Is Strasbourg in Germany or France? And the Best Museums to Visit

Is Strasbourg in Germany or France?

Strasbourg is, indeed, in France. But it hasn’t always been.

While Strasbourg, today, is a symbol of unity in Europe, for centuries, it was at the center of conflict. In fact, it was conquered and re-conquered so many times, its citizens identify with the region rather than the country. And it’s this very history that makes Strasbourg such a unique place.

Since moving to Strasbourg, I’ve learned everything there is know about this city. And, today, I want to share with you what I discovered. So, let’s dive into the history of Strasbourg and explore how it came to be part of France.

Is Strasbourg in Germany or France?
Is Strasbourg in Germany or France?

Table of Contents

Is Strasbourg in Germany or France?

Strasbourg's Buildings in La Petite France Have Both German and French Influence
A Mix of French and German Architecture

Strasbourg is in France.

Specifically, it’s located in the Grand Est region of eastern France.

This region comprises three smaller regions, Alsace, Champagne-Ardenne, and Lorraine. Each of these is, then, broken down into small administrative divisions called departments.

Alsace is divided into two departments, Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin.

And Strasbourg is in the Bas-Rhin department of Alsace.

Was Strasbourg Always a Part of France?

No, Strasbourg was not always a part of France. It has been under the control of many different ruling powers over the centuries, including Germany.

Where is Strasbourg in Europe?

Strasbourg occupies one of the most strategic positions in Europe. It sits on the banks of the Rhine at the border of France and Germany. 

It’s flanked by the Vosges mountains in the east and the Black Forest in the west, meaning it’s completely protected. And it possesses one of only a few accessible docking points along the river.

A Brief History of Strasbourg, France

The history of Strasbourg dates to ancient times. But I’ll skip ahead to its more recent past, after the fall of the mighty Roman Empire.

In the mid-11th century, Strasbourg became a free city under the Holy Roman Empire (Germany). It was a key trading post, so, to ensure its protection, reinforcements were installed. Germany completely fortified the city and surrounded it with walls and lookout points.

Seeing its strategic value, Louis XIV of France annexed it in 1681. And this is where Strasbourg’s dizzying history begins.

The city saw wealth and prosperity under French rule. But, during the French Revolution (1792), much of Strasbourg was, unfortunately, destroyed.

The 18th century saw modernization, wealth, and massive population growth. Paved streets and sewage systems were also installed.

It wasn’t long before Strasbourg became, once again, the center of European trade. But this period of peace was short lived.

During the Franco-Prussian war, Strasbourg was heavily bombarded. Hundreds were found dead, thousands were injured, and the city was in shambles. But that wasn’t all. Strasbourg was again transferred to Germany as part of the Treaty of Frankfurt in 1871.

Not long after, the world wars began, and Strasbourg was shuffled back and forth several times.

After World War I, Strasbourg returned to France, only to go back to Germany under Nazi rule during World War II. It wasn’t until the 23rd of November 1944, did Strasbourg see freedom. And it was reunited with France in the Treaty of Versailles.

In 1949, Strasbourg was dubbed the seat of the Council of Europe, and shortly after it became the home of the European Parliament.

After centuries of conflict, Strasbourg is, today, a symbol of post-war unity in Europe. So, as you go through your Strasbourg itinerary, take note of the culture, food, and language. You’ll notice both French and German influence. It’s a fascinating mix and makes this city one-of-a-kind.

Interesting Facts About Strasbourg

Strasbourg's Famous Christmas Tree in Place Kléber
Strasbourg’s Christmas Market!
  • La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, was written and composed in Strasbourg (1792).
  • In 1988, Strasbourg’s historic center was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Strasbourg’s Notre Dame Cathedral took 300 years to build, and, in 2015, it celebrated its 1000th birthday.
  • The Astronomical clock inside Strasbourg’s Cathedral is not your ordinary clock. It’s also a planetary dial and a calendar!
  • Strasbourg is one of the four capitals of Europe, along with Luxembourg, Frankfurt, and Brussels. It’s also the seat of several European institutions.
  • The printing press was invented in Strasbourg in 1440 by Jean Gutenberg.
  • In 1518, Strasbourg was hit with the dancing plague. People danced uncontrollably for days until they fell from exhaustion. To this day, the origins of this epidemic remain a mystery.
  • Strasbourg’s Christmas market is the oldest market in France and dates back to 1570.

7 Best Museums in Strasbourg

Musée Historique de la Ville de Strasbourg at Sunrise
Musée Historique de la Ville de Strasbourg

1. Musée Alsacien

Musée Alsacien (or Alsatian Museum) is a must-see for anyone interested in learning about the history and culture of Alsace. From traditional clothing and furniture to artwork and tools, it’s an impressive collection. Not only that but it’s also housed in one of Strasbourg’s famous half-timbered houses. So, you’ll get to learn about the history while wandering through one of the coolest buildings in the city!

Admission is €7.50.

Address: 23-25 Quai Saint Nicolas

2. Musée de l’Œuvre Notre-Dame

Explore more than seven centuries of art and history at the Musée de l’Œuvre Notre-Dame. Here you’ll find an impressive collection of medieval and Renaissance pieces from artists like Peter Hemmel von Andlau and Sebastian Stoskopff. They even have the original building plans for Strasbourg’s Notre Dame Cathedral!

It shows just how influential and important Strasbourg was during that time.

Admission is €7.50.

Address: 3 Place du Château

3. European Parliament

While the European Parliament is not a traditional museum it’s still worth a trip. Their visitor’s center offers an interactive self-guided tour of their facilities. You’ll not only learn about the history of Strasbourg but also the European Union. Then, if you’re looking for something truly unique, you can sit in on one of the plenary sessions. It’s a chance to see democracy in action!

Admission is free.

Address: Allée du Printemps

4. Musée Archéologique

The Musée Archéologique (or Archaeological Museum) is the oldest museum in Strasbourg. It dates to the 18th century and, today, it’s one of the most important archaeology museums in France.

Here you’ll find exhibits ranging from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages. And most of the work on display comes from excavations carried out in Alsace. It’s an impressive collection, to say the least.

The museum is located in the Rohan Palace, which also houses two other museums (the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Decorative Art). So, if you want to learn even more about Strasbourg, I recommend visiting all three.

Admission is €3.50.

Address: 2 Place du Château

5. Cabinet des Estampes et des Dessins

The Cabinet des Estampes et des Dessins holds some of the most priceless pieces of art in Strasbourg. From drawings to sculptures, they have more than over 150,000 pieces of artwork dating to the Middle Ages.

Due to the delicate nature of their collection, visits to the museum are only by appointment.

Admission is free.

Address: 5 Place du Château

6. Musée Historique de la Ville de Strasbourg

For a complete overview of the city’s history head to the Musée Historique de la Ville de Strasbourg (or Historical Museum of the City of Strasbourg). This entertaining and engaging museum tells the history of Strasbourg through 1500 exhibits. You’ll learn about politics, economics, and everyday life in the city. Not only that but it’s also housed in one of the most photogenic buildings in Strasbourg!

Of the museums on this list, the Musée Historique de la Ville de Strasbourg is my favorite!

Admission is €7.50.

Address: 2 Rue du Vieux-Marché-aux-Poissons

7. Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain (MAMCS)

The Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain (or Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art) is a must-visit for anyone seeking to explore the contemporary art scene. Located in an impressive, modernized building, this museum showcases a diverse range of artwork. From paintings and sculptures to photography and videos, MAMCS has something for everyone.

It’s a great opportunity to learn about the culture of present-day Strasbourg.

Admission is €7.50.

Address: 1 Place Hans-Jean-Arp 

Frequently Asked Questions

Strasbourg is Famous for it's mix of French and German Cultures like the Half-Timbered Houses
Strasbourg is mix of French and German Cultures

Do People in Strasbourg Speak German?

The official language in Strasbourg is French. But it’s not the only language you’ll hear. In fact, it’s not uncommon to meet people who speak more than one language. The most common are French, German, and English.

Then, most locals also speak Alsatian. It’s a regional dialect that is a mix between German and French.

Can You Walk from Strasbourg to Germany?

Yes, you can walk from Strasbourg to Germany.

The nearest town in Germany is Kehl. From the center of Strasbourg, it takes about one hour (6 kilometers or 3.7 miles). I’ve, actually, done this several times! But it’s much faster to take public transportation, either the tram or the train.

Why is Strasbourg so Famous?

Strasbourg is famous for its unique blend of culture, history, architecture, and gastronomy. And because of this, it’s often referred to as ‘the Crossroads of Europe’. The city has a rich cultural heritage with several UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is home to important political institutions like the European Parliament. Strasbourg is also well-known for its traditional Alsatian cuisine. From tarte flambée (a pizza-like dish) to Kugelhopf (a sweet cake), there’s quite a tantalizing selection. And you can try these delicious dishes at any number of restaurants in Strasbourg!

Does Strasbourg feel more like a French or German City?

Strasbourg has a unique blend of French and German culture, so it’s difficult to say whether it feels more like one or the other. You’ll find the cuisine, language, and architecture fall somewhere in the middle. Even the street signs are written in both German and French! There’s a strong multicultural identity in Strasbourg. And it’s one of the few cities that is a true melting pot.

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While Strasbourg is, now, a part of France, its dance between Germany and France has created a true hybrid city. And it’s shown in its culture, cuisine, and architecture. Whether you’re looking to explore Strasbourg’s modern art scene or learn about its rich heritage, this vibrant European city won’t disappoint. It’s easy to see why Strasbourg is becoming one of Europe’s most popular destinations. So, pack your bags and get ready for an amazing adventure!


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