Paris-based writer Kasia Dietz recently traveled to the picturesque French city of Strasbourg, where she was immediately enchanted by its infinite charm, the rich fusion of French and German culture, and historical romance. Here narrow alleyways and half-timbered houses set a medieval scene and its historical center, known as “Little France” a UNESCO World Heritage Site promises to transport you back in time. Enjoy her curated guide to the must-see and do places to experience in the capital of France’s Alsace region.
On the Must-See List
There’s no lack of art and culture to engage the senses in Strasbourg. The former palace of the prince-bishops is home to the Museum of Fine Arts where the history of European painting is on display from its beginnings to 1870. During your visit to the Rohan Palace you can also discover the history of Strasbourg and the Alsace at the 18th-century Archeological Museum – the city’s oldest museum. Meanwhile, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art boasts the works of world-renowned artists including Gustave Doré and Jean Arp, two leading figures from Strasbourg. The famous Cathedral Notre-Dame de Strasbourg also merits a visit. Head inside this Gothic masterpiece to admire its majestic astronomical clock dating back to 1547 which presents a daily show at 12:30. Strasbourg’s oldest park, the 64-acre Parc de l’Orangerie offers a bucolic date with nature.
The Romance of Strasbourg
Strasbourg has a way of evoking a romantic mood, regardless of the season. From summertime when flowerbeds line the bridges and terraces fill up with eager patrons, to the captivating illuminations inspired by winter holidays. Often considered the capital of Christmas, Strasbourg knows a thing or two about dressing up. From its myriad of medieval streets decked out in sparkling lights to the scent of glühwein (traditional mulled wine) wafting through the air, a visit to this city during the holidays feels much like stepping into a Christmas card. It’s also home to a thirty-meter tall Christmas tree. Shining brightly at Place Kléber – the highest in Europe, but who’s counting.
Strasbourg’s Iconic Christmas Markets
A stroll through Strasbourg’s Christmas markets (open November 26 through December 26) offers a welcome invitation to immerse yourself in the holiday spirit of the city. The oldest in France and one of the first in Europe, these markets date back to 1570 and the soundtrack alone is enough to set the festive mood. With over 300 merchants spread throughout the city center, stalls line the Strasbourg Cathedral where chiming bells mingle with Christmas tunes. Each of the thirteen markets – scattered along the river and filling city squares – reveals its own charm, with limitless arrays of gifts and goodies. Along with festive decorations that bring a touch of Strasbourg home, discover artisanal pottery and locally crafted jewelry, handmade toys and knitwear for children, and gorgeous scented candles and beauty products.
A Taste of Strasbourg
Beyond exploring the romance, history, and culture of Strasbourg, take a petite pause to taste what the city is best known for, its unique Alsatian cuisine. For a formal taste of Strasbourg’s signature gastronomy within a setting that speaks of history, book a table at Maison des Tanneurs. This former tannery built in1572 offers traditional dishes including choucroute and spaetzle complemented by canal-side dining. And in what appears to be a traditional farmhouse with a terrace shaded by an imposing plane tree you’ll find Au Petit Bois Vert, another of our favorite restaurants in the city where all dishes are locally-inspired and sourced. The restaurant at Strasbourg’s Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is also a great option for foodies, the menu is innovative and fuses traditional with international dishes, which come named after artists.
If you are in Strasbourg during the romantic holiday season, the food stalls in the Christmas markets serve up many rich savory selections that reflect the city’s Germanic history. Feast like the locals by tasting signatures like; spaetzle (a noodle dish topped with lardons, melted muenster cheese, and crème Fraiche), a rich tarte flambée, or flammekueche. The latter is a thin type of pizza covered with sliced onions, lardons, and crème Fraiche (spotting a theme). As for their desserts, holiday seasonal favorites include the sweet, spicy pain d’épices and gingerbread, both in cake and cookie form and composed of flour, honey, and spices (and nuts for more gourmet varieties). Another beloved Christmas biscuit is the sweet sugary bredle. Wash these traditional treats down with a glass of mulled wine, also like a local.
Where to Stay in Strasbourg
Set in the historical center between Place Broglie and the quays, the ideal headquarters from which to become better acquainted with beautiful Strasbourg you’ll find the new LÉONOR Hotel. Fusing 17th-century and 19th-century historical monuments, this artful address designed by Jean-Philippe Nuel is composed of 116 rooms and suites outfitted in modern elegance. Every vibrant armchair and couch filling the welcoming space feels like lounging at home. The property also presents the opportunity to discover the refined side of the city’s dining scene, the restaurant helmed by star chefs Nicolas Stamm et Serge Schaal specializes in French savoir-faire meets Alsatian traditions. Following a romantic city stroll by dusk, stop by the convivial bar for a nightcap.
Meet The Author
After spending over a year traveling the world (discovering 32 countries along the way) travel and lifestyle writer Kasia Dietz settled in Paris and contributes to Travel Curator, Conde Nast Traveler, Architectural Digest, National Geographic, Fodor’s, and Hemispheres, to name a few. When not designing her namesake handbags (inspired by travel, of course) or jetting off to a favorite destination with her beauty-seeking Italian husband, Kasia shares travel tales on her blog Love in the City of Light. Follow her adventures on Instagram and LinkedIn.