Strasbourg is a charming Alsatian city on the border of France and Germany. It’s full of history, beautiful architecture, and tasty food.
But what is Strasbourg famous for?
I moved to Strasbourg in 2019, and I fell in love from the moment I wandered down the streets of La Petite France. I’ve explored every corner of this beautiful city and completely immersed myself in its culture.
So, today, I want to share with you everything that the capital of Alsace is known for. I’ve even included some insider tips that only locals, like me, know about.
Overview: What is Strasbourg Famous For?
If you’re short on time, I’ve put together a quick summary of this guide.
Here’s a list of what Strasbourg is most known for:
- The Strasbourg Cathedral
- La Petite France
- The Alsatian Museum
- Its Christmas Market
- A Mix of French and German Cultures
- Delicious Alsatian Food
17 Things Strasbourg is Famous For
This little Alsatian town is known for a lot. From the La Petite France district to the towering Notre Dame Cathedral, the list is quite impressive.
Below I’ll cover 17 things that Strasbourg is famed for.
1. The Strasbourg Cathedral
Strasbourg Cathedral is an architectural marvel that towers over the entire city. It was built between 1176 and 1439 and once stood as the tallest building in the world at 142 meters (465 feet).
As you step inside, the first things you’ll notice are the carved stone pulpit and the detailed stained-glass windows. Then, farther in the back is the ever-impressive astronomical clock.
And if that weren’t enough, the views from its highest platform are the most impressive I’ve seen.
Over the years, I must have visited this masterpiece more than a hundred times and I still find myself in awe of it. I love going early in the morning before sunrise. There’s nobody around and I can appreciate the cathedral’s quiet beauty.
2. La Petite France
La Petite France is arguably the most iconic district in Strasbourg. This quaint, safe area is famous for its half-timbered houses, cobbled streets, and canals that run through it.
In the past, the neighborhood was known for being a millers’ quarter where tanners, millers, and fishermen lived. Today, it’s full of restaurants, cafés, hotels, and artisan shops.
This is my favorite neighborhood to go for a stroll. There’s one picturesque street after another. Some of the most photogenic are Rue des Bains-aux-Plants and Quai de la Petite France.
In the photo above, that’s me standing in front of La Maison Tanneurs, which is on Rue des Bains-aux-Plants.
3. Grand Île
Grand Île, or Large Island, is the historic heart of Strasbourg. Encircled by the River Ill, it is renowned for its beautifully preserved medieval cityscape. So much so that in 1998 it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The island is home to iconic landmarks such as the Strasbourg Cathedral, the La Petite France district, and the Palais Rohan.
But if you want to truly appreciate the beauty of Grand Île, I recommend taking a Batorama boat tour.
I’ve done quite a few of these tours and my favorite was the Strasbourg, 20 Centuries of History tour. It goes around Grand Île and the neighboring districts, giving you a unique perspective of the city’s history and architecture.
4. Barrage Vauban
The Barrage Vauban, also known as the Vauban Dam, is one of the most famous bridges in Strasbourg.
It was built in the 17th century as the first line of defense for the southern end of the city. If opened, the dam would release water in the hopes of preventing the enemy from advancing.
To date, it has only been used once for its intended purpose. And, in 1971, the Vauban Dam was labeled as a historic monument.
You can visit the inside of the dam, which houses various statues from the Palais Rohan and the Strasbourg Cathedral.
But the best part is the panoramic terrace. From here you’ll have a beautiful view over La Petite France.
I’ve taken so many photos from the Vauban Dam I could fill a book. In one frame, it has everything that makes Strasbourg, Strasbourg.
5. Place Kléber
Place Kléber is the largest square in Strasbourg.
It was named after General Jean-Baptiste Kléber, a prominent figure in the French Revolutionary War, and the square is home to a statue in his honor.
Over the years, Place Kléber has been a venue for many cultural and political events. The most iconic of which is the inauguration of the Christmas market every year.
This is also where you can find one of my favorite markets in Strasbourg. Every Wednesday local vendors come to sell books, clothes, and other oddities. The area is buzzing with energy and it’s a great place to experience local life.
And, if you’re staying for a weekend, stop by the Aubette. It’s a former military station that now houses shops and restaurants.
Neustadt is a neighborhood renowned for its unique blend of French and German architecture.
The district’s airy layout presents a stark contrast to the winding, medieval streets of La Petite France. It was built while Strasbourg was under German rule and features impressive squares, wide tree-lined avenues, and monumental façades.
It’s a great place to take a stroll and admire the impressive architecture. You can also find some lovely cafes and restaurants here to relax and enjoy a drink or meal.
Some of the most notable buildings include the Palais de l’Université, the Bibliothèque Nationale et Universitaire, and the Palais du Rhin.
But nothing is more beautiful than Saint Paul’s Church. I love visiting at sunset just as the orange rays hit the front of the church. If you stand on Pont Royal, you’ll have the best view.
7. The European Parliament
The European Parliament is a symbol of unity and democratic governance. It serves as a meeting place for representatives from all member states of the European Union.
Strasbourg was chosen as its official seat because of its symbolic importance as a reconciliation city.
The complex includes several impressive buildings. The most famous is the Louise Weiss building, named after a French journalist and women’s rights advocate. It’s also where you’ll find the hemicycle (debating chamber) and the Parlamentarium (the visitor center).
I’ve toured the Parlamentarium and sat in on a plenary session.
I enjoyed learning about the European Union’s history and seeing how it works firsthand. It’s definitely a must-see for anyone interested in politics or European integration.
8. Palais Rohan
The Palais Rohan is a significant architectural, historical, and cultural landmark.
Construction finished in 1742 and it served as the residence of the House of Rohan until the French Revolution.
Today, it houses three renowned museums – the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Museum of Decorative Arts.
I’ve visited all three and my favorite is the Museum of Decorative Arts. It most represented what the palace looked like in its heyday. From furniture to tapestries and paintings, it felt like walking back in time.
The palace itself is also very impressive.
I recommend climbing the Strasbourg Cathedral to get a bird’s eye view of it.
9. The Christmas Market
If there is one thing Strasbourg is famous for, it’s its Christmas market – the oldest in Europe.
It has been around since 1570 and attracts millions of visitors every year.
The market spreads throughout the city, with hundreds of wooden chalets selling Alsatian crafts, food, and drinks.
Since I moved to Strasbourg in 2019, I’ve gone every year.
With twinkling lights and the smell of mulled wine and chestnuts, it feels like a little winter wonderland.
My first stop is always at the market in front of the cathedral. This is where the first one took place and I find it the most charming.
10. Ponts Couverts
Ponts Couverts is a defensive structure from the 13th century. It consists of three bridges and four towers spread across the width of the River Ill.
And, despite their name, which translates to ‘covered bridges,’ they have not been covered since the 18th century.
The bridges are especially picturesque during late spring and summer when the railings are covered in flower-filled baskets.
You can walk along Pont Couverts and see the towers up close, but for the best view over the area, I like going up to the Vauban Dam.
11. Alsatian Museum
The Alsatian Museum is my all-time favorite museum in Strasbourg.
The focus is on Alsace as a region. So, you’ll see exhibits highlighting its culture, history, and traditions from the 18th and 19th centuries. And, best of all, it’s set in three interconnected half-timbered houses.
I especially loved the reconstructed living spaces which showed how people lived in different periods. It’s one of the only museums in the region where you can dive deep into the history of Alsatian culture.
12. Parc de l’Orangerie
Parc de l’Orangerie is a favorite rendezvous spot for anyone who wants an escape from the hustle and bustle of Strasbourg’s center.
As the oldest and largest park in the city, it’s here that you’ll find gardens, playgrounds, walking paths, and a lake.
In summer, the Pavillon Joséphine is one of the prettiest places in the whole park. The gardens are so spectacularly arranged that they look like something designed for royalty.
My favorite spot is the Oeil d’Orangerie. From here you’ll have a magnificent bird’s eye view over the park. It’s beautiful year-round, but I especially love visiting in the fall when the leaves are changing color.
Not far from the Oeil d’Orangerie is the Temple de l’Amour. If you’re looking for a romantic spot, this is it. Surrounded by trees and water, it’s the perfect place for a picnic or to sit and relax.
13. Hearty Food
Strasbourg is famed for its hearty Alsatian food.
It’s a blend of French and German cuisine. So, you’ll find dishes such as choucroute garnie (sauerkraut with pork), tarte flambée (flame-cooked pizza), and baeckeoffe (meat and potato stew) on many menus throughout the city.
And the best place to try all this deliciousness is at a traditional Alsatian restaurant.
These are rustic places that serve up generous portions. They are so cozy it almost feels like you’re at home.
Needless to say, there are quite a few around Strasbourg.
But the ones I’ve been to and recommend are:
- Aux Armes de Strasbourg
- La Maison des Tanneurs
- Restaurant Gurtlerhoft
- Restaurant de la Victoire
14. Rich Cultural Heritage
What I love most about Strasbourg is its rich cultural heritage. It’s fascinating to see how this city has been shaped by both French and German influences throughout history.
It has been a part of both countries at different points in time and this is evident in the architecture, food, and traditions.
The things that I mentioned above reflect this cultural blend. From the stunning Strasbourg Cathedral to the grand boulevards of Neustadt, each part highlights some aspect of its heritage.
And it’s this mix of cultures that makes Strasbourg so special and unforgettable. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind destination that offers something for everyone.
15. Astronomical Clock
The Astronomical Clock is a marvel of Renaissance engineering. It’s located in the historic Notre Dame Cathedral, but it’s so impressive I had to give it its own section.
It’s a masterpiece that is the combined efforts of artists, mathematicians, and technicians. And the clock you see today is the third iteration on that spot.
Not only does it tell the time, but it also shows the position of the sun and the moon. There is even a planetary calendar.
But the coolest part is the mechanical rooster that sounds every day at 12:30.
When I went, I arrived about 15 minutes early so I could get a good spot close to the clock.
16. Local Beer
While Alsace is known for its wine, Strasbourg is known for its beer.
The city’s beer heritage dates to the 17th century, with traditions rooted in both French and German cultures.
And, of the breweries, the oldest and most known is Kronenbourg. It was founded in 1664 and is still in operation today.
Unfortunately you can’t tour their facilities, but there are quite a few bars around Strasbourg where you can try some.
My favorites (and the ones with the best selection) are:
- La Lanterne
- Le Local
- Les Berthom
- Académie de la Bière
Helpful Tip: If you want to tour a brewery, the only option is at Brasserie Perle.
17. The Ill River
The River Ill is a significant tributary of the Rhine that is an essential part of the city’s landscape.
Over the years, it has played a vital role in its history by contributing to its fortifications and serving as a transport route.
Today, the river’s banks offer beautiful areas where you can admire sites like La Petite France, Neustadt, and the Palais Rohan.
While I love Batorama’s boat tours, that’s not the only way to see the river.
There are tons of walkways that run along the canals and pass by some of the prettiest places in Strasbourg.
My favorite starting point is Pont Saint Martin. From there the path continues until Pont Saint-Etienne.
It’s not marked on any map, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Conclusion: What is Strasbourg Known For?
Strasbourg combines the charm of the past with the present, making it a place well worth exploring. It’s renowned for its rich history, stunning architecture, delectable cuisine, and so much more.
Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or someone who appreciates architecture, you’re bound to fall in love with Strasbourg like I did.
And now that you know what it’s famous for, it’s time to start planning your trip. There are so many things to see and do, so why not pick your favorites to start?
Read More Articles About France
I hope you enjoyed my post and found it helpful. Here are some other articles that I think you might find interesting.
- 13 Must-Visit Castles Near Strasbourg (A Local’s Guide)
- 21 Amazing Things to Do in Alsace (Local’s Guide)
- Colmar or Strasbourg: Which One is Better? (from a Local)