Why You'll Love Strasbourg
Updated: Mar 20
If you’re one of those people who can’t get enough of the holidays, with all the festivities, lights, music, treats and general merriment that comes along with the season, Strasbourg is for you. This postcard-perfect city in France’s Alsace region has an enchanting blend of French and German influence, thanks to its borderline location. And, there’s a spectacular Christmas market, to boot!
Here’s why I'm smitten with the capital of the Alsace region and what you can’t miss, particularly during the holidays.
La Petite France District
Seemingly stolen from the pages of a storybook, this UNESCO World Heritage section of town is delightful, particularly in November and December. Wander the labyrinthian streets past the Saint-Thomas Church, known by its two massive Romanesque bell towers; the Tanners’ House along the water’s edge, tucked between other medieval, half-timbered buildings, and the Insta-worthy Ponts Couverts (Covered Bridges), three bridges in succession over the Ill River and dominated by 14th-century towers and medieval rampart ruins.
It was impossible for me to get the entire cathedral in one photo. It's massive and incredible.
This outstanding example of Gothic architecture sits on the former site of an 11th-century Romanesque cathedral. The crypt and former footprint remain; the spire of the current structure was completed in 1439. Within the incredible ornamental and detailed cathedral, be sure to visit the nave with its 12th- and 14th-century stained-glass windows, huge organ and Renaissance astronomical clock.
The Orangerie Park
Even if you’re visiting Strasbourg in the cold weather, you’ll want to stop at The Orangerie Park. Bundle up, grab a hot beverage and wander through the town’s oldest park. Watch for some of the hundreds of storks that live here, a symbol of Alsace. There’s a beautiful lake, a gourmet restaurant in the timber-framed Buerehiesel house and more to discover.
Strasbourg prides itself on being the “Christmas Capital” of the Alsace region and there’s really no reason they shouldn’t. The city is home to one of Europe's oldest and largest Christmas markets, which is held from the end of November through the end of the year. Stroll through more than 300 stalls, bursting with handicrafts, decorations and holiday treats. Find the market right in front of the Strasbourg Cathedral.
Right in the center of the old town, you’ll find the Place Kleber - which is also home to an enormous and fabulous lit Christmas tree in late November through December. There’s a statue of Jean-Baptiste Kleber here, in honor of the French Revolutionary War general who was born in Strasbourg in 1753. During the holidays, the Christmas tree is surrounded by pop-up markets full of art, crafts and goodies.
Musee Alsacien & Other History Hotspots
Immerse yourself in local history at Musee Alsacien, composed of several linked 17th-century houses. Explore more than 5,000 exhibits, including the interiors of typical homes from the 18th and 19th centuries, costumes, toys, furniture and more. Over in the Newstadt district, you’ll find the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Place de la République, where you’ll see the late 19th-century German influence in the stately square’s architecture. Take time to visit the Palais du Rhin with its show-stopping staircase and cheerful Salon of the Empress. For a touch of Strasbourg’s more modern history, check out the official seat of the European Parliament. The Louise Weiss building, as well as four other structures, make this one of the most visible sights in the city.
While I would encourage a visit to lovely Strasbourg any time of year, the holidays are really when it shines. I'm already dreaming of soft pretzels, roasted chestnuts and vin chaud (hot mulled wine) as I wander through wooden chalets full of seasonal gifts and treats.
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