15 Pros and Cons of Living in Strasbourg

There are so many things to consider before moving abroad. Of course, choosing where to live is top of the list. There are pros and cons to any city, but making the final decision requires careful consideration. Since 2012, I’ve lived in four countries and five different cities. So, I know the ups and downs of expat life and how a city can play a role in the success of this adventure.

I decided to move to Strasbourg because I wanted to experience something different. I had lived in, Paris, London, and Zurich, and I was looking for a smaller city that was close to the mountains. But I didn’t want to live in a city that didn’t have an international airport. After carefully researching my options, I found that Strasbourg fit all those criteria, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. So, now, I want to share with you what I’ve learned and all the pros and cons of living in Strasbourg.

Pros and Cons of Living in Strasbourg
Pros and Cons of Living in Strasbourg

Table of Contents

Pros of Living in Strasbourg

1. Well-Located

Strasbourg is well-located in Europe
Strasbourg is Well-Located!

One of the advantages of living in Strasbourg, especially for expats, is its convenient location. It’s more or less situated in the heart of Europe near the border of Germany, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. Not only that but, in less than two hours, you can be in Paris, Frankfurt, or Basel, all of which have international airports. This makes traveling both within and outside of Europe very easy and cheap!

As a serial expat who loves to travel, living in a well-located city is a must. It’s a big relief knowing that international travel is not a hassle and I can return to the United States if I need to. In fact, I’m sure most expats would agree!

2. Strong Expat Community

Strasbourg’s central location means that its demographic is quite diverse. And, as a result, there is a strong community of expats. From online forums to in-person meet-ups, there are endless resources for expats here. You can join a general expat community or one that is specific to your nationality. Either way, it’s a great way to build a local support network. I’ve, personally, taken advantage of this opportunity and it’s helped me adapt to my life here in Strasbourg.

Useful Tip: One group that is particularly welcoming is Americans in Alsace. It’s a great group that is open to everyone. Make sure to check them out!

3. Extra Healthcare Benefits

Extra Healthcare Benefits is a Pro of Living in Strasbourg
Extra Healthcare Benefits!

It’s well-known that France has some of the best healthcare in the world. In fact, it’s one of the biggest pros of living in France. But the healthcare system in Alsace, the region where Strasbourg is located, is even better. There’s a unique social security system whereby residents of Alsace receive extra coverage compared to the rest of France.

In the general healthcare system, 70% of medical expenses are covered. As an example, the cost of a doctor’s visit is €25. If you live outside Alsace, then only €17.50 is reimbursed, making the cost of the doctor’s visit €7.50. If, however, you live in any town in Alsace, then 90% of the doctor’s visit is covered, making the total only €2.50. And this is only one of the many benefits offered by the social security system in Alsace! It’s definitely a huge pro of living in Strasbourg.

Interesting Fact: The unique Alsatian Health Insurance comes from its connection to Germany. From 1871 to 1918, Alsace belonged to Germany, which offered 100% coverage. Then, after World War II, when Alsace returned to France, they kept the healthcare system they had with Germany (with some modifications).

4. Low Cost of Living

Strasbourg is a popular city and attracts a lot of expats, so you would expect the cost of living to be high. But this is not the case. In fact, Strasbourg is far from being one of the most expensive cities in France. Compared to Paris, the cost of living in Strasbourg is about 15% lower.

To give you an idea, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Strasbourg is €700 per month, excluding the utilities. For gas, electricity, and internet, it’s roughly €175 per month. Then, if you take into account the extra healthcare benefits combined and the average income (€2300 per month), the cost of living in Strasbourg is very low.

*All cost of living data was sourced from Numbeo.

5. Engulfed in Natural Beauty

Strasbourg is Surrounded by Natural Beauty
Strasbourg is Close to the Mountains!

If you love the outdoors, but still want to live in a city, then Strasbourg is the ideal place for you. In less than 20 minutes, you can find yourself at the foot of the Vosges mountains, engulfed in natural beauty. This makes outdoor excursions, like hiking, skiing, and camping very accessible.

Granted, I’m biased on this point, but it’s not without reason. When I lived in Paris, taking a break from the city was always an expensive ordeal. So, I wanted live in a place where I could get out in nature and go walking. I didn’t realize how important it was for me until I didn’t have it.

6. Minimal Language Barrier

The French are very proud of their language, and, as a result, they are reluctant to speak any other language. This includes English, which makes the language barrier in France very high. Luckily Strasbourg is an anomaly. More often than not you can find someone who speaks English, or German, or even Spanish for that matter. In fact, I’ve even come across government employees who speak perfect English, which is a rarity in France. It makes living in Strasbourg as an expat much easier than in other cities.

7. Visa Renewals are Easy

Visa Renewals are Easy when you Live in Strasbourg
Visa Renewals are a Breeze!

French bureaucracy is a beast like no other. It’s difficult to understand and complicated to navigate. And, as an expat, it can be overwhelming. Before living in Strasbourg, I lived in Paris, where everything took an obscene amount of time. On several occasions, I waited months for my visa to be renewed. I would submit the paperwork six months in advance, and my new visa would arrive six months late. Luckily, the process in Strasbourg is much more efficient. I’ve been through two long-stay visa renewals, and, I can, honestly, say that it’s been a pleasure. The individuals working at the prefecture are helpful, kind, and patient. They are even, dare I say, efficient. It’s made the entire process almost worry-free. In fact, this is the main reason why, in my opinion, Strasbourg is one of the best cities in France to live.

8. Public Transportation is Cheap

Strasbourg's Public Transport is Cheap and Easy to Use
Strasbourg’s Public Transport is Easy to Use!

Strasbourg has a network of buses and trams that run throughout the city. There are even some trams to go all the way to Germany. They run every five to ten minutes and are almost always on time. Not only that but they are clean and comfortable with ample seating. Of course, you could walk, but a tram/bus ticket is only €1.70! It’s actually much easier to get around with public transportation than with a car. Public parking in Strasbourg is almost non-existent and expensive. So, taking the tram/bus is the best option.

Useful Tip: Strasbourg’s public transport system is run by CTS-Strasbourg. They have an app where you can buy and store your tickets on your phone!

Cons of Living in Strasbourg

1. Electricity is Expensive

Living in Strasbourg Means a High Electricity Bill Every Month
Electricity is Expensive!

While the cost of living in Strasbourg is low, the cost of electricity is not. In fact, it’s the most expensive in France. Unlike the rest of the country, Strasbourg only has one provider, Électricité de Strasbourg. And, since there is no competition, they charge as much as they can. So, if you rent or buy an apartment that is not energy efficient you could end up with a very big electricity bill.

As an example, when I first arrived in Strasbourg, I rented an apartment that had a poor energy rating. So, when winter arrived and temperatures plummeted, I found myself in front of a €200 bill (per month). I later discovered that this is pretty standard, and, realized an energy-efficient apartment is a must in Strasbourg.

2. High Resident Tax

Every city in France has a taxe d’habitation or resident tax. So, each year you pay a percentage of the value of your home. And, if you rent, you pay the tax, not the landlord. While it seems like a fair way to calculate the tax, what percentage you pay is not. In fact, every city has a local council that randomly determines the percentage. In Strasbourg, residents pay a whopping 25%. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but if you compare it to Paris, where residents pay a measly 0.2%, it’s outrageous. Efforts are being made to reduce it, but, for now, you should incorporate it into your budget if you decide to move to Strasbourg.

3. Alsatian Cuisine is Very Heavy

A Traditional Tarte Flambée found in Strasbourg
The Food is Heavy

Alsatian food is a combination of French and German cuisine. It often contains some form of pork with a large helping of potatoes, all covered in a rich, creamy sauce. Some common dishes include flammekueche, choucroute, and Vol-au-vent. While it’s something to try if you’re spending three days in Strasbourg, it’s not a diet you want to adhere to.

For me, this is one of the biggest cons of living in Strasbourg. I’m not a vegetarian, but I do prefer vegetable-based dishes. And I often struggle to find restaurants that offer something other than traditional Alsatian cuisine. It’s definitely improved over the last few years, but it’s still far from being diverse.

4. Pace of Life is Slow

As an American, I’m used to efficiency and unparalleled customer service. I rarely have the patience to wait for my meal in a restaurant or deal with doctors who are behind schedule. In Strasbourg, this is the norm. Everyone takes their time with everything! I’ve waited sometimes 20 minutes in a restaurant for a glass of juice. In fact, the other week, I waited over an hour to get my haircut because the hairdresser was behind schedule. While it was frustrating when I first arrived, I’ve become accustomed to the slower pace and go with the flow. But, if you don’t think you can, you may want to reconsider your choice to live in Strasbourg.

5. Finding an Apartment is Difficult

Finding an Apartment in Strasbourg is Very Challenging
Finding an Apartment is not Easy

Accommodation is difficult to come by in Strasbourg. And there are several reasons contributing to this problem. First, Strasbourg is home to the European Parliament, which means there are a lot of diplomats who live part-time in Strasbourg. There’s even an entire neighborhood reserved for them. Second, the University of Strasbourg has its campus in the city itself. The university alone has 52,000 students. And, while they’ve made big strides in providing dedicated student housing, it’s not enough. So, that means there are a lot of students looking for accommodation at any given time. Looking at these factors alone, it’s easy to see why it’s difficult to find an apartment in Strasbourg.

6. Extreme Weather

Strasbourg is a city of extremes. In the summer temperatures soar to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). And in August, the sun is so strong it feels like your skin could melt off if you spend too much time outside. Then, the winter is the opposite. Temperatures plummet to -5 degrees Celsius (23 degrees Fahrenheit), but the humidity stays at 100%. It’s the kind of cold you feel in your bones. Of course, the weather in Strasbourg isn’t always terrible. These are the extremes, but there are usually one or two months of each. So, you’ll have to find solutions to help you combat the months that have harsh weather. I usually head to the Vosges mountains in the summer and I wear a warm-waterproof jacket in the winter.

7. It’s a Small City

Strasbourg is a small city with narrow streets
Narrow Streets of Strasbourg

If you look on Google maps, it’s easy to miss Strasbourg. After all, it’s only 78 square kilometers (48 square miles). In fact, I can walk across the main part of the city in under 20 minutes. So, to say it’s small would be an understatement. Not only that, but stores, whether it be for groceries or electronics, are quite limited. Most of the time, I have to buy things online because I can’t find what I need. Then, there are the restaurants and bars, which have limited seating because there is not enough space. So, reservations are almost always mandatory, especially on the weekends. Of course, for some, this is part of Strasbourg’s small-town charm, but for others, it can be frustrating.

Frequently Asked Questions

Living in Strasbourg is Awesome
Strasbourg is the Perfect City for Expats!

What’s it Like to Live in Strasbourg?

I often get asked this question, and it can be difficult to answer because everyone has a different opinion. I, myself, love living in Strasbourg. It has the amenities of a city, yet it’s close to the mountains. Compared to other places I’ve lived (Paris, London, and Zurich), Strasbourg is a happy medium. And, of the places I’ve lived, it’s definitely my favorite. So, if you’re looking for a city that has that small-town charm, lots of outdoor activities, and a strong expat community then Strasbourg is for you.

Is Strasbourg Safe?

Strasbourg is, in general, very safe. Like any city, there are dodgy areas, especially at night. L’Esplanade and Neudorf are two neighborhoods that have had some problems. And it’s mostly due to the large student population that is prone to party long into the night. If you plan on going out in these areas at night, be aware of your surroundings and don’t flash valuable items.

Is English Widely Spoken in Strasbourg?

Since Strasbourg is one of the capitals of Europe, English is widely spoken. In general, the demographic in Strasbourg is very diverse, so it’s not uncommon to hear several languages while walking around. This means you’re almost always sure to find someone who speaks English.

What Language Do People Speak in Strasbourg?

Since Strasbourg is in France, the main language is French. However, its complex history with Germany has led to a unique dialect called Alsatian. It’s actually a combination of German and French! So more often than not, locals speak both French and German, and even, sometimes a third language, like English.

Is Strasbourg a Good Place to Live?

The short answer is, yes! Strasbourg is an excellent place to live, especially for expats. The pros I listed above are the reasons why I moved here and why I still live here. It’s a city that is perfect for first-time foreigners to France. Not only that but it’s safe, locals more often than not speak English, and it’s well-located.

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There’s no denying that Strasbourg is a great city. Of course, it has its disadvantages, but those are minor compared to all the pros. If it’s your first time moving abroad, Strasbourg is a great city to consider. Hopefully, the pros and cons of living in Strasbourg that I listed in this post will help you make your decision!


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