Strasbourg, France offers rich history and architecture that that has been beautifully preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This list of the 10 Best Things To Do in Strasbourg France was developed while staying in the city for 5 days, and along with the Map of Best Things To Do in Strasbourg (at the end of the post) it will hopefully get you started on a wonderful time exploring this beautiful, historic city. Be sure to check out this Strasbourg Tram Guide to save your feet and avoid having to ask strangers what you are doing wrong!
I have written this to help you decide what to do in Strasbourg, giving directions on how to get from one site to another, like a walking tour. However, I do not recommend trying to fit all of the Things To Do in Strasbourg France in in one day. You MIGHT be able to rush through and see almost all of it, but only in a very rushed way, and that’s no fun! If you only have one day in the city, pick your top spots and visit those. Personally, I think it would be more enjoyable to split it into at least two days and take your time enjoying that area a bit more.
If you are looking for traditional foods from the Alsace region & the restaurants that serve them, be sure to check out what to eat in Strasbourg, too.
Tip from someone who has been there: Strasbourg makes a wonderful home base in the Alsace region. In my time visiting the city I spent 3 days exploring all the things to do in Strasbourg, but then took several day trips. You can easily take the train to a Colmar Daytrip, see all the Things To Do in Nancy, Heidelberg, and other cities in the area – or you can take a day trip through the Alsace Wine Route.
So, with no further ado, on to the list of Best Things To Do in Strasbourg France:
Starting Point: Strasbourg Train Station
From the Gare Centrale, cross the open square in front of the station diagonally to the right, and follow Petite Rue de la Course which turns into Rue St. Michel as you continue for the 650m it takes to get to Place Jean Hans Arp. (10 minute walk)
If you are arriving at the train station from Paris, this Guide to the Paris CDG train station will help!
Bonus: Market Days!
Right out of the gate we have a bonus in our list of things to do in Strasbourg. On Wednesdays and Fridays in Place Jean Hans Arp a small flea and farmer’s market pops up. You can stroll through easily in 10 minutes, or spend more time browsing the shoes, purses, clothes, and produce on offer. It’s always a good way to get a glimpse into daily life as locals are here buying vegetables and meats for meals. I often make up an extra little sandwich and put it in a Ziploc in my daypack if I’ve had the hotel’s buffet breakfast (shhh…), so I love to pick up a piece of fruit or other interesting snack-type offering to augment that.
1. Terrassee Panoramique & Barrage Vauban: Things to do in Strasbourg for a View
The Barrage Vauban
This fortified bridge was a cornerstone of the city’s defenses from the 1600s when it was built, until as recently as the Franco-Prussian war in 1870. The walkway inside has some interesting stonework your camera will love, but even better is:
If you take the industrial iron stairway to the roof of the Barrage Vauban, you will find the wide and scenic Terrasse Panoramique. It gives an excellent view of the Ponts Couverts and Petite France beyond. I know climbing the Cathedral tower is the (understandably) best known thing to do in Strasbourg for a view – this one is a lot less than 300 steps – and even has an elevator if the steps are still too much for you.
As you continue across the Barrage Vauban and exit on the south side, cut left across the Place du Quartier Blanc, and then left again on Quai Tuckheim which will take you back over the water on…
2. Ponts Couverts: Middle Ages in Strasbourg
The Ponts Couvert is the true entry into Petite France, and is a set of fortified bridges between tall square towers. The name seems deceptive since these bridges are no longer ‘covered’ (yet the Barrage Vauban is!), but when originally built in the 1300s and up until the 1700s, the bridge did have long roofs covering them. After the Barrage Vauban was completed these weren’t necessary anymore, and were eventually taken away.
The Ponts Couverts connects the three peninsula-islands of the Petite France section of Strasbourg, so on we go!
3. What to do in Strasbourg for postcard photos: Petite France
The Petite France section of Strasbourg is known for some of the most postcard perfect views. The half-timber buildings lining the canals, flowers spilling out of window boxes on buildings and bridges alike will have the shutterbug in you sighing and snapping all over this little area.
In the Middle Ages this area of Strasbourg was known as the “Tanner’s Quarter” and was where the millers, fisherman and, you guessed it, tanners resided. Today, you will find souvenir shops, beautiful buildings, a few restaurants with lovely views, and the departure point for the hour and 15 minute boat tour of the area.
Slightly unsavory – but I think pretty funny – side note. The name “Petite France” isn’t some homage to their homeland. In the late 15th century the Hospice des Vérolés was built in this area to cure people of Syphilis. The German’s called syphilis “Franzosenkrankheit” or “French disease”. So this area became known as “Petite France.” So, there you go. That’s something you know now.
On to another of our things to do in Strasbourg. As you finish exploring Petite France, make your way to Rue de Moulins, turn left, and follow it until it ends at Rue du Bain-aux-Plantes. Turn right on Rue du Bain-aux-Plants, turning left onto Rue Fossé des Tanneures at Place Benjamin Zix. At Grand’Rue turn right.
4. Shopping in Strasbourg: Grand’Rue
If your what to do in Strasbourg list involves shopping, check out my Strasbourg shopping guide to find all the best spots to find that perfect reminder of this beautiful city. One of the most popular shopping streets is Grand’Rue. As you follow Grand’Rue there are many stores and restaurants on both sides of this shopping street. Whether you are looking for toys, books, lingerie, baked goods, chocolate, candy, or clothes… you can find it here. Grab a goodie and enjoy your stroll!
If you check out the Map of Things To Do in Strasbourg France at the bottom, you will notice there are several areas marked as SHOPPING areas for you to find and explore on your own.
Continue down Grand’Rue until it ends at Gutenberg Square.
5. Gutenberg Square: Thing To Do in Strasbourg if you are Thankful for Books.
Johannes Gutenberg is known for his development of the Printing Press in Europe. Born in Mainz, Germany, Johannes Gutenberg also spent a number of years in Strasbourg. There are city records that reveal details of his life including that he was a goldsmith member, a member of the militia, was connected with a court case involving a broken engagement, and other details of a fairly typical life of the time. It is also believed he perfected the idea of printing with movable type here in Strasbourg. Gutenberg Square is a tribute to this famous resident, with a statue dedicated to him in the middle, and a colorful and thoroughly enjoyed carousel beside it.
From Gutenberg Square, if you look down Rue Merciere, you will suddenly realize, Whoah, there’s the Cathedral, and it’s striking! Next is maybe the most famous item on our list of things to do in Strasbourg France.
6. The Must-Do in Strasbourg: Cathedral of Our Lady Strasbourg & Clock
The spot where the Cathedrale in Strasbourg was built was originally home to a Roman temple, emphasizing the long history of the city. The first version of the cathedrale started to be built in 1015.
This famous landmark of the Alsace region was the tallest building in the world from 1647 to 1874, and still has the honor of being the 6th tallest church in the world, and the tallest building still standing that was built entirely during the medieval period. Today, if you climb the North Tower (all 300+ steps) you can see as far as the Black Forest on a clear day.
“The church portals are beautiful, particularly the Roman portal; there are truly superb figures on horseback, the rose-window is noble and well-cut, the entire front of the church is a clever poem. But the true triumph of this Cathedral is the Spire. It is a veritable tiara of stone with its crown and its cross. It is a gigantic and delicate marvel. I have seen Chartres, I have seen Anvers, but I needed to see Strasbourg… from the belfry, the view is wonderful. Strasbourg lays at your feet, the old city of tiled triangular roof tops and gable windows, interrupted by towers and churches as picturesque as those of any city in Flanders. Personally, I would go from one turret to another, admiring one by one, the view of France, Switzerland, and Germany via one ray of sunshine.”
~ Victor Hugo on the Strasbourg Cathedrale
Interestingly, the North Tower was almost torn down in 1794 by the Enragés, a group of radicals during the French Revolution. They saw the tower as hurting the ideal of equality by its very presence. The people of Strasbourg, not wanting to destroy their beautiful cathedral, instead topped it with a giant, tin Phrygian cap… which strongly resembled the cap the Enragés wore. Suddenly, the tower wasn’t so offensive any more, and it was saved, because, I suppose, some people are more equal than others.
Inside, it is worth taking the time to see the Pilar of Angels which is a representation of the Last Judgment. The Pilar is next to the Astronomical Clock, which is a marvel of engineering itself with a rich history.
Engineer’s Things To Do in Strasbourg: Astronomical Clock
If you are interested in seeing the Astronomic Clock while in Strasbourg, you should gather at the small door on the south side of the Cathedral at by 11:30am. The doors open at 11:30 and you pay €3 on your way in the door (less for groups and students), no pre-purchasing tickets or reserving a spot. Once inside, everyone pushes into the alcove area with the clock and waits for the movie about the history and design of the clock which starts at 12:00, and the clock does its main ‘show’ at 12:30. It can get stuffy and is crowded waiting for things to start. The clock is impressive, and the movie about the awe-inspiringly brilliant work that went into the design honestly surprised me, and I’m glad I saw it. It goes WAY beyond an accurate clock that shows the phases of the moon and some figures that rotate around. However, the 12:30 striking of the clock and show itself does not have a ton of bells and whistles (so to speak) and there were a few (kids especially) who looked around with an “is that it?” look afterward. In my opinion, it’s worth it if you are really interested in clocks, mechanical design, engineering, and/or history, but if all that bores you, probably not one of the things to do in Strasbourg for you.
7. Museum Thing to do in Strasbourg: Palais Rohan
Just to the Southeast of the cathedrale, within the same square, you will find the Palais Royale. This beautiful building was built in the 1730s and was originally home to Armand Gaston Maximilien de Rohan, bishop (and then later cardinal) of Strasbourg. It is considered an excellent example of French Baroque architecture.
Over the years the Palais has been home to a university, the university library, and to house many famous guests. The most famous guests include King Louis XV, Queen Marie Antoinette, Emperor Napoleon as well as Empress Josephine, Charles X. In more recent times, Margaret Thatcher attended a dinner party here, and Nicolas Sarkozy and Barack Obama and their wives met here.
Today, the Palais Rohan is home to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, and the Musée Archéologique. Any of the museums are worth visiting if you are the museum type, and all three get you inside the Palais Rohan to have a look around. However, if you want to see how the Palais may have been decorated originally, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs is the way to go.
8. Renaissance Thing to do in Strasbourg: Kammerzell House
To the northwest of the cathredral, still in the same square, you can’t miss the Kammerzell House. This incredibly preserved house is called by some “the most beautiful house in Strasbourg.” The foundations date back to 1427 while the ornately decorated levels of the house were built between 1467 and 1589. Now, the interior of the Kammerzell House is home to Maison Kammerzell and you can dine within its gorgeous frescoed walls.
You can take a look on the Maison Kammerzell website, and even book a table!
From the Kammerzell House you can proceed north out of the northwest corner of the square, following the Rue des Orfévres (a little shopping corner, especially for a something to eat) to a left on Rue do Temple-Neuf and into the Place du Temple Neuf. Then exit this square through the small Rue des Dominicains opposite the Église du Temple Neuf, onto the wide Rue des Grandes Arcades. Follow this road to the right and into Kléber Square.
9. Place Kleber: Christmas Market and People Watching
This is probably the best known square in Strasbourg. The large, open, rectangular square now has a large fountain, and statue of Jean-Baptiste Kleber, under which is his final resting place. Kleber square houses the famous Christmas market, and around it is now a hub of nicer shopping in Strasbourg. One of my favorite things to do in Strasbourg – or anywhere else – is to grab a beverage and people watch. This is a great place to do that! You can rest beside the fountain, grab something to eat, or pick up that Starbucks mug you need to get!
From Kleber, Go north to a right onto Rue de la Haute-Montee and follow it until it crosses over the canal and ends at Place de la République.
You can also turn left onto Rue de la Haute-Monte and take the Orange, Blue or Green Tram Line from Homme de Fer tram stop and go two stops to Place de la République. (Guide to Strasbourg Tram system here!)
10. Place de la République: A Poignant stop in Strasbourg
This elegant square is surrounded by public buildings that are all classified as historic monuments, including a library and theater. The focal point is a war memorial by Leon-Ernest Drivier from 1936. It shows a mother holding two sons, both killed in war. Highlighting the dual alliegance of Strasbourg through the centuries, the mother holds one son who died for on the French side of war, and the other for the German side.
Today, you will find students and locals sprawled beneath trees taking a nap, talking, reading, and having a bite to eat.
Bonus: The Post office office is one block east of Republique on Av. de la Marseillaise. If you are standing on Av de la Marseillaise facing Republique, go to your right a block and a half. Keep an eye out for signs, they’ll point you in the right direction and you won’t have to schlep all those souvenirs home.
Strasbourg quiet & natural beauty: Parc l’Orangerie
Parc l’Orangerie is more out of the way than anything else on this things to do in Strasbourg list, but it is a beautiful park to spend some time in, so I want to include it. To reach the park, from Place de la République, take the purple tram line, Line E, toward Robertsau Boecklin. Go 5 stops and hop off at the Droit de L’Homme stop. When you exit the tram, walk in the direction the tram continues to the bridge you will see there. Cross Pont de la Rose Blanche bridge, and the park will be one block on your left.
How exactly the very beginning of today’s Parc l’Orangerie happened is a bit of a debate. However, the accounts agree that when a new home had to be found for the 140 orange trees confiscated from the castle of Bouxwiller by the Republicans, they were planted here.
Today, the park is home to a beautiful lake to row a rented boat across, or to explore the waterfall and paths that lead around the back of it. If you are looking for something to eat here, you have your choice of the gelato and snack stands, the more casual Le Jardin de l’Orangerie restaurant, or the starred Buerehiesel restaurant.
If you want to see the wildlife there is a small zoo that would be entertaining for kids, but better than that is the storks all around the park. Once threatened with extinction, more than 800 young storks have been born here since 1971.
And, of course, there are people picnicking, running, strolling, and biking throughout the park. If you are looking for a quiet place to relax, this bonus stop might be more your ticket.
Strasbourg Map of Things To Do
Here’s a handy-dandy map of things to do in Strasbourg France you can use to get your bearings. You can also view this map online here (the official copy without my add-ins), as well as order copies for just the cost of shipping.
Want to get to Strasbourg from Paris to enjoy these things to do?
- Check out my post about a Paris to Strasbourg Train Day Trip.
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