows, and if you visit during the week there’s a farmer’s market right out front.
Foodie Things to Do in Strasbourg
12. Try some classic Alsatian dishes for dinner
Of course, of all the foodie things to do in Strasbourg, the very top of your list should be trying some Alsatian cuisine. What makes it unique compared to the rest of France is that there’s a ton of German influence mixed in. I was a particular fan of käsespätzle in all its cheesy goodness. We got dinner at the very charming Chez l’Oncle Freddy around Petite France. The restaurant looks like it’s straight out of a storybook and you can find all the traditional Alsatian dishes on the menu.
Another option if you want to try as much food as a you can is to book a food tour. A local guide will take you to four stops on foot while giving you more of the culture and history around the dishes and Strasbourg.
13. Get brunch at one of these cute spots
Nothing like starting your day with a nice little breakfast or brunch! When I was searching, Hey Mama came up. Can confirm it’s quite a tasty brunch and not particularly French if you’re looking for something a bit different.
If you’re coming in nice weather, get breakfast outside at Café Atlantico. It’s situated on a river barge that’s been converted into a restaurant and is over all a nice vibe for a sunny morning.
For the ultimate classic French breakfast, we really liked our morning stop at Le Michel. Super friendly servers, some nice outdoor seating, and a delicious spread! I really liked the omelette I ordered.
14. Try the eclairs at Donatien Maitre Eclair
If you want to try something unique, grab some savory eclairs at Donatien Maitre Eclair. Don’t worry there’s sweet too! The founder, Donatien Fehr, has worked all around the world and focuses on selecting the freshest ingredients when making his eclairs.
15. Try the many other fun restaurants in the city
Since Strasbourg is a big university city, there’s actually a pretty big selection of international restaurants all around. We passed by so many as we walked around. Definitely nice if you’ve been in France for a bit and could use an alternative to French food. Two notable ones I remember were Seoul Station and La Riziere.
16. Pick up some chocolate at Chocolaterie Jacques Bockel
If you’re craving some chocolate, you’ll want to go to Chocolaterie Jaqcues Bockel. This Alsatian chocolatier has been making some of the best sweets since 1985. I asked the guy working there to point out his favorites and got myself a little bag of treats to take with.
And there you have it – a nice little list of things to do in Strasbourg regardless of the time of year you visit! This was such a charming city, I can see why Silvia’s parents wanted to come retire here. It’s just big enough to have variety and small enough that you can still walk everywhere and know your way around quickly.
For more France travel, read these posts next:
- Visiting Colmar Feels Exactly Like Entering a Storybook
- What to Do in Montmartre: Paris’ Original Bohemian Neighborhood
- A Weekend in Paris is ALWAYS a Good Idea if You Follow this Guide
- 13 Magical French Pharmacy Skincare Products You’ve Gotta Try
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